The ‘Frozen’ expert predicts the sequel

I saw this comic (by Lauren Weisenstein) at the Nib, and sent it to S, my niece’s mom. She thought it would be fun to ask A what she thinks the Frozen sequel would be like. A did not see the other ideas because S didn’t want to influence her thinking. A also does not yet know that a sequel is in the works. Once I saw what she came up with, I couldn’t resist illustrating it.

Frozen Sequel

What do you think will happen in the sequel to Frozen?

I drew this on Paper, my favorite app However, they don’t let people upload drawings and mess with color, so in the absence of a stylus, I was stuck with fingerpainting this in entirety. I blame any smudges and inconsistencies on my fat fingers. I did the layout and captions on Photoshop. I would’ve loved to hand write them, but there’s no way my fat fingers would’ve stood up to THAT challenge (I tried!)

So, what do YOU think will happen in the sequel to Frozen?

Moodboards = Design + Branding

So you’re developing this hot new website/app, and you’ve decided it’s time to convert those wireframes into a visual design. You have two choices – go with a design and color scheme that ‘feels’ right, or, link it back to what you think your brand stands for. This is where moodboards come in. I am a huge fan of moodboards as a way to link design and marketing. Here’s how they work, using the example of how my team used this technique with Wordcraft to create an integrated visual design.

Wordcraft is an app that lets kids develop their understanding of language by creating sentences and seeing immediate visual feedback. Our vision was to create an app that helped kids learn, as they had fun exploring different sentence combinations.

We started out by creating post-its with words that we felt best described the brand identity. Once we had a board full of words, we used the affinity diagramming method of combining them into themes and came up with our theme words – Vibrant, Discovery, Playful and Clear.

Now comes the fun part – finding images that are synonymous with these words. You could do this exercise by cutting out pictures from magazines, the internet or whatever else catches your interest. We chose to use a Pinterest-board to tag the images that we felt were the most descriptive. Here again, each team member picked images individually which also helped us talk about what the words meant to each of us. This is a good way to bring the team together in a shared understanding of what you want your brand to symbolize.

Each of us then picked our top images for the theme words. The exercise of talking about the images, and what they meant and how we saw them connect to our brand vision meant that there was a fair bit of overlap in these top images. Once we had the final moodboard ready, we used Adobe Kuler to distill colors from these images and create our brand colors. Ta-dah! In 1.5 hours, we had colors that were closest to what our team felt our brand represented. We used these across all our work – the app, the project website, our logo.

Wordcraft Moodboard

You can try this process out on any new app/website and see how it works for you. Personally, I love how it helps to bring a process to what could otherwise disintegrate into a very subjective conversation of, “I think our buttons should be blue, because my child likes blue.”

If you do try this out, let me know what you think!

Note: I put up a version of this post on Medium, as an experiment.

Sketchnotes: Seattle Data Visualization Meetup

When I went to the Seattle Data Viz meetup today, I had 2 objectives:
1. To get some interesting inputs on the ‘Top 7 graphs’
2. To try Sketchnoting, just to build my skills in the area

I skipped the entire second half of the conversation because it focused almost entirely on plotly features, which were pretty cool but not my area of focus. For students / startups, I think they offer a very cool solution to experiment and collaborate on creating some of these.

My notes are kinda sparse because there wasn’t much discussion on the graphs themselves (which was what I was expecting). Ah well, 1/2 objectives ain’t too bad. So anyway, check out my Sketchnotes, and let me know what you think. I hope to do more soon (and maybe buy some more pens to add some dimensions to these!).


Of Goodreads and Listicles

I’m a HUGE fan of Goodreads. I have been using it for a few years now, and I was depressed when the new Kindle Fire came out with Goodreads integration and my old Paperwhite didn’t get it for almost a year later. I mark every book I read (mostly the paper kinds, and yes, I’m weird like that) and rate them, though I rarely write reviews. Today, I was looking at the recent deluge of Facebook Book lists and it got me wondering why these lists were a Facebook thing, when all my friends seem to be on Goodreads too. When I started making my own list, I had this vague plan to link the Goodreads pages to the list, but then frankly, for a status message in FB it was just too cumbersome. It’s weird though. Many of my friends have books on their list that I want to read, but now, I have to go discover these lists (or hope that Facebook surfaces the ones I’d really like) and then keep adding on Goodreads.

I wondered why in these times of Buzzfeed and crazed listicles, Goodreads doesn’t have lists. Except, it does. I checked. But here’s my issue – I’m a longtime user and it took a search for me to discover this. I realize that in the interest of simplicity, there is no point in having lists upfront on the login screen. But, in times like this, especially when a book tag is doing the rounds, shouldn’t Goodreads be pushing users to publish these lists on Goodreads? Especially since the FB ones are going to die down, and none of us will ever be able to locate them later. It also looks like Goodreads believes the lists should only be of the format ‘Best Robot Books’ not “Michael’s Favorite Books’ – I wonder why. I mean, I may be far more interested in discovering something from A’s favorite books, than a list of her favorite thrillers, for instance. Maybe I’m projecting way too much of my self into the shoes of a generic user on Goodreads. Maybe people would prefer Goodreads be the way it is. It would be interesting though, to see if Goodreads could maybe create these list driven FB posts as a social media marketing campaign, where they get people to tag books on Goodreads or some such. I feel like all the virality should benefit them!

5 Minutes of Fame

On the Internet, everyone gets a chance to be famous, even if it lasts for all of 5 minutes. Last year, me and a couple of friends from school worked on this visualization for a class project. Two weeks later, we were featured on LifeHacker, and we thought that was our 5 minutes of fame.

Now, almost a year later, the FlowingData blog (which I love), picked it up and featured it yet again. It has set off a domino-like reaction with multiple sites and people talking about it, and also referring to our creation as the ‘Pandora of Beers’.

What I find most interesting however is how there are multiple versions of our story, the most common of which is that we are Stanford students – even though we are Berkeley students who used a Stanford dataset (a fact clearly mentioned on the website). Watching this story get re-tweeted, and republished is an interesting study of viral effects, and how some inaccuracies get pushed far and wide across the web.

Ah, well – at the very least I can say that we did get more than our share of the 5 minutes of fame.

Of Designing for People

A friend recently shared this ( article with me, and I found myself agreeing with every word in it. One of my biggest reasons for moving away from advertising, and into marketing was because I felt there was too much creativity for the sake of it. Trying to sell something to someone involves telling them why they need it, not pandering to a bunch of critics at an awards festival.

The same thing seems to be happening with UX now that it’s such a buzzword. It’s not uncommon to hear people interchange UX with UI (a fundamental mistake because then you are going to hire someone who is a great visual designer, but maybe not a great experience designer). Usable is not defined by beautiful, but by how well it works. Some of the most usable products are also arguably ugly. Steve Jobs said it best when he said that design is not about how something looks, but about how it works. UX cannot head down this path of pandering to beauty. It has to be based on an understanding of psychology, of human needs. We need to ensure that we make products that are usable and that do not create a cognitive overhead for our users. If that means we sacrifice our artistic sensibilities, then so be it.

Crowdfunded Travel?

The latest rage on Facebook is this website thats collecting email IDs for a beta test of what they claim will be a crowd-funded travel portal. A bunch of my friends have been sharing this link and ooh-ing over it. I, for one, just cannot understand why on God’s earth anybody would be willing to pay for someone else’s travel, even if it is an inspirational trip of a lifetime.

The argument that the same rationale that applies for crowdfunding a movie, or contributing on Wikipedia does not hold good, to my mind atleast. If I fund a part of a crowd-funded movie, I eventually get to watch the creative output and enjoy it. The same goes for Wikipedia, where I get to read on sujects I don’t know of (I don’t want to get into the depths of Wikipedia’s contribution mechanism because that will send me off on a whole other rant).

But if I fund a part of your travel, I get to be inspired by your, um photos? Given that research has shown that the biggest source of unhappiness out of Facebook is the envy caused by travel photos, does this mean that we are now paying to make ourselves unhappier? I am totally on board with the idea that someone should pay for my travel (hey, free vacation!), but do I really want to pay for someone else to see the Northern Lights (I’m picking this example cos a friend went recently and it was the most inspiring trip I’ve seen pictures of) and share a beautiful set of pictures, when all it does is remind me that I cannot go there right now because I’m stuck at school, or work or whatever? I don’t know, something here just doesn’t add up, for me.

I guess I’ll register and see how they take this product forward, and then decide whether or not I believe this behavioral intervention of sorts works.

PS – I discovered the reason for virality. The minute you give them your email ID to be a beta tester, they claim they will give you $50 toward your first trip if you get atleast 3 more people to join. This gets more and more interesting, given that you are essentially advocating an idea that gives you a delayed monetary benefit of sorts. Now the marketer in me is intrigued.

For those who don’t yet know this, I’m an info geek, who enjoys thinking about products, design and behavioral economics.