7 Creativity Principles For User Experience Teams


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User experience professionals are often among the most creative people in organizations. We're designers, problem-solvers, and dreamers. But how do we foster creativity within ourselves? How do we sharpen our skills? How do we nurture creativity within our teams and organizations? This talk describes practical ways solo practitioners and teams at all levels can discover and improve creative powers that produce better design outcomes for users, customers and organizations. Attendees will learn how to develop habits that unlock artistry, practice techniques that stimulate experimentation and innovation, and participate in a fun, interactive game that illustrates a simple solution to a common problem many UX people face working in Agile cultures. Inspiration guaranteed.

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  • Howmany of you are creative professionals? You get paid to invent, make, and bring ideas to life. Awesome! Life is good, right?What do you do when you hit a creative block? When was the last time you felt uninspired or stuck in a rut?How do you keep replenish your creative energy? Today I’m going to share with you some ways my team and I have discovered inspiration, practiced artistry, and developed a culture of experimentation – at work and in life. We’ll discuss 7 principles – and play a game. And for anyone in this room thinking “I’m not creative!” Bullshit! Every person is creative in some way. There’s creativity in how you thread your way through traffic on the highway, how you plot a course on a mountain bike trail. You’re creative in how you make dinner, take pictures, make Halloween costumes, carve jack-o-lanterns, and tell stories.
  • I lead the UX team at Snagajob. We build software that connects hourly job seekers in service industries with employers. I’ve been an improvisational musician for over 25 years – 90% of it on electrical gutbuckets. I taught pre-school for 3 years where I learned how to look at the world from the point of view of little kids – and understood the power of the beginner’s mind. I’ve been in UX for 12 years, which has taught me how to listen to users, choosers and stakeholders. I’ve been living Agile since 2008 – and now learning to live Lean. I seldom tweet, but when I do it’s usually something meaningful. I’m inspired by composer Igor Stravinsky, musician Bill Frissell, artist Alexander Calder, and truth-seeker George Fox.
  • Creativity requires discipline.
  • Michael Beirut is an influential designer and design educator. His work is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (and other fabulous places), and he’s faculty at the Yale University School of Art. He has invented a lot of cool stuff, but one of my favorites is his “Design-a-Day” challenge for his students. The direction is simple: do something creative every day for 100 days.
  • One student composed poems inspired by paint chips. Another student filmed himself dancing like a maniac for 100 days. Another found 100 creative uses for a folding chair.
  • Richmonder Noah Scalin famously made a skull-a-day for more than a year. Here’s his first.
  • Another of Noah’s skulls. Do you see it?
  • This is Video Fan in Richmond. Noah is a frequent customer there. The awesome staff there let him re-arrange the rentals into a skull shape.
  • Our UX team at Snagajob is full of creative designers – but we channel most of that energy into software that helps connect hourly workers with service-oriented businesses like restaurants and retail. Some months ago our team seemed to be in a bit of a creative rut. How much creativity can anyone inject into onboarding paperwork processing flows? Our designers took on the design-a-day challenge. Here’s “Blue Dog” by Archie Miller, one of our interaction designers.
  • Here’s “Dogfood Dog” – also by Archie.
  • Chip Trout – the lead visual designer on the team – modified Currier and Ives prints to create “Creatures and Ives.”
  • Here’s one of my favorites! The Cyclops really does look guilty and frightened, doesn’t he?
  • Chip’s designs were so successful and popular, he built a small following online. Several publishers expressed interest in his work, too.
  • I created more than 100 papers sculptures using notecards and tape.
  • Each sculpture was matched with an unusual way of writing the date it was created.
  • I kept going – making more than 300 daily abstract diary entries.
  • Then moving on to portraits. This is my best (a copy of a poster I saw in a shop window). Most of them sucked. And that’s why I did portraits for a while – because I stink at it. After 50 or so I moved back to abstract visualizations – and I’m still going.
  • When was the last time you did something simple and small to tap into your creative mind? Why not do something once-a-day? It can take as little as 15 minutes to make something.
  • Creativity is about re-imagining something that already exists.
  • These are incubators for infants in a remote hospital in Nepal. The machines were donated by hospitals in the US and Europe. But there’s a critical problem with this – it’s nearly impossible to fix them when they breakdown. Parts are scarce and repair personnel are thousands of miles away.
  • A group of creative thinkers analyzed the problem and discovered an interesting opportunity. Remote towns almost always had Toyota 4Runners nearby. And towns usually had easy access to auto mechanics. They discovered a remarkable solution.
  • Incubators made from used car parts! Heat is supplied by the headlights. Fans and ventilation from dashboards. Alarms and signals lights. (Special thanks to Scott Wayne at the Frontier Academy in Richmond for the example.)
  • Duke Ellington re-imagined the Nutcracker Suite in his own awesome style. Best Christmas record ever? Maybe.
  • Easy Star Allstars reconfigure Radiohead’s OK Computer, The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
  • Paul’s Boutique was constructed out of 105 songs.
  • Creativity requires time to think.
  • Note to readers: we played the memory game from Stephen Shapiro’s “Best Practices are Stupid” – tip #23. The punchline: when we’re under pressure, rushed and too focused, we gravitate to easy answers and simplistic solutions.
  • Note to readers: snippet of John Cleese speaking about time and space to think. Do you make time each day to let your mind wander to think deeply about a problem? UX people in Agile settings often suffer from the rapid pace because they’re pressured to sacrifice creativity for speed.
  • Creativity is sparked when you change your perspective.
  • Charles and Ray Eames were iconic architects and designers
  • They were also incredible film-makers. In “Powers of 10” they convey a complex mathematical concept in a visual way – taking us to the edges of the galaxy and into innerspace in about 8 minutes!
  • Brian Eno’s oblique strategies.
  • Shin Nishibori’s prototype of an iPhone was designed from the perspective of a competitor: Sony.http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/design/2012/09/iphone_design_documents_from_the_samsung_trial_reveal_more_than_ever_about_apple_s_secretive_design_process_.html
  • One of our designers – Chip Trout – mocked up a search results page through a Pinterest lens.
  • We learn through experimentation. Therefore, we must have courage to fail.
  • Thomas Edison – 1,096 patents. Phonograph. Motion picture camera, lightbulb. King of FAIL.
  • James Dyson says failure is the path to learning. It takes guts to travel that road but it’s worth it in the end.
  • We have Dyson airblades in our offices. We humbly suggest these things need a bit more refining. They’re incredibly loud, which interrupts conversations that start at the sink – so we’ve observed people using paper toilet seat covers as paper towels. Less disruptive.How are you learning? Are you afraid to fail? What did you learn from your last failure?
  • Lincoln surrounded himself with political rivals because he knew it would promote sharper discourse and diverse approaches to problem solving.
  • Lennon and McCartney. Amazing creators. Volatile relationship. Competitors.
  • Mick Jagger does not look happy.
  • At Snagajob we meet twice a week to critique prototypes through the lens of design principles. Designers come in expecting constructive feedback. Who is your critic? Get one. How do you invite debate on your teams? Who do you critique? Find a partner to design with and against.
  • Sometimes removing something is more powerful that adding something else in. Subtract.
  • The best way to make a sandcastle is to remove sand from the pile.
  • Skull topiary by Noah Scalin.
  • Mies was a pioneer of modern architecture. This is the Farnsworth House in Illinois. Mies is also famous for 2 quotes: “God is in the details.” “Less is more.” His approach to architecture: remove decoration, ornamentation, down to the most functional pieces. See also: Bauhaus movement.
  • How do you simplify your work? Take something you made (e.g., comp, wireframe, copy, etc.) and use only an eraser on it. What happens when you subtract?
  • 7 Creativity Principles For User Experience Teams

    2. Tom IllmenseeDirector of User Experience at Snagajob@TomIllmensee#UserFocus2012
    3. Creativity | disciplined
    4. Creativity | re-imagination
    5. Hey Ladies1. "Magilla Gorilla" by Hoyt Curtin2. "Aint It Funky Now" by James Brown3. "The Ballroom Blitz" by Sweet4. "Jungle Boogie" by Kool & the Gang5. "Funky President" by James Brown6. "Machine Gun" by Commodores7. "Holy Ghost" by Bar-Kays8. "High Power Rap" by Crash Crew9. "Shake Your Pants" by Cameo10. "So Ruff, So Tuff" by Roger11. "Jazzy Sensation" by Afrika Bambaataa and The Jazzy 512. "Come Let Me Love You" by Jeanette "Lady" Day13. "Change the Beat (Female Version)" by Fab 5 Freddy feat. Beeside14. "Pumpin It Up (Special Club Mix)" by P-Funk All Stars15. "Party Time" by Kurtis Blow16. "Hey DJ" by Worlds Famous Supreme Team
    6. I invented nothing new.I simply assembled thediscoveries of other menbehind whom werecenturies of work...Henry Ford
    7. Creativity | time to think
    9. Creativity | change your perspective
    10. Be extravagant.Destroy the most important thing.Do nothing for as long as possible.How would you explain this to your parents?List the qualities it has.Not building a wall but making a brick.State the problem in words as simply as possible.Turn it upside down.Your mistake was a hidden intention.How would someone else do it?
    11. Creativity | courage to fail
    12. “I have not failed. Ive just found 10,000 ways thatwont work…I am not discouraged, because everywrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
    13. “I made 5127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got itright. There were 5126 failures. But I learned from eachone. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’tmind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildrenshould be marked by the number of failures they’vehad. The child who tries strange things andexperiences lots of failures to get there is probablymore creative…”
    14. “It can take a very long time to develop interestingproducts and get them right. But our society has aninstant-gratification thing. We admire instant brilliance,effortless brilliance. I think quite the reverse. Youshould admire the person who perseveres and slogsthrough and gets there in the end.”
    15. Creativity | conflict + critique
    16. Creativity | subtraction
    17. "Perfection is achieved,not when there is nothingmore to add, but whenthere is nothing left totake away."Antoine de Saint-Exupery
    18. CREATIVITYdisciplinedre-imaginationthink timechange perspectivecourage to faildebate + critiquesubtraction
    19. Tom IllmenseeDirector of User Experience at Snagajob@TomIllmensee#UserFocus2012
    20. Photo creditshttp://www.old-lp.com/8753-DukeEllington-NutcrackerSuite.jpghttp://www.flickr.com/photos/27784972@N07/7861869094/http://frenchfinest.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/saint-exupery.jpghttp://kaufmann-mercantile.com/images/alexander-calder-mobile.jpghttp://blog.ricecracker.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/03wa.jpghttp://images.fastcompany.com/upload/eames_fastcompany.jpghttp://walterwsmith.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/brian_eno_2.jpghttp://photos.allthingsd.com/Events/Apple/Apple-Samsung-Slides/i-6KzJC8n/0/O/Apples-Sony-style-designs002.jpghttp://www.drop-d.ie/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/pauls_boutique.jpghttp://strosechronicle.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Michael-Bierut-copy-BEST-830x1024.jpghttp://observatory.designobserver.com/media/images/poster_MB_525_525.jpghttp://skulladay.blogspot.com/2007/06/orange-paper-skull.htmlhttp://skulladay.blogspot.com/2008/02/265-bicyskull.htmlhttp://skulladay.blogspot.com/2008/04/333-topiary-skull.htmlhttp://skulladay.blogspot.com/2008/05/339-video-fan-skull.htmlhttp://www.creaturesandives.com/http://dogaday.posterous.com/http://www.njmodern.com/images/175.jpghttp://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=24678http://www.menloparkmuseum.org/files/old-age-thomas-edison-full.jpghttp://www.horstfriedrichs.com/wp_horst/wp-content/gallery/commissions/01.jpghttp://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/vacuum-cleaner-james-dyson.jpghttp://www.gadgetreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/james-dyson-air-multiplier.jpghttp://www.filsonhistorical.org/images/gallery/Lincoln_Cabinet_reading_EP_wm.jpghttp://beatlephotoblog.com/photos/2011/03/1178.jpghttp://www.aquariumdrunkard.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/jagger-1972-richards.jpghttp://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/neonurtures-car-parts-baby-incubator/http://img.archiexpo.com/pdf/repository_ae/9828/dyson-airblade-21856_10b.jpghttp://img.submarino.com.br/produtos/01/00/item/7243/3/7243342SZ.jpghttp://tinyurl.com/8n55owk