One thing you can say about the design community is that do produce a good number of instructional videos. I don’t mean instructional in the sense that they were created to teach new skills. Many of the videos are conference presentations or interviews with the experts. I’ve learned a good deal about design topics and user experience ideas just from having watched the videos that are freely available. I wanted to share two I think are worth watching.
I’ve actually taken in a few videos featuring Jesse James Garrett, and there’s usually something useful to be learned from his presentations (although some are a bit too techy for me) and his writings. In this video he speaks about the “current state of user experience”, and by that he offers his interpretation of what it means when we speak about user experience and where he sees things headed. It’s a good investment of time for those both new to and familiar with user experience.
One of the things I’ve learned about designers is that they use visual communication techniques much more frequently than those of us in the library profession. But I think there is much to be said for strengthening our ability to communicate visually. I got more interested in this after reading Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin – and it was one of the most popular business books last year so you may have read it as well. Roam does an excellent job of breaking down the basics of visual communication, and provides encouragement – if not practical tips – for using drawings or sketches to communicate ideas. I’ve been trying to do more of this in meetings or for presentations by using Roam’s principles and examples. It can be difficult to practice visual communication when you just don’t feel that you have much drawing ability. But Roam offer the possibility that if you can draw a square, circle and triangle you can communicate visually. The guy in the UPS commercials certainly does make it look easy (Is he really drawing or is it computer graphics? At first I think it was drawing but now it seems they are doing more with computer graphics and on a recent commercial the UPS guy even jokingly said something about the “perfect circles” he draws).
But short of taking some kind of drawing class how do you learn to get better at sketching. You can get some books on that, and there are videos that can help you with drawing stick figures, but I recommend you view a video that features Mark Baskinger, associate professor at the School of Design of the Carnegie Mellon University. In this video he explains and shows the differences between the drawing styles of an industrial designer and an interaction designer. The latter uses more of a stick figure approach while the former has a slightly more sophisticated style. By watching Baskinger and then practicing (yes, it takes practice to get better) some of his methods you might be able to improve your own sketching skills.
So it’s not easy if you don’t have any art training or drawing talent, but it’s certainly not impossible to become a better, more proficient visual communicator. If you’ve discovered a good resource that’s helped you to improve your visual communication skills, whether its by hand or computer, please share it here.