Could You Be More Specific? Techniques to make sure your words say what you want them to say.

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Our ideas are only valuable if we can explain them to others. Too often as designers we fall back on abstract language that does not capture the nuance of what we are trying to communicate. This presentation offers actionable guidelines for improving the specificity of your writing.

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Could You Be More Specific? Techniques to make sure your words say what you want them to say.

  1. 1. COULD YOU
 BE MORE
 SPECIFIC? DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 Techniques to make sure your words
 say what you want them to say.
  2. 2. EFFECTIVE USE OF LANGUAGE IS VITAL TO GREAT EXPERIENCE DESIGN. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 We write because we need to: ! • Communicate instructions to research participants, testers or end users. • Document process for colleagues. • Deliver intangible deliverables to clients. • Sell the value of our work and pitch new work.
  3. 3. THE DESIGN INDUSTRY SPEWS OUT A DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT OF TERRIBLE WRITING. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 ! Developing strategies to reach deep into a culture requires a broad knowledge base and diverse skill sets, along with a lifestyle of learning and a craving for new experiences. You have to be part participant and part observer to keep pace with a landscape changing as quickly as the tastes of the cultures that comprise it and the technologies that deliver it. “ ”—Andculture
  4. 4. WHY? WELL… DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • Experience designers tend to write like academics. • The intangible nature of our deliverables and the simplicity of our recommendations make us want to dress them up. • It’s faster to write badly than it is to write well.
  5. 5. OUR WORK IS ABOUT ORDER AND CLARITY. WE SHOULD HOLD OURSELVES TO THE SAME STANDARD IN LANGUAGE. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014
  6. 6. CONSIDER SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE LANGUAGE. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • Concrete and specific, not vague and abstract. • Concise, not verbose. • Familiar, not obscure. • Precise and clear, not inaccurate or ambiguous. • Constructive, not destructive. • Appropriately formal. * http://faculty.washington.edu/ It is:
  7. 7. FOR TODAY, I’D LIKE TO FOCUS ON HOW WE CAN BE MORE MORE EXACT, LESS ABSTRACT AND MORE INTERESTING. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 Innovative Cutting Edge Disrupt Growth Hacking Curate
  8. 8. ABSTRACTION SERVES A PURPOSE. IT’S VITAL IN THE TECH WORLD. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 We abstract away granularity in computing so it is possible to do complicated things quickly. We use language the same way. noun ab-ˈstrak-shən, əb-a general idea or quality rather than an actual person, object, or event * http://www.merriam-webster.com/
  9. 9. Q: WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? A: I WENT SHOPPING. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 Good enough? Maybe.
  10. 10. Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS? A: INNOVATION. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 Good enough? Maybe. But it’s not very specific.
  11. 11. CONSIDER THE CASCADING ABSTRACTION IN THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS: DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • AJ’s relationship with Dom is unacceptable. • AJ does not get along well with Dom. • AJ and Dom fight constantly. • AJ and Dom insult each other at work. • AJ calls Dom a dumbass three times a week.
  12. 12. NOW, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS: DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • We are committed to collaboration. • We work closely with our clients. • We expect clients to participate at every step of a project. • The project team and client will be in constant communication. • We believe in twice-weekly planning calls.
  13. 13. THESE STATEMENTS PROVIDE VARYING DEGREES OF DETAIL. EACH MAY BE APPROPRIATE GIVEN CONTEXT AND INTENT. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 When in doubt, err on the side of specificity.
  14. 14. SOMETIMES, THOUGH, WRITING CAN BE NEEDLESSLY ABSTRACT. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 "In proportion as the manners, customs, and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, the regulations of their penal code will be severe." "In proportion as men delight in battles, bull-fights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack." *Philosophy of Style, Herbert Spencer
  15. 15. RETURNING TO THE CLASSICS… DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 This superiority of specific expressions is clearly due to a saving of the effort required to translate words into thoughts. As we do not think in generals but in particulars—as, whenever any class of things is referred to, we represent it to ourselves by calling to mind individual members of it; it follows that when an abstract word is used, the bearer or reader has to choose from his stock of images, one or more, by which he may figure to himself the genus mentioned. *Philosophy of Style, Herbert Spencer “ ”—Herbert Spencer
  16. 16. WHILE AVOIDING ABSTRACTION WHERE POSSIBLE, BE EXACT IN YOUR WORD CHOICE. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014
  17. 17. INNOVATION IS AN IMPRECISE WORD. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 Innovation Origination Introduction Creation Foundation Founding Initiation Instauration Institution Invention Design Conception Excogitation *www.visualthesaurus.com The act of starting
 something new for
 the first time. A creation (a new
 device or process)
 resulting from study. The creation of
 something in the
 mind.
  18. 18. DOING THIS IS HARD. ONE WAY TO HELP YOURSELF IS TO “SHOW, NOT TELL.” DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014
  19. 19. THIS TECHNIQUE IS VITAL TO GOOD CREATIVE WRITING, BUT CAN BE ADAPTED TO OUR PURPOSES. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday… She was never without dark glasses, she was always well groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes, the blues and grays and lack of luster that made her, herself, shine so. “ ”—Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  20. 20. SHOWING REVEALS. TELLING EXPLAINS. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 When showing, the writer presents evidence to the reader. The writer sets out the facts, and lets the reader decide. “ ”—James Thayer, Show or Tell *James Thayer. “Show or Tell? A Powerful Lesson on a Critical Writings Skill”
  21. 21. SOMETIMES TELLING IS OKAY.
 OBVI, DUH. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • You need to deliver a lot of information quickly and simply. • The context doesn’t allow for showing (introductions). • Providing backstory.
  22. 22. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 “Dorian Gray was privileged and indolent.” “One afternoon, a month later, Dorian Gray was reclining in a luxurious armchair, in the little library of Lord Henry’s house in Mayfair.” TELL: SHOW:
  23. 23. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 “For more than 13 years, we have been in constant pursuit of the cutting edge in design, user experience and functionality. We've built a company committed to making the creative and development processes as valuable as the deliverables.” We hire and develop talented people interested teaching and learning with our clients. Every project generates valuable insight beyond its formal parameters. TELL: SHOW:
  24. 24. HOW DO WE MAKE THIS OUR FRAME OF REFERENCE? THREE WORDS: IS THERE EVIDENCE? DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • His Arm Itched. Is there evidence? He scratched his arm. • We love documentation. Is there evidence? The wall is covered
 sticky notes. • We believe in continuous learning. Is there evidence? Every
 week the strategy team sits down for methods training. *James Thayer. “Show or Tell? A Powerful Lesson on a Critical Writings Skill”
  25. 25. OUR WORK DEPENDS ON EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. HOW DO WE DO IT BETTER? DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 • Use specific language. • Avoid unnecessary abstraction. • Show where possible. Don’t tell.
  26. 26. DESIGN METHODS TRAINING 1.14.2014 THANKS!

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