AC4D Elevator Pitches

Josh Baer of Other Inbox and Capital Factory came to share some secrets of pitching during one of our Saturday studio classes a few weeks back.

5 secrets to a killer elevator pitch:

  1. Focus on the problem. Not your brilliant solution…not yet anyway.
  2. Tell a story. Ideally the whole thing is a story.
  3. Use 4th grade language. Don’t try to make it sound bigger. Don’t use jargon.
  4. Have a killer closing. Make it a sentence someone can actually repeat to a friend after you’re done and gone.
  5. Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice…no really, practice. And record yourself. Watch it, post it, get feedback. Practice some more.

Case study: Evolution of the Infochimps pitch. Good to see where it starts off to where it ends, and how much the story evolved.

An interesting tangent to all of this is that it’s useful advice for just storytelling in general, especially when you’re “pitching” or trying to explain who you are and what you’re doing at this weird new place called AC4D.

I put our founders on the spot. How do they explain this thing they’ve created?’s AC4D Elevator Pitch’s AC4D Elevator Pitch for non-designers’s AC4D Elevator Pitch

What I usually say is “AC4D combines design thinking and social entrepreneurship to tackle social issues.” Most people want examples: of what social issues, and what kinds of things we’ll be doing. I start babbling about Emily Pilloton/Project H or IDEO or the AC4D Bootcamp—with caveats and additions. I still don’t think people get it. We’ll see how our explanations of AC4D evolve over the year as we start working with real projects.

As for pitching my own “brand,” I generally resist having to sum myself up in one sentence, but I need to get over it. It’s just an introduction, and it’s better any stake in the ground than boring. Of course it won’t capture any of the *nuance* of who I am and my past history, but it’s not supposed to. Neither is an elevator pitch for anything you’re working on. You’re just trying to tell a short story that grabs someone’s attention, and hopefully they’ll want to hear more.

For now, I’m changing my current go-to bio of “designer + educator + photographer + writer + green girl” to include a VERB: “I tackle social problems through the lenses of design and education…and I’m trying to figure out how to get paid for it.” (Focus on the problem right? ;))

Privacy Matters

One of the major concerns with the advent of information based design is that of privacy.  Social psychologist Irwin Altman defines privacy as “ a direction and dynamic boundary regulation process.”  In other words, privacy is always in flux based on a certain situation.  This concept of privacy directly conflicts with computers which are designed on a rule-based system of 0’s and 1’s.  Privacy is an either/or decision in technology rather than a dynamic relationship.  Normally, when a person makes a decision about what to disclose they take into account the particular the situation, the people who might receive their message, and the context.  Memory is short, and a misspoken word or a mistaken youthful event might easily be forgotten.  Now, however, in a world of information overload, history in the digital sphere might never die.  A record exists for internet searches, people post photos of others, documents can be manipulated and taken out of context, and an original message may reach an unintended audience.  The control of the interpretation of information has fundamentally shifted away from the communicator and to the recipient.  In fact, Danah Boyd points out in Facebook, “When the default is hyper-public, individuals are not simply able to choose what they wish to expose – they have to choose what they wish to hide.”

An Excerpt from my AC4D Position Paper #3

As we design in the digital age, let’s look for ways to slow humanity’s from movement toward a computer-driven either/or mentality and back toward meaningful experiences that exist only in dynamic play.   As Dewey writes, “Every experience is a moving force [and] its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into.”  Let’s move toward the place that can’t be be simplified into 0’s and 1’s.

From flying toasters to apathy… clicktivism today

I read an interesting article this morning about the side effects of clictivism.  It reminded me a bit of Gladwell’s article Small Change – why the revolution will not be tweeted.

With the AC4D mantra of THINK : MAKE very much in the forefront of my thoughts, these articles have me wondering who needs to do the making?  If we are trying to affect social change, our process will certainly involve a lot of ‘think make’ as we iterate and test our ideas.  But it is important that the making doesn’t stop there.  We must pass the torch of making onto those with whom we work.

As the first article points out, simply signing up for a newsletter to a cause you believe in can sometimes do more damage than good.  Why?  Because it allows you to stop there.  It allows you to stop before the making, before you actually go out into the world and do anything to affect change.  You feel good because you ‘support’ a cause, and the newsletter feels good because they have xx,xxx ‘supporters’.  This is a problem when being a change agent gets reduced to occasionally clicking your mouse here and there…

I’d love to hear what people think about this… especially as we approach the beginning of our large project.

Think : Make : Share : Think : Make : Share : Think : Make : Share : Rinse : Repeat

design and play

I have always been interested in the concept of “play” and often feel that my best design work happens when I let go and simply “play” rather than focus on what needs to happen and expectations. “Play” seems to create the freedom and room for exploration and discovery. Perhaps it traces back to childhood memories and experiences of “play”. See the video below.

Teaching Design Play to Kids in Extreme Environments

Some of my favorite “play” activities as a child included  legos, making stories, and dance.

What did you enjoy? Does it relate to the work you do as a designer? Does understanding “play” help create better educational opportunities?

Should Twitter Win the Nobel Peace Prize?

Mark Pfeifle, a former U.S. national-security adviser thinks Twitter’s role in helping students in Tehran organize a protest against the Iranian government deserves the prestigious award.  Are we moving into an age where social change and activism begin with a tweet?

Malcolm Gladwell in his New Yorker article “Small Change”, shuns this notion because of the inherently weak social ties found online.  He writes, “Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with.”

Gladwell believes that historically, activism is based on strong relationships with fellow revolutionists, a facet not usually present online.  Real social change, like the kind of change that happened during civil rights movement, requires deep, personal relationships that just can’t be formed online.

Social media, however, does offer a positive contribution to social change.  Mark Granovetter observes; “Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information, and is…  Social media is “terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions…”  The idea for the next revolution, just might be in one’s digital network.

Gladwell summarizes by writing, “[Social media] shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact.”

As AC4D works to create social change, and maybe even a design revolution, focusing on building a social media network is important for cultivating new ideas and finding out what other  social innovators are doing. But if we’re looking for a real revolution, we’re not going to find it in a retweet.

Resource: 5 simple steps for grids&5 for typography

For our pitching practice on Saturday, I got some points for having pretty slides. Visual aesthetics do matter—and most fundamentally so that there is hierarchy to your information, which makes it easier for someone else to ingest.

For those new to thinking about visual design, those who want a refresher crash course, or those who have ever wondered what the heck “golden section” actually means, I will refer you to Mark Boulton, who writes a great “Five Simple Steps” series.

Five Simple Steps to Designing Grid Systems

Five Simple Steps to Better Typography (fundamentals geared toward improving type on the web in general).

I expect similar assistance finding useful and accessible “get your head in the game” type resources when we start to talk about learning code.