Big Design Talk – Produce like Picasso, Part 2

by Kelly Nercess

Last month we discussed how we could take the unique work ethic of artist Pablo Picasso and apply it to our lives. Through the five P’s of Productivity you can be well on your way to improving your potential and maximizing your strengths. These P’s include: Passion, Purpose, Proficiency, Persistence and Partnership. At the Big Design in Dallas, Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh presented a highly entertaining talk that left you feeling motivated and ready to conquer your career.
We already took a look at the first two steps, Passion and Purpose. Let’s take a deeper dive into the final three steps.

“I am doing that which I cannot do, in order to learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso started his path in art at an early age. He was taught brush technique by his father, Jose Ruiz and attended the Barcelona School of Fine Arts. At the ripe young age of 14, his father rented him a studio to practice his talents. Picasso preferred to work in solitude and focus strictly on his work. He allowed animals to go into the studio, including dogs, cats and a monkey. He was also very particular about his work and would not allow for maids to come in to clean the studio. Any wrong move and a masterpiece that he was working on could be ruined.
Picasso was very dedicated to his schedule, and when he had to share his studio he set a schedule for everyone else as well. He took his art very seriously and would not let anyone get in the way. His artistic nature would get the best of him at times when he was bored at school. Picasso would skip classes to visit museums and do his own research. The theory was to always to continue practicing. Every moment was spent toward improving his skill. Picasso began to join networks that would bring him together with other artists. Tertulia was a frequent term used, an informal gathering of artists and musicians. His first network was The Four Cats. Throughout these gatherings he would get the opportunity to talk about art, music, current events, literature and more.

Proficiency Points of Picasso:

  1. Move beyond just pushing pixels.
  2. Get an education and learn on your own.
  3. Research, research, research.
  4. Practice, practice, practice.
  5. Network, network, network.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” One of the most important aspects to staying productive is setting a routine and sticking to it. That is exactly what Pablo Picasso did. Every day was just like the day before. Wake up, eat, work, nap, work, eat, work, and sleep. This ongoing routine kept him persistent in his efforts to be an outstanding artist. Picasso’s popularity grew, and so did his number of visitors. Artists, reporters, Gls, resistance fighters and art dealers all stopped in to pay a visit to this famed artist. The spotlight forced Picasso to open up his studio every Thursday, which ultimately threw off the perfected schedule he maintained.

Keeping a driven attitude involved developing good work habits. Picasso nailed down a work habit that worked for him:

  1. Produces rough sketches.
  2. Explores alternatives.
  3. Iterate his sketches.
  4. Reduces alternatives.
  5. Begins his project.
  6. Picks workable designs.
  7. Took photos in later years.
  8. Finishes his work.
  9. Documents in a journal.

He was persistent in his projects and making sure they were the absolute best they could be. Settling for second best was not an option. He explored several areas of art and mastered them all. Prints, ceramics, stage designs, costumes, sculptures and paintings were all areas that Picasso aspired to dabble in. Persistence was engrained in his work ethic and settling was not something he was willing to do Working towards being his best possible version and maximizing his artistic skills was the only option for Picasso. He frequently would not it right on the first try, or even the second. But he proved that continuing to perfect his artwork and tweak it would gain him success in the end.
Persistence didn’t end in his art studio;, he was persistent when pursuing his artwork to sellers. Exhibiting his work in other countries did not come natural at first. Picasso had no exhibits in Paris until the 1930s. He remained persistent with the Blue Period, which did not initially sell. Twenty years later, these paintings attract the most money at an auction of all of Picasso’s periods.

Persistence Points of Picasso

  1. Your creative process beats blocks.
  2. Develop a schedule and good work habits.
  3. See your setbacks as learning experiences.
  4. Master new disciplines to solve problems.
  5. Empty yourself, fill up with new challenges.
  6. Do not have the fear to begin, again.

This element in productivity could be considered the most critical. Picasso found support from his family, mentors and networks. Even rivals and collaborators were able to increase his productivity and make him work harder. His childhood family support played an intricate role in his career. His Uncle Salvador paid his tuition for art school and his mother consistently wrote him letters while he was in Paris. Knowing that he had a support system and partnerships to help drive his talents only increased his moral. Without his partnerships, Picasso would have not had the same opportunities to excel. His father was his early mentor and was the one to teach him the technique of a brush. Picasso says, “Every time I draw a man, I instantly think of my father.”
Pablo Picasso had other mentors that include Max Jacobs and Guillaume Apollinaire. Max Jacobs was a poet who taught Picasso how to speak French. For a short time, they even shared an apartment together. Guillaume Apollinaire was Picasso’s first critic to review his Cubism period. Other inspiration came from his connections with Tertulia. Writer Ernest Hemingway and journalist Leo Stein were among this elite group. Others like the famed dancer Isadora Duncan and writer Gertrude Stein also grew a partnership with Picasso.

The idea that your rival may bring out the competitive side is not too far off for Picasso. He had a historic rival with Henri Matisse. “No one has ever looked at Matisse’s paintings more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than Matisse.” Their friends loved the rivalry that went on between to two artists, and even encouraged it. You can see their rivalry live on in their artwork. Picasso’s Young ladies of Avignon (1906) was a response to Matise’s Joy of Life (1905). The rivalry grew on for years, but when looking at the bigger picture these artists both really respected each other. They were competitive and constantly wanted to keep up with one another, but at the end of the day they had a mutual understanding. Matisse and Picasso would insult each other, but when someone else would take a stab it was not considered respectful and rather taken in poor taste.
Partnerships are what allow us to grow and blossom.
Partnership Points of Picasso:

  1. Partnerships affect your productivity.
  2. Your family sets you up for success.
  3. Mentors educate and advise you.
  4. Your network will inspire you.
  5. Rivals push you in different ways.
  6. Collaborators expand your boundaries.

Taking these fundamental elements to productivity that Pablo Picasso used can only strengthen your work ethic. Aside from your career, passion and purpose and proficiency and persistence and partnerships are important to consider in all aspects of life. I want to thank Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh for their motivating talk that inspired me to summarize and share.
For more on Pablo Picasso’s artwork, visit:

Games User Research Summit Recap

by Phil McGuinness
In one of those rare and fine occurrences where work and play intersect, I found myself at the Games User Research Summit at the Sony Computer Entertainment facility in San Mateo on March 3rd, 2015. I had heard about the conference from another usability professional, and thought it would be interesting to see how usability practices are applied by professionals in the video gaming industry. Although we live in an age of specialization, I find that it’s important to step back from time to time and look at things from a different angle. What unique challenges are faced by usability professionals in video gaming? How do they approach similar tasks, like recruiting representative candidates and designing a product on a rapid time scale? These were the questions I wanted to answer, and a few of the talks that I attended shed light on these key topics.

One of the first talks of the day was held remotely by Bill Gardner from Xperienced points due to unforeseen circumstances. In an experience much like gaming online with friends across the country, Bill presented remotely via video, coordinating with the local staff to change slides when necessary.                 Bill spoke of an experience working on the game Swat 4. In the game, you control a SWAT team member from the first person, and perform missions using authentic SWAT tactics. The development team made an initial assumption about the player’s movement speed, keeping it low so as to mimic the controlled actions of a real life SWAT team. Maps were designed on a scale according to the movement speed as the game was developed.
When the team went into usability testing late in the development process, they found out that the testers wanted their players to move faster, that they felt sluggish and slow. However, at this point changing the movement speed would result in sweeping changes to the level design, and there was no time in the development process to make the adjustments. Had they tested earlier in the process, these changes would not have had such drastic implications. This is a good example of how testing early and throughout design can save resources and avoid pitfalls later on.


Figure 2: User Researchers and gaming fans watch Celia Hodent speak about Usability Heuristics in the main conference room.

Another talk that piqued my interest was a panel led by Klayton Vorlick from Sony, and with Karl Steiner, Nathan Cook, and Steven Shulmister. The panel touched on recruiting for niche markets, finding the right incentive, and fielding externally. Additionally, the panel covered challenges recruiting candidates in the video game industry and shared lessons that can apply to all industries. One problem faced by recruiters everywhere, is that when money is involved, people will do whatever they can to be in your study. One novel approach to this issue was touched on by Steven from VGMarket; when Steven’s company calls potential gamers, rather than asking a list of standard questions, they use recruiters who are knowledgeable about the subject to ask pointed questions that verify knowledge. For instance, when a user claims that they have played a specific game, recruiters will ask who their favorite character or boss battle was. This provides a checking process while screening that isn’t always applied in a traditional approach.
The final talk I’ll cover here was presented by Eric Hazan, regarding Games User Research practices at Ubisoft Montreal. Eric spoke of the methods used by Ubisoft’s team on the development of Far Cry 4, released in November 2014. Eric’s talk covered the diverse set of tools used when testing, which included eye tracking, skin sensors to measure sweat levels and register excitement, as well as telemetry in the form of tracking in-game actions and locating them on the 3-dimensional gaming map, and time stamping videos to observe those actions. Using Tableau software to sync these diverse sources of data, he showed numerous examples of how these tools helped make usability issues easy to identify and then report back to designers in the form of bite-sized videos. The multiple layers of data can be a lot to handle, but with intelligent use of software they can enrich the analysis of the player experience. His lesson can be applied across industry as well. Although we may not have the ability to perform eye tracking and other more costly methods with every study, we can use behavioral data captured from users as well as analytics data to help get a deeper picture of how users are interacting with the site. The more sources we can pull from and sync up, the more likely we’ll be able to identify key issues when testing.
The video game industry has grown extraordinarily in the past decade, and is now a $20 billion dollar industry in the United States alone. Learning from usability professionals in this field was a great experience, and it was especially valuable seeing how they attack usability problems specific to their field. I highly recommend the GUR summit to all usability professionals across all industries. There’s no doubt that we can all learn something from our colleagues in usability, as long as we take some time to step back and connect.

Big Design Talk – Produce Like Picasso

by Kelly Nercess
Produce like Picasso
We all know Pablo Picasso and we all know he was a genius.  Primarily known for his role establishing Cubism, he was also an efficient artist.  He brought this discipline to each of his artistic periods including Traditional, the Blue Period, the Rose Period, his African-Influenced work, Neo-Classicalism and Surrealism. His innate talent and unstoppable drive meant that he produced an average seven new pieces of art every day. Today we have over 147,800 completed works of art from this amazing artist.  At this point you may be comparing your own productivity to Picasso’s his jaw dropping feat; try not to feel too bad about yourself. There was a method to his madness.
The presentation was not a Picasso art history lesson, but rather a lesson on how to apply this work ethic to your daily tasks. How can we apply Picasso to our work?  Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh presented their findings on how the average worker can apply these Picasso techniques to achieve success.
It all starts with the five P’s of Productivity: Passion, Purpose, Proficiency, Persistence and Partnership. These five components will pave the road to ‘producing like Picasso’.

The first words that came out of Picasso’s mouth was a form of the word ‘pencil’. Jose Ruiz, Picasso’s father, taught brush technique and was popular for his painting doves. When he noticed that his son loves to draw, he began giving him lessons. The start of his passion for art began at a young age and eventually led to his first oil painting at the ripe young age of 9. The name is the brand. Noticeably, Picasso has a different last name than his father. Could you imagine the iconic name being Pablo Ruiz instead of Pablo Picasso?
Picasso began art school and found himself daydreaming in class rather than focusing on what was being taught. “For being a bad student, I was sent to detention. I liked it there, because I took along a sketchpad and drew incessantly. I could have stayed there drawing forever.”
Passion Points of Picasso:

  1. Find your passion (drawing for Picasso).
  2. Family support for focus and education.
  3. Find a mentor, early on (Picasso’s father).
  4. Get an education (for the sake of learning).
  5. Know life events will fuel your passion.

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Stealing allows you to make something yours.
“Copying is doing exactly like someone else does. Stealing is when you take something, change it so much, the innovation is so disguised, so changed, that it looks like it belongs to you.” Steve Jobs can be known to use those words to his advantage. He took the branding that Picasso created and made it his own. Jobs considered Picasso his mentor and built the Apple brand using the artwork that Picasso created. If you notice the famous Apple ‘finder’ symbol, you will find a very close relation to the artwork of Picasso. Steve Jobs was shameless to steal ideas and build his brand off the work of this extraordinary artist.
There was no stopping the Apple empire, Jobs also wanted to be considered the Ritz-Carlton of retail. Someone is always there to great you at the door and the genius bar is a place to get advice on your products, rather than drinking a gin and tonic. Again, this goes back to the idea that Apple was shameless bout stealing great ideas. In order to be the best, you had to follow the footsteps of the best.
Looking back at the work of two brilliant innovators, they both continued to reinvent their brand and give their work a purpose. Picasso established his work in the Blue Period, Cubism and Neo-Classical, while Apple continued to push the boundaries with new technology including smartphones, tablets and computers.
Picasso held a great influence to Steve Jobs. Without his impact on the Apple brand, I would imagine some of the products we use today would not be the same.
“Steve Jobs admired Picasso because he could have taken a conventional approach and done it well for the rest of his life, but Picasso (like Jobs) tried to change things.” – Dr. Enrique Mallen, Forbes 2013
Purpose Points of Picasso:

  1. Have an open mind to new experiences.
  2. Be original. Challenge the status quo.
  3. Look beyond your own design discipline.
  4. Steal great ideas, but make them your own.
  5. Take risks. Do not copy other people.

In part two of this article, I will deep dive into findings that Brian Sullivan and J. Schuh shared on the remaining three P’s: Proficiency, Persistence and Partnership. Stay tuned in our March newsletter for the final article!

Big Design Talk: The Real Mobile Experience

by Kelly Nercess
Lets face it. We live in a society where the majority of people are glued to their mobile devices. Whether it’s texting a friend, finding an online recipe for dinner, or taking a selfie…everyone, at one point or another, is guilty of being attached to their smartphone.
During the Big Design conference in Dallas this year, I had a chance to attend Pamela Pavliscak’s workshop on “ The Real Mobile Experience”. Aside from her entertaining jokes and quick wit, she gave us a her insights on what people really do on mobile phones and how to design for those activities.
Some quick facts:
–       For every baby born, there are five mobile devices activated
–       7 billion mobile phones in the world. 55% of those are smartphones
–       Typical mobile users check their phones 150 times a day
–       Smartphone owners spend over 2 hours on their phone each day
–       21% of US mobile phone owners go online primarily using their phones and globally that number is even higher
–       Out of preference: 50% of smartphone owners under 30 use the Internet primarily on their mobile phone
–       Out of necessity: 55% of Americans who make less than $30k/year have no web access at home
–       For convenience: 34% use the device simply because it is close at hand
–       29% say that their phone is the first and last thing that they look at everyday
–       44% sleep with their phones (in a very platonic manner)
Based on the data that Pavliscak reported, people show a remarkable dependency on their smartphones. The fact that we now wake up and go sleep with this electronic device by our side can even be intimidating for a spouse. Women were asked if they would rather give up sex or their mobile phone for 1 month. Can you guess the answer? 48% of women said they would rather give up sex, while the other 52% said they would rather do without their mobile phones. Hmm, interesting. Where do you fall on the spectrum?
An experiment was performed where she asked 250 people to “take a look at their phone”. She was requesting the owner to just happily pass their phone over to a perfect stranger. The result:
–       A slim amount of people actually handed over their phone
–       Some made an excuse not to pass it over
–       Some also just instantly put their phone away
–       Majority of people would hold the phone out and show it while it was still in their possession

So, what does this mean for society? We are way too overprotective of our phones. It’s as if it was our newborn child.
In addition to our phones providing a channel for enhanced social interactions, they also allow us to also solve problems. Pavliscak reported that 86% of people solve problems with their phones, which includes troubleshooting emergencies. What else do we use our devices for? High on the list is making sure our kids are happy. Only 20% of parents don’t use tablets or phones to keep their children occupied. So next time you are at a restaurant and you see a young child playing Angry Birds as opposed to eating their macaroni and cheese, you can look at them and think “Oh, you’re part of that 80%”.
We all know that we love and adore our phones, but what are we really doing on them? Ms. Pavliska proposed another experiment to research what we are spending our time on when our eyes are glued to that mobile screen. Even though we look at it over 150 times a day, we’re usually using it in three ways:
–       72% of the time we Tap
–       77% of the time we Swipe
–       94% of the time we are Scrolling

People know how to use the zoom button, but surprisingly a lot of us will continue to read the small text as opposed to using the gesture to make it larger. How can we optimize the mobile experience based on this data?
–       Take the guesswork out for the user, but give them obvious cues
–       Get rid of any needless gestures
–       First impressions hold the most value for The Flick (scroll down to the bottom, and then quickly back up to the top)
–       Don’t have to many hidden menus for when a user applies the The Washing Machine method (someone who swipes up and down/right and left)
–       We go to great lengths to avoid typing, so consider that when designing your mobile site
–       Use icons in a way that is consistent with other sites
–       Essential content should be on the page or on the top (hamburger menus are iffy)
–       Sound cues are a missed opportunity – only 74% of people leave their ringer on
Overall, there is much room for improvement for the user experience of mobile devices. They are attached to their phones almost as if it were another limb. Aside from the great content she was able to share, she had an upbeat and entertaining presentation style that did not go unnoticed by the crowd. If I get the chance to attend another talk by Pamela, I won’t miss the opportunity!

KLI Talk @ HFES Conference

At the end of October, our Senior User Researcher, Kelley Parsons, attended the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) Conference. Kelley presented to an intimate crowd at the Student Lounge about “UX Consulting War Stories”. Kelley wanted to share her experiences and give a unique perspective of everyday life as a UX consultant. The audience connected with Kelley’s down-to-earth approach and loved her lessons learned from over 20 years experience working in this industry. One attendee approached Kelley and said, “Thank you soooo much! We have waited all day for a presenter like you!!!”
You can view her entire presentation here.

RECAP: SFIMA Panel Discussion with Key Lime Interactive

Last month our CEO and Founder, Ania Rodriguez, joined the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association to discuss “Optimizing User Experience for Conversion”. She joined other panelists from Ion Interactive and HiConversion. Top takeaways from the event:
– You can find 80% of the issues with only 5 users
– Eye tracking can detect if call-to-action size and color make a difference in your conversion results
– Strong colors attract the eye, but if there is too much competing for the eye’s attention the people can get overloaded
– Do not put a search bar under the mega menu button or it will get lost and decrease your conversion rate
– Test and embrace user experience design to continually improve, solve and remain relevant in your space
– One great tool for quick usability test: KlueMobile