Category Archives: info design

Honolulu Answers – Write-a-thon

In late July the City and County of Honolulu in partnership with Code for America launched Honolulu Answers. For a government website it is refreshingly simple, just a form on a pretty background for you to ask the City a question. The inspiration came through interviews the CfA fellows had with City employees and citizens. Their realization was that the existing site was like staring at a fire hose of information. Although redesigning the main site did come up in early conversations, Honolulu Answers became a more realistic site to achieve given the time and resources involved. The key to a site like this not so much the frontend, although I love the simplicity, it relies heavily on the backend content management system. In order to kick off the site there needed to be enough content built into the site to make it relevant. To that end CfA and the City coordinated a first of a kind Write-a-thon.  Think of it as a hackathon for writers. 55 attendees, both citizens and City subject matter experts, chose frequently asked questions and worked together to craft answers for the site. Like the CityCamp Honolulu event held late last year, it was a gathering of people who may not normally collaborate together. In fact many asked if this event was going to happen again and the answer is yes! Mark your calendar for Saturday, Sept 22nd from 9am to 2pm for the 2nd Honolulu Answers Write-a-thon. We'll review what the answer process is, review what topics need to be addressed and then delve into the questions. Please RSVP here. And as in all of our events, lunch will be provided. Just for fun, here are some links from the 1st Honolulu Answers Write-a-thon:


HTML5The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced today a new HTML5 logo that represents the dynamic nature of the web and the new code version of HTML that programmers can build websites with. The logo was designed by Michael Nieling from local design firm Ocupop who have offices down the street from me on Kapiolani Blvd. Nieling also has offices in Wisconsin and Colorado but the bulk of his clients are here in Hawaii along with his programming staff. I asked Nieling how did he end up designing the logo for a world wide brand like HTML5 and he said it was purely through meeting people along the way. It started with a contact at W3C. He also credits Seth Ladd (local Hawaii resident now working for Google) for making the right introductions. One thing lead to another and W3C asked Nieling to come up with a logo that captured the future of HTML. Over the course of the next few weeks you will see more on the "brand" of HTML5 as it is more than just a logo. It's a new programing environment and a new way of looking at web design. Join us on tomorrow's Bytemarks Cafe (Wed., 5pm on KIPO - 89.3FM) as we will have Michael Nieling call in to tell us what this new look for HTML5 really means.

Product Design Innovation

Cycle of InnovationWe're hearing a lot about how innovation is a key attribute for Hawaii businesses to compete in the fast paced national and international marketplace. Businesses here are faced with the raising costs of doing business, skilled labor moving out of the state and developing countries leap frogging our capabilities. Does innovation hold the answers to these challenges? In what way does innovation take place and how do companies instill a culture of innovation? Oceanit, the Hawaii Science & Technology Council and Blue Planet Foundation are trying to help answer these questions. On September 24, 2010, they invited Larry Shubert, formerly with IDEO and now heading up Zip Innovations to facilitate a one-day workshop on Product Design Innovation. The session was well attended with representatives from Oceanit, Referentia, Archinoetics, Blue Planet, Avatar Reality, Clearfuels, TeraSys and others. Shubert opened with a couple of ice-breaker exercises to loosen up the mind. One was to sketch your neighbor in one minute. (I can barely draw a stick man in one minute.) The other was to draw as many objects given a sheet of 30 blank circles. I came up with globes, the sun, balls, targets, wheels, donuts, smiley faces, marbles, planets and then my 2 minutes ran out. Both exercises challenged yourself to be creative without self criticism. It's interesting how in such a short period of time you can find ways of limiting how freely you can think. The aim with Shubert's innovation process is to free the mind, to come up with "wild ideas". To help the attendees with the process of innovation, Shubert shared a video from IDEO shot last year by ABC Nightline. In it, the challenge was put forth to design a new shopping cart in 5 days. It's quite an exciting pr0cess especially given such a short timeframe for completion. And probably a foreboding of what we were then challenged to do. Jeff Mikulina from Blue Planet Foundation then presented the challenge Hawaii faces with petroleum-based energy dependence. This challenge was further distilled down to an exercise for the class. Taking the perspective of four different individuals in the community, how would they view the energy challenge, what would motivate them to move to clean energy and given a 5-year window, what technologies might facilitate that move. The group broke up into teams and brainstormed through scenarios. The facilitators encouraged the brainstorming activity to be unfettered by judgments and preconceived notions. The groups each selected their best ideas via a method I am quite familiar with, voting with Post-its. Finally the pièce de résistance was for each of the groups to build a mock up of their solution and role play a skit demonstrating how this technology or solution got adopted. There were some great ideas and even better acting. I took a few photos and posted them to my Flickr site but they don't give justice to the actual presentations. Videos might start surfacing soon so keep an eye out for them. All in all a good session but just a taste of the innovation process. The challenge now is to put this into everyday business practice. I spoke to Larry Shubert briefly after the workshop and he said,
As you know, innovation is a challenging full contact sport! It is driven by numerous factors including environment, culture, corporate support, process and team dynamics to name a few. Every company has unique needs and objectives.
Our ongoing challenge is to practice innovation on a daily basis and to see how innovation can take hold within the corporate culture. The Innovation Center at HMSA where I work engages in this everyday. We've got our stories to tell and you can find some of then on our website. Share your stories of innovation and together let's see innovation take root and thrive in Hawaii.

Pecha Kucha 5.0

This week is chock full of events. In my previous post I mention the Wayfinder Lectures coming up on Thursday, July 23th at Hawaii Public Radio. On Friday, July 24th at the Academy of Arts, Linekona the fifth installment of Pecha Kucha Night will take place. The Pecha Kucha presentation format started in Japan with designers, graphic artists and architects getting together and adopting this short 20 slides, 20 seconds each format. That limited the preso to 6 minutes and 40 seconds. So, if anything bored you, not to worry, it would be over in no time. Pecha Kucha Night (PKN) 4.0 took place in Honolulu last March. I was planning to present but decided instead to capitalize on a trip to SXSW 2009. Now that PKN 5.0 is here, I got no excuses. My presentation is entitled: Top 20 Social Media Geeks. You can guess who might be on the list but for me the hardest part was deciding who to trim from the list. No hints, the big reveal is this Friday. Hope to see you there.

Visual Thinking

While at SXSW 09 this past March, I sat through an inspiring keynote by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. As interesting as his talk was, I found myself drawn to what was happening on the left side of the stage. A graphic recorder was taking notes while Tony was speaking. She paced herself throughout the 50 minute talk highlighting Tony's key messages. This was new to me and I had not seen this before. Graphic Recording - Tony Hsieh Keynote by Sunni Brown I later found out that graphic recorder was a woman named Sunni Brown and this style of visual note taking and information design is a technique that dates back more than 30+ years. Obviously, not at any of the conferences or companies I have previously been to over that period. The notes were augmented with simple graphic drawings that captured my continued attention. I found myself studying the image and rereading the notes captured there. It seemed like a great way to preserve a talk for future and continued reference. Wanting to learn more, I contacted Sunni to find out more about what I had just experienced. She talked about graphic recording but the broader topic of visual thinking. It was an idea that is rather simple. Design information so it is more compelling to the audience. We've gotten so used to the standard bulleted text presentations created on PowerPoint that our idea of knowledge retention is simply getting a copy of the PowerPoint preso and stashing it in a file folder somewhere. With a graphic recording the information is presented in a way that engages the viewer. I got so excited about this method of presentation I invited Sunni to help me at my workplace (HMSA) present concepts our execs were promoting. This is an example of what see created: HMSA 2.0 I couldn't stop there so I invited her to be on Bytemarks Cafe on 6/3/09 to talk about Visual Thinking and info design. Chris Gargiulo from KCC also joined us to offer tips on this applies to web design. You can catch the entire show on our MP3 download or on iTunes. Enjoy and let me know what you think. It's such a refreshing and enjoyable way to encourage knowledge retention more organizations should use it.