Product Design

Six top takeaways from Hopscotch Design Festival 2017

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The streets of downtown Raleigh, N.C., filled with designers, entrepreneurs, and artists as the Hopscotch Design Festival came to life last week. The fourth annual festival brought design-lovers together from the local Triangle area and from states and big brands afar.

The 2-day festival supported 40 speakers across 5 different venues, keeping attendees flowing throughout the city, serendipitously bumping into each other and making new connections.

WillowTree’s Durham product team attended the festival in full force, meeting other designers, taking notes of inspirational quotes, and learning new techniques. Here are our top takeaways from the festival.

Posters at Hopscotch Two product designers at WillowTree, Steve Gordon and Jacob Alley, take a break from the digital screen to appreciate some spectacular print design.

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1. Animation can help normalize.

Anna Charity (@missycharity), Creative Director of Headspace, explained how they use animation to make something new and intimidating, such as the ancient practice of meditation, seem normal. Animation can help foreign ideas seem less scary.

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2. Design is about people, not technology.

Nathan Adkisson (@nathanadkisson), Head of Strategy at Local Projects, a New York based design firm, reminded us that design is about people. If you build something just to use the latest and greatest technology, your product will become obsolete. Your product must also be desirable by people. What is the purpose of art if not to interact, play, and learn? Make sure as designers, your audience is always in charge.

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3. Don’t get stuck in the sameness.

Steve Frykholm, the VP of Creative Design at Herman Miller, reminded us not to give up before taking our best crack. It’s easy to feel stuck and fall into the “sea of sameness.” Don’t! Instead, get out there and seek inspiration, not from Instagram, but from real experiences. Take your vacations, really long ones, and make sure your attitude is often adjusted.

Steve Frykholm Steve Frykholm’s Poster for the 1977 Herman Miller Summer Picnic

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4. Embrace the new design generalist.

As the practice of digital design evolves, Ben Harris (@workbyben), Creative Director at Republic Wireless, encouraged us to embrace new tools and practices. Formal job postings may require specific talents or tools (for example, seeking expertise in a tool, such as Sketch) but Ben explains that life happens broadly, not narrowly. We should try out new roles throughout our career to truly challenge ourselves; it’s amazing how your courage can change when you decide to wear different hats.

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5. Design for diversity and inclusion.

Lamar Heyward, a marketer and innovation strategist at Local Gov’t FCU, emphasized the importance of creating a workplace that equally supports not only people of different genders, race, and sexual preference, but also of different viewpoints and styles of working.

Make sure that the loudest person in the room doesn’t receive all the attention; introverts need to be heard, too! Lamar shared a few exercises that help normalize perspectives in meetings; one exercise has the attendees begin by writing down thoughts onto Post-it Notes and taking turns at reviewing ideas. At your next meeting, look around the room, ask yourself who’s not in the meeting, and go find those people.

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6. Validate your creative concepts

Last but certainly not least, WillowTree spoke at a roundtable event at the City of Raleigh Museum. Julia Swenson (@juliajamieson), Director of Product Design, and Margo Bulka (@MargoBulka), Product Strategist, illustrated our WillowTree validation process, answering the question: “How do we know our creative concepts are hitting the mark?”

Presentation Full house as over 70 people pack into the City of Raleigh Museum to learn about tricks we’ve learned in validating our creative concepts.

Julia shared how personas keep our target audience in mind, not only in early the research phase, but throughout the design, development, and QA phases, as well. Pro tip: WillowTree finds that hanging printed-out personas in the developer team rooms helps bring context to technical problem solving.

Margo discussed how WillowTree uses elements of persuasion and human behavior in app design. She explained how the BJ Fogg Behavior Model can help designers identify friction points that prevent users from performing a specific task. This model suggests there are three components to every action: motivation, ability, and a trigger, and that designers can use these principles to challenge their solutions.

MargoPresenting Margo Bulka, a Product Strategist at WillowTree, presents how we use the BJ Fogg Behavior Model to understand our users.

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We had a blast at the Hopscotch Design Festival, returning back to work filled with inspiration, new ideas, and most importantly, a lot of great new friends in the wider design community. WillowTree was proud to be part of a festival that, in Hopscotch’s own words, is all about “shaping what’s next right now.”

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