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:
While in Berlin for our (awesome) workshop series, UX Intensive I accepted an invitation to speak at a local meet up with only the promise that I would speak “about service design.” The resulting talk, on Service Design, is a mixed tape of sorts. It’s a compilation of my work married with some of the great thinking on service design coming out of Adaptive Path from people like Jamin Hegeman, Brandon Schauer, and Chris Risdon. And it reflects the practice work we’re delivering week in and week out as we tackle systemic problems in organizations looking to provide better and more human experiences to their customers. In other words, it’s just not conjecture; it’s service design in action.
I'm a cyclist. I recently crashed on my bike. I wish I could say I went down while contesting a sprint in a race, but the truth of the matter is more mundane. I hit a pothole. It's the cycling equivalent of tripping while walking down the sidewalk. I went down pretty hard. Hard enough to crack my helmet and almost total my bike.
As I was sitting on the curb waiting for my wife to pick me up, I realized three things—I knew I had to apologize to my wife for crashing, I knew I had to go to the ER, and I knew that dealing with my insurance was going to be a tough experience.
As my bad luck would have it, my hand was not only broken, but would require surgery. And that meant insurance bills. Lots of them.
I'm a reasonably well educated person, but when it comes to insurance, I struggle. It's a byzantine system. Deductibles. Co-pays. Flexible spending accounts. Provider networks. It's frankly confusing. You never know where you stand, and whether you're going to get a random bill. I've always wondered why it can't be more straightforward. I know I'm not the only person to feel this way.
If you haven't stumbled across Jeff Bezo's recent letter to shareholders, it's worth a read.
Just a few excerpts:
“One advantage—perhaps a somewhat subtle one—of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to.”
my translation: we don't benchmark against competitors, we let good experiences and customer value drive what we do
“We build automated systems that look for occasions when we’ve provided a customer experience that isn’t up to our standards, and those systems then proactively refund customers.”
my translation: we bake good experiences into our service, even to correct bad ones
“We also have authors as customers. Amazon Publishing has just announced it will start paying authors their royalties monthly, sixty days in arrears. The industry standard is twice a year.”
my translation: good customers are good customers. Let's not screw over some in favor of others.
We're huge fans of our soon to be San Francisco waterfront neighbors, the Exploratorium. So when we had the opportunity to help them map out their visitor experience, we jumped, ran, and flew at it.
You might call the Exploratorium a science museum, but you'd be wrong. They don't quite have exhibits, as much as they have experiments. They don't have docents, they have Explainers.
As of this week they're no longer located at the Palace of Fine Arts, they've moved to a one-of-a-kind new space on the Embarcadero waterfront. Change like this brings opportunity. Opportunity to understand and see things from new perspectives.
It started with a hypothesis
Acting like good scientists, we started with a joint hypothesis:
Baked into this hypothesis was a belief that the visitor experience started well before they entered the door and continued long after they exited. The Exploratorium was doing so many things well to educate, inspire, and motivate people once they were immersed in the space, but were they connecting and bringing together all the right moments, touchpoints, and capabilities to get the visitor successfully and happily to the Exploratorium? What about as they left and after they got home…were they connecting with and supporting guests to become active, lifelong explorers of science and lovers of experimentation?
Pixar is a creative organization we often draw inspiration from. Aerogramme Writers’ Studio recently captured a list of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, a list originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.
It's a really nice list. And it closely overlaps with what we all do with envisioning and writing into existence what an experience should be.
So I had some fun, took some creative license, and changed a couple our words in [brackets] below to compare the rules of storytelling to the design of experiences: