Learning from Raiders of the Lost Ark

by Andy Polaine on September 29, 2014

in Book, Film, General

I’m in the research phase for a book project that looks at how and what designers and organisations—particularly those involved in service design or complex projects—can learn from filmmakers.

In the words of Peter Sellers Michael Caine, not a lot of people know that I studied film as an undergraduate and carried on until my final year until I was fully sidetracked by interactive media. But the filmmaking process has always played a big role in the way I think about how multi-disciplinary groups of people can best work together creatively.

More on that in the future, but right now the area I am researching is storyboarding. I frequently teach groups of self-proclaimed non-drawers how to storyboard in workshops so that they can pitch their service propositions and ideas. Working visually with a sequence of images on sticky-notes on the wall is a much quicker and better way of walking through what a service experience might look and feel like than just using text. As you move your eyes across the touchpoint sketches, you build your own mini mental storyboard of the user/customer journey.

To combat the “I can’t draw” panic that many people have, I regularly use Pixar Story Artist Emma Coates’ great technique of drawing from films. You take a film, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and freeze-frame every time the shot changes. Then you sketch a thumbnail of the shot as quickly as possible. I give my workshop participants about 10-20 seconds.

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At that speed, everyone draws equally bad (or good, depending on your point of view). I have done this with mixed groups, often with illustrators in the mix, and the previous skill level has little to do with the final result. In fact, sometimes those trained to draw well have a problem letting go and drawing rough. The key skill is being able to see which elements are important and which are not. That’s a skill that is useful in many other contexts.

As it is for Emma, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic youth memory of mine and remains one of my favourite films in terms of structure and staging. Thanks to its heritage from melodramatic Sunday afternoon matinee movies, the staging and framing are really clear to sketch.

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh recently posted an exercise also using Raiders as an example to look at staging:

I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me.

Raiders bw

Cool, that Soderbergh posts about this, but even cooler is that he made a black and white version with the soundtrack stripped out of it for the exercise. It’s great, go take a look.

For some extra goodies, check out these:

UX Week 2014 Talk Video

by Andy Polaine on September 29, 2014

in Conference

The video of my UX Week 2014 talk, Designing Multichannel Services for Lives Beyond the Screen is now online (and embedded below). There were some great speakers at the conference — I really recommend checking them all out on the UX Week Vimeo Channel.

UX Week 2014 | Andy Polaine | Designing Multichannel Services for Lives Beyond the Screen from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

UX Week 2014 Blueprinting Workshop

September 10, 2014

Hint: The future of air travel is not this If you’re here, you were probably at my workshop on Developing Services with Service Blueprinting for UX Week 2014 or someone pointed you here. By the end of the week, I’ll post my slides here, but for the moment, you can download the following: Update – […]

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Customer service experienced in bits

July 21, 2014

Dr Drang tells two stories of failed customer service. The first one involves him trying to assist his mother getting to the gate at the airport. I use flying a lot as an example of services involving silos that barely communicate with each other and generate terrible customer experiences as a result. Dr Drang’s experience […]

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Talk & Workshops at UX Week 2014

July 7, 2014

It has been a long time since I have been in San Francisco, so I am thrilled to have been invited to give a presentation and two workshops at Adaptive Path’s UX Week 2014 there in September. My schedule is the following: Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2014, 9:00AM Workshop Abstract: Developing Services with Service Blueprinting | […]

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Interview at the 2014 Science-to-Business Marketing Conference

June 23, 2014

I gave a keynote a couple of weeks ago at the 2014 Science-to-Business Marketing Conference in Winterthur and Todd Davey interviewed me afterwards about service design, innovation, design thinking and higher education. My beard is looking a bit fluffy and I was squinting into the sun, but otherwise some of what I had to say […]

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Apple, Beats and wearable tech

June 5, 2014

All the speculation about Apple designing and iWatch and the noise about their acquisition of Beats got me wondering why we do not pay more attention to the tech we are already wearing and why some of it is socially acceptable and some not. There is a kind of inverse correlation between assistive technologies and […]

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Service Design in Japanese

May 14, 2014

I’m happy to announce that our book, Service Design: from insight to implementation has just been translated and published in Japanese by Maruzen publishing. Thanks to the translator, Yoshinori Wakizaka. If you speak Japanese, I’d love to know what you think of it and the translation. We hope this helps those working in and with […]

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Chris Risdon on Orchestrating Touchpoints

April 19, 2014

Whilst I’m at it, here’s a great talk by Chris Risdon from the same conference talking about orchestrating touchpoints. His anecdote at the beginning is priceless. I’m particularly interested in the way he takes the journey as the hub from which everything extends from. It’s service design, but he comes at it from a UX […]

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Dave Malouf on Storytelling and Interaction Design

April 19, 2014

I talk a lot about the importance of thinking about the story of your product or service. I have always assumed this has to do with my background of studying photography, film, video and interactive media-I originally wanted to be a film director—and my work as a writer. But the need and interest in story […]

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