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David Sherwin
Seattle, Washington
I'm an Interaction Design Director at frog design and 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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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 yesterday 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 4 days ago 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
We've been seeing an intense pressure on businesses to rapidly make sense of customer needs and demands, then incorporate that feedback into new or existing products. For today's designers, it can be challenging to make well-informed decisions about the large and small details that comprise these products, especially when working within the constraints of an agile/scrum methodology. At frog, one of the methods we turn to regularly to identify and incorporate user feedback into products is participatory design. Participatory design aims to bring users into the design process by facilitating conversations through the creation and completion of a wide range of activities. We create activities to facilitate sharing and conversation with users, providing them with materials to descriptively discuss their... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2014 at ChangeOrder
Here's a list of some upcoming talks I'll be doing around the U.S, on the heels of being on podcasts with Ash Thorp (The Collective) and Jason Fruy (My Creative Copilot). Hope to see you at one of them! Friday, February 21st, 2014 "Design Is Hacking How We Learn" California College of the Arts San Francisco Campus 1111 Eighth Street San Francisco, CA 94107-2247 7 PM in Timken Hall, reception at 6:30 PM Free and open to the public This is a new iteration of a talk that I started giving this past year. The abstract: The next big disruption in lifelong learning will be by design. We are innately trained and poised to have a global impact on how... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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You've probably heard about the recent dispute between Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. We could sum up the news thusly: Don't join a business without a signed agreement. A partnership is worth the paper it's inked on. No matter how long you've known someone, the depth of your friendship, or the assurances that have been made through countless emails, an oral contract is brutal to try and enforce in court, even for a partnership that has been public-facing and branded as such for over a decade. Plus, this crucial sentence stood out for me in Frere-Jones's claim against his former partner: "…between their agreement in 1999 and March 2004, the partners developed, expanded, and grew HTF without any corporate formality.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This past year went by in a blur, and out of all the nonfiction and fiction books that I read, I'd like to offer 10 books that challenged me and that you should consider checking out this new year. Ranging from reportage to essays to fiction, this list blends classics, bestsellers, and quirky works that caught my attention and changed my focus as a human being just as much as a professional designer. Sugar Fat Salt: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss This book was a huge bestseller last year, and for good reason. It goes down easy, but will make you sick to your stomach—in a thought-provoking way. Impeccably researched and written, Moss delves deeply into... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2014 at ChangeOrder
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This is a guest post by Ted Leonhardt, who helped me out with the "Negotiation" chapter of Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. Ted has a new book that just came out called Nail It: Stories for Designers on Negotiating with Confidence, which takes the topic much further and extends from client interactions to salary negotiations, promotions, and job interviews. Nail It was released first this month as an e-book through Amazon/iBooks and will soon be in print, so check it out! Logic is great for analyzing what went wrong after the event. But it’s not so great for creative and emotional moment-to-moment decision-making. When you’re in the heat of it all, logic is hard to hang... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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The time and place are set. You meet, shake hands, order your pour-over coffees or craft beers. You chat about how things are going in your lives. Then the moment comes. The startup founder pulls out the appropriate smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and asks if they can receive some feedback on their product. I have many of these conversations every year, most often with startups that employ designers as one of their core founders or first hires. The founders I meet with often have design training and are well aware of the benefits of taking a human-centered design approach to their product from day one. Their team understands that a visually beautiful user interface and an "intuitive" user experience emerge... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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Imagine that this is what you know about me: I am a college-educated male between the ages of 35 and 45. I own a MacBook Pro and an iPhone 5, on which I browse the Internet via the Google Chrome browser. I tweet and blog publicly, where you can discover that I like chocolate and corgis. I’m married. I drive a Toyota Corolla. I have brown hair and brown eyes. My credit-card statement shows where I’ve booked my most recent hotel reservations and where I like to dine out. If your financial services client provided you with this data, could you tell them why I’ve just decided to move my checking and savings accounts from it to a new bank?... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2013 at ChangeOrder
David Sherwin has shared their blog ChangeOrder
Aug 30, 2013
The 11 students in the room were nervous. They were about to present their ideas for an Anti-Violence Week to the school principal, Mr. Muhammad. Their journey began with a simple question: What change do you want to see in your community? It ended with their answer, which they created collectively over 12 class periods as part of their marketing class. Would their principal approve their idea, so their event could take place at Alfred E. Beach High School? This is just one story from a pilot program I helped facilitate at frog, where we’ve been exploring how student-led problem solving creates ripple effects felt in the classroom, the school, and the community at large. This work has been in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I conducted when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. In my previous post, I wrote about how it's important to encourage new clients to pay you in advance of providing design services. Many designers and studio owners struggle to put this advice into practice, as their clients often have their own accounting and bookkeeping policies that conflict with paying for services in advance of their completion. So, how do you bend these policies in your favor? A number of studio owners shared... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I conducted when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. When starting up a design studio, it can be tempting to do whatever it takes to win project work with new clients. A common mistake, however, is to extend credit to new or existing clients rather than require payment up-front for project work. It's never a good idea to extend credit to a brand new client, and minimal credit should be extended only for long-term clients that have a strong track-record of deposits,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I did when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. Do you track how many of your clients come back and work with you again? I hope so. Ideally, 80% of all new business should be repeat business. It should come from your existing clients that you're working with right now, or clients that are returning to you after a successful project in the past. This is the 80/20 rule of new business development. You should aim for an 80% retention rate for... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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This is a post in an occasional series I'll be running on ChangeOrder about the benchmarks that design businesses use to help maintain their long-term success. These benchmarks are drawn from the research that I conducted when writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You need to write that proposal to get the project. And you need to do a good enough job of writing the proposal to make sure your client understands why you're the right partner for it. But that proposal isn't going out the door until it's been finessed within an inch of its life. Right? As designers, we may be perfectionists at heart. But when crafting a proposal, we can't be carried away... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2013 at ChangeOrder
"In the span of one lifetime it is, of course, possible for every human being to improve himself—within limits set by energy, time, temperament, and the level from which he begins…. But the limits within which such improvements may be made are small in comparison with the vast aspects of our nature and our circumstances which remain the same, and which will be very difficult to improve even were it desirable to do so. I am saying, therefore, that while there is a place for bettering oneself and others, solving problems and coping with situations is by no means the only or even the chief business of life…. No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2013 at ChangeOrder
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Numbers surround us every day. They’re woven into the fabric of our lives, part of the advice and cliched folk wisdom that we dispense to each other: Two's company, three’s a crowd. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. And so forth. Every one of these cliches, however, started out as a rule of them, intended to help us learn from our previous positive experiences and failures. They’re patterns we can follow that can help contribute to our future successes. I'll be posting over the coming months numbers I heard from the design businesspeople I interviewed while writing Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. These people had specific rules of thumb they followed... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2012 at ChangeOrder
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There is a constant tension between the demands of your business—receiving monetary reward for your level of effort—and the knowledge that what you make has some form of meaningful impact. As design business owners and leaders, we wrestle with certain fundamental questions: What if I can’t earn a living running a design business? Am I going down the right path? Does this work make me happy? Exactly how do you balance the competing demands of sustaining a profitable business with a joyful design practice? In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing the worksheets that comprise the last section of my new book Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You can use them to determine what your ideal... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2012 at ChangeOrder
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Another sunny Saturday morning in early fall 2001. The starlings in the nest outside our window wake us with their cassette-tape song on rewind. Stirring from sleep, my wife and I settle into one of our rituals—acquiring lattes from one of our favorite coffee roasters before the morning escapes us. Pulling on our clothes and shoes, still a bit groggy, we make our way out of our third-floor Seattle apartment. The door clicked behind us, and as we headed down the stairs and out of the building, I realized the keys were sitting on the counter inside. My adrenaline spiked. I thought to myself, Don't panic. But I couldn't help myself. At our previous apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, we would... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2012 at ChangeOrder
My second book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers, came out early! You can purchase it at your usual online retailers, including Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and My Design Shop. You can also grab a copy at your local fine bookseller when it arrives in stores on December 4th, 2012. Concurrent with the print edition is the release of the eBook, which you can get for Amazon Kindle and through iTunes for your Apple devices. Want to read a bit of the book before getting a copy? Other than clicking to look inside on Amazon.com, you can also see a preview through Google Books. Here's how I've introduced the book on the back cover: In your career... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2012 at ChangeOrder
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As part of the research for my new book, Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers, I interviewed a wide range of people who had run successful design studios. When I drew up my shortlist of who I should talk to, Ted Leonhardt was at the top of my list. Specifically, I wanted Ted's perspective on what it's like to grow a design business. Ted and his wife Carolyn founded The Leonhardt Group, an agency that they grew to $10 million in fees and a staff of 50. In 1999, they sold their agency to Fitch. Ted went on to the position of Chief Creative Officer for Fitch Worldwide with responsibility for 27 offices from London. In 2003... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2012 at ChangeOrder
At the recent HOW Interactive Design Conference in Washington DC, I gave a presentation called "Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design." This 30-minute high-level talk was intended to provide conference attendees with repeatable processes that will help them integrate user research into their interactive projects. Other presenters at the conference went more in-depth into some of the methods mentioned in this talk, but I felt that it was important for attendees to understand the role of specific methods and activities within the research process on any design project. When I started working as an user experience designer, I had a thousand questions about how to conduct research. I was lucky to have great mentors and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2012 at ChangeOrder
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A few years ago, I hated flying. I'd been deathly afraid of it since I was a kid. I knew this was a completely irrational fear. I knew the odds: only a 1 in 20,000 chance that anything might ever happen to me in my lifetime. Compared to the odds of dying due to cancer or a heart attack, I had bigger fish to fry. Flying was something I knew I needed to do, especially as I grew up on the East Coast and have lived on the West Coast for eleven years now. Whether to see family and friends or take off on an adventure, I'd have to fly. But whenever possible, I would try to avoid flying. Even... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2012 at ChangeOrder