Archive for the ‘Design’ category

An Agile Manifestation

February 10th, 2009

I was looking at the Agile Manifesto again just now and thought how valid those choice words still were today. The original words were crafted out eight years ago tomorrow (11-13th February 2001) at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. The history of how this came about is worth a read if you haven’t found it before.


So to celebrate this anniversary and just for something different I thought I’d try and emphasise these words using Wordle. Wordle was awarded an ‘Honorable Mention’ in Flowing Data’s 5 Best Data Visualisation Projects of the Year in 2008. The above image was created using

If you have some content you want to present in an unusual but impactful way then try it out. You can see the above Wordle online or create your own by clicking on the wordle above.

Playing at Working

December 10th, 2008

Tim Brown is the CEO of the “innovation and design” firm Ideo and he has a very interesting presentation on the powerful link between creativity and play that is worth a view.

I know I’m going off the formal BI track here but as I said the other day, BI is about creativity and some of the things Tim entertains us with in his presentation hit home – like fearing the judgement of our peers and letting adult behaviour get in the way of ideas.

So here’s one little way of breaking the ice in meetings and encouraging people to shed a few inhibitions and maybe even suggest some crazy ideas.

More than ice breaking

With a little help I discovered purely by accident about a year ago that laptop lids have a fantastic matte ‘sketchpad surface’ presumably designed with crayons in mind. Dell’s Latitude D820 isn’t bad but you can’t beat a MacBook Pro – even white works…

I’ve proudly carried a variety of designs about with me over the last year (box jellyfish, Lightning McQueen and my recent favourite ‘Giraffe Eating Pear’). They never fail to get a comment. Opening up the laptop lid atop a conference podium or round a boardroom table gets people smiling and that gets people talking and that as we all know, is half the battle.

If you’re interested in this stuff then you might also want to check out:

From one Extreme to another

December 8th, 2008

Last week I blogged about preparing a presentation using the Exteme Presentation Method. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the method was going to work beforehand but having spent the money on Dr Abela’s book, I pressed on.

This morning I delivered my first non-PowerPoint presentation in ages to a room of senior executives, and I did it sitting down talking to a single sheet of A4 paper.

Informal feedback gathered at the end of the session was really positive and I certainly felt the approach was both different and much more engaging. I noticed that I pretty much held the attention of all those in the room for 30 minutes, there were a flurry of questions at the end and conversation continued over coffee. None of these latter points is typical for me and I put the change down to the method.

Abela’s book is very practical and allowed me to develop the presentation step by step on and off over the course of about 4 days without going near a computer screen. If I have to constructively criticise it, I found the approach a little hard going and quite time-consuming to start with although I recognise that will improve with time and that if the end result is successful this justifies the up-front time investment.

On a personal note, I found the exercise of creating a compelling story cycling through ‘SCoRE’ (situation, complication, resolution, example) was both challenging and helpful in settling my mind on what had and had not been achieved, why this was so and what we had done to move on from that point.

The book is heavily referenced and researched and where I found myself mentally challenging some of the assertions I found (in each case) a thoughtfully provided reference to supporting material.

If you are fed up with giving PowerPoint presentations but feel you have little alternative then give this a go, especially if you have one of those important presentation opportunities on the horizon, and please let me know how you get on.

The Girl Effect

December 7th, 2008

I have been finding all sorts of fascinating things about typography lately. This is a great example and it says much better than I can about how much power is carried by the design and presentation of something, not just the content.

I found it last night and well, you tell me…

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Find out more about The Girl Effect here

Death by PowerPoint

December 5th, 2008

A colleague recently commented that I spend more on textbooks than most other areas of IT put together and I guess it is probably true. This is something of a paradox you might think; a topic that is ‘leading edge’ and exists on computer screens but yet for which the development team relies heavily on the printed medium.

I’ve been truly amazed at the volume and quality of current publication books that are wholly relevant to BI. Not books on tuning to optimise warehouse ETL performance, or even books that you are already reading like those from Kimball University, but books on really creative things, like design and layout.

Edward Tufte - VDQI

The whole art of physical ‘cutting and pasting’ existed way before Ctrl/Command-X/Vcame along and we really have corrupted the art in typical modern ‘bigger, better, faster’ fashion. Fortunately the purists live on and we have much to learn from them. So if you are responsible for delivering reports or BI content to your community I urge you to invest a few hours just researching the design and layout aspects of your information presentation.  If you’re not already a convert I think you will be surprised at just how much there is to it and probably unnerved about how little you know and some of the basic mistakes we have all been making.

Tufte just has to be on the shelf of any BI presentation designer and everyone I’ve shown this particular volume to has either bought a copy themselves or coveted mine past the point of politeness. The physical presentation in this book is incredible and you find yourself respectfully turning each page marveling at the typesetting and the effort put into its creation. I particularly wanted to mention Tufte because he referenced a PowerPoint version of the Gettysburg Address from Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, which includes a wonderful example of a meaningless slide, the type of which we unfortunately see and endure all too many of.

His point, and that of many others, is that PowerPoint enables awful presentations, ones that send the audience to sleep, after insulting them.

My point, is that I’ve finally decided to do something about it and stop doing PowerPoint presentations (well OK, seriously cut down on them). Being a BI evangelist in a university is a role that involves making a lot of presentations. So I bought another book (no surprise there) which describes the Extreme Presentation Method. I dismissed it initially as a pretty insignificant volume but dragged myself through it this week as I have a presentation to make to CAUDIT on Monday.

So far I have a lot of pieces of paper with scribbles on them, some cards which vaguely resemble a Best Man speech I gave at a wedding about 10 years ago, and not a PowerPoint or bullet in sight!

I’ll let you know how I go but so far I think it might just be crazy enough to work…