I've long followed the work of Adaptive Path of San Francisco. A group of superb interaction designers, they've not only come up with powerful online tools (unless I'm mistaken, I believe co-founder Jesse James Garrett coined the term "AJAX"), they also run the best set of interaction design seminars anywhere.
So I was truly honored when Roland Smart at Adaptive Path invited me to give a talk about napkin pictures and problem solving in their offices next Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 6:30-8:00pm.
This is a free event, so if you've ever wanted to learn more about my visual thinking tools (including the SQVID, the <6><6> Rule, the Visual Codex) please join us at 363 Brannan St. in SF.
I just got back from DC where I shared my "solving problems with pictures" tools with the U.S. Senate. It was an eye-opening experience.
Doug Steiger, New Policy Director of the Democratic Policy Committee, invited me to talk to the heads of staff of the Senators from the Democratic side of the aisle.
About sixty of us met in hearing room 628 in the Dirksen Senate Building, across the street from the US Capitol. Since I normally consult with business executives, it was fascinating to talk about the challenges that political staff deal with daily. After all, this is Washington, and this is REAL politics.
Whenever I give a workshop, I ask in advance for a sample problem relevant to my audience, so that I can demonstrate the power of pictures in a context drawn from their real-world experience.
In this case, Doug supplied me with a thick set of economic data comparing eight years of the Clinton Administration with eight years of the George W Bush administration.
Once drawn out, the results are shocking. I share here the drawings that I made for the Senators. (Data sources are listed at the bottom of this posting.)
After eight years of Clinton GDP rose more than 4%. After eight years of Bush it fell to 2.5%:
After eight years of Bush the national debt nearly doubled, and a budget surplus became a budget debt:
New jobs fell; the number of Americans below the poverty line increased:
The number of American families with health insurance fell (the costs of insurance rose), and family income also fell:
The prices of everything went up (at a far greater pace than inflation):
Yet our ability to pay for things fell:
Our dependence on foreign oil went up (and Bush was the "oil president"?):
Our trade deficit doubled while the dollar halved in value against the Euro:
And lastly, every major nation's perception of the US fell precipitously:
Based on looking at this data alone, there was only one more picture I could draw:
Data sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis Department of the Treasury Congressional Budget Office Bureau of Labor Statistics United States Census Bureau Kaiser Study of Employer Health Care Benefits Energy Information Administration Insurance Information Institute Pew Research Center
Scott McCloud's classic book Understanding Comics had long been in my mind when I decided to write my own book on visual thinking. Although I don't agree with everything in his approach (and suspect Scott probably doesn't agree with everything in mine), I admire tremendously his genius in understanding how we process visual stories, and his ability to tell stories with pictures. When it comes to communicating with images, Scott is a god.
As of yesterday, Google clearly agrees.
Google announced the Beta launch of Chrome, their new open-source web browser. Sort of aimed at Firefox, but clearly targeting Microsoft's territory, Chrome in theory represents a new concept in how we will browse the web. More importantly, Chrome (again, in theory) represents a new concept in how our computers will themselves talk with the web.
I emphasize "theory" here because superficially Chrome doesn't seem to do a whole lot more than existing browsers do. (I've been testing it all day and mainly notice its drawbacks -- like the fact that in Chrome my Typepad interface shows only raw HTML code. Yuck: back to Firefox folks.)
But here's where things get interesting. Because the important nuances of Chrome lie in the guts and technical details of how it was designed and built, a lay person like me is unlikely to get right away what makes it so great.