Sketching User Experiences

Recently a good friend turned me on to this classic Book, Sketching User Experiences  by Bill Buxton.
The general concept is simple:
The fidelity of a sketch is as important as the content of a sketch.  
For example, if a sketch is rough and quick, the audience infers that this idea is open to interpretation, their input, and allowed to be shaped by the person viewing it (not just the person who drew it and presented it.)
This simple concept has come up recently with my work at Britelite Immersive.  We are a full service immersive design shop and the nature of our work requires us to do much exploration with our clients to learn their needs in order to figure out the best solution to meet those needs (which are often complex and require some research to fully understand.)  
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Ajax Tech Tour

I threw this quick demo together to showcase the potential power a realtime 3D environment can add to a comic book. Eventually I’ll add VO, but needed something quick for my impending trip / presentation to Belgium :)


I was rather excited when a friend showed me this new interactive story experience, called Yearwalk: Part hypercard game, with a drag / touch interface, YW is accessible but also confusing. Things I love: – art style – sound design – interface (in principle) However I got motion sick with all the sideways scrolling, and the difficulty ramp was a bit odd for me.  Promising idea, but execution was a bit lacking.  Hope to see more of these types of experiments in the future, and definitely worth checking out.

Underwater Welder

I first discovered Jeff Lemire when I read his much acclaimed book, Essex County a few years ago.  Needless to say, there are the rare few creators that can both write and illustrate and Lemire is certainly in his element with total authorship over the medium. His latest book is Underwater Welder, a surreal story that blends the lines between reality and fantasy, all through the lens of a father son relationship. Lemire’s style is loose and raw, and is the perfect style to convey the deep emotions of his storytelling.  Its not very often that a comic book can make me really “feel” something the way film can, and just like his other works, UW delivers on its promise. Highly recommended.

Imagine : How Creativity Works

Ok, so rarely have I ever hi lighted so many quotes in a single book.  I swear, if this thing was tangible, it would be half hi liter. Jonah Lehers work is a collection of essays and anecdotes exploring the creative process, and in doing so, paints a detailed an compelling portrait for anyone who has a creative outlet, trying to improve their craft and invent new things. A couple selections: “If you’re at the cutting edge, you’re going to bleed” “There is nothing romantic about this kind of creativity, which consists mostly of sweat, sadness, and failure.  It’s the red pen on the page and the discarded sketch, the trashed prototype and the failed first draft.  It’s ruminating in the backs of taxis and popping pills until the poem is finished.  Nevertheless, such a merciless process is sometimes the only way forward.  And so we keep on thinking, because the next thought might be the answer.” “The world is full of natural outsiders, except we don’t call them outsiders; we refer to them as young people.  The virtue of youth, after all, is that the young don’t know enough to be insiders, cynical with expertise.” “Her misunderstanding led to the insight.  She was just a mother lost in a foreign country, and that’s why she invented the Barbie.” “We can either all work together, or fail alone.” “Technology inspires art, and art challenges the technology.” “Shakespeare is a reminder, in other words, that culture largely determines the creative output.  Unfortunately, this is often because out culture holds us back.  Instead of expanding the collective imagination, we make it harder for artists and inventors to create new things.  We stifle innovation and discourage the avant-garde.  We get in the way of our geniuses.” A must read.  

Windosill for iPad

Ok so once in a while something comes along on mobile that has me freak out and tell all my friends.  And the latest app to get this much attention and acclaim is Windosill by Vector Park. This is a great example of interactive story telling that combines narrative mechanics in the most enchanting and engaging of ways.  Its hard to describe, and watching a video of how it works will ruin all sense of discovery and exploration. And that’s part of what makes it so rewarding to play with, as while its never clear from the outset what your goal is, every little experiment you try along the way leaves you with some sort of result that offers clues, no matter how subtle. In fact, the less you know about this app before you see it, the better.  Get it NOW.

Upgrade Soul for iPad and Phone

Erik Loyer of Opertoon fame just launched his new interactive comic for iOS, Upgrade Soul. I got a chance to preview the piece before release, and needless to say I’m quite impressed. The presentation is clean, responsive, and engaging.  Dare I say one of the first times I’ve seen the accelerometer based camera used in a way to make the narrative deeper.  And though I’ve only read 2 chapters so far, the story is turning out to be quite good, reminding me a bit of some plot devices from the Arnie flick, 6th Day. Eriks has done a lot of pioneering work in the space of interactive comics and narrative, and Upgrade Soul is shaping up to be a great project.  Also worthy to note, like Ajax, U S is built in Unity. I’m looking forward to reading all 16 chapters.

Lil’ Red for iPad

Given the constant evolution of the storybook on mobile, its nice to note the worthy ones that crop up here and there.  The crowded nature of the space just begs for curation, so it is my pleasure to introduce you to Lil’ Red for iOS. What makes this experience of little red riding hood so good is its creative choices.  The color scheme is incredibly clever, using a desaturated look with red to denote interactive elements.  Simple, straightforward, with just enough animation and sound provide a very sophisticated and clean presentation.  Even the loading screen(s) is well designed. There is no text in the dialogue, no spoken words, everything is depicted with simple pictographic representation in word balloons.  It is true show not tell story telling. You can watch a walkthrough here: I hope to see more from this developer in the future :)

SDCC 2012

I first attended in San Diego Comicon in 2009.  I was new to the industry, and spent most of my time in Artist Alley trying to recruit people to my cause.  It was painful.  As much as I loved comics, and knew that I wanted to contribute to the medium, I had a very hard time getting peoples attention and convincing them I was worth their time. The second year I was there, the iPad has just launched and I again was trying to convince people that what I was doing was worthwhile.  The comics industry was still very dismissive of digital, and the most memorable quote I got was from the head of SLG.  “Why would I want an iPad?  It doesn’t print!” My, how the tide has changed. I must say, if there was ever an affirmation of the progress I’ve made with Ajax, SDCC was proof in the pudding.  Here are some hilights: I reached out to Ryan Woodward after learning of his new graphic novel Bottom of the Ninth. I became a fan of Ryans work after seeing his amazing short animation, Thought of You.  Apparently Operation Ajax played a key part in inspiring Ryan to create his iPad comic, and to know that my work appeals to people that I respect so much was really an incredible boost. I first met Robert Valley at SDCC in 2009, before I knew who he was.  His work on the Beatles Rockband Intro remains to this day one of my favorite pieces of animation.  I got to have dinner with him and several others that create the Tron animated series, and given the trend of Disney with Tall Chairs tools, I’m optimistic about a future collaboration in the interactive comics space. Madefire hosted a dinner and I got to meet Dave Gibbons among others excited to be creating in this new medium.  Given that it was the Watchmen Motion Comic that inspired the presentation style of Ajax, it seemed only fitting that he is involved from the ground up pioneering this new medium. I got to revamp my panel from SXSW on Reinventing the Graphic Novel for the iPad. It was an honor to present my work before the comics audience, and the response I got suggested that my message strikes a nerve and raises some good questions about the future of digital books. I dressed up in classic spy attire.  Its probably time I bought one of these outfits for myself, given how pricey renting them has been… Overall, best Con yet.  I can’t imagine what I’ll be talking about at SDCC 2013, but I’m quite curious to know what it will be :)    

Cognitive Surplus

I recently read through Clay Shirky’s Cognitve Surplus and it blew my mind. Many great thoughts woven in here, but perhaps one of my favorites is the examination of the ecosystem of television.  A direct product of the industrial revolution, a clever way to fill up the spare time workers now enjoyed with the 8 hour work day. In the traidtional ecosystem of television, you had a one way delivery system, with the content creation siloed, the distribution networks (airwaves, also siloed) and the delivery / consumption device (the Tv set).  Whenever a consumer would purchase a new tv, the network grew by one consumer. But now, when someone purchases an iphone, laptop, etc, the very device they use to consume media is also a media creation and broadcasting device.  And so the network grows by one consumer and one creator.  And thus we have a democracy of content creation, with difference expectations of our audience, as they now enjoy a voice in some ways as much if not more powerful than the original siloed system. Well worth a read.