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David Sherwin
Oakland, California
Director of User Experience at Lynda.com, frog Fellow, author of "Creative Workshop" and "Success by Design."
Interests: music, yoga, chocolate, anime, art, design, dreaming, cooking, writing, photography, jazz, meditation, rock climbing, novels, typography
Recent Activity
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For three years, I taught a class at California College of the Arts' BFA in Interaction Design program about the use of story in product design. For the first half of the semester, sophomores created a wide variety of stories as art in physical and digital media. For the second half of the semester, they would then create the same types of stories in the context of design problems. The challenges we used in the class and as homework were in the style of what you’d find in Creative Workshop, but focused on stories as the material output. As an example: Students would get comfortable making sequential art, then use the same tools to generate product scenario storyboards. They would... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2016 at ChangeOrder
Consider this thought experiment: I give you two books. One of them looks like it was produced by selecting photographs on your hard drive and publishing a hardcover book through Apple. If you had created it, you would have spent about ten minutes putting it together in iPhoto. In the other book, it looks like the photographs have been hand-printed on archival paper via a giclee printer and mounted into a hand-stitched hardback book, with a few alignment errors and flaws. Which book would you rather have? Why? Now, imagine that there are 5 copies of the Apple-produced book, and 200,000 copies of the one that appears to be hand-printed. Which one would you rather have? Why? I wonder what... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2016 at ChangeOrder
When reading The Information by James Gleick, the following quote from Charles H. Bennett leapt out at me: “The more subtle something is, the harder it is to discover.” So many ways to read that statement. I am bullish on the Internet, but one of my fears is that decades from now, art forms that trade in subtlety will become like the Cook Islands. Few people will have heard of the place. Very few people will live there. The tourist trade will not be brisk. There have never been so many ways to take an idea and broadcast it to the universe writ large. And yet the more subtle your idea, the higher the risk that it will be disregarded... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2016 at ChangeOrder
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Many years ago, I was interviewing a portfolio manager about how he uses financial information. He said something that has resonated with me to this day: “Every number that I include in my quarterly reports to clients has a story behind it. I won’t meet with my clients until I know what that story is—no matter whether it’s good or bad about their portfolio’s performance. Otherwise, they’re going to bring their own story to it.” It’s a common error of judgment for designers to assume they know what stories will be told from data. We create donut charts and graphs and tables and many other sorts of data visualization that are meant to communicate particular meanings. But data doesn’t tell... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2016 at ChangeOrder
I was thinking more of the city papers—like The Stranger in Seattle, where you are—a mix of local voices with just enough craft to elevate it above the hyperlocal hometown newspaper that just reprints press releases. There just isn't a lot of space in between, separate of people creating their own zines and magazines, but then would those qualify as "blogs" anymore? There's something else. I think Medium is driving towards this but the local community angle I haven't seen robustly addressed.
We were having a snack with our friends Penny and Dan before they went to a show in downtown Oakland. Our car was around the corner, and we offered them a ride to the concert. “It’s okay,” Penny said. “We don’t want to be a bother. We’ll just take an Uber.” Mary insisted on giving them a ride, so we walked back to our apartment to get our car. When Penny got in, she said: “Thanks so much for the bespoke Ubering.” I feel this way about the economizing of blogs. I said a while back on The Twitters that blogging had become like the community farmer’s market, while the Mediums and Pulses of the world were the supermarkets. Most... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at ChangeOrder
When I was a baby, I didn’t start speaking until I was over two years old. When I started talking, it was in complete sentences. For me, writing has always been a way of feeling out what’s complex or hard to understand. When writing things down, I often feel like I need to get out a complete thought—even if that means going to a level of systematic depth that the communication may not require. While this habit may be rewarded for the creation of design documentation or books, it doesn’t always lend itself to open dialogue and public discourse. Blaise Pascal once said in one of his letters to a friend: “I have made this longer than usual because I... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2016 at ChangeOrder
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Congratulations. You’re now in charge of a project team that’s kicking off in a few days. Your boss sends you an email that ends with: “Let me know if you want some advice when the team starts Storming.” Why the capital “S” in that email for “Storming”? A few Internet searches later, you’re buried in a pile of Wikipedia entries, recent articles from the New York Times, and academic books talking about how groups develop over time. In your reading, you find that way back in 1965, psychologist and professor Bruce Tuckman proposed a theory that shapes how many of today’s businesses approach team building. You’ve heard some of these terms come up before at work, but they didn’t make... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2016 at ChangeOrder
Interested in starting your own design business, but don't know how to do the "business" part? This comprehensive presentation covers how design studios make money, the ways design studios organize themselves to support making money, considerations for managing your studio's finances, and a method for creating your own studio operating model. Many of the tools and perspectives in this presentation were identified in collaboration with Design Commission, a successful design business headquartered in Seattle, Washington. I delivered this presentation with David Conrad, Studio Manager and Co-Owner of Design Commission, as part of AIGA Seattle's "Design Business for Breakfast" series. Much of the information here was then included in my book Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2015 at ChangeOrder
Light knifed across the stark grey ceiling. Pain curled in my gut. Sweaty salty upper lip. Knees pulled to my chest. Slitted curtain. Slipping into and out of lucid dreams: Late summer bright suits and sundresses. Grass blades tickling my back. Fighting for a share of blanket on the hilltop. Birds formed a wheel overhead. When I shut my eyes, my body shook itself awake. * Stepping off the bus after a bracing three hour ride from Barcelona to Cadaqués, I sit on a dirty bench waiting for a woman to meet me with the apartment keys. The afternoon sun hammered down. Behind me, tourists wandered up and down the narrow streets. The dark blue harbor was littered with white... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2015 at ChangeOrder
The toddler in the snowsuit slipped on a rock and slid into the burbling stream. His mother pointed at him, laughing to her two friends standing beside her. I thought: I’ve never seen that happen in an art museum. We were inside the first room of Olafur Eliasson’s Riverbed, which was on display at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen. It was part of a series of situational artworks where natural landscapes were partially recreated within the environment of a gallery space. The year before, Mary and I had seen Lava Rocks at a museum in Aalborg, where we had to don a pair of museum-provided Crocs and gingerly step our way through a giant white room full... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2015 at ChangeOrder
At sunset, the lingering light painted a neon red line above rolling hills. As I drove north on Highway 101 at 70 miles per hour, the landscape scrolled in parallax, the road receding into night. Up ahead, I could see a white car moving much slower than the speed limit, drifting from the righthand lane into mine. In moments, I would either be passing this car, or it would be crashing into me. So what did I do? I honked right before I was about to pass. And as I motored past, I quickly glanced over my shoulder to see why this driver was behaving so erratically. The driver’s face was illuminated by the blue-bright glow of her phone in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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The car saleswoman leaned over the desk, placed a sheet of paper down in front of us. “This is a version of the customer satisfaction survey they’re going to send you next week in the mail.” It was a garden-variety survey about the car purchasing process, with a five-point scale that ranged from Excellent (5) to Poor (1). She plucked a pen from the desk before her, then drew a hard blue line down the page between the 4 and the 5. “If I’m rated anything less than a five,” she said, “then I’m not doing a good job. It’s either a five or I’ve failed.” She continued to describe how even one 3 or 4 in a month could... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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How DRY is your design? Does every element in your design have CRUD? Can you narrow the GIGO gap? I find it hard to think about creating UX designs without considering the underlying logic an engineer will use to bring it to life. Successful UX designers are often trained in markup and coding, working within modern web design principles supported by constantly updated libraries housed on Github. However, there are many principles that are used by software engineers that can help new user experience professionals make design decisions that are more likely to be implemented successfully and scale appropriately. Here are three that I use regularly in working with my design teams. Just How DRY Is Your Design? DRY stands... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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In the past five years, I have dedicated much of my effort to helping people learn the skills they need to succeed and pursue their passions, both in professional practice at frog, as a teacher at California College of the Arts, and as a writer of design books that encourage learning by doing. That's why I'm excited to announce that today I joined Lynda.com as their Director of User Experience. In my new role at Lynda.com, I am responsible for the design of their product across devices and platforms, leading a team of UX designers that want to help people around the world reach their fullest potential. If you're like me, Lynda.com has been there for you when you needed... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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I play drums in an all-frog cover band, the Sticky Notes. We’re playing a free show on Tuesday, June 17th at the frog design studio at 660 3rd Street (3rd and Townsend) in San Francisco. Our studio will be open to guests from 6–9 PM with a DJ, and we’ll be rocking a mix of classic and modern songs from 8-9 PM. This is part of the SF Design Week’s Studio Crawl. I hope to see you out there! And, of course, mad props goes out to Amalia Sieber for the great band poster she created for us. Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
You know when a team clicks. Designers complete each other’s sentences. Team members engage in critique frequently, and relish the input into their work. People build on each other’s ideas in productive ways. Everyone feels invested in their project outcomes. This doesn’t happen through mere serendipity, especially when working with teams that have multidisciplinary participants working across multiple physical locations. You may be collaborating deeply with stakeholders across corporate silos, as well as involving users as part of the design process. Creating cohesive, high-performing teams requires not just talented people, but also the right structures to support them as they strive to achieve their goals. How can a manager or leader understand where these structures fit as part of their... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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We no longer live in a disconnected world. Ubiquitous, flexible communication has become the norm. We are living in huge device ecosystems, whose complexities are increasingly challenging to perceive. At frog, we’re passionate about designing products that are meant to advance the human experience. That’s why we’re excited about helping to shape the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). There are over 200 billion connected devices estimated to be a part of the IoT by 2020. We need to participate in helping to create these next waves of connected devices, bringing our skills as designers to bear on creating meaningful solutions. At this year’s HOW Design Live, I was able share some of the tools we use to create... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This summer, join me from July 7-11, 2014 at Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design's Summer School for a week-long workshop that will help you become a stronger storyteller and improve your product and service design efforts. This workshop, entitled "Happily Ever After: Storytelling in Interaction Design," draws from my semester-long storytelling class that I've taught since 2012 in the BFA in Interaction Design program at California College of the Arts (CCA). You'll take part in individual and collaborative storytelling challenges, which will build up to a long-form story project that will stretch your storytelling and design skills to the limit. The workshop will be co-taught with Mary Sherwin, who helped me build the CCA class and brings her perspective and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This is the final post culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). See the slide deck here. At the start of this talk, I'd defined entrepreneurship as undertaking risk to create customer value by making needed things, receiving feedback on them, and improving business performance iteratively. And I'd said I wanted to answer this question: How might we bring design into businesses to improve their chances of success? Here's my answer to that question. Increasing the chance of success for design-led businesses requires entrepreneurs to define their impact potential, seek out “duh” problems, make desirable solutions at greater and greater fidelity, and work in cycles of learning. If there's anything you... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This is the fifth of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first, second, third, and fourth posts, and see the slide deck here. Improving Business Performance Iteratively With enough customer feedback on our hypotheses, we are able to hone in on "duh problems" that, if solved, create major value for customers while also creating new business opportunities for our clients. This requires steady, consistent effort, and going through smart iteration on both the product and business. Iteration doesn’t just mean to create improvement for improvement's sake, adding countless features and complexity in the process based on every piece of customer feedback that you receive. I see... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This is the fourth of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first, second, and third posts, and see the slide deck here. You Should Always Be Making You’ve identified the level of risk you can take, and established the value of the problem you’re seeking to solve for your target audience. At this point, I still meet people who look at the entrepreneurship process as having an idea, formulating a plan around that idea, getting funding, then making the thing. This behavior happens not only in product and service design, but in nonprofit and global development work.* Rapid prototyping and learning from those prototypes through intelligent... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This is the third of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first post and second post, and see the slide deck here. Don’t Think You Have the Solution So, you’ve defined the type of impact you think you want to have. You have a theory about what particular group or community would benefit from your business idea or solution. Now you’re going to immediately make your solution and unleash it into this world, right? This is a rookie mistake for any new business. We assume if it’s our problem, it’s important to everyone else. We believe that other people value a solution as much as we... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This is the second of six posts culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). Read the first post here and see the slide deck here. Entrepreneurs Take on Risk Risk is often measured in an investment of explicit resources: time, people, resources, money, space, and so forth. You can quantify these things. They are tangible. You can capture them in a spreadsheet, calculate in your head exactly how much "runway" these resources might afford you.* When talking about risk, entrepreneurs are often talking about exposure to potentialloss or downside if you take a particular course of action. These are decisions whose implications could make your business suffer in the short term,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at ChangeOrder
The following 6 posts are culled from notes I wrote in preparation for a talk at Kansas City Design Week (KCDW). The talk was delivered on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Think Big Partners in Kansas City, Kansas. How many people here would consider themselves entrepreneurs? Designers? Both? When the folks at KCDW reached out to me about giving this talk, I gave them the title "Envisioning the Balance: The Dynamic Role of Design in Entrepeneurship." However, five months have passed since I came up with that title, and as often happens with thinking about a subject as large as entrepreneurship, I've come to realize the title wasn't correct. So I’ve decided to change the name of this talk as... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2014 at ChangeOrder