I had no idea how big and beautiful the Albatross is. 

I attended Squawkathon a design jam held to come up with solutions for the unintentionally killing of seabirds due to fishing activity. It took place over 2 days. The first being an evening event where we were briefed by experts and broke into teams.  I joined the team that hope to find a solution that utilized incentives. It was a pretty great time. I enjoyed jamming on something completely new that didn't involve a digital solution. I also really enjoyed meeting and chatting with the experts. 

I had a great conversation with Howard McElderry, vice president, EM technology development, and a founding member of Archipelago Marine Research, about the amazing amount of data his company has collected since it's inception and how due to privacy concerns they can't do much with it directly but that he is hired because he is a walking big data machine. Smart guy and fun to talk with.

 Dr. Phillip McGillivary Science Liaison for Coast Guard PACAREA, was on our team and man he's a power house of experience, knowledge and energy. If you ever bump into him don't hesitate to take him out to coffee and hear his stories. 

The rest of the experts were engaging and super smart. I was reminded how much I like scientist. I need to find more opportunities to work with them.

Squawkathon was an experiment organized by Context Partners for their client the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. They were testing the idea of using hackathons and design jams to develop problem solving ideas. I thought it worked ok although to get the greatest amount of value I would consider providing more information upfront and paying the participants to come ready to work having gone deep in to the research materials. As someone who practices Informed design it felt like we were ill equiped to spend the two days doing our best work when the issue was so complex and outside of what we normally do. I would also suggest that the teams should only be made up of no more than 5 people to take away the need to manage and just focus on doing.

Overall I enjoyed myself. The Context Partners folks were awesome! The prize money and water bottle were very nice cherries on top. I'm interested in how the Packard Foundation folks felt it went. Hopefully they will do some follow up with the group!

So here is a snapshot of our solution which I'm pretty proud of. 

I love that we found a multifaceted approach that looked at finding new solutions but also focused on looking at what the fishing companies needed to comply with solutions that are already available and work well if implemented properly. 


The Problem:

  • Marine birds are subject to accidental death due to current fishing practices
  • Fisheries require more tools for marine bird protection
  • Solutions already exist but are not widely adopted due to the difficulty of implementation and lack of incentives

Our process lead us to build our solution in this way. We had a product idea, realized a service arm was needed to support it, then realized that there was a larger business model that could and should emerge. 


Enter Hydra. Our solution is a new business who's mission is - 

Create and bring to market sustainable innovations that support the fishing industry to preserve the lives of seabirds.

The idea is this: There is a need for a self-sustaining system to support continuous innovation and product development and to leverage the larger fisheries to assist the smaller boats with their compliance initiatives. 

We had our first product idea the Smart Streamer, an innovation that removes the barriers to Streamer Line deployment. It creates a bird free area behind the vessel

Seismic survey vessels already use smart streamer technology that maintains even streamer spacing.

•SmartStreamer creates a bird free area behind the vessel

•Streamer lines equipped with precision spatial positioning

•Near real time data of streamer line deployment

•Potential upgrade for additional data


We realized we could build and deploy this product but how could we support it's proper and continuous use?  And how would we make sure we had the resources to continue to innovate.

Our idea was to create a service that installs and maintains this solution and others, including monitoring systems, so fisheries don't have to integrate this into their existing work flow.  We make it easy to comply.

The profits from the product sales and service side of the business would go into more research and development and also support smaller boats in their efforts. We would provide incentives to use the service like providing access to resources and relationships, worker enhancement activities and the most important would be making it super easy to report to the labeling organizations that you are in compliance which gains the fisheries access to special consumer labeling. 

Not bad for a day of work :)


Lastly, learn a bit about The Albatross Task Force

AuthorTyesha Snow

GOOD Ideas for Cities: The Marshal Project

I recently participated in the creative and intelectual exercise known as GOOD Ideas for Cities a program of GOOD magazine.

A handful of creative teams were selected to work with local city agencies and organizations to tackle some of the issues theses groups are currently working on and struggling with. I was extremely attracted to the idea of using some of the brain power and talent of our creative industry to think about the topics that our local agency's demed in need of attention.


Lumber Room 3 panels

Curtain from Lumber Room


I enjoyed reading Barry Johnson's detailed account of The Felt Hat's presentation at last weeks Designspeaks. He, unlike me, took some great notes and I think his perspective on the lessons, themes and high points of the night are spot on. This  particular statement resonated with me "...when we are trying to generate creative outcomes, we have to start messing around with the process" Although I might change "creative outcomes" to "quality outcomes" or "successful outcomes" fueled by creative intention and energy, h nails it that the grand take away from the evening was that great stuff is accomplished when we mess around with the process and are open to where the process can take us.

The Felt Hat is obviously living this particular creative dream and I was inspired to hear them talk so passionately and proudly of the work they have been  part of.  Damn that water bill was sexy and I don't think that could have happened if they set out to make a sexy water bill.

So like I said I didn't take a bunch of notes that night instead I choose to listen and absorb, but I did jot down one thing.

"conceptual thread"

I don't remember exactly who said it or in what context but it has stuck with me.  So I thought I'd tell you what it means to me after listening to the presentation. (Dear Felt Hat folks forgive me if I get it wrong, correct me for sure.)


The Conceptual Thread

When we try to accomplish something, intentional or not, we participate in a process.

If we acknowledge the positive effect of letting the needs of the project direct or define this process how do we insure that the process continually adds value and that the eventual outcome rises above the limitations of our minds?

Custom Process + Creative Thinker does not necessarily equal Brilliant Design.

There is a something else need to bring integrity, focus and heart to the work.

The process can fail or change, the designer can get lost or  frustrated, but paying continuous attention to maintaining the conceptual thread is paramount in achieving great design.

Have  the courage to follow it wherever it leads you. Find a way to realize what manifests.


Well maybe that's a bit heady and silly but I was inspired to think about this stuff. Mission accomplished Designspeaks.

Great night overall. I'm so happy to be included in the group of brilliant people organizing Designspeaks. I hope whether  you made it out this time or not you will follow us on Twitter and keep up to date with the exciting stuff on the horizon and join the conversation about design.

I'll leave you with a great tweet quote from that night sent by @cre8tivegirl "In order to start with nothing you have to have hope to be begin"


-photo credit


You may know that my teammates and I are currently smack in the middle of creating a movement. You may even be here because of that. Ok, it's not a movement yet. It's a website. A website that currently consists of 2 pages and a set of videos, but this is the seed of a movement and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how I got here, why I'm creating such a thing, and my hopes for the coming year.

This is a story about Storytelling. Before you groan, let me first say that I understand that "Storytelling" may well be the current "Design Thinking", an overused phrase with the best intention but so misused and overused it often looses its value. I can buy that, but I think Storytelling is different.

Because of its far reaching resonance, Storytelling has stronger legs. It is bigger than the fad.  The concept and process of storytelling is claimed and utilized by everyone, making it an undeniable human obsession. Historians, artists, marketers, teachers, illustrators, engineers, scientists, children. You can go on and on.  All of these people approach their work and life with the intention of creating and telling stories.

The meaning of life may actually be:

We are all trying to craft the best story we can and find ways to tell it.

Ha! I kinda like that.

Hey, have you ever reached a moment where you feel everything up to now was the first chapter setting up the plot for the rest of your story and the action is just about to start? This happens to me over and over again. It's a completely satisfying feeling and here I am again.

The set up so far has been, a girl from a simple background, a little poverty, a little family strife but a lot of learning, nature, music, laughing, health food & encouragement has conducted her life as an ongoing experiment. Try this try that. Transform this into that. Create artifacts. Start over. Start again.

Now it seems many of the themes, ideas and topics that have emerged over my years of experimentation have all gotten together to go on an ultimate road trip. We've got music, experience design, writing, research, connecting people, creating language, art, technology, historical records, personal archives, gift giving and storytelling. I've loaded them all up in the car.

Working on this project is part of my story and the project itself is all about telling stories. I'm doing this because I want to tell stories and create a place for everyone to tell their own.

Essentially we are designing a method for stories to be documented and discovered. The context for these stories is MUSIC and its role in the human narrative.  All of these stories have been told before, not just to ourselves. They are created everyday but rarely captured. Our project will attempt to utilize all of the wonderful modern methods we have, to gather and distribute these stories for the greater good (and because it's just fun).

I am most excited and driven by a few key pieces of the project.

1. The creation of a layer of data that will expose the connective fibers between music and the human experience.

2. Giving the gift of this information to the musicians who create the music, and people who could benefit from discovering the soundtrack to others' experiences.

3. Designing an online space that feels great to be in.

4. Taking it to the streets.

I'll stop here, although I could go on and on. In the coming months I'm sure this list will grow in ways I can't imagine now and hope that you will help me contribute to it. You love a great road trip right?

Preregister now to be part of the early group of folks who will help us craft the story of Music Impacts.

And let me know what you think. Have any great ideas on this topic?

More to come,



Tyler Thompson has redesigned the Delta boarding pass. I love it!  Who among us hasn't noticed the awkward, missed opportunity that is this piece of paper millions of people interact with everyday. His new design is clean and pretty. He thought about how he uses it and how it could become a useful tool for navigating the airport and boarding the plane.


It's successful for the most part, although I think the target audience for this is me, you and Tyler and maybe not the general public, as we are used to seeing design like this, it may be a bit sophisticated and hard to read for the average flyer. Actually let me correct myself,  the non-average traveler, the most general of the public.

I was thinking though, aside from solving usability issues which would be great. There is an amazing missed opportunity in boarding passes.

Boarding passes represent a specific moment and place in time.

I'd like to see the airlines take full advantage of this. Let's see the day's news headlines or 'It happened today' facts. How about local history, art and statistics. What about statistics or facts about the relationship between the two locations you are traveling. Ooooh, the poetry of local poets on seasonally appropriate topics. I could keep going, but you get the point.

Some airlines are using the unused portion of the print at home boarding pass to provide travel information, this is nice, but my ideas could turn these into collectibles, kinda like posted stamps. Have some imagination Mr and Mrs Airline.



Ever since I was a kid I've spent a lot of time looking at the ground directly outside of the car as it speeds down the road. I like to notice the different types of dirt and dust and the particular way it drafts up to the curb, edge of the grass or the highway median. There are always little bits of metal, sometimes trash. Little plants grow, bugs crawl around, it's about what you would imagine.

What I've always thought to myself when looking at these particular moments in time and place is how completely unique each spot is. I could never recreate it and I will never see it again, but all of these little views add up to a larger sense of what happens in a particular place. Not sure what I learn from it, maybe nothing but I believe in NOTICING THINGS.

The people I know who have great ideas and amazing creative vision are all NOTICERS. They look for the OUT-OF-FOCUS THINGS and make LESS THAN OBVIOUS CONNECTIONS. They allow the unimportant to seep into their daily narrative.

I've learned that spending time contemplating things you already understand or expect, does nothing to stretch an exercise your mind. To be a true creative thinker you have to take the many opportunities available to NOTICE SOMETHING NEW.....you have to develope an original perspective from these opportunities.

Yossi Milo has a series of photographs that embody this concept of noticing.

These are all stolen moments from driving down the highway. Brilliant.

I found this artist via: NOTCOT


This diagram and the associated definitions is wonderful. I think I'm going make a large print out and hang it at my desk.

What strikes me is how useful it could be in one, setting up a team, but two realizing who you are in a team make up so you can be the best you. I imagine we all have a bit of all of these, although I think as soon as you read the article you will immediately see yourself in one of them. I also think that the other people we work with will influence which of these actually manifest in us. If your naturally a dreamer and there are two other dreamers on the project, either the project is going to fail or someone is going to have to shift to one of the other types (at least try too)

The other thing I really like about this is that it provides a methodology for building good design teams, a methodology that isn't fixed on particular job titles but what you bring to the creative table. A well balanced multi-disciplinary team is beautiful thing but often, the confines of our particular roles and the lack of attention paid to the less concrete (our creative personalities) results in the assembly of a wobbly group of mismatched characters trying to work together.

Nice job Michael. I'm looking forward to reading the follow up posts about how each of these personalities work together.

So which one are you??

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I would encourage you to read this article over at A List Apart. In Defense of Eye Candy by Stephen P. Anderson

He makes and illustrates a lot of great points about the role of beauty and attractiveness in the effectiveness of interfaces.

What I really like about the article is that is supports the need for "complete collaboration" between the UXer and the Graphic Designer. Neither one exclusively holds the power or skills to create the most successful experience. The work is so intricately joined. I'm starting to think you can't do your best work unless you are actually sitting next to eachother working each step of the way together.

I have a little dream of finding the perfect design partner, someone to develope the ultimate collaborative relationship with and create mind bending experiences together (maybe even take over the world). What if no one hired a single designer, you had to come with your design twin? Could be fun.

A few good passages from the article:

"As user experience professionals, we must consider every stimulus that might influence interactions"

"In other words, aesthetics is not just about the artistic merit of web buttons or other visual effects, but about how people respond to these elements. Our question becomes: how do aesthetic design choices influence understanding and emotions, and how do understanding and emotions influence behavior?"

"Basically, when we are relaxed, our brains are more flexible and more likely to find workarounds to difficult problems. In contrast, when we are frustrated and tense, our brains get a sort of tunnel vision where we only see the problem in front of us."

Head on over and have a read.


Is this not the most extremely romantic passage? It's Perfect. I came across this yesterday while browsing Scandal!in Bohemia. It's from a story published in the New Yorker and while I was there I of course forgot all about the romance and zeroed in on the pagination:) It's really no frills in terms of visual design, you can't tell what is a link and it doesn't have a way to quickly jump to the first page, but what I do like is, "View as a Single Page". I like this for two reasons.

1. I would prefer to scroll, so it is lovely to have the option of doing that. It also feel particularly appropriate for this content, reading the New Yorker shares more in common with reading traditional print than say browsing camera reviews.

2. The word "Single". What a beautiful, simple, conversational, content appropriate way to to say "One Page". Just think about it. It feels romantic to me....

"The entire story fit on a single sheet of crisp white paper, which allowed me to fold it neatly and fit it squarely into the small pocket of my jeans, giving me a secret to carry around and produce throughout the day when every I needed a jolt."

what just happened when you saw this image?

here's what happened to me.

I noticed the colors and that it was kinda 60's. I liked the flowers...thought about blooming and blossoming

I thought about how my future seems bright..hey that was a realization, cool...I wonder who the artist is....I need to get back to painting...

then i heard the song. i don't really like the song but there was nothing i could to do keep it out, then i saw the "shades"...yucky I thought. My nice moment is over. I then continued humming the song in my head.

Couple things I'm thinking about.

1. I like that the image successfully took a very well know phrase and actually got me to respond to the original message not immediately jump to my old perspective and yes, dislike of the song and it's cliche message.

2. We all know the power of a song to evoke feelings and memories. What can I do to create experiences that are memorable and powerful. So much of my work is about the accomplishment of goals; users and business...tasks, processes, engagement...blah blah blah. If you've spent anytime with me recently you know I can't stop talking about how the true power in this world is held by those who sit in the Creative seat. Us Uxers can't forget that we sit in that seat and we should aim high with each project. It is possible to make an impact on someone that will haunt them for ever, like this dumb song.

image via: Design is Mine by Andy J Miller

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The late great home decorating magazine Domino had a series called, Can you Make this Outfit into a Room? (or something like that) It was great. I love seeing design inspiration flow between mediums. In the case of Fashion to Decor, I think the opportunity is to bring an intimacy to the room that you couldn't arrive at by beginning with the scale and function of a room. In fashion, texture (to the touch not just visual) and fit are major considerations. Applying these consideration particularly to a room adds a wonderful dimension. How does the pillow behind your back feel in combination with your bare feet on the flooring?

I came across this room today and immediatly thought it was great inspiration for web design. Don't you agreee? I am thinking about what is important when we design a room and what about that process to the interaction design table.

1. Sub Navigation and Supporting Content
2. Primary Navigation and Promotions
3. The company, here to help, ready to serve, happy that you are here
4. This is where you plug in. The opportunities. The two way conversation.
5. The trusted adviser. Why you come back again and again. The heart of the Brand.

*The Kitty = the hidden gems you find stuck in your mind long after you leave and that pop up again from time to time.

photo: via 7x7