These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things: SXSWi 2015.

Sketchnoting 101

Speaker: Kate Hayward, Sticky Knowledge

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This workshop covered the basics of sketchnoting; the act of purposeful drawing while listening to something interesting, such as a presentation or seminar. We’ve seen this technique used on a larger scale for presentations at other seminars, and it helps other listeners to visually digest what they are hearing in real time. Kate was a really dynamic speaker with an encouraging, enthusiastic approach to teaching sketchnoting. Kate showed us that sketchnoting really helps people to listen for key points and synthesize their learning in the form of beautiful, hand-drawn notes. She covered basic shapes and styles to quickly get the right images on the page.

We came away with a new skill that we could use to be more active listeners, and inspired to sketchnote on a large scale during meetings at RP3 to make them more engaging for ourselves and our clients.

Augmented Reality in Music—Hackable Instruments

Speaker: Bruno Zamborlin, President, Mogees

This presentation was about hacking and the hacking of interfaces, told through the lens of musical instruments. It started by explaining user experience and design through the lens of the turntable, first designed as a consumer product and later appropriated by DJs as an instrument in itself. It ended with a demo of Mogees, a new musical instrument that uses physical modeling and a surface mic trigger to make rigid and minimally resonant bodies more resonant. This talk was interesting to me because Bruno thought about the limitations of playing music, learned from it, and did something completely different.

Learning to Work in the Future

Speaker: Alex Steffen, Planetary Futurist in Residence, IDEO

Steffen presented a very broad talk on futurism and sustainability, starting from a basic framework for futurism and ranging to how things like cities and energy are being designed and adapted to suit a very different set of design criteria for living in a different climate and social environment. This presentation made me think, and laugh, as Steffen coined the term “vertical hipster suburbia.”

How to be a More Inefficient Designer

Speakers: Marke Johnson and Nathan Johnson, The Made Shop

We left this session how one should at SXSW, creatively inspired. The Made Shop talked through a series of inefficiency tips for good thinking, concluding that as a creative industry we should be selling our process, not a product that we can’t yet define. “Good design is a process.” They shared inspiring case studies, examples and anecdotes about tools and materials, the upside to limitations, and learning while you work.

Techquila

Sponsored by: Patron Events and Barley Swine

Patron hosted an intimate, invite-only seated dinner alongside the Patron Tequila Express railcar at the Austin Amtrak station. The dinner was catered by the pro chefs of Austin’s Barley Swine and courses paired with custom-made Patron cocktails. Attendees included a diverse group of creative and social agency influencers, the Latino tech community and local foodies. It was an incredibly fun event; a great opportunity to meet new people, enjoy delicious food, and drink and showcase the Patron brand. Well done, Patron.

The Future of Work: OfficeADD, Focus, GTD, Nirvana

Speakers: Amol Sarva, Knotable and Edward Shenderovich

This workshop covered the concepts of Getting Things Done, visible work, fractional jobs, and more. Amol recommended tools and workflows used to manage yourself, recruit and build a team, and manage other people. This talk got us thinking about the future of how we work together, how technology is expanding our reach exponentially, and how great people are not correlated to language or geography.

IA Essentials Workshop

Speakers: Andrew Hinton, The Understanding Group and Dan Klyn, The Understanding Group

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This workshop covered the essentials of Information Architecture, the art and science of organizing content on websites and software to support usability and findability to make the user experience more clear. The speakers covered everything from the beginning of information architecture (it’s rooted in library science) to helpful group collaboration exercises of how to apply it to digital projects. They also shared the vintage Sesame Street below, which illustrates the journey of human word association with a thing to a full understanding and knowledge of the thing. This relates to users, too, because people feel happy and content when their expectations of a thing align to the reality of that thing. After their lecture, we broke out into a series of group collaboration exercises that helped put their methods into practice.

Andrew and Dan had filled gaps in our knowledge and challenged us to think about difficult IA problems in new ways.

SXSW Interactive Tradeshow

The SXSW tradeshow is a celebration of the spirit of innovation in our industry in the US and all over the world. Every year when we visit the tradeshow, we’re inspired by a new way someone is using technology to make the world a better place. This year, a few exhibitors really stood out. Here’s why:

Social Imprints

Social Imprints might appear at first as a regular t-shirt printing company, but they are so much more. Their website states their purpose as: “Social Imprints provides career opportunities and a living wage to people who need a second chance. We empower our employees by offering them the training and experience to reach their personal goals and we give our employees freedom to take any and all steps necessary to deliver excellent, innovative customer service.” They also use vintage screen printing techniques to make shirts by hand and then run them through a dryer to involve spectators in the process of making. We were blown away by the quality of their products and their brand mission.

Misfit Store

Misfit Store was there showcasing their new product, the Bolt Smart Bulb. The Bolt is a wirelessly connected, eco-friendly smart lightbulb that can be controlled simply by screwing in the bulb and downloading the app on your phone, no hub required. You can change the lightbulb color to a specific shade (the designer in us was really pumped about this), and you can create different moods with the lights, all using their app from your phone. Each bulb is $50, but lasts for 20 years when burned at a rate of three hours per day. This is just one of many products that Misfit makes, but we love the idea of having the ability to control the lighting in my home so easily from the touch of a smartphone.

Firechat App

Firechat is a new app that uses Bluetooth to allow users to send messages to those in proximity without the use of the Internet. We tested it out on the plane to Austin so we were really excited to see they had a presence when we got to the conference. We had the chance to talk to some of the creative technologists working on the product and share some of our optimization ideas and pain points with them. Firechat’s method of communicating in real time without Internet access is something that I never considered possible, and we will likely see this technology being used by other apps and devices in the near future. It is handy in cases when the network is clogged, like a crowded concert, or when wireless networks are down, such as in a disaster situation. This app will open doors for people to be able to communicate with one another at a lower cost and without an Internet provider. Firechat won the SXSW award for Innovation in Connecting People, and it’s easy to see why. Congratulations to the team at Firechat!

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Kurt Roberts is Chief Creative Technologist at RP3 Agency. He loves experimenting with new technologies and techniques and is always open to finding newer, better ways to engage people.

Jeb Emami is a Marketing Strategist at RP3 Agency with an affinity for building commercial relationships that help organizations realize and capitalize on their product and service differentiators.

The Building Opportunity blog showcases RP3 Agency's ongoing exploration of new ideas, new technologies, and new experiences that propel businesses forward. Don't miss it.