Imperfections and Failures. Processes and Lessons Learned.

In Justin’s class, we talk a lot about transparency. He often says, “put everything you’re doing right now online”. It has not been the easiest concept to wrap our heads around. I feel as though we’ve been taught all our lives to only show our very best, only to re-learn now that it’s okay to show progress, imperfections, and even failures – publicly. 

Some non-profit organizations have adopted that openness model, and it has been working very well for them. Tactical Philanthropy published an article earlier this month titled “Nonprofit Shares Failure & Looks Great”, featuring charity:water’s failed Live Drill and how their transparency about their challenges made them even more compelling. Engineers Without Borders Canada has also been publishing on their website “Failure Reports” to document their lessons learned through all their development projects. 

After presenting our contextual inquiries in Lauren’s class, we all had plenty of lessons learned. As the inaugural class at AC4D, we should be staring a culture of documenting our thoughts processes, decisions made, successes & failures, and reflections (like Alex’s post about feeling strangely energized after 3 hrs of sleep). Only then we can see our growth and later be able to make sense of the way we have become. 

To begin, I have shared the notes I took from class while everyone was sharing feedback from their research thus far. It’s currently published as a Google Document here

[Note to AC4D class: I’ve also given access to everyone so please feel free to add to the document if anything else comes to mind. I hope to see it grow as a collective document. As our list of lessons learned get longer , then perhaps we can think of a more sophisticated way to capture them more comprehensively and visually.]

Stick Figures 2.0 – Resources and Reflection

Saturday in Justin’s class, awesome guest speaker Ahmed Riaz led us through sketching tips and how to draw expressive stick figures — stick figures 2.0.

I had trouble with walking figures, so here are some reference images. (Thanks to Mike, who’s studying concept art in Pasadena, for scanning and sending these.)

From The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams

From concept artist Kevin Chen’s sketchbook

Observing & Sketching

Sunday, since we were already at the Farmer’s Market lining up participatory interviews for Lauren’s research class, I sat and sketched a bunch of people. I posted my sketches onto Flickr. They include sketches from both in class and at the farmer’s market. There was a big improvement in the expressiveness during my sketching in real life, while actually observing people. And I learned a lot, e.g. little toddlers lead with their chests leaning forward and how kids physically hang onto their parents.

How do you engage your audience?

I’d like to share with you my takeaways on last Justin’s and Riaz’s class about storytelling and specifically on the question of how do you engage your audience.
This is a really interesting question to me because coming from Europe, I am discovering the work context american codes, values and jokes and how designers here are conveying their ideas.
After a storytelling’s sessions on Saturday, Kat, Scott and Alex were elected the experts at “visual thinking” and for me, above all, the experts at engaging their audience.
So, how and why did these 3 guys engage us ?

1) ENERGY!!!!
Kat acts her stories. She put so much energy in them that we could pay attention to anything… I mean, the subject matters but what drives my attention at the beginning is her incredible animation. It is like a show. You, as the spectator, feel comfortable and distracted, because you are in somebody’s hands who is running the show for you.
Kat is often a little nervous before her presentations but when she starts, she is IN. It is like the stress before entering on stage. I think that acting a theater play and conveying a design idea share similarities like the power of words, images and body language.
Your energy will engage your audience.
2) sincerity and unity
Scott told us a very personal story: how he got engaged with his future wife Jessica. This is unique, personal and belongs to his “private sphere” (when I say private sphere, I mean people who are his “friends” on Facebook, Twitter probably don’t know this story).
As soon as Scott started his story, the group had a physical reaction: coming closer to him, smiling, listening. People were involved.
People connect with concrete and unique stories. “This happens to me and that’s why I care”. And then, once you engaged the audience with a personal story, you can blow it up to other people, as Justin was saying.
I think people also appreciate the courage of sharing personal stories because this is not easy to do.
Your sincerity and your personal example will engage your audience.
3) humor and metaphors
Alex used humor and visual metaphors to tell an absurdly funny story in which burritos could be sent by Internet because Internet is a network of tubes and the shape of the burrito perfectly fits the shape for the tubes, which is a great news because his friend in San Francisco can continue to sell him burritos and make money and Alex can continue enjoying his favorite burritos…
Humor has a huge power to engage your audience. And when you can combine it with visualizations, that’s great.
Alex’s story was very simple and clear. You don’t need too many points to tell a good story, you need only one but strong.
Humor, irony, metaphors and jokes will engage your audience.
I think you also can engage an audience just being serious and informative. The most important is to know what you are good and to be yourself, not to force yourself to be clown or an actor.
The big take away from Saturday for me is that people need to connect with you, as a person and have a sense of who you are, before being ready to listen to your story/concept/idea.

A few blogging tips moving forward

From the past week, which blog posts do you remember and WHY?

Choose a word that represents the quality of the blog posts that you like. Challenge yourself to create a post this week that has that same quality.

We’re used to scanning on the internet. Think of the visual formatting of your post as a way to make things easier for your readers.

  • Break out the first line / topic sentence / hook into its own paragraph
  • Use subheads to allow scanners to get a feel for important points
  • Include photos, visuals, or screen shots of videos
  • Use bulleted lists instead of paragraphs
  • Make the headline specific, informative, and provocative

Happy blogging!

Life at AC4D

Life a AC4D… a grandiose mix of Post-Its and pizza, lone star, whiteboards, Social media, and wicked problem solving…  Click here to see a few more photos.

action prescriptions

Given that we have been talking about the environment in class and the importance of action I wanted to share this link. Dr. Jeremijenko, an Australian artist, designer and engineer, has started a clinic in NYC to address environmental issues on an individual basis. Run like a health clinic patients come in and discuss an issue they are concerned with such as toxins in the air. They are then given a “prescrption”, which is an action rather than a magic pill. The solutions are interesting.

Check it out if you have time. There is a short video. X Clinic NoPark.

How can we create more opportunities that allow individuals to become actively involved in their communities and solutions to environmental and social issues?

I proved it! Research and Hypothesis…

cheap rosetta stone software if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link92003″).style.display=”none”;}rom 2001-2007, I did research for my PhD. That's all I did. I researched on Computer Engineering topics – Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, VLSI, FPGA,…what not! There was a process to doing research. I did literature survey, picked an open problem, formed a hypothesis and did everything to validate the hypothesis. And, it was validated. Never was the problem open-ended because that is not how graduate dissertation problems are picked. If it is open ended, you cannot graduate easily, thats all. Even if a problem was open ended, there would be a hypothesis to guide the direction of the research.

After a break of three and a half years, I am doing research again. This time, it is slightly different where instead of sitting before a computer and sifting through hundreds of published work, I am venturing out in the real world to understand problems people face everyday. Again, one thing is still constant, there is hypothesis that arises out of my understanding of a problem, which serves to guide the initial direction of the research.

I have been thinking of an interesting situation. Can I validate any random hypothesis I have? The world is rich with diverse information. If I try hard, I will find a demographic with a rich sample to validate my hypothesis. Because validation of any hypothesis in this world merely depends on what the numbers show, right? Atleast, that seems to be the expected norm. These lies, damned lies and statistics.

Sadly, research and data have become a social tool to wield opinions, pass judgments, predict futures, understand people,….In a way, if I have solid research (read enough data to establish statistical significance), I have bought myself an aura which dazzles people enough to start putting their common-sense aside and believing in

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what I show.

True research, according to me, should not have any hypothesis. But, we are trained to work with frameworks and way points. Without a hypothesis, it is like being in the middle of an ocean without a compass to guide. We don't know what we are looking for, for the information and the way to decipher it is enormous. But, if this is the case, then should we take the various research findings on face value? If somebody presents a research on TED about why you should keep your plans to yourself in order for it to succeed, should you believe it and start applying that in your everyday interactions because the research said so? If somebody shows another research about expectant fathers suffering from phantom pregnancy and morning sickness, do you start taking pills during your wife's pregnancy because research indicates so?

Research is all about the art of validating any hypothesis you might have. If you are skillful enough to find “enough” data to validate it, you are golden. We need to make research just a mere observation and remove the statistical superficiality that surrounds it. The end product of any research should not be about “why something is true in this world because 95% of the people you talked to said so”. It should be a mere observation that 95% of the people you talked to said it was true. That's all. Nothing more

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Keep your goals to yourself

3-minute TED Talk: Derek Shivers: Keep your goals to yourself

Yes, that says, “Telling someone your goal makes them less likely to happen.”

This is in reference to Saranyan’s Disney & Dreams post. While getting feedback is good, knowing when to get that feedback is key. Fortunately, this idea is built into our AC4D model: Do it, Make it, Iterate as quickly as you can. And then get feedback and evolve it.

A small failsafe to prevent over-talking an idea and never making (any part of) it real.