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Patrick Quattlebaum: Hi Dan. You’re doing double duty this year with both a talk, Make Things Be Good – The Five Essential Lessons from the Life of Richard Saul Wurman, and a workshop on IA for UXers.
Let’s begin with the talk. What started your interest in Richard Saul Wurman specifically? Because I know you’ve been doing some research for five years or so?
Dan Klyn: Yeah, it’s been a long time and I think my interest went from curiosity into something more urgent after I attended my first IA summit in Memphis in 2009 and two really strange things happened there for me at least. The first thing was having been introduced to Andrea Resmini and Jorge Arango who are both architects by training. Then attending a closing plenary by Jesse James Garrett which was an amazing talk. It was challenging in so many ways that it fired up my interest in exploring the architecture side of information architecture.
I had just begun digging into Wurman because of teaching at the University of Michigan the question would always come up: “We’re getting the information part, what’s the architecture part?” So it started in a very sort of amateurish kind of way of – there’s an architecture dimension to this because we call it that.
Apparently there is this weird architect guy who had some things to say from an architectural perspective and just as I started getting a taste of how powerful Wurman’s teachings seemed to be, meeting these guys and then having this challenge from somebody who I respect so deeply at this IA conference, my community saying, “Should this even be a thing anymore?” Profound.
So that set me off on a through the backward – what does McLuhan say? We go forward through the rear view mirror.
DK: Initially I went back to 1976. That’s a fairly well-known time when Wurman introduced the idea of the architecture of information at this conference that he was the chairman of in Philadelphia but then going further back from there the artifacts become increasingly more difficult to get your hands on and yet the payload for how it could influence how we do our work today gets richer and richer.
He wrote his first book in 1963. I have a copy of that and will be bringing it with me to UX Week and showing it off because it’s extraordinary. He wanted to teach architecture students about cities and found that there is no rendering of the plans and maps of cities that were all at the same scale to allow easy comparison. So how would you understand them relative to each other?
He had his students build models all at the same scale and then photographed them from the same height in a copy stand what you end up with is the city, form and intent, being a collection of the plans of 50 significant towns and cities to the scale of one to 14,400 inches.
So what he’s doing as a 26-year-old turns out to be pretty much what he’s doing as a 76-year-old which is using a couple of really powerful approaches to complex information to make it understandable, with clarity being sort of the primary method making the complex clear but the purpose is for understanding.
PQ: Fascinating. Wurman is a prolific writer and thinker. How have you boiled it down to five essential lessons?
DK: Mr. Wurman is fond of fives, and since most people don’t know anything about his work other than maybe TED and Information Anxiety, my proposal is to start with the five most potent and powerful things I’ve seen emerge as patterns in his life and work over a period of 65 or so. The audience for this book project (and my talk) is “do you make things, are you involved in the making of things?”
If you care about making them be good things this man has a set of practices you’d benefit hugely from learning. There are things expressed in his work and in his life and the line between those is pretty messy but there are some through lines once you have access to his full work. The reason why nobody else has these principles, has dug them out, is because all these books are out of print.
UX Week is this is the first time I’m presenting the five principles. The goal is to share a set of practices for how to approach the making of products and services based on Wurman’s life and an accessible kind of good where you could know if you were doing it right or not. I think that’s the other big benefit that I’ve gotten from these teachings myself. What a wonderful gift to have a way to know if you’re doing it right or not.
PQ: As you talk about his books and the principles it reminds me of Edward Tufte…
[photo credit: Maria Cordell]
Why do people love Uber? Why do you hate going to the DMV? Can visiting the dentist feel more like an appointment at a spa? What makes for a good service experience?
Over the past few years, our work at Adaptive Path has increasingly focused on questions like these in the context of service design. As we've been working more closely with organizational leaders, product managers, business process engineers, and others whose role it is to define, maintain, and execute experiences that span touchpoints, channels, and traditional business silos, we have seen how design can help boost customer and employee satisfaction while also improving business metrics.
We want to share what we’ve learned and bring together some smart people who are in the trenches doing this challenging work. On October 3-4, we will be unveiling a new conference that focuses on the role design plays in creating great service experiences. We’re calling it SX.
When I started sharing insights about the what, why, and how of using experience maps to make sense of cross-channel journeys a year and a half ago, I was completely (and pleasantly) surprised by the positive response. Since then, we've worked on many projects that made use of experience maps, I've talked about them at conferences, and my colleague Patrick Quattlebaum and I have taught hundreds of people around the world about the value and process of experience mapping (including last year at UX Week). All of this has helped further evolve what we know and share about using experience maps effectively in organizations. Sharing the process and methodology at conferences has been a great source for hearing about how people are using them for their own needs—and pushing their use in ways I hadn't even imagined.
We've been asked a lot of late “where are you teaching it next?”
Well, how about in Austin and San Francisco next month? I'll be leading our workshop on Experience Mapping in our Austin studio on Thursday, June 6th, and Patrick will lead it in our San Francisco studio on Saturday, June 15th. We're keeping the groups small (under 30) and packing a lot of value into eight hours of instruction and exercises.
We are excited to be hosting the first annual SF Public Design Jam on June 5th and 6th. The SF Public Design Jam is part of a 48-hour global initiative called Global GovJam that aims to bring together people from government, non-profit organizations, designers, students, and local citizens to 'jam' on real solutions to public sector problems.
For those not familiar with the concept of Jamming, the organizers of the Global GovJam put it this way:
Imagine a Jam session in music. You come together, bringing your instruments, your skills, your open mind. Someone sets up a theme, and you start to Jam around it. You don't over analyse it, you don't discuss it to death, you Jam. You bounce your ideas off other people, and play around with what comes back. Together, you build something which none of you could have built alone. And at the same time, you are learning new ideas, discovering more about how you work and whom you best work with, sharpening your skills, and having a great time.
This Jam is designed to get everyone riffing on opportunities for how design and the public sector can work together to have real impact. We'll kick off the Jam by having everyone gather together in one big group where we will all identify potential public sector problems and form teams around them. Many of those problems will take us out into the community to talk to and observe people. With our research findings in hand, teams will return to the studio to brainstorm and sketch out some concepts, eventually choosing one concept to refine further. Finally, teams will prototype their concepts, making them as real as possible in the time allotted. We'll all come back together at the end of the second day to present our concepts to the larger group (which will eventually be shared with the Global GovJam group for all the world to see).
[UX Week 2012 attendees enjoying lunch outside on one of the workshop days]
We're still putting the finishing touches on the program for UX Week 2013, but here's a taste of what you'll see in San Francisco this August.
First up, some of our keynote speakers:
Steven Johnson is the author of eight bestselling books on science, technology, and culture. His latest are Where Good Ideas Come From, on the creative processes that drive innovation; and Future Perfect, on how networked systems can drive social change.
Brenda Laurel is one of the pioneers in the field of user experience and the author of the classic book The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design.
Ze Frank is a prolific creator of online video series and collaborative art projects. Check out what he has to say about being a creative professional.
In addition to those, here are just a few highlights of the rest of the main stage program:
Managing and leading the delivery of great experiences seems like it should be so simple. Apply what you know about good user experience, mix in the basics of management, and voila!, results.
Only it's not that easy.
And if managing experience is your job — whether it be for customer experiences, user experiences, or whatever-it-be experiences — you know it's not a solved field where you can follow in the footsteps of those before you. Because no one came before you.
That's why Adaptive Path puts on the MX: Managing Experience Conference. To create a space where people forwarding the practice of experience management could get together, honestly talk about what works, and what doesn't.
(a few of the great speakers from this year's line up)
For almost any conference, the talks that linger most with me are those that help me see things from different perspectives, especially if they give me insight into how design challenges are solved in other fields.
Three talks bubble up to the top in this sense, and if I could make a UX Week mixtape to hand out, three talks would definitely be on it, covering toy inventing, spacesuits, and the quest for creative inspiration.
It's that time of year again… time to be cheap! We're running our annual end-of-the-year events sale and now is the time to save big on next year's conferences and events. They won't get any cheaper. You won't get a better deal than this. So take it!
The scoop: register for any of our events by December 31st, 2012 and we'll take 15% off the current early bird prices.
One of the most re-tweeted quotes at UX Week this week comes via Amy Hillman from Jensen Harris's keynote talk on the story behind Windows 8.
From the beginning, we didn't want Adaptive Path to be just a consulting firm. We loved attending and speaking at events and saw putting on our own as a great way to share our knowledge, learn from others, and bring our community together.
We started small, with a single two-day workshop in 2001 that we took on tour around the United States in 2002. That went so well we decided to tackle something a little bigger—and UX Week was born.
For the first UX Week in 2003, we stuck to an all-workshop format, but the following year we expanded our scope to include conference-style presentations, including our first guest speakers, such as Doug Bowman and Jason Fried (before he was famous!). This established the basic UX Week formula we've maintained to this day: inspiration through talks about ideas and case studies, plus practical skills-building through hands-on workshops.