Workshop in the Windy City

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of participating in the SEGD‘s Identity, Brand, and Experience Design Workshop in Chicago. I gave a short talk on “Technology in the Wild” — a survey of technology in the environment (such as digital signage, touchscreen kiosks and smartphone apps) and my thoughts on what it takes to create successful interactions on these platforms.

I especially enjoyed Virginia Geshan‘s case study of her wayfinding program for my alma mater, The University of Chicago. (At fd2s, I managed the initial phases of our wayfinding program for the neighboring University of Chicago Medical Center.) The University’s AVP of Communication Robert Rosenberg began the session by putting the U. of C. brand in context. I noted two commendable and eloquent goals of the university: to teach students “to think in an independent, flexible and creative way” and to breed an “intellectual toughness and maturity.” I agree that a great education boils down to these two skills and I am thankful to have been exposed to them during my time on the campus lovingly known as the place “where fun comes to die.”

Another highlight of the day was Tom Mulhern’s presentation on experience analysis methodology and how it informs later phases of design. Tom and his team at Gensler have found a way to render those initial, strategic tasks into concrete guideposts that channel the design process toward successful outcomes. At one consulting firm I worked for, we joked that many of our clients never cracked open the thick binders of analysis that they paid so dearly for. The joke was really on us, because we — the consultants — were the ones who did not serve our clients’ best interests by closing the gap between the strategy and the subsequent phases of design work. The abandoned strategy did not inform and improve our designs — it just sat on a shelf. After listening to Tom’s case study, it is clear that Gensler’s experience analysis methodology is a springboard that leads to more targeted, relevant and engaging design solutions.

Many thanks to the staff of Gensler who hosted our event at their studio in the venerable Carson Pirie Scott building.

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