Thursday, March 20, 2008

Notes by Southwest: Notes from 3/10/08

Notes from sessions attended on 3/10/08 at South by Southwest.

“The Art of Self-Branding”

Just the Gist

  • Branding yourself is harder than branding a company
  • Care about quality, keep it consistently good

Lea Alcantara,
Owner & Hired Gun,
Lealea Design

View Notes

  • This is not about not about how to design, etc
  • Entourage clip - Vinny Chase and brand names
  • Branding a company
    • Many reiterations, objective, inorganic
  • Branding yourself
    • Little no restriction, very subjective, organic
  • Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you say about yourself
  • Treat yourself like an amnesiac - Who are you? Who cares about who you are?
  • Interbrand 2007 Marketer
    1. 5. Relevance
    2. 4. Creative design/Brand I.O.
    3. 3. Talk the talk
    4. 2. Do who know who you’re talking to?
    5. 1. Consistently
  • Comparison of (“nice guy”) and (“guy’s guy”)
  • Relevance
  • Do you make sense?
  • Look around you
  • Nice guy - blissfully unaware, afraid of change, same approach
  • “Guy’s Guy”- changes w/ the times
  • Mint is about the quality of the presentation (And the tool is just as good)
  • Creative Design/Brand I.D.
  • Does your look match?
  • Sum of all the parts, not just the logo
  • Personality to product
  • GG - cares about presentation
  • Mint - easy to spell and remember
  • The quality of design adds to the level of trust
  • Emotion is the experience in user experience
  • Nice guy: forced, Guys guy: natural
  • Every potential equal - some are better than others
  • Too spread out - weakens the core
  • Example: Wesabe in 30 countries, but that many countries make the quality less overall
  • List of features, slideshows goes nowhere (Wesabe)
  • Mint: U.S. only, outlines benefits, and clearly defines outlines itself
  • Sample banks and cards easy to find
  • Consistency
  • Same quality in everything you do?
  • NG - all over the place
  • GG - consistency is key
  • Persist through CRAP
    • Criticism
    • Rejection
    • Assholes
    • Pressure
  • Differentiate
  • Educate those who you’re talking to
  • Best Personal Brand?
  • Actively: celebrities
  • Tim Ferris (The Four-hour workweek)
  • 37 Signals (Jason Fried)
  • Process vs. Consistency?
  • Getting to know who you are, listen to users
  • Scott Bam - Pixel Media/Someone else branding?
  • Eliminates some subjectivity
  • Rebrand vs. rebuild
  • People who vouch for them
  • Transition to resume (importance of)?
  • Targeting wrong audience
  • Self-branding becomes self-selective
  • General business terms get ignored
  • Find and exploit weaknesses in another brand?
  • Frequency
  • Slow marketing: make friends
  • Conscious of personal brand while Twittering, etc?

“A Critical Look At OpenID”

Just the Gist

This was a great introduction of OpenID, but was very difficult to notate. The biggest take away for me was that Open ID needs some help yet. The idea is great, but until the larger web properties open up the sign-on system, the promise of the idea is not delivered. For example, Yahoo lets you “use” Open ID, but only as a provider and not a relying partner.

Artur Bergman,
Dir of Engineering,
Wikia Inc/O'Reilly Radar

George Fletcher,
Chief Architect,

Jason Levitt
Eep! Eep!

David Recordon,
Open Platforms Tech Lead,
Six Apart Ltd

Andy Smith,

“Adaptive Path: 10 Tips for Managing a Creative Environment”

Just the Gist

  • Found best practices from researching a wide variety of high-functioning groups that had an output that with a firm, repeating deadline
  • Share the knowledge, both for skills and for project direction
  • Don’t forget who you are talking to
  • Be willing to give up work, not everything is good to keep around

Bryan Mason,
Chief Operating Officer,
Adaptive Path

Sarah Nelson,
Design Strategist,
Adaptive Path

View Notes

  • Not a lot of design history to rely on, a bit ambiguous
  • Started looking at other high-functioning groups - how do they do it?
  • Kitchens, writers, playwrights, hard deadlines that repeat over and over
  • Doing different things with the creative process, playing with it
  • Neo-Futurists
    • Chicago-based theatre company
    • 30 plays in 60 minutes
    • 12+ new plays every year
  • Culinary - “Aqua” in San Francisco
    • How a restaurant system can put out a precise product, consistently
  • Orchestras
    • Professional orchestras - Doing entirely new, full concerts every 1 or 2 weeks
  • “The Job Factory”
    • High-functioning group of screen writers
  • Steppenwolff (
    • Includes people like John Malkovich, Gary Sinise, Joan Allen, and more
    • Another Chicago-based acting group
    • 30-35 members
    • Groups of members can decide to work together, or not
  • Avenue Q
    • Broadway show with puppets
    • Web Techniques/New Architect
    • Editorial staff relied on


  1. Cross-train the entire team (increase empathy and experience)
    • Both production and administrative
    • Teaches you the possibilites
    • Switching roles, ex: Neo-Futurists, always rotate roles
    • Want to have a sense of what the other other groups are up to
  2. Rotate Creative Leadership (mostly Neo-Futurist influence)
    • “The Hammer” - PM + Creative Director (in one)
    • Changes person-to-person, multiple products at the same time (roles are according to project)
    • Each actor also writes (Neo-Futurists)
    • “The Conductor” - Voluntary role - facilitates rehearsal process
  3. Actively Turn the Corner
    • Defined by sense of possibility
    • “No bad ideas” -> to eliminating ideas (two parts of the process)
    • One source of frustration in a creative environment can be someone on the “wrong side” of divergence vs. convergence
    • With people in wrong corner, either good ideas executed poorly, or bad ideas executed badly
    • N.F. has a strict turn point, don’t allow people to get off the side
  4. Know your roles
    • “Battle stations” - really successful teams know and run to their roles (kitchens are a great example of this - each person has a distinct role that is also vital to the function of the whole)
    • When a kitchen is in service, it relies on everyone doing what they do
    • In production phase, much different
    • Orchestra: Each section leader is in charge of each section and sits on the end of a row, it’s up to the person next to them to follow bowing, etc - down the line through everyone in the section... it all starts from the section leader, but each person is following the person to the side of them
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice
    • Want to be prepped when the team needs to push together
    • NF do it by repeating the process again and again
    • When same groups work together, it becomes the same
    • NF will also sometime try to break their own rules to try something new
    • People will look for opportunities to practice
    • Non mission-critical projects for new people or methods
    • Practice is before getting paid for it
    • “Design sprints” - adopting and extending the idea of design sprints at Adaptive Path
    • Start off week deciding what to do for the whole week
    • Will do it in room with client team (if it’s the right client, does not work with everyone)
  6. Make Your Mission Explicit (To The Whole Team)
    • Avenue Q - threw out a lot of their early work (just couldn’t use all of it)
    • Ex: Google - “organize the world’s information”
    • If the team doesn’t know what’s happening, the chances of it’s success are very low
    • Missions explicit, and actionable
    • “Manifesto” for NF - what makes them different from other theatre groups
    • Specific set of rules to play with
    • Actually constraints allow for more creativity, able to flip something upside down
  7. Killing Your Darlings
    • Find respectful ways to remove material that doesn’t support the mission
    • Supportive, respectful, responsive feedback and teamwork
    • Every time they cut something, say “we’ll add it to the TV show”
    • (Avenue Q) - trick is, they won’t have a TV show
    • Same at a kitchen...when you have your own restaurant...
    • As reliable as they were willing to be
    • “That’s great for phase 2”
    • NF - on Sundays they do play cutting
    • Originally negative, then changing
    • Team meeting of play listings - start at top of the list and work through - if one team member says keep it, it stays
    • Relentlessly positive - yes or skip
    • Adaptive Path - no conversation about potential hires, only if there’s a huge disagreement. Normally, it’s only a thumbs up or a thumbs down in a room. Otherwise, no discussion
  8. Leadership As A Service
    • Avenue Q - when a new director was hired, first thing he did was go through the entire cast (Broadway Show - it’s a lot of people) and listened to their entire involvement
    • In a lot of design departments, visually opposing
    • Facilitator vs. dictator - giving people the space to do good work
    • Coming together vs. cog in wheel
    • “Art of Possibility” book - transforming
  9. Generate Projects Around Group’s Creative Interests
    • Work is made together
    • Can choose to work together (Steppenwolff)
    • IA person can work on taxonomies
    • Projects by interest - if a project is closer to a person, they will do more and better work
    • Do stuff that you are engaged in/with
    • Also important in-house to keep people engaged, come at something from a different angle
    • “The Job Factory” will drop projects if it’s not working out, or if they have too many similar in a row
  10. Remember Your Audience
    • Doing it for other people...determine whether or not it is just part of “vision” or will serve the audience
    • Learn how you relate to users and anticipate feedback they will give
    • Written for people in diners and parks (Avenue Q)
    • Kitchen - segments audience into “regulars” and “new diners”
    • The regulars are the brad and butter, but new diners are an opportunity for something new - both represented well
    • NF will look at whole experience of show, doesn’t compare with other acting groups - compete with bars and sporting events (late at night)
    • As UX people, easy to see importance
  11. Celebrate Failure
    • Often mentioned, rarely followed
    • Necessary byproduct of a creative process - not everything (if it’s original or trying something new) will be a success
    • Adaptive Path - renamed “Post Mortems” to “After Parties”
    • There are small parts of failure in every single project
    • Talk about things that didn’t work but avoid blame = take risks
    • Have to be able to take risks
    • Keeps you from becoming formulaic or losing the soul in your work
    • Without, would produce the same work again and again


  • How?
  • Create guerilla tactics
  • Shared vision is a necessary component of the shifting roles concept
  • Need to have a Mr. Bush - “The Decider” - ABSOLUTE MUST, or everything collapses in a pool of confusion
  • Fine line - good to not always bet the leader - rough role to have all the time
  • Help to not become stagnant? Creative blocks?
  • Sometimes will get hooked on some problem
  • Remind of original intent - otherwise will stagnate: ex: “we need a new website” is not enough to go on - need a purpose, some specific things to accomplish
  • Practice? Correlation? - Photoshop/Illustrator - not typically provided - throw away work
  • Prototyping?
  • Tried to figure out how to have play time during projects - ex: play time, sketching


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