My Interview on Techsmith’s “The Forge”

Last weekend I was invited to come and facilitate at the Visual Thinking and Literacy Conference in Birmingham, MI. This is the second year the conference has run – it’s a neat little event that draws a mix of people from the education & business worlds (as well as a hand full of students too).

In addition to my session (on brainstorming tools & techniques) I was also invited to participate in a live taping of The Forge, a monthly video show/podcast put together by Matt Pierce at Techsmith. The show was taped in two segments – the first a panel discussion/debate on paper vs. digital with my friends and visual thinking masters Jamie Nast, Karl Gude and Brandy Agerbeck. The second part was a one-on-one interview with me that ranged form “What do you do?” to my favorite tools, techniques and my thoughts on the paper vs. digital debate.

I’ve embedded the show below – the whole thing is worth watching. If you want to jump to my interview it starts around 16:05 in.

App I’m Loving: Paper

I first got turned on to paper yesterday when John McArdle posted about it on the Teehan & Lax blog – I downloaded it right away, sprung for the brush pack shortly after and have been using it almost constantly (well, at least @ every opportunity) for the past two days. In short, “Paper” is a sketching app – you can create notebooks, add pages to them and then sketch away to your heart’s content. It comes with one brush free (and it’s a darn good brush) but no doubt you’ll want to pick-up the add on brushes ($1.99 ea or $7.99 for the whole set).

Example of Brushes & Colours available in Paper

Like John, I’m a long time Sketchbook Pro fan and had been using it for sometime. While it was great on my desktop I never quite got in the groove with it when I started trying their Sketchbook Express on the iPad. With Paper though, I immediately connected with it and just loved the quality of the default brush. Drawing features are kept to a bare minimum (brush selection, fixed palette, draw & erase & undo – aka ‘rewind’.) & changing/adding pages is simple and straight forward.

Nice Touches

A couple of things I really like:

  1. Multiple ‘Sketchbooks’
    Paper lets you create multiple “Books” in the app, so I can section off my personal stuff form my work stuff really easily – or if I’m working on a specific project I can give it its own book etc.
  2. Rewind
    Their interpretation of “undo” is great. Rather than simply undoing and removing the entire last action you made you can simple ‘rewind’ by placing two fingers on the screen & then moving them counter clock-wise. And it backs up your actions, just as rewind implies. Go too far? Just rotate your fingers clockwise. I found it a little finicky at first but after a bit of use it’s become pretty natural.

One Feature Request/Wish

While I appreciate the minimalism there’s one feature I’d love to see added and that’s very, very basic layers. I don’t eed full blown layers like Photoshop or Sketchbook but even just having two layers would be great. I’ve encountered a few times where it’d be great to be able to sketch something out on one layer, then ink & colour over it on a second and finally remove or hide the sketch layer when finished. I know it breaks the paper metaphor, but still…

Highly recommend it – Paper is available in the Apple App Store for iPads.

Coming Up: Visual Thinking & Literacy Conference

I’m excited to announce I’ll be speaking/facilitating at the upcoming Visual Thinking and Literacy Conference in Michigan on March 17, 2012.

The 2012 Visual Thinking Conference is for anyone focused on visual approaches to thinking and communication. So whether you are a business leader giving presentations, a marketing manager designing websites and materials, or a grade school teacher looking for new ways to reach students, no other event offers you more of today’s solutions… and tomorrow’s vision. Continue reading Coming Up: Visual Thinking & Literacy Conference

Visually Exploring the idea of “Personal Brand”

I know, I know – half of you clicking through just cringed when you read the term “personal brand” – I’m not a fan of the term either, but up until now I’ve been hard pressed to find a term that summed the concept up better. Also, I’m approaching this thought exercise not from the notion that you can directly control or shape a ‘brand’ for yourself but rather trying to understand what the underpinnings of the concept are and how  someone can ensure they’re putting the right foundation out there for people to build their own impressions, and thus your “brand” on.

For the specialists of the world I’m not sure this is as big an issue, but I think a lot of generalists (like me) struggle with it. As I’ve pondered on my blog in the past here, it’s not always clear to me exactly what it is I do, and if it’s not clear to me I can only imagine how messy it gets when other people try to form opinions or thoughts about what it is I do.

Anatomy of a Personal Brand: Attempt 1

I took a first stab at creating a model in my trusty sketchbook the other day and came up with this:

Anatomy of Personal Brand

Ultimately as I dug into the visual though and tried to create a more refined version I realized what I was drawing here was actually more a representation about how individuals form opinions about you and didn’t speak at all to how the greater collective opinion (a.k.a “Personal Brand”) got formed.  So, instead, I moved away from this circular idea and tried approaching this from the bottom up.

Anatomy of a Personal Brand: Attempt 2

Formation of Collective Reputation
(Click to enlarge | Hosted on Flickr)

For this visual I started at the bottom, the foundation – Facts & Fictions. Everyone’s opinion is based on their perceptions of impressions of the baseline facts and/or fictions available to them. Perceptions are the intuitive feelings people get – gut feeling, sensing, etc. whereas Impressions represent the interpretive side, where someone makes deliberate judgments based on the ‘evidence’ before them. Both perceptions and impressions can influence each other and they roll up to form the individual’s opinion, which in turn gets added to a Collective Reputation based on the individual opinions of the masses.

Context is Everything

As with most things, context with everything – we don’t have one single collective reputation. Your collective reputation will change depending on the lens you’re being viewed through – i.e. Your collective reputation in the context of “Trustworthy” might be dramatically different from that of the context of “Can Fix Cars”. That said, the contexts are not exclusive, if I’m considering who I want to have fix my car I would consider both “Trustworthy” and “Can Fix Cars” in making both my decisions (and if you screw up my car or screw me on the bill both could be affected).

Individuals Weight the Collective Reputation

Also, there’s no standard “reputation” for any context – each collective reputation is formed by the individual’s networks and their opinions of the individual people who make up that network. For example, if my view of the collective reputation of person X is that he’s not very trustworthy then I’m not going to weight his opinion of Person Y as highly as I would someone else more trustworthy.

Facts, Not fiction

Facts & Fictions are the only place you have any control and even then, you only have the power to create new facts or fictions. Fictions are unsustainable though and will ultimately lead to negative Facts being created, and you can’t ‘delete’ those.

Feedback Wanted

All in all, I’m happy with where this visual is headed – I think there’s a few other visuals that can do with some exploring as well including; context, weighting & how you go about evaluating and improving on the collective reputations you have today.

I also like the emergence of the term “Collective Reputation” – I’m not 100% sure it’s the perfect terminology but it sure sounds a whole lot better than personal brand.

What are you thoughts or comments? Share them below.

Interviewed for VizThink Issue of “Associations Now”

A few months ago myself, Sunni Brown (VizThink Austin) and Mike Rohde (VizThink Milwaukee) were interviewed for an article on visual thinking called “Are you a visual thinker?“. It ran in Associations Now Magazine, a publication of the American Society of Association Executives & The Center for for Association Leadership. At the time I thought it would just be a little piece in one of the back pages of the magazine but it turns out they had bigger plans and ran it as the cover story.

In fact, they went the extra step further and hired Mike Rohde to design the cover and provide illustrations for the article. The end result was a fantastic looking piece that exposed the idea of visual thinking to a whole new audience. Mike did a great write-up over on his blog about his process in creating the illustrations which is worth a read.

Of course if you truly want to learn from the masters, both Sunni & Mike (along with Austin Kleon) recently recorded a, very well received, VizThinkU workshop with VizThink called Visual Note-taking 101 where they share their secrets and advice for producing excellent visual notes.

I have to admit too that I was pretty stoked to get my first block quote in an article. Having it hand drawn by someone I’d call a friend makes it that much sweeter.

Overall the article turned out far better than I ever imagined – be sure to give it a read, as well as Mike’s blog post & the VizThinkU session. Thanks to Associations Now and especially Mark Athitakis, who penned the article.

– Ryan

All Photos by Mike Rohde, Rohdesign.com