February, 2009

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Ignite Your Career Women in IT Webcast

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    Aside from EnergizeIT, we also have an exciting webcast series coming up in March called Ignite Your Career Webcast Series. They are non-technical webcasts, designed to support Canadian technical professionals in their career development. The webcasts are intended to be very interactive to connect you to the industry experts across Canada.  My colleague Rick who has worked on the past two Ignite Your webcast series share the detailed plan for this year on the canitpro blog.

    New this year is the Women in IT Discussion in the webcast series. I had the opportunity to find the following four outstanding women to be my panelists. All of them share the passion for IT, but each of them has a unique career path and is very successful in what they do. Let’s have an open discussion in the webcast. Ask them the questions on your mind or any advice you’d like to get for dealing with challenges at work. If you’d like to send your questions beforehand, please email me at qixing.zheng at microsoft.com. Here are my questions I’d like to pick brains on:

    • What did you have to do to prove yourselves among your peers in the industry?
    • what are some key professional/career skills you see women often lacking in the IT industry? How can they improve these skills?
    • How we can retain women in the field? What’s your secret for a rewarding career in IT?
    • In addition to technical roles in IT, what are other exciting career opportunities in IT that the audience should be aware of?
    • What are your tips on balancing work and family?

    Come and join our discussion on April 7 at 12:00PM EST! Register on the Ignite Your Career website.

    Elisabeth Vanderveldt Elisabeth Vanderveldt is co-founder of multi-award winning Conamex International, a Microsoft Gold Certified Excellence partner. An international board member of IAMCP Elisabeth is also the global chair Community and Corporate Citizenship and is the founder of the international Women in Leadership and Technology group. A Microsoft MVP, MCDST, SAM specialist and SBSC PAL, Elisabeth is also on the SBSC advisory council, has been a speaker and panellist at Tech Ed and WPC and is a contributor to Microsoft Momentum and the SBSC Community blog for Canada as well as the SBSC PAL community site. Her passion is to ensure young women see IT as a viable and exciting career opportunity and encourage mentoring among the many successful women currently in the industry.

    Shann McGrail

    Shann McGrail is a Business Director reporting to the President of Microsoft Canada. In this role, she is responsible for readiness, communication and business execution for the Canadian subsidiary. Shann has worked in the technology industry for the past 18 years in a variety of disciplines including Sales, Marketing and Technology specialties. During her 11 years at Microsoft, Shann has held a number of positions within the company including Enterprise Sales, Partner Relationship Management and Enterprise Services Management. She is Microsoft Canada’s spokesperson for the Women in I.T. initiative as well as the executive sponsor for Microsoft Canada’s DigiGirlz program, a program designed to inspire young women to consider careers in the technology field.

    Betty Johnson0

    Betty Johnson has been working in technical support for 10 years and a Microsoft certified professional. She works at Métis Nation of Alberta as their Desktop Support Analyst with extended responsibilities in managing networks and servers in conjunction with the Network Administrator. Her first degree is actually in Nutrition, but her passion for technology allows her to find a rewarding career in IT. She proved a point of women in any age group can make a great impact in IT by hard working and continuous learning.

    Caterina SandersWith Habañero since 2000, Caterina Sanders, Director, User Experience, acts on behalf of end-users to ensure Habañero solutions exceed their needs and expectations. Drawing on her wide variety of business and technical experience, Caterina manages the User Experience team, provides UE leadership for all projects, and conducts project business analysis and project management. Caterina believes Habañero’s strong commitment to user experience in combination with its solid technical abilities ensure clients will receive exceptional business value from any Habañero deliverable.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight User Group Meeting Tomorrow

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    It’s our first Silverlight user group meeting of the year. Mano and I are going to share our experience with animation and DeepZoom in Silverlight. Hope to see you there!

    Agenda: Wednesday, Feb. 25

    6:30 – 7:30: Creating Animations using Blend and Code Behind, by Mano Kulasingam
                      - Storyboards and Animations
                      - Animation Techniques
    7:30 – 7:45: Break

    7:45 – 8:45: Looking at DeepZoom from Creation to Deployment, by Qixing Zheng
                       - Create a DeepZoom application using DeepZoom Composer and Blend
                       - Deploying DeepZoom application using Silverlight streaming or any other web server

    8:45 - 9:30: Q&A

    We will be giving away Silverlight 2 books.

    Register at: http://www.torontosilverlight.com

    Speakers Bio

    Mano Kulasingam (Digiflare)
    Mano is a founding partner and principle interactive designer/developer with Digiflare, focusing on Rich Internet Applications. He also has several years of experience developing B2B and B2C eCommerce and Content Management web applications using ASP.NET (2.0 and 3.5) and Visual C#. His design skills include working with the latest professional design tools including Expression Studio 2. His is a Microsoft Expression MVP.

    Qixing Zheng (Microsoft)
    Qixing joined Microsoft Canada as its first User Experience Advisor in 2007, in which she talks to schools, IT communities and companies about Microsoft's investment in UX, as well as searching out design heroes and design stories from the community. More importantly, this role allows her to work with IT professionals to find great UX design solutions that can impact the technology we deliver today. She graduated from UBC at the end of 2005 with a Masters degree in Computer Science, specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. Her blog is: http://blogs.msdn.com/canux/

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - Richard Monette

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    There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for February 2009 is Richard Monette! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Richard.

    richardMonettePhoto

    Who’s Richard?
    I am currently completing the last semester of my Bachelors of Information Technology, with a specialization in Interactive Multimedia and Design, at Carleton University. My focus is primarily on the technical aspect of design, particularly graphics programming for video games. As part of my degree I took advantage of Carleton's cooperative education program and had the opportunity to work at Fuel Industries, a game development company based in Ottawa. At Fuel I began learning the skills and fostered the passion needed to design and develop online interactive experiences and games.

    What cool stuff is Richard doing?
    For my Senior Project, I am currently working with a team of peers on developing a first person puzzle adventure game titled "Glasshouse" using the XNA framework. The design process for Glasshouse has been challenging because working in an all encompassing format, such as a video games, requires attention to many different design considerations. Our design challenges run the gambit of more traditional graphic design for the menu system and textures to the ways in which we uses interactivity in a 3D space to guide the player. It is our aim to ensure that our design is unified throughout the game to create a complete gameplay experience. At the core of our design philosophy is the goal of creating "eureka" moments for the player. These are the moments in the game where the player realizes the sequence of actions required to complete a level. Our levels work by introducing one new skill per level and teaching the player how to master the gameplay technique. After preparing the player, a level concludes with a challenge that requires the player to determine how to apply this new found skill. Later levels in the game begin to require the player to perform combinations of skills and in time sensitive or increasingly hazardous environments. One particular challenge has been developing a visual style to indicate the status of objects in the game. Our relatively minimalist approach helps to add clarity to the game levels and makes use of high contrast color to give quick visual clues to what is happening in the game. Additionally, we have eschewed a traditional video game style interface opting to make all context information built right into the 3D space. By focusing on providing clear audio visual feedback to the player and using a non-violent play mechanic we aim to provide an enjoyable experience for casual and more serious players.

    What are Richard’s plans after graduation?

    Currently I am planning to return to Fuel upon completing my degree. I look forward to working on future game projects and continuing to learn and develop my skillset.

    Want to learn more about Richard?
    I can be contacted via email at richard.monette@gmail.com or follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/richardmonette

  • Canadian UX Blog

    EnergizeIT Registration is OPEN!

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    EnergizeIT EnergizeIT registration is officially open. If you subscribe to the MSDN Flash and TechNet Flash newsletters, you’ve probably received an special edition with all the registration links included. Our team is working hard getting ready for the tour. I’m so excited that we are bringing the event to 14 cities across 7 provinces this year. I want to tell you about EnergizeIT in my own doodling style on the left. :-) Hopefully it captures the message below:

    From student to CIO, EnergizeIT 2009 is about what’s possible. Through a series of events across Canada, we will show you how to take advantage of the Microsoft-based platform, Windows 7, and a Software + Services approach to help your organization reduce costs and increase scalability.

    To find out more about the different connection points and activities at EnergizeIT, my colleague Rodney Buike explained it in great detail in his post titled EnergizeIT 2009 – Who, What, Where, When and Why?

    Pick out a city near you and we are looking forward to seeing you on our tour. The event is free!

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Interview with Kim Lenox

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    mebymaggieInteraction’09 is a conference of about 400 people. An intimate conference for a close design community of interaction designers means you got to meet many people at the conference. Even better, you got one-on-one time with pioneers in the field. I had the opportunity to interview Kim Lenox at the conference. Kim has been working in the UX Design field for almost two decades before there’s even a discipline called Interaction Design.  The first time I saw Kim was at the MIX08 Interaction Design Workshop. I was very interested to hear her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for Interaction Designers as well as her advice to new comers to the field. Here are the list of questions I asked her in the interview below.

    • Tell us about you and your experience at Interaction'09 so far
    • As someone who has done Interaction Design for almost two decades, what do you see as the major challenges in this discipline?
    • In your mind, what are some great interaction design examples in the past several years?
    • You co-founded the IxDA chapter in San Francisco area. What are your thoughts on how we can continue to grow this community?
    • What contributes to a great Interaction Designer? Any advice to new comers?

    Kim’s Bio

    Driven by a thoughtful design sense and a deep passion for creating meaningful products, Kim has spent nearly two decades focused on user experience design, management and delivery of multi-platform products and services with worldwide reach and exposure. Kim has successfully shipped products ranging from application software, children's handheld devices, interactive TV, DVD interfaces, interactive kiosks, websites and CD-ROMs.

    Kim spent the past 2 years at Adaptive Path splitting time as a client- facing experience design lead and sharing her expertise through speaking and teaching about user-centric product design. She has spoken about and taught workshops on interaction design and design process in the US, Canada and Europe including such conferences as DUX07, MIX08, MEX, From Business to Buttons and Adaptive Path's UX Intensive and MX conferences.

    Prior to Adaptive Path, Kim was an interaction design lead for Samsung Electronics America, where she researched and designed interfaces for next-generation and near-term consumer electronics products such as software applications, mobile devices, kitchen appliances and home entertainment systems. Her past clients/employers include: Adaptive Path, AT&T, Excite@Home, LeapFrog, Macrovision, NewLine Cinema, Nokia, Organic, Palm, Samsung Electronics, Charles Schwab, Sprint, UPC/Chello and a variety of bubble start-ups of dot-com lore.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Microsoft Designer: Lada Gorlenko

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    clip_image001There are about 750 UX designers and researchers working at Microsoft. People in the UX community are often very surprised to hear about it. I think part of it is we haven't given our designers enough opportunities to talk about what they do and what's it like to work as designers at Microsoft. During the Interaction’09 Conference, I had a chance to chat with Lada Gorlenko, who is a UX Research Manager at the Unified Communication team.

    In my 18 minutes conversation with Lada below, I asked her about:

    • What are your main responsibilities as a UX Research Manager? How is the team organized?
    • What are the challenges in designing communication software in large corporations?
    • How does user research fit into the overall product development?
    • How do UX Researchers work with UX Designers and the rest of the team?
    • How does it like to work as a UX Professional at Microsoft? 
    • What contributes to a great UX Designer/Researcher?

    Lada’s Bio:

    Lada Gorlenko manages a User Research team in the Office Communications Group (OCG) at Microsoft, working on the next generation of collaboration products for business use. In the past, Lada worked on a wide variety of projects, from researching cross-cultural communication and cognitive limitations of mobility to designing and evaluating virtual reality and self-service interfaces. She is a devoted member of IxDA, the Interaction Design Association, and a proud “UX generalist”.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    A Developer's View on a Design Conference

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    hcphotos_interaction09_-201 by helenchanchan

    portraitLast weekend during Interaction'09 conference, I noticed there were quite a few developers in the heavily concentrated interaction designers conference. I was curious to find out what were their experience at the conference and why they chose this conference. Is it like a designer attending a developer conference such as PDC? I met Calvin Chan who's a System and Database Developer working at the University of British Columbia and asked him to share his thoughts on the following questions. He also took visual notes of the conference. You can see them here. (Photo on the left taken by helenchanchan)

    Why did you decide to come to the conference? What were your expectations?
    "I am always passionate about usable and enjoyable designs. As a web developer, I care about the usability and aesthetic details when designing the web interface. The IxDA discussion board is one of the resources I subscribe for inspirations, and that's where I heard about the Interaction'09 conference. My initial expectations were to see what is going on in the professional UX community, learn about formal training and qualifications for interaction design industry, and hopefully learn a few design tricks." 

    What was your experience at the conference? Was it a good conference?
    "I am glad to find out that this conference is not just about design theories and methodologies, nor it is only limited to software design.It covers a spectrum of topics including human behavior, environmental responsibility, art and creative, industrial design and so on. One inspiration is that we should put less focus on the technologies and techniques, and think more about the people we are designing for and what are the stories behind them. Robert Fabricant gave a good case study on the design process of a HIV self-testing kit in South Africa. The team found that the reason why people do not want to go to public clinic for HIV test is because it is embarrassing. After understanding their emotion, they created a testing package that one can easily use at home without special medical training, and then utilize the cell-phone network for communication and follow-up services, hence successfully increased the health awareness in the country. I really enjoy such stories."

    What are your thoughts on developers learning or doing interaction design? What are some challenges and rewards?
    "I believe that developers should not thinking JUST like a developer, but also be more empathetic to the people and environment surrounding us. Forget about programming details, and try to understand the stories behind everyday things and people's emotion on them.

    Why does my mom hate to use the DVD remote control? Why do I hate to use the company phone which I always mix up the combination for getting a street line and making an intercom? Do not just look from the software development perspective. It is not about stuffing more features to a product or adding glossy GUI elements; it is about trying to understand why and how people interact with your product.

    With my programmer's mind, it is not easy to tune down the rational thinking when dealing with problems. I must confess that when I teach my dad how to use the latest and greatest gadgets, it frustrates me when he doesn't get the ideas after I've explained to him 10 times. It is easy to blame your user for not being smart enough to understand the technology, or too lazy to read the 200 pages user manual. But nobody likes to feel stupid. If they can't easily figure out how to use the design, it is a faulty design. On the other hand, a good design will not only solves people's problem, but also leave them a pleasant and enjoyable experience. To me, it is most rewarding to learn that my product really helps people and they really LOVE using it."

    A bonus from the conference

    Natural User Interface (NUI) is a hot topic at the conference. Check out the clip below I recorded during the session Designing Natural User Interfaces: Notes from the Multi-Touch, Multi-User Frontlines. Microsoft Surface and IPhone blended together and formed a really cool interaction.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Quince: Explore UX Patterns in Silverlight

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    Infragistics, one of the top UI controls vendors, has recently launched Quince – a UX Patterns Explorer in Silverlight. You can explore various UX Patterns by User Tasks, Tag Relations, and Wireframe (i.e. arranged by their UI positions). Of course you can also search for a UX Pattern. Once you find the pattern you like, you can digg it, add to you Del.icio.us bookmarks, etc. Quince is a great example of using Silverlight’s vector graphics, rich interaction, and animation to provide a useful tool for designers and developers. Check it out!

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Feel Energized? EnergizeIT is coming to a Canadian City Near you…

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    Every year, Microsoft Canada puts on an event called EnergizeIT.  In the past this event was a one-day event held in Toronto where we talked about the great new technologies that we are going to be releasing.  This year, we’re changing the format so that people across Canada can experience EnergizeIT!

    My colleague Damir Bersinic has created a blog post all about it – I encourage you to take a look at it!  If you want to hear about Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, IE8, Hyper-V, Windows Azure and many other upcoming technologies from Microsoft, this is where you want to be!

    Technorati Tags: EnergizeIT

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Guest Blogger] Product Potluck from Waterloo UX Group

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    Apparently, I missed an exciting Product Potluck while I was away in China. Last month the Waterloo User Experience Group had a meeting where people brought in an everyday product to discuss their design issues with the group. It was such an interesting concept for a user group meeting that I had to find out more. Gordon Varney, director of Software Development at Metavera, has kindly offered to write an event summary. So, let’s enjoy the potluck summary from Gordon. :)

    January Product Potluck

    At the January 22 UX Group meeting in Waterloo, people brought along a favoured or hated product to discuss. An interesting experience. Here are some highlights from the discussion.

    Books

    Books Mark Connolly began by thumping a book onto the table. Actually two hardcover non-fiction books, with slipcovers, about one inch thick and full of words, not surprisingly. They had few, if any, pictures, a table of contents and an index.

    Books have been around for so many years that the kinks have universally been worked out. Attempts to “improve” the classic norms are generally disastrous: we expect page numbers to be on the outside edge, for example. Putting the page number in the gutter might seem novel but it fails the reader. We talked about the value of the table of contents and the index, but also about other aspects. It’s easy to bend over a page corner or slip in a scrap of paper to indicate a page of importance, or to write notes, or to skim or skip sections of little interest. Visible wear and tear communicates historical information on how a book has been used. Just by noticing where your current page is, you have a notion of how far you have gone and how far you have to go. We talked about the various binding methods and how some were better for some audiences. The dust jacket was a point of contention. (Photo by Mark Connolly)

    Eyeglass frames

    Adam Meghji shared his experience with a new pair of eyeglasses from ic! Berlin. These frames are made from spring steel and are incredibly flexible and apparently virtually indestructible. They have no hinge per se and can be easily twisted apart and restored (with a practiced flick of the wrist.). Just wonderful for someone wearing them for sports or for a parent prone to rolling around with the kids. Stylish, lightweight, what more could you want? Well, one thing: while they do fold up, once folded, they are very likely to spring open — and to launch themselves across the room. Oops. Check out this YouTube video of these impressive frames.

    Necklace clasp

    NecklaceClasp

    Next up, Kate Wringe demonstrated the clasp of her necklace. Likely everyone has fumbled with a necklace clasp at one time or another. Like books, necklace clasps have been around for a long time. Nobody could recall a better clasp than the standard sliding-circle mechanism on this particular necklace, but everyone agreed that trying to fasten one of these things behind your head, usually while you are in a hurry, is far from a simple procedure. Maybe the designers assumed that you’d have someone else available to do it for you.

    The design’s affordances communicated well what you should do to fasten or unfasten it. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that the clasp itself is very small. Our fingers in comparison are huge, and in many cases it is an action that needs to be done out of sight. Compare this to bracelets, where you get to see what you are doing; however, you have the additional challenge of trying to do it one-handed. (Photo by shapeshift)

    Chopsticks and sushi knives

    Chopsticks Robert Barlow-Busch seeded the last discussion with several pairs of chopsticks. Talk then moved on to a sushi knife, side tracked to Apple and Steve Jobs, and somehow ended up with a demonstration of the latest RIM Blackberry.

    The chopstick discussion began with universal agreement that (for us at least) learning to use them efficiently was a challenge, involving much trial and embarrassment, something not to be mastered quickly. The notion of “friction” in a user experience, however, was discussed as something that can be beneficial, as a way to provide feedback indicating when you’re on the right track. Further, it’s okay for an efficient interface to be slightly difficult at first, as we often enjoy overcoming challenges while learning new skills (for example, why learn to drive a standard transmission when automatic is so measurably easier to learn?). Knife

    Our attention then turned from the chopsticks themselves, which were beautifully decorated, to the packaging. They were in elegant boxes that communicated a real sense of quality and contributed in large measure to a feeling of pride of ownership. That led to a discussion about the ability of a sushi knife to be sharpened razor sharp, complemented by excellent balance and, again, exceptional packaging. (Photo by Robert Barlow-Busch)

    Talk of boxes flowed naturally into matters of a product’s “out-of-box experience”, something that Apple has perfected. That led us to the iPod Touch, then the iPhone, which led to the BlackBerry and the Storm in particular, which led to the unfortunate deletion of all the contacts from Keith Balasingham’s BlackBerry as it was passed around. Ok, I don’t think we deleted any contacts, but it was tempting. :-)

    Gord Gordon Varney, Director of Software Development, Metavera

    Gordon has over 25 years of involvement with companies based in Waterloo Region, such as Open Text, Automation Tooling Systems (ATS), and Descartes Systems Group. He is familiar with the early life cycle period of software development companies and their challenges.

    Following graduation with Electronic Engineering from Conestoga College, Gordon went on to study business at Wilfred Laurier University: he has the ability to bridge the technology/business gap. Gordon was a Director at the University of Waterloo's Centre for Professional Writing and maintains a very close relationship with the UW Co-operative Education department.

    Recently he was the VP of Research at the Canadian Innovation Centre, a market research firm specializing in assessing innovation and new technology opportunities to gauge their commercialization risks for the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Technology Transfer Offices of Universities across Canada. Gordon's specialty at the CIC was software and electronic technology.

    Gordon is or has been active in the Project Management Institute (PMI), Society for Technical Communications (STC), and the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC).

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Drawing Ideas Workshop at Interaction’09

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    After a week vacation in China, I’m back in Vancouver this week and just in time for IxDA’s Interaction’09 conference. I’ve been looking forward to this conference for a while, especially to the workshop I signed up called “Drawing Ideas” by Mark Baskinger and William Bardel. The reason I want to take this class is to improve my paper prototyping skills. While it’s very natural for me to sketch out design ideas on paper in the early conceptual design and wireframing stages, I’d like to improve my drawing techniques to communicate my ideas more effectively through sketch.

    DSCN0335 DSCN0341 DSCN0349

    It’s somewhat debatable whether Interaction Designers need to be good at drawing my hand. To me, this is a very important skill not only for designers but for everyone. As Mark and William pointed out in the workshop that learning drawing by hand well can help you

    • become a better communicator
    • see the world differently and engage yourself. For example, trying to draw out a conversation in a dull meeting can make you actively engaged.
    • explore possibilities. Sketches indicates work in process, so it invites others’ feedback and active brainstorming.
    • tell your stories to others. Drawing by hand can be a very powerful and engaging way to tell your story.

    However, we have all the computer technology help us draw now days. Do we really need to draw by hand? I agree with the counter-arguments that Mark and William provided. First of all, drawing with mice is really awkward. You can’t freely move across the canvas and it gets in the way of natural thinking. Many computer drawing software requires users to go through many steps in order to make a simple mark. In addition, it requires knowledge on how to use the drawing tools (e.g. Pen tool). Another problem with using computer tools is that users try to be so perfect in their drawing (e.g. drawing a perfect circle or a curve) that it breaks the natural flow of sketching out ideas.

    Drawing ideas doesn’t mean you need to produce really polished drawings. You certainly don’t need to be Piccaso. Basic drawing techniques such as pulling a line rather than pushing a line is very handy. Pulling a line means you draw the line towards you and look at where the line ends. This way your line doesn’t trail off in the end and it tends to be more straight. This workshop offers a handful of techniques like this teaching you how to draw basic shapes, people and 3D perspective better. Next, Mark and William talked about Visual Story telling. It’s a key to make sure in your storyboard, there’s a beginning, middle, and end. How to draw scenes and connecting them together using action arrows. The middle picture above is my drawing trying to convey the one pain point in doing laundry which is sorting out the lights from darks. The one beside it is the drawing about how to get involved in local IxDA groups. Sketching or drawing ideas is a hot topics now in interaction design. If you want to learn more, make sure you look out for Mark and Williams’ upcoming book on drawing ideas this summer. Also, Bill Buxton’s book on Sketching Experience is a great resource on the topic.

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