Learning from Raiders of the Lost Ark

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.

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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:

Service Design: From Insight to Implementation is here!

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I’m extremely happy to announce that our book, Service Design: From Insight to Implementation, was officially published today.

I wrote a welcome post about it over on the book’s home at Rosenfeld Media. If you feel like tweeting or blogging about it, that would be great. What really helps is a quick review on Amazon.com too – even just a short shout out and rating works wonders.

I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback!

O’Reilly Webcast: Designing cross-channel service experiences

A quick cross-post from our Rosenfeld Media book blog. Ben, Lavrans and I are going to be doing (giving? What does one say…?) an O’Reilly Webcast titled Service Design: Designing cross-channel service experiences on Wednesday 14th March. It’s my daughter’s birthday, so it’s an auspicious date.

The O’Reilly site has all the details and where you can register. The time of the webcast is: 10AM PT, San Francisco | 5pm – London | 1pm – New York | Fri, Mar 15th at 4am – Sydney | Fri, Mar 15th at 2am – Tokyo | Fri, Mar 15th at 1am – Beijing | 10:30pm – Mumbai. Missing from that O’Reilly list is 6pm for all of you in Central Europe (GMT+1).

Those sharp-eyed among you will also notice that the icon of our book has changed from the “Book in Progress” one to one with an actual cover and this webcast should pretty much coincide with the launch of the book, so we’re very excited.

A big thanks to O’Reilly for taking part in helping us get the word out there. It will be particularly interesting to speak to the broader audience that O’Reilly have and we anticipate everything from, “Service Design? Been there, done that!” to “Service Design? Huh?”.

If you can make it, we’d love to see you online. Or hear you or see your words or however that works. Please spread the word with a tweet/+1/like.

I’m hoping the technology holds up – we’ll all be connecting in from different countries. If not, we can all spend 60 minutes shouting, “I can’t hear you!,” “No, you go on… sorry, what? Hang on, I’ll restart my machine.”

Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving


Serendipitously, given my previous post, I’ve just seen that Jon Kolko has put out a new book called, Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving that focuses on design’s role in social entrepreneurship.

This book was started with the intent of changing design and social entrepreneurship education. As these disciplines converge, it becomes evident that existing pedagogy doesn’t support either students or practitioners attempting to design for impact. This text is a reaction to that convergence, and will ideally be used by various students, educators, and practitioners.

You can order a physical copy here, buy a DRM-free eBook version for as much or as little as you like and read the entire book online for free. Nice. The book as a service. I hope we see more of that.

(Via Johnny Holland).

Troika – Digital by Design & Interview

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Troika have a new book out called Digital by Design: Crafting Technology for Products and Environments. It is a wide-ranging survey of works that use new and emerging digital technologies, often crossed with physical interactions and products that blur the boundaries between art and design. They have managed to collect together work from a fantastic range of contributors, including my mates over at Hulger.

I visited Troika a while back and interviewed for a Podcast on Core77 and really like their approach to what they do and they’re lovely people too.

I plan to review Digital by Design for the soon-to-be-launched Designers Review of Books, but in the meantime you can buy it from Amazon.co.uk here (or Amazon.com here).

I also wrote a profile on them in my Foreign Policy column for Desktop. It seemed a fitting time for another “From the Archives” interview post. You can read the full Desktop article after the jump… Continue reading “Troika – Digital by Design & Interview”