Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: work

Boy, You’re Awesome

While serving as a Creative Director at Hallmark I had several conversations with the in-house recording studio team about music. I also happened to mention my background in playing guitar with bands over the years. Little did I know that experience would come in handy. While sitting at my desk, the phone rang. On the other line was a recording engineer from the studio.

“Hey can you come upstairs for a minute?”
“Sure, what’s going on?”
“We want you to record something.”

When I arrived, he told me he was working a project for the books team. It was a sound book for boys and he wanted to record me playing the guitar.

I said, “Sure I’ll give it a shot. But I don’t have my gear here.”
“No worries. Just use this.”
He handed me a stock Fender Stratocaster.
I said, “do you have a pick?”
“Uh, no. Sorry.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. He then handed me a quarter. I’ve played using coins before. Dimes and nickels…but never while recording.

He plugged me directly into the Mac and said, “Just play like you’re finishing a big rock song.”
“Ok. How long?”
“Don’t go over three seconds because that’s how long the chip can play a sound file.”
“Three seconds? Are you serious?”
“Yeah, I’ll add the drums and crowd noise.”

I did three takes. On the third take, both the recording engineer and his supervisor, who was busy working on something else across the room, yelled, “STOP! That’s IT! That’s perfect!”

The whole session only lasted about 10 minutes. I walked out never knowing when or even if the book would see the light of day. Several months later I was in the mall and wandered into the Hallmark Gold Crown store. I veered over to the book area and there it was. I couldn’t believe it. I picked it up, and as I flipped through to find a rock music oriented page I wondered, “Did they really use it?”

Check it out (I made it loop because it’s my ringtone. ;-) ):

Click here for MP3 Version

[wpaudio url="http://mattbinkowski.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/awesome_boy.mp3" text="Boy, You're Awesome" dl="0"]

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The Promise of Social Media

Events like those unfolding in Japan put things in perspective for me this week. SXSW seems so hard to think about when a Tsunami wave from Japan was captured on video in our backyard of Emeryville, CA:

Case in point but on a much smaller scale—a short blog post by Seth Godin also put things in perspective for me this week. He describes how the “drive-by technorati” regularly announce the death of different technologies. Yet, they generally aren’t involved in the “real work of creating work that matters and lasts.” It’s hard not to agree with Mr. Godin. You certainly can innovate in old spaces—for example: coupon delivery.

Thanks to Groupon, digital coupons have become the hot topic. But is this really the space in which Facebook should innovate? Coupon delivery? Social media’s most predominant and powerful platform could be thinking about new ways to make technology more personal, how to affect real third-party change in technology so that it is more social and, hopefully, useful to people. Would Steve Jobs, after hearing about the Facebook announcement, sit in his office and think, “Good thing they really get the idea behind the iPhone.”

Facebook has the potential to radically change our national education system, the ability to fundamentally alter how democracy in the United States works to serve the citizens, and the reach to inspire millions of people to do more good in the world than they do right now.

Too lofty? I don’t think so. Look at the recent effort by Craig Newmark with his newly announced Craigconnects project. Or what Twitter co-founder Biz Stone will take on with his new role as “strategic adviser for social impact” across the Huffington Post Media Group and the rest of AOL’s assets by developing a platform to help people share their work in their local community. He will create a video series about people and companies at the “forefront of philanthropy and corporate responsibility.” To quote Arianna Huffington, “Since one of our key goals is to explore and spotlight innovative ways that our company – as well as others – can do good, I’m thrilled that Biz Stone will be our strategic partner in this important endeavor.”

Mobile will play a massive role in getting big ideas off the ground. There is real innovation yet to come. I love the energy around social and mobile technology. This week just has me wishing for something bigger than a mobile coupon.

 

Can Experiences Be Designed: A Response

I just finished reading this revealing post by Oliver Reichenstein over at iA (which I think is amazing) and can’t help but react to it.

The gist is this: “UX” has become warped by people in many ways (in practice, in title, in promise) that he’s fed up and needs to set things straight.

The question he posed is definitely worth discussing:

Can experiences be designed?

I’ll try to answer that now:

Of course they can. But that doesn’t mean they are static. They need to evolve over time, just like every living thing on this planet. If you, as the UX person responsible for evolving the experience, aren’t reacting to user needs, you won’t help your client remain a viable business. It’s that simple.

How do you do this? The biggest thing a UX leader can do for a client is to champion the vision of the experience while being open-minded. Business drivers change, products change and even sometimes the key decision maker changes during a project.

The way to stay open-minded is by separating your ego from the work. Ego is the single biggest project killer and time waster of them all. It takes the wind out of every team member, makes the client think you’re controlling his/her destiny (which is never the case) and worst of all, keeps you from listening to the users.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also seen egoless teams in action and it. Is. Agonizing. I’ve watched them go back and rethink initiatives because they worry there might be a shred of new information that could undo all of their work. The truth is, there will ALWAYS be a shred of new information. Sometimes, they come in bunches! By keeping an open-mind, they just might inform rather than “undo” the work.

As for Oliver’s side conversation about UX titles and how people unjustly claim them, I can’t help but agree. For me, the proof is in the work and, most importantly, the results. Anyone can claim almost anything on an agency website, resume or Linkedin profile. However, if they can directly speak to the results, and equally important, the things they learned along the way to achieve those results, then they’re worth engaging. Simply claiming a title doesn’t mean you’ve produced anything of value to a client, user or your own organization.