bencrothers-inktober2016-masthead
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Inky fun with the #Inktober challenge

Setting yourself challenges — and sticking to them — is a sure-fire way to get better at something. And let’s face it: unless you have a personal trainer or you’re a student in something, it’s pretty rare that someone is going to set a challenge for you. I don’t know a single project manager who puts a few extra days in their Gantt chart for you to exercise some professional development time.

You have to set them yourself. But then, that’s more gratifying anyway, isn’t it? And so, when Inktober floated past in my river of social media stuff, I grabbed it with both hands. Inktober is simple: do an ink drawing every day for the month of October. People have been at this since 2009, and it’s growing every year.

A huge thanks to Jake Parker for starting it! I had loads of fun with this. Here are all mine for 2016:

Oct 1 – Fast

I was a day late when I started, so I didn’t end up following the theme of ‘Fast’ for this one:

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Oct 2 – Noisy

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Oct 3 – Collect

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Oct 4 – Hungry

This was a quickie I did on a whiteboard at work:

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Oct 5 – Sad

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Oct 6 – Hidden

I’d been itching to a bit of fantasy sketching…

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Oct 7 – Lost

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Oct 8 – Rock

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Oct 9 – Broken

Cats started to become a bit of a meta-theme in my sketches…

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Oct 10 – Jump

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Oct 11 – Transport

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Oct 12 – Worried

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Oct 13 – Scared

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Oct 14 – Tree

I’d also been itching to try different sketching styles during Inktober, and using colour in a different way. This one was particularly fun to do.

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Oct 15 – Relax

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Oct 16 – Wet

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Oct 17 – Battle

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Oct 18 – Escape

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Oct 19 – Flight

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Oct 20 – Squeeze

For ages I couldn’t think what to do for this theme, and then this idea came to me first thing in the morning. It looks better with my hand over it (below) ;)

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Oct 21 – Big

This was just a chance to play with Copic tint markers…

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Oct 22 – Little

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Oct 23 – Slow

All the hype about Agile and Lean has always bothered me a little bit, especially the promise of SPEED that seems to tag along with it. Neither mindsets/ways of working are actually about speed, but that’s what people seem to latch on to. Some things really do take time.

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Oct 24 – One dozen

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Oct 25 – Tired

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Oct 26 – Box

This was actually drawn on a placemat from a hotel restaurant I was at for work.

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Oct 27 – Creepy

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Oct 28 – Burn

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Oct 29 – Surprise

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Oct 30 – Wreck

I guess something from Star Wars had to make an appearance somewhere ;)

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Oct 31 – Friend

The final Inktober sketch coincided with more news about the cruel mistreatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention, so this seemed pretty fitting.

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See you for Inktober next year!

 

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Best client feedback ever

Client feedbackThis type of client feedback doesn’t come along very often!

Yesterday myself and a fellow Eskimo were conducting a concept testing session with various stakeholders on-site with a client. By concept testing, I mean running a set of activities geared to taking in structured, measurable feedback about interface sketches and other concepts that we’ve been working on.

All the stakeholders take to our sketches with green dots (for what is useful, and supports their jobs and expectations) and red dots (for what doesn’t). Further feedback and ideas are captured on post-its, for further discussion. This means that more accurate feedback is captured, and everyone gets a proper say.

We’re used to getting a range of feedback, but this post-it (above) is probably the best ever!

Sketching Service Design at Service Design Thinks and Drinks
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Sketching in service design

Anyone who stands next to me long enough knows that I really enjoy sketching. The other night I had a great opportunity to do just that: I spoke at a Service Design Thinks & Drinks event (big thanks to Damian Kernahan at Proto Partners for the invitation) on sketching techniques as part of service design thinking and practice.

I skimmed through various ways that sketching helps others to communicate to us (and each other) in workshops, and us communicate to others, through deliverables like journey maps, storyboards and domain models.

But the really fun part was demonstrating some simple techniques and shortcuts to sketch the sorts of things we often need to depict in service design: people and their expressions and moods, everyday objects, pathways and metaphors… even (gasp) drawing in 3D.

You can grab the Sketching in Service Design slides from Slideshare, which also include some ‘pre-fabbed’ sketches at the end.And thanks to Damian’s thinking and camera skills, there’s footage of the sketching here, via Vimeo:

Service Design Thinks & Drinks Sydney : Ben Crothers from damian kernahan on Vimeo.

The best part for me was being able to sketch in front of everyone, rather than just being another talking warm body in front of a slide deck. I’d rigged up an old webcam stuck to a small lamp, and it worked surprisingly well. The lamp illuminated the sketchbook where I was drawing, and the webcam fed the video through the laptop to the big screen behind me. I was also able to flick from the deck to the live capture, depending on what I was talking about.

Here’s hoping to do it again soon!

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Selling your UX approach with storyboarding

Example colour storyboard of someone wanting to book a holidayStoryboarding is one of those cross-disciplinary techniques that is catching on more and more in UX and service design.

I find storyboarding really effective, both as part of internal process and as a deliverable for clients. But the most potential I’ve seen it have is in winning clients and stakeholders over to a particular solution, idea or approach. People are naturally drawn to more visual means of communication, and there’s nothing like framing (pardon the pun) your UX or service design solution as – well – a comic.

I recently did some articles to show how this can be done, for Johnny Holland:

…and UXMatters:

Enjoy, and give it a go yourself!

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Sketchnotes from Oz-IA 2010

Last Friday I went along to Oz-IA, for the second year in a row, and even though I couldn’t go on the Saturday I got a lot out of one day. I thought I’d post some sketchnotes here that I did on the day. The rest are over on Flickr.

Update: I’ve written up a quick take on Friday’s presentations here.

Oz-IA has been running for years now, and manages to unearth and showcase great examples and thinking in the information architecture space specifically, while still keeping a healthy holistic experience design flavour in general. This year there were various aspects of service design and holistic contextual design coming to the fore, which is a welcome thing.

Here are some of the sketchnotes that I did on Friday. I’ve posted all of them on Flickr as a set.

Community Data Models for Humanitarian & Development Work, Shoaib Burq

From: Community Data Models for Humanitarian & Development Work, Shoaib Burq

From: Ubiquitous IA, Samantha Starmer

From: Ubiquitous IA, Samantha Starmer

From: The politics of information design, David Sless

From: The politics of information design, David Sless

From: The Social Psychology of IA, Matt Hodgson

From: The Social Psychology of IA, Matt Hodgson

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Website concept sketches: they’re worth more than you think

I’ve learned a great lesson from doing the Create Conference 2008: you never how how valuable the various design artefacts you come up with will be during the life of a website project. Your throw-away thumbnail-dipped-in-tar scrawls may well lead the way to other areas of creativity and visual assets for the website that you hadn’t anticipated.

When I was first thinking about the visual concept of the Create Conference 2008 website (read more in the work section if you like), I was combining their existing visual ideas of an airship and a clockworky steampunk theme into some pretty scratchy concept sketches, with notes and call-outs all over them.

I showed one of the pages to the client. She loved it. But the thing is, it wasn’t just the concept, it was the actual ‘look’ of the scratchy sketching as well that fired her imagination. And boom: thus was born the visual concept for the print brochure.

I didn’t know at the time that the client was working on the print brochure for the conference, but that one sketch launched a series of extra sketches I did, all around the same theme, and centered on the airship theme. The client ran with the sketch idea, and wanted to convey a ‘Leonardo da Vinci’-esque theme, which actually fit in very nicely with the creative spirit of the conference, and with the playful ‘bygone grandeur’ visual theme I was originally after.

What’s more, once I started thinking about what I could sketch of this thing, the whole contraption under the airship came alive in my mind; I could see it in 3 dimensions; I could see where people moved around on top, and the living quarters in the hull… everything. Now I’ve never been into model ships or anything like that… but suddenly i wanted to build this thing!

I’ve put a few of the sketches in this post. Looking carefully at the Create Conference website and the brochure, you’ll see how they’ve been knitted in.

Sketch of the front (bow?) of the contraption under the airship

A cut-away view of the contraption under the airship

The tail and rotor of the contraption under the airship