What’s in the Maga Design Library………?

By Caroline DeSantis

Maga Library's Bookcase

A New Year’s resolution may not be at the forefront of our minds when turkey recipes and gift lists are competing for attention as the holiday season approaches.  However, the final months of 2016 provide the perfect opportunity to stop, reflect, and find ways to improve upon our work.  What better way to do this than picking up a book that we have in our Maga Design Library, which the ever-curious Magateers use as a resource to find new ways of approaching their work and life?  If you’re looking for something to inspire you as 2017 rolls in, take a peek at some of the Magateers’ suggestions and curl up with a good book or give one as a gift

Start with Why by Simon Sinek is a book RJ Clark will pick up at least once a year to help him get to the heart of what inspires his work.  A great read no matter if you’re a design strategist, graphic designer, project manager, or content strategist.

A collection of Dan Roam’s books about how to start thinking visuallyMaga Library to solve problems such as Back of the Napkin, Show and Tell, and Draw to Win are cornerstones for Magateers.  If you haven’t picked one up, 2017 should be the year to.                                                                                                                      Sabeen Khan recommends Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web by Ahava Leibtag to inform impactful content strategy with a marketing eye, plus the author shares plenty of entertaining case studies and faux pas.

Caleb Sexton, Maga’s book guru, just started reading Peter H. Diamond’s Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.  Diamond offers a guide to being one step ahead of the future with exponential technologies, moonshot thinking, and crowd-powered tools.  It’s a book that will definitely help you be a part of the vanguard.

Rachel Friedmann read The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work−she ended up eating more candy because of this book, because candy stimulates more creativity.  Arguably a sweet read.

After attending the 2016 Gartner Symposium and ITxpo this year where Linda Kaplan Thaler was a keynote speaker, Jaime Lennen
decided to start
Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. The book explains why those who possess grit (Guts, Resilience, Initiative, and Tenacity) outperform those with higher IQ’s, infinite financial resources, or higher ed degrees.  Grit is something that everyone can have, and not only applies to the working world, but also in our personal lives and relationships. So get ready to supercharge your career in 2017 with this book.

If you want a book to impress and imply how smart you are, Adrienne Betenbaugh recommends reading Malcolm Gladwell. In particular Adrienne loves The Tipping Point and Blink. But really any will do.

For the cool creative kids, Jared Adams suggests Design as Art, by Italian futurist Bruno Munari.  It talks about the importance of beautiful design in the world around us, and gives a little bit of a critique as well.  Another legendary designer book is Aaron James Draplin’s Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything.  He chronicles his work and shares funny commentary about all that goes into to creating memorable designs.  A bonus is that Jared’s AIGA chapter is in it.  If you’re looking for a book with great visuals, The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero is a great pick, and you can read it online for free.

For digital techy peeps, Pete Ziff recommends Narrative as Virtual Reality 2 Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media by Marie-Laure Ryan–storytelling for virtual reality, that’s new!

Maga LibraryFinally the boss had to add his Wednesday Night Book Club selection.  Scott Williams recommends Decisive by the Heath brothers, a read that will leave you with less agony over making decisions.  Illuminate by Nancy Duarte is also on his current reading list.  It is a guide to not only envisioning world-changing ideas, but also how to get people to change the world with your ideas.  And finally, anything by Seth Godin will serve you well in the New Year.

Whether you pick up a new book or choose to re-read a favorite, any of the books in the Maga Library are tools to explore the ever complex world we work in to help us better execute the visions we have for ourselves and our work at Maga.  

Become a Data Bard in 5 Leaps

 

By RJ Clark

data-bard-01-1

In medieval Gaelic and British times there was a person whose sole job it was to compose poems, songs or stories about their employers life (usually a monarch or nobleman.) These story tellers were called bards and they are credited to prolonging the oral history and cultural times of these groups.

Today, while no one holds an official title of bard, the need for capturing what’s happening in an organization, project or experience is still critical. The modern poetry of the technological era is data.

Collecting and interpreting data is a driving force for modern businesses and organizations, but as data reaches higher and higher levels of complexity, it can seem less and less connected to our daily lives and the story becomes harder to tell. Data visualization can bring multiple layers of complexity into a single story. It is up to those charged with telling those stories to turn important ideas into epic memorable moments.

  1. Go Slow to Go Fast

Many data analytics projects happen under a time crunch. It is very tempting to dive in and start collecting information. But there are a few steps that MUST be taken first.

Starting off with a strong plan saves time on the overall project. Reworking and editing won’t take up so much  time if you have good planning. If a step is missed, due to rushing through the project, there may be no way to go back and recover a lost opportunity.  At a minimum, data planning needs to:

  1. Establish what the user needs to learn or accomplish through this activity.
  2. Match the goals to all possible data that might be collected to accomplish those goals.
  3. Use a collection format that is easy to use for both those collecting data and the analysts that will need to turn that story into insight down the road. It will also need to be flexible enough to add new fields and make new requirements as the research gets underway.
  4. Ensure good data quality. This will save time and give more options down the road.
  1. Catch it All!

The preparation is complete. The plans are set. Now it is time to start gathering data.  This could be research, an event, a information mining activity, a series of interviews, a survey, or almost anything that needs to be broken down for study.

Now, it is important to avoid tunnel vision. The task of collecting or mining a significant amount of data can be daunting, and it is easy to focus on understanding and recording only the minimum to meet the needs of a project. Oftentimes the most important points are the unexpected ones that will reveal the real value of the project.

  1. Put on Your Hunting Hat

There may be basic questions that can be answered with simple counts and averages. It may be that the relationships between different areas need to be examined very closely to find high value insights. Experiment with combining different areas and fields to look for correlation vs. causation. This is where simple data tools like Microsoft Excel’s Powerpivot really shine.

  1. Get Dynamic

It might be tempting to turn your data into graphs, but everyone knows what a graph looks like. And they are not very interesting. Graphs are excellent at conveying limited amounts of information in a clear way, but many problems today have increasing degrees of complexity that can’t be shown in a simple graph. By introducing dynamic elements to link elements of data, we can then move into the realm of storytelling. If you want to see a great example of this in action, check out this awesome Ted Talk by Hans Rosling.

  1. Make it Shine

Now you have the story together that your data will tell, but don’t stop now! Just like a wonderfil tale, it needs a setting. Great stories are going untold because they lack this vital human step. Advanced Visualization will make your data story easier for your audience to understand, more engaging and, perhaps most importantly, more memorable. An experienced graphic artist knows how to make visual information speak to a specific audience to convey a specific message. Just like with great storytelling, there are layers of meaning and finesse that are vital to transform data into an epic story.

Pokémon Go Augmented Reality Caught Us All: Here’s Why You Should Get Catching

Contributors: Maga Design Team Members
Graphic designed by: Afsaneh@magadesign.com

pokemon_go-v5The most talked-about, downloaded, acclaimed, and debated hit of the summer isn’t the latest Kardashian drama, but rather a mobile game reminiscent of years gone by, Pokémon GO. Due to the element of nostalgia, opportunity for exploration, and user connectivity, this app has created an explosive user base of fans (and skeptics) that will likely change the way we think about the future of gaming.

With the average gamer searching for Pokémon companions for roughly 45 minutes a day, the questions must be asked, “Why?” and “Who?”.  While the “why” is the most heavily debated part of this game, the “who” is actually the most interesting part of this 2016 application phenomenon.

Typically when a game (or similar artifact of mobile society) is released to the public, its adoption follows the typical life cycle bell-curve that we studied in our business and marketing classes. Innovators first, early adopters second, and the combo of early majority and late majority filling up the middle and end of the curve.

What this game did is make Augmented Reality technology, or AR, (which is still relatively “new” in terms of its mass consumption) easily digestible (i.e, fun and easy to use) for the larger percentage of the population. It did this by tapping into the ways we most commonly use our devices – GPS and our cameras, combined with a multigenerational franchise. Pokémon Go didn’t follow the typical curve, it seemed to explode all at once with all types of users adopting.

To note, Pokémon Go isn’t the first geocaching mobile game, nor is it possibly the best. Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go, previously made another app known as Ingress. Not surprisingly, the gameplay for both apps are very similar, to the extent where much of the real-world data from Ingress has gotten pulled into Pokémon Go. In fact, Ingress could arguably be superior to Pokémon Go in terms of usability. In our opinion, Pokémon Go has considerable server issues and is rather limited in terms of what players can do. Much of this could be underpreparedness for the bandwidth needed for its release. Ingress also has been around for about three years and has undergone substantial gameplay tailoring.

Understanding “who”, we have to toss a nod to the favorite Pokémon cartoon characters like Pikachu. Now that the Pokémon franchise is roughly 20 years old, we find the average age of players are in their mid twenties to early thirties. These are the users who remember Pokémon from its early days when the first games were released for Nintendo’s Game Boy, and a card game and children’s show followed shortly after. We have an inherent desire to experience parts of our youth again, in just more relevant ways.

Of course there are younger and older people playing this game too, which takes us back to the massive impact this game has had on the user adoption process of gamification. If it was any other character-based game released (instead of using characters from a popular franchise), would the impact have been the same? Maybe. But, for now, only time will tell as the stage has been set for mass adoption of mobile AR gaming all in part to a little yellow-orangish creature.

But is the impact of Pokémon Go something that many are misinterpreting?

Some may give it a negative spin like it’s another distraction, but the core meaning of what this app has is truly something special. It’s creating an experience for people to go outside and play a truly social game, not social in the sense of over the internet (like Xbox Live and other services) or physically near each other. The placement of Pokémon in the real world has increased traffic to landmarks and cultural locations – resulting in positive and negative results.

The app tears AR away from its seemingly limited application to gaming and artificial intelligence, broadening it to entertainment, fitness, and possibly a lot more. Pokémon Go feels comparable to arcades of the past, only this time the arcade is everywhere. No doubt,  businesses will figure out how they can profit from leveraging in-game advertising and purchases to entice ‘trainers’ to their business.

While many naysayers are torn on the “why” people are out looking for Pokémon instead of, say, picking up litter, there’s something to be said about a game that unifies and bonds complete strangers across cultures and age brackets in public spaces. The Pokémon journey is a new frontier in convergence and is the start of bigger and better AR experiences to come.

Why Learning Centric Instruction is the Future of Training

By: Jordan Orzolek

Very few announcements induce a sense of irritation in employees more than that of mandatory training. Who can blame them? This means that they will soon be subjected to hours of lecturing by a speaker who repeats things already known, ventures into irrelevant topics, or drones on while the learners are watching the clock, eager to leave. This seems inevitable but truthfully, it isn’t. Through a system I refer to as Learner Centric Instruction (LCI), I believe that this common behavior can be averted and replaced with a more palatable experience.

In this system, e-learning (computer-based instruction) takes precedence over traditional instructor-led learning experiences. The focus on e-learning allows for the learning experience to be controlled and delivered uniformly, thus eliminating the variance that instructor-led training is often subject to (though it is not to say that instructor led training would be eliminated entirely – it simply would be used for circumstances that specifically require it). In LCI, the learning is broken up into convenient micro-modules that cover specific content, and is paced appropriately for the target audience. These micro-modules would be short (5-10 minutes) with more complex subjects broken up into multiple modules. This may seem like too little time for a topic to be appropriately covered, but it is necessary given that the average human attention span is a mere 8 seconds. The allotted time for the micro-modules allows them to be taken at the learner’s convenience.

How does LCI become a fun experience? It comes down to the way in which the content is presented. Humans have a natural affinity for stories (especially well-written ones). Through engaging stories and scenarios, the learner can envision the content in context. The media of LCI is fast-paced and engaging, with content presented in a manner that allows the learner to have a multi-sensory experience. The screen is not over crowded with massive blocks of text; instead, voiceovers narrate the content in a casual, engaging manner. In compliance with 508 requirements, a complete transcript of the narration is also available to the learners.

What about the experience surrounding LCI? In order for LCI to be effective, it must be easily accessible. If the learning experiences are not easily accessible, the learner’s interest will be lost before they even reach the content. This requires the use of a quality Learning Management System (LMS) as a convenient portal for learners to access the content in a single location. The completion of a micro-module would be automatically logged into the LMS and viewable to administrators.

LCI presents a “win-win” situation: employers can train their employees in an effective manner and reach company goals, and employees can receive training in subjects areas of interest to them and find it exciting and engaging in the process.

Uncovering the Mystery of Blockchain in 2 Minutes

By: Trevor Brown, Senior Project Manager

blockchain

So Blockchain…what is it? Let’s start with what it isn’t. The term is tossed around quite a bit, as it relates to Bitcoin, on sites such as The Silk Road. Blockchain, at least in some circles, seems to be synonymous with nefarious activities and shady online personas,  but that shouldn’t be the case. Blockchain technology, in all of its forms, has many reasonable and perfectly legitimate business, government, academic, and social applications. So while Bitcoin certainly uses Blockchain technology, that particular cryptocurrency is a very small example of the overall power of Blockchain.  

Now, what IS Blockchain? Most of the time, people are talking about distributed ledgers, i.e. a list of transactions that is shared among a number of computers, rather than being stored on a central server. A decent working definition is “a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision,” according to The Economist.     

Confused yet? Yeah, the concept, and the underlying technology, can each be a bit obtuse. Let’s use an example to illustrate:

I think one of the best commercial applications would be an aggregated rewards program, maintained in a closed Blockchain system by a series of horizontal industries that do not compete in a direct manner, but rather share many clients across a spectrum. The rewards, we’ll call them “MagaPoints” for simplicity, would be used to buy services at all participants. Picture a car rental company, a national coffee chain, an airline, and a hotel chain.  

One customer will likely use this collection of services during a single trip, whether for business or leisure. So within the confines of the closed network, a client could use their rewards points from a coffee purchase to upgrade a flight or use the rewards points from a car rental to acquire a hotel room.   

The client has ease of transaction, without having to juggle multiple rewards programs, while having peace of mind, knowing that at no time was their personal information utilized. Therefore, saving them from exposure to identify theft or fraud. The entire transaction, and all of its parts, are stored in an open public forum, allowing for a seamless transaction that was 100% transparent.

The storage functionality of Blockchain is literally without limit. It could store your car title, the information on postal packages, or your bank records – just to mention a few uses. Because the technology is stored on a decentralized ledger that is accessible to nearly everyone, each of those would be nearly tamper-proof. This is because changes to the ledger are added instantly and are accessible by any user. So where does it go now? The technology has endless possibilities across data storage, monetary transfer, government transparency, and more. I say embrace it and enjoy the ride…