Thursday, December 3, 2009

Web 2.0 Expo: Thinking Visually: The Value of Geting Visual in Social Business by David Armano

The third talk I attended on Tuesday November 17 at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York City was David Armano’s “Thinking Visually: The Value of Geting Visual In Social Business.” (Armano is the principal of the Dachis Group, consultants in social networking.)

Here are his slides - they're necessary to refer to for my summary, since his point is that visuals can greatly assist putting ideas across:

I saw Armano's presentation at last year's Expo:

In my summaries last year I think I did a disservice to both David Armano and Brian Solis (who spoke last year, and whom Armano mentioned). It's difficult to convey certain ideas in words when what you're trying to convey is the usefulness of imagery. I think a number of us chuckled this year during Armano's talk when he told us that visual design was really simple - he made is sound like all you have to do is make a couple of strokes and voila! An image.

But people like Armano and Solis don't realize that they're visually talented. (I consider myself musically gifted and know few people understand music the way musicians do. I believe this is true also with those devoted to graphic arts.) So Armano (and Solis) tend to underplay the effort involved in creating images, and, perhaps, sometimes don't have the full vocabulary to convey in words the power of visuals (their mode of communication is visual). Despite their facility at creating images, the uninitiated should never think that it is simple - it isn't, and I feel most of us would do well to not bother with learning design, but leave to people who have a life-long need to express themselves visually (i.e. graphic artists).

So on to the summary. Armano warned that his talk was not specifically about social media but that is overlaps with it.

He started with a Chinese proverb, which could stand in part for what Web 2.0 is about:

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember;
involve me and I’ll understand.

Involving users is more than just showing things. Armano showed a visualization of the effect of social networks, first shown on his blog:

Small and large ripples are visualized, spreading out to reach and overlap one another.

Gets to the issue of the visualization of paid digital media vs. earned digital media

The attention of consumers is shifted to networks and streams.

Image of the “wheel of marketing misfortune” very nice

He cited the book Made To Stick (by Dan Heath and Chip Heath) which is about ideas that can are retained in the mind. Most people find visuals a valuable complementary aid to understanding abstract ideas. Think for moment: Which of your five senses would you fear losing most? A majority of people respond with their sight.

He then showed us several minutes of a video he liked very much: History of the Internet, which uses PICOL (PIctorial COmmunication Language) icons to convey history with an elegant simplicity:

What it takes to get visual with the 4 Ms:

  • Metaphor - finding a convincing correspondence between word and image
  • Model - (for developing experiences) (one can combine: metaphor and model)
  • Mindmap - to get all ideas mapped out
  • Manifest - take something complex and make it simple

Six steps for getting visual:

1. Empathize: see the world as a child, asking fundamental questions: observe - ask - explore

2. Memorize: commit thoughts to memory - putting anything on paper is a path to memorization

3. Analyze: take a step back

4. Synthesize: filter the signal from noise

5: Visualize: see it, then do it

6: Materialize: make it tangible, make it stick

Combing that with the four Cs of community: Content, Contest, Connectivity, Continuity.

Two examples/case studies:

1. How to visualize a "dynamic signal"? What does a signal look like? Sample images taken from Google. Then making it stick: keep the image simple. [slides 34-39]

2. What about "hiveminded"? What does the word suggest? A collective consciousness - a swarm of bees. What makes a hive? Bees...hive...honeycombs - these ideas suggest a hexagonal design - reducing a hive to one honeycomb. The end result visualizes a swarm of signals on a hive. [slides 40-47 ]

Armano went on to remind us that however creative, these visuals are for the purpose of social marketing. He suggested a checklist for making your coentent more visual and said that you need to use your brain and eye in thinking about web content.

Why is visual content useful?

  • It gets peoples' attention quickly
  • It helps us to learn faster and more effectively
  • It lets people do their own thinking
  • It helps us tell stories

Here is some reading to help you get started:

Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte

Selling to the VP of NO by Dave Gray

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug (no. 1 of user experience books)

The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam

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