Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling

This is one of my favorite TED talks! You really can’t help but smile…

I usually use this video as an example for the use of PREZI, which, if you are not familiar with it, is a presentation tool that seems to be used more widely everyday.

Many desperate PowerPoint casualties are seeking a change, a way to visually communicate their ideas in a non-linear manner. PREZI is proving to be the answer for many of them.

What PREZI offers is basically a large canvas into which you can insert text, images and other media. You create a presentation by marking the areas you wish to zoom into on your canvas, and the order in which you want to zoom into them. PREZI then creates a zoom-in and out movement between those areas when you present. This particular function is what captures most viewers in the first minute, and makes them totally sea sick for the rest of the presentation in most cases… This unique ability had also granted it the glorious nickname “PowerPoint on Steroids”.

Like in the video above, some presenters create a presentation that uses a full zoom out function at the beginning or end of their presentation to demonstrate the relationship between the different parts of the presentation.

Due to this function, PREZI is considered to be less “linear” than PowerPoint. However, I find that using PREZI on presentation mode,the “linear” aspect is exactly the same as it is in PowerPoint.

So, if I try to summarize what I think PREZI’s pros and cons are, this is it:

Pros: working on a PREZI presentation invites the presenter to think about the relationship between the different parts of their presentation. This is due to the fact everything is laid-out on one large canvas.

Cons: The transitions are incredibly destructing and it is very easy to create a BAD experience for your audience.

I’m looking forward to the day PREZI will make their transitions more seamless!

Until then, we can smile anyway (or eat a lot of chocolate…) enjoy the video!

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Benetton is asking the world to UNHATE and probably, to notice them at the same time… Just a reminder to how strong images can be and how brands are about emotions rather than products…

Click here for the full details

Complex challenges in teaching: can design thinking help?

Last week I participated and presented in TERNZ (Tertiary Education Research in New Zealand) 2011 conference. Participants were higher-education lecturers and researchers who came from across disciplines and had a common interest in research into teaching and learning in higher education.

This conference has a unique spirit that asks presenters to present a research work in progress rather than final results, and look at the conference as an opportunity to discuss their ideas and directions with colleagues. In this way, conference participants are helping each other in the journey towards better understanding higher education.

Another interesting thing about TERNZ is its unique format. Instead of the expected 15min presentation – 5min for questions, each session lasts 45min and is compiled of 10min presentation and 35min discussion. After each session, you go to your “host group”, in which you meet with about 9 colleagues and reflect on what you’ve learned from the session you participated in. Since there are 6 parallel sessions, when you get to the host group discussion you get to hear about some of the sessions you have missed.

The discussions in the sessions and in the host groups were so inspiring and I am now left with many new understandings, and mainly – new questions.

The session I presented was called “Complex challenges in teaching: can design thinking help?”. The abstract for this presentation is available here under Day 1, 1pm.

The design thinking process according to how I see it

(Above is a sketch of the design thinking process as I see it).

Basically, in this session I tried to give participants a quick experience of the design thinking process, as well as some design tools they can apply for solving complex teaching problems/challenges (e.g. prioritizing their expectations for a solution under what Must/Should/Could this solution contain?, ideation process – using de Bono’s “random word” as an inspiration for a solution to help break your patterns of thought…).

The challenge that was raised in the session was “How can we help students develop critical thinking across disciplines?”. Obviously, we didn’t get to solve this question in the time-frame we had, however, we did use the process to address it and gain some of the strategies that are being used in the design world and can be applied to teaching.

Personally, I was interested in learning more about the thought processes teachers use to address challenges, as well as finding an answer to whether or not having an explicit thought process is helpful? If so, is design thinking a valid option for that?

 

Notes from – Reflexive Design Thinking: Putting More Human In Human-Centered Practices

Authors: Barton Friedland & Yutaka Yamauchi

Journal: Interactions, 2011, Volume 18 Issue 2

“To engage in the “design” of an organization means to address and reflect on these rules, whereas designing a technological artifact is done according to laws that correspond to the natural sciences. Because normative rules are reflexively understood and produced by people, any “design” of the rules necessarily involves the
people they affect. Thus, no one can design an organization for someone else. The only thing that someone can do for another is to design representations and constraints such as formal roles, staffing, processes, and hierarchical structures. Designing an organization therefore involves other activities, such as supporting members of the organization in reflecting and bringing attention to the normative rules of their own organization.

… On the other hand, actual professional practices in general and design practices in particular embody reflection-in-action. This means designers face each unique
situation and, at the same time, see it as something familiar. Through this, they frame the situation and test successive frames by taking actions experimentally and reframe the situation based on what they learn. To many in management, this kind of practice appears unstable and subjective.

Solutions are often framed in terms of decision making, where an option among given options is chosen. Design is form-giving, the creation of what has not existed. As such, designers often take a solution- focused or abductive approach, by which they explore solutions and problems together and often use a potential solution to better understand the problem [2, 3]. Resulting designs can vary from situation to situation, from designer to designer. In contrast, an emphasis on analyzing a problem and rationally choosing the best solution occludes design possibilities.

Designers simultaneously pay attention to the whole while designing the parts.

…practicing design differs from the theoretical understanding of what design is. Learning design thinking therefore requires actual participation in designing in which experts can “coach, not teach, learners,” to use Schön’s phrase.

Technology can be a tool for learning design thinking and facilitating cultural change. Instead of designing abstractions such as roles, communication paths, and strategies, they designed tangible artifacts. We believe this played an important role in helping them acquire design thinking. Therefore, to help acquire design thinking, as practitioners we need to constantly challenge people’s assumptions. In this relationship, we are always conscious about our relationship with the client. We do not take our relationship with them for granted and instead try to design the relationship as part of our project. Inherently we become part of the situation that we seek to change. Power is also an issue here. Because we are hired by the organization to deliver some value, members of the organization tend to think of design as our job. They believe they can simply say what they want and we will design it. The new research program should take this reflexivity seriously. In most studies in HCI, computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), and even participatory design, practitioners are seen as observers outside the situation. Much research is needed in this aspect of practice.

It is not clear in what process clients acquire such skills as design thinking while they initially have no idea and become defensive.

For this reason we would like to call for research that is sensitive to the issues practitioners really face. We propose a research agenda that incorporates a broader organizational frame, taking into fuller account how organizations actually change (e.g., cultural change and power relations), and one that still emphasizes the valuable roles of technology, communication, and coordination.”

What is the difference between design and art?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my colleague regarding the difference between art and design. We both felt they are clearly not the same thing, however, found it quite difficult to explain what it is exactly that separates them.

I always thought that the difference lies in the reason design and art are created. Art, from my point of view (as a designer) is born from someone’s need to express themselves. Design, however, is focused on whoever is going to interact with the design. It seems to me that you need to understand who your “user” is, who your market is, and who your client is in order to produce good design. You need to learn to understand yourself in order to produce good art. Naturally, you need to understand yourself to become a good designer, but I don’t think it is as crucial as it is in art. But I’m not an artist.

While my colleague and I were discussing this, we thought that it may also have something to do with constraints versus freedom. Artists seem to have more freedom and to be able to handle it better than some designers may. Personally, I find constraints to be a crucial creativity inducer. I don’t cope well with blank sheets of paper and no brief. In order to start creating something, I have to at list create my own brief. Do artists do that as well?

Looking for an answer to what the difference between the two may be, I came across this post. It suggests the following differences:

Good Art Inspires. Good Design Motivates.

Good Art Is Interpreted. Good Design Is Understood.

Good Art Is a Taste. Good Design Is an Opinion.

Good Art Is a Talent. Good Design Is a Skill.

Good Art Sends a Different Message to Everyone.

Good Design Sends the Same Message to Everyone.

I find these statements to be quite frustrating. I can’t agree with any of the statements regarding design. For example, I don’t think that good design is a skill versus talent. If that was true, every designer that had practice would have been a top designer. Also, I believe great designs have another layer to them – not just the layer someone can understand, but also one that someone can interpret. Does that mean it is art?

What I appreciated about the post is that it does not claim to know the answer, but merely to share a hypothesis.

I’m left with trying to make more sense of this, and I should probably sit down for a good conversation with an artist one day. Any volunteers?

What triggers our creativity?

There are small things I do to trigger my creativity. Whether I use well structured techniques like inserting ideas into a “must should could” scheme, or simply focus on something else until ideas “come to me” – my door is always open for creativity.

There is a certain magic in knowing that something new (to me) is going to come up any moment now.

However, I wonder if the more we practice the same methods of triggering creativity, the less creative they allow us to be? Also, I believe each person has techniques that work for him, and some that just don’t. This is why I’m always looking for more ways to trigger creativity. 

In this article I found some interesting ideas people have. I’m sharing my techniques on twitter under #TriggersMyCreativity. If you want to join the discussion and share your secrets, you are welcome to add comments to this blog or simply tweet and include #TriggersMyCreativity in your tweet :)