Maga Design’s Collaboration with AIGA’s 2016 Design Census

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We are excited to share with you Maga Design’s contribution to the AIGA 2016 Design Census results, released January 2017. The Maga Design team, under the direction of Rebecca Williams, VP and Chief Creative Officer, was inspired by author Dan Pink’s perspective about factors that influence employees’ motivation at work given its changing landscape. The team mapped a number of Design Census survey questions against Dan Pink’s Intrinsic/Extrinsic framework to create insightful data visuals that tell the story of what drives designers. http://magadesign.com/aigadesigncensus/

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) enlisted Maga Design, as well as other partners, to visually interpret the survey responses from over 9,000 designers. The survey, opened December 1–16, 2016, captured everything from salary range to demographics, locations, disciplines and industry-specific challenges—even how much coffee designers drink each day.

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The Maga team is made up of those who believe in the work of author Daniel Pink, and his perspective on the ways humans are motivated in the 21st century. The team mapped a number of the Design Census questions to Pink’s motivation framework. What emerged are a set of considerations for companies looking to attract and retain top design talent. Understanding “What Drives a Designer?” is critical for creating a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing world.

Tulsi Desai, the Art Director at Maga, shared that while the data was straightforward, the challenge was finding a compelling story that emerged from it.  The team came across a common theme among the questions and the data points, that it was important for designers to balance practical things like compensation and a defined work role against the internal motivators like a sense of purpose and feeling good about the value one brings to the table.  She says, “While not all designers may think this, we certainly feel most contributing and forward thinking designers feel that way about the work they do.”

 



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Become a Data Bard in 5 Leaps

 

By RJ Clark

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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.

5 Tricks to Create Privacy in an Open Office

Open offices can save money and increase collaboration, but they also increase distractions, noise levels, and the potential for more introverted team members to be overwhelmed by constant social interaction.

When such spaces are well-designed, these drawbacks can be mitigated with clever seating arrangements and a “quiet” office culture that limits conversations to designated meeting spaces. But if you’ve just moved into an open office and feel the need for more privacy, there are a few strategies you can try.

1. Think like a ninja

In an open office, noise and distraction can sneak up on you when you least expect them in the form of chatty coworkers, loud phone conversations, and people walking around or entering or leaving the room. In order to combat these distractions and find space to recharge, it’s crucial to be proactive, taking every opportunity for focused, individual work and recharging.

Elan Morgan, a blogger on the Quiet Revolution site, advocates making space for solitude, even if that means not joining the gang for lunch every day or skipping the daily watercooler or coffee station chit-chat. If constant interruptions are leaving you drained, identify every possible moment of quiet in your day and guard each one like a vitally important meeting.

If possible, find other ways to interact and make yourself available at specific times for collaboration and discussion, but make your own energy and productivity needs a high priority.

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Brilliant or terrifying? Image via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

2. Build a “soft wall”

Building your own cubicle out of books, furniture, or lumber might send the wrong message to your more extroverted colleagues, but “soft” barriers like plants, artwork, or even a coat rack with a big puffy coat can offer some visual peace and quiet, depending on the layout.

As for auditory distractions, noise-cancelling headphones are great, but it may also be necessary to come up with a system to let people know when you’re unavailable. If your company uses a shared calendar, block off certain times as busy and others as available, or set your status to “busy” on company chat systems.

Don’t have either of those? Do as one commenter on Quiet Revolution suggested and make a deal with your colleagues – you’ll block off time for one-on-one meetings or to help them with their work if they’ll return the favor and let you work in peace for a block of time each day.

3. Find a retreat

If your company is moving to an open-plan office to save money, offer to work from home a few days a week. Not only does telecommuting reduce costs, many people find they are considerably more productive without the distractions of an office and the time spent commuting. If you can improve the company’s bottom line while still making time to build connections with colleagues, you’ll have a solid argument.

For the days you are in the office, pay attention to the typical schedule and try to do your most focused work when everyone else is in meetings or at another location. Or consider booking a meeting room for you and any introverted friends where you can complete important work in silence and then return to the camaraderie and banter of the bullpen.

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Camaraderie… banter… what’s not to love? Image via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

4. Propose a change

If the office layout is reducing your productivity, ask for a few accommodations such as dividers, movable furniture that creates sound and visual barriers, or definitive “quiet hours” where people can focus on individual tasks and then reconvene for collaboration.

Well-designed open office spaces usually include smaller spaces like meeting “pods” where groups can hold private meetings or individuals can find a quiet place to work as well as large, open areas for discussion (or headphone-mediated silence).

If management isn’t willing to modify policy for the entire office, ask if you can at least move to a quieter corner where you’ll have fewer visual distractions. Chat tools like Google Talk, Slack, and Skype can also allow for discussion that doesn’t break concentration in the same way as a tap on the shoulder.

5. Stand up for yourself.

If management won’t consider your (politely worded) requests for fewer distractions (or the evidence that open spaces decrease productivity), consider looking for another position. It’s easier said than done, but good management should empower employees to do their jobs, not hinder them.

If working in an open office and coping with unfriendly management is damaging your health, driving your stress levels through the roof, and making you dread going to work, make it a priority to look for other options. Many people find working in an open office difficult despite its potential benefits.

Bottom line? If you can’t make it work for you, take the ultimate proactive step and find a place that does. You’re not crazy, and you’re not alone!

Featured image via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Mental Models by Sheldon Reiffenstein

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The Science of Seeing and Responding to Visual Stimulus

Family tree, barriers to free speech, time flying…in the time it takes you to read these three metaphors, you’ve very likely formed images in your mind that help you give meaning to them. We do it all the time, use “mental models” to orient our thinking, understanding and response to words and images.

“Mental models are representations that embody information about the structure, function, relationships, and other characteristics of objects in the world, and thus can help people explain and predict the behavior of things in the world around them,” wrote K.J.W. Craik in his 1943 book, The Nature of Explanation. Craik was an original thinker behind how the mind forms models of reality and uses them to predict similar future events.

This “science” of mental models plays a major role in how people view the world. When we see, the light reflects off an object, enters our eyes through our pupils, is inverted on the retina, then zips along the optic nerve to the visual cortex where the image is reconstructed and classified as to what it is. But images are not static in the brain. As the image moves along the optic nerve, other parts of the brain are stimulated as well. Not only do we see an object for its shape, its location in space, and orientation to the objects around it, other areas of the brain respond and light up based on memory, emotion, and the senses of smell, sound, taste and touch. A musician sees a musical score and the melody pops in her head. We greet a friend we haven’t seen for a year and remember the great time we had together at the county fair. A guy seeing a picture of fish and chips, starts salivating.

In a 1986 article “Cognitive Science and Science Education”, psychologist and Harvard professor Susan Carey wrote that mental models “help shape actions and behavior, influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations, and define how people approach and solve problems.”

In our business, Maga employs an understanding of mental models in designing our visual solutions. We construct our visualizations to reflect our customer’s mental models. How do they expect something to work and how do we capture that visually? This is crucial to being successful at using visualization to influence, educate, and change behavior among stakeholders. A graphic image that doesn’t accomplish this is simply a pretty illustration.

Mental models are catalysts for successful information seeking; thus are useful in situations where problem-solving behavior is required. This is a critical factor behind how Maga designs visualizations. The majority of our customers are seeking insight into highly complex business with no obvious solution at hand. Mental models are one starting point for our team of strategists and designers as they create visualizations that smooth out the impact of change management efforts, system introductions, or process transformations.

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Taking mental models into account when creating new visuals can help diminish the concerns people have with a new initiative. Then with a powerful visual a new mental model becomes the new paradigm.

References

Carey, S. (1986). Cognitive science and science education. American Psychologist, 41, 1123-1130. Reprinted in Open University Press, Readings in the Psychology of Education and in C. Hedley, J. Houtz, & A. Baratta (eds.), Cognition, Curriculum, and Literacy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1990.

Craik KJW. The Nature of Explanation. Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, UK: 1943.

Borgman CL. The user’s mental model of an information retrieval system: An experiment on a prototype online catalog. Int J Man-Mach Stud. 1986;24(1):47–64.

 

PopTech 2014 by Scott Williams, CEO, Maga Design Group, Inc.

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59 minutes until PopTech 2014!!
It’s like traveling to see a long lost friend:  its been 3 years since we have made it to Camden, Maine for the annual PopTech conference.  I like to say it’s the one week a year that I’m truly glad to be a human being.  So many varied speakers from all walks of life, all intent on changing the world.  The conference, unlike Ted or any large conference in a major city, is focused on keeping the speakers and attendees in a continuous face to face dialogue.  The lunches, dinners, breakout sessions, and activities are all occurring where Camden-ers are living their day-to-day lives.  Maga has been a part of this conference on and off for over 10 years.  We have had the chance to be here with our clients (IBM, Nat Geo), and meet many friends – P&G, SpaceX, Dan Pink, Malcolm Gladwell – along the way.  In prepping for this year’s session about Rebellion – I am brought to mind 4 of my favorite presentations over the years.  All content from the conference is free – check these out !!!
More to come…. (we will be posting to maga’s twitter, facebook and instagram) throughout the week … #magapoptech