All posts tagged “Difference”

The web events that made a difference in 2014

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Conferences are great places to learn, share and meet people whom you’ve maybe only previously encountered on Twitter. If you’ve never visited a conference, make 2015 the year change that. And, if you’re a regular conference hound, why not consider giving back to the community by speaking at a conference?

Creative Bloq

With Faircloth & Supply, Every Piece Makes a Difference: Each item sold from Phoebe Dahl’s linen-focused womenswear line supports a girl’s education in Nepal

With Faircloth & Supply, Every Piece Makes a Difference

British writer Roald Dahl touched the hearts of children around the world with his imaginative tales of gigantic peaches and golden tickets. His granddaughter Phoebe Dahl extends his legacy in her own way: by helping girls in Nepal to grab ahold……

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Cool Hunting

What a Difference a Lab Day Makes

Four years ago CauseLabs started setting aside one day every two months for our team to build projects of their own choosing. Little did we know the impact these lab days would have on our company’s internal motivation, our employees’ skillsets, and our ability to work collaboratively in innovative ways. Now, four years in, we’ve broken down our insights into best practices for other companies to follow, to help them achieve similar success.

Innovation days go by many names, but the key elements are consistent: Bring together a few people, set up a basic process, and tackle acute problems. At its core, a “lab day” is any amount of time devoted to team collaboration on an agreed upon problem or project. Companies from Google to small start ups are finding that committing to lab days can make an immense impact on productivity and engagement in every other area of their business.

Lab days engage our imaginations, address our restlessness, and allow us to tinker. During a lab day the blinders are on to other projects, email, and all other distractions. Teams of one to three people build for a set amount of time, then join with other teams at the end of the day to demo and get rapid feedback for next steps. Any organization with design thinkers and makers can use time like this to solve problems.

Our path to lab days

At CauseLabs, a software strategy firm, we began lab days a few years ago after one of our staff members came back from a conference with the idea of doing an internal day of innovation. Nonprofits occasionally call this sort of internal day a “hackathon,” and we were familiar with other companies who used similar processes for innovation.

Google’s “20% time” is perhaps the most popular example of an internal innovation program, but 3M’s “15% rule” instituted in 1948 is the pioneering example. 3M encourages 15% of employee time to be spent on projects driven by their own insights. Similarly, at Google, the “20% time” egalitarian company policy served to promote Google’s innovative culture and produced business successes including Gmail, Google Now, and AdSense—and became so ingrained in the culture that Google ultimately removed the formal process, determining it was no longer necessary. Many other large technology companies such as Facebook foster rapid innovation, and we can draw on their strategies to begin variations tailored to specific companies.

The goals and features of an innovation program can vary and are highly dependent on an organization’s culture and values. Atlassian’s ShipIt Days are an interesting example of how culture influences efforts to set aside time for side project exploration and innovation. A ShipIt Day is 24 hours set aside once per quarter for developers to work on whatever they want, with a skew towards Atlassian’s products. At the end of the day, a trophy is awarded based on votes considering the criteria of usefulness, “shippability,” technical accomplishment, and flair. Results have included FishEye’s side-by-side diffs and Atlassian Invaders, all of which reflect Atlassian’s focus on fun and learning.

Because our team focuses on building tools that impact people, the vision for our program needed to be broader to ensure diverse outcomes. But perhaps more importantly, as we sifted through the variety of innovation programs, and experimented with what worked best for our team, three lab day must-haves emerged as principles.

Collaboration during a lab day at CauseLabs

Constraints for an effective lab day

The common theme of a lab day—or any innovation effort—is a constrained process to generate and capture new ideas. Constraints of time, money, and resources can be viewed as a barrier to creativity, growth, and development, but for innovation, they are a gift. Constraints helped Jason Fried and his team at 37 Signals create Basecamp. Limited time forced them to focus on what mattered in their product. Limited resources led to simpler solutions. Basecamp’s simplicity, a hallmark feature leading to its dominance among project management products, is the fruit of constraints. Lab days, likewise, breed simple and creative solutions.

Over the past three years we’ve found these three constraints to be crucial to making great ideas tangible in our lab days:

  • Defined process
  • Fixed time
  • Small teams

Defined process

A “process” can mean nearly anything that is used consistently, but a lab day process needs to be a little more specific. Most importantly, it must include testing and prototyping, both of which help to quickly visualize and communicate ideas.

Our lab days last eight hours: one full work day. In the weeks prior to the actual day, we hold two drawing board sessions where teams hone their selected problem, conduct research, and set scope for a prototype. Ideas are shared and revised so that by lab day we’re ready to build.

On lab day no other activities take place, and we hit the ground running at 8am. Using the scope developed over the past two weeks, team members divvy up tasks and then quickly try to complete a rough working product by midmorning. Though crude, the first prototype is effective at drawing out the “gotchas” and content needs that will need to be addressed before day’s end. From there, they build and test as many iterations as possible before the end of the day, when we close with a show and tell.

We used the lab day process last year in Vietnam, where we helped an organization convert from paper to digital for field-based verification on the installation of 150,000 toilets in rural, poor households. The process started with observing the current paper-based process in the field, followed by rapid prototyping, and then testing and iteration, Finally, we wrapped up with a summary of learnings and identified next steps to get to a field-ready beta version of a digital process. The set process allowed us to accomplish in one week what could otherwise have taken two to three months. The constrained process surfaced must-have features via human observation rather than by requirements written down in a document by someone removed from the field. Without this constraint of process, we risked building the wrong tool altogether.

Post its help the CauseLabs team bring their ideas together

Fixed time

We set strict deadlines to force creative decisions and keep energy high, with 30- or 60-minute milestones racing toward the show and tell at 4pm. This ensures we don’t go down rabbit holes or take too much time on any particular idea.

An example of the benefit of a fixed windows of time is My Story, a storytelling app created during one of our lab days. It started as a line tracing concept to help children develop the motor skills fundamental to penmanship and drawing. After the first lab day, the team pivoted the concept, and My Story was born the next lab day. The two fixed eight-hour spurts served as drivers for the team to refine the concept as well as broader support from the company. Having the date of the next lab day in mind provided the impetus they needed to make things happen in their own time. After the second lab day’s show and tell, it was also clear we needed to get this tool into people’s hands. Without those fixed time units to establish a rhythm to our innovation, neither iteration nor launch would have happened.

On the other hand, but equally important, we have also found out the hard way that extending the time teams can work can make ideas suffer. At one point we were excited about early prototypes for three different projects and allowed those teams to spend an extra hour here and there “on the clock” to continue progress over the coming months. The result was that ideas suffered. The focus the team had experienced on lab day disappeared, leading to slow and stilted progress. My Story flourished because it only had eight hour spurts on the clock, and when we decided to take it to market, we made it our only such special project beyond our client work to ensure we did it right.

Small teams

Small teams – less than 4—are a good size for a lab day. We’ve found that two people with complementary skills are sometimes the most productive, such as a designer and developer. A third person can contribute many things, such as great content, testing, or a strategy for prototypes, but we’ve found that groups of more than three people begin to flounder.

In large part, the problem is a mixed blessing. The larger a group, the more ideas and connections are made. Ideas and connections are wonderful, but too many ideas can paralyze a team. Even within three person teams, one of those three must act as the “champion,” or final decision maker. With more than three people it becomes nearly impossible to choose one idea and carry it forward to execution.

One lab day project done by three people led to our building a web platform with Playing For Change Foundation. We were successful in large part because we had a tangible concept created by a small team to guide our work. Although many more people were ultimately involved, the small team shepherded the app through the process. The site has united musicians on one day for each of the past four years to help raise $ 500,000 for the Foundation’s schools. Three people with one prototype in one day meant decisions were made quickly, and ultimately this led to thousands of lives impacted for the better.

Teamwork is key to CauseLabs' lab days.

Lab days for everyone!

As a result of pioneering our own internal innovation, we have developed a special blend for our projects and partners that is strongly influenced by two schools of thought, which will benefit anyone beginning their own version of lab days.

  1. The Lean Startup methodology by Eric Ries. Lean principles help teams to operate in a capital-efficient way that reduces wasted time, effort, and money. Teams of two – and no more than three – lead our projects, which enables operational efficiencies.

    By embracing the Lean principle of scientific methodology, organizations also take time to measure. This keeps us from getting caught up in only building cool things and helps us stay focused on developing a product that really and truly solves the problem at hand.

  2. The human-centered design principles developed by IDEO. HCD Connect—particularly the HCD Tookit—is a great resource. Human-centered design focuses on the people first: What is the human problem behind that list of requirements? We can then start to move away from our own assumptions.

    This human-centered focus not only improves our lab days, it also makes us a better partner to the organizations we serve. They know that technology holds promise, and our partners want to use it to solve human problems.

The methodologies and principles behind our lab days infiltrate every element of our operations. As a result, we are an organization that uses nimble teams, fast cycles, small batches, minimum viable products, and a laser focus on the human problem behind any list of product or project requirements. We’ve been amazed at what a difference those mere eight hours has made.

The post What a Difference a Lab Day Makes appeared first on UX Booth.

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Design Vs Art – The Difference And Why It Matters

Design versus art. What’s the difference, and how does it affect your career as a designer? We all know there is a difference, and those outside our industry might not be able to see it. Your parents, for example, might refer to you as an “artist” even though you are a professional designer.

How do you tell them, or anyone else who asks, that there’s a big difference between art and design? Are you even sure yourself what the difference is? Read on to find out.

Art Asks, Design Answers

Let’s go back to when you first decided you wanted to be a designer. For me, it was while I was in school. I thought I wanted to be an “artist,” when really, I discovered that my skill set was better suited to design. Why? Because I enjoyed the process of solving problems. I wasn’t as interested in posing unanswerable questions for the world to ponder. I wanted to nail down a system for understanding the world around me.

The bottom line – the main difference between art and design – is that art asks questions, while design answers them. Design is there to fill a need. Art fills no need except its own internal need to exist and challenge the viewer. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Art is one of the fundamental building blocks of human culture; every culture that has ever existed has its own unique art forms that they leave behind for future generations. Think of archaeologists – what is the most common thing you hear about that is uncovered from civilizations past? That’s right – art. Pottery, architecture, paintings on walls or stones. Art is very important. And so is design.

No Time For Wonder

Art inspires wonder and awe. When you look at a painting, sculpture, collage, or installation, your mind starts to churn with a horde of dazzling new ideas, and you get inspired to ponder all the endless possibilities that have now been introduced to you by the artist and her work. Ah, the magic of art. What an exhilarating, deeply fulfilling experience.

Designers have no time for that. If people are in awe of your design, that’s cool, but it’s not the main reason you created it. You design to make people’s lives better in ways they don’t necessarily see or appreciate, but without which they would be lost. The art lovers crowding around that Van Gogh at the Louvre probably all have their phones out, taking pictures. They aren’t paying attention to their camera apps, but the designer who created it plays a very important role in allowing them to share their experience with their friends.

Art Has No Set Process

Art has no process that can be replicated across the board to achieve an optimal result. There are no rules. At all. There used to be rules about who could paint what, but all of those got dumped with the rise of modernism. Ever since Éduoard Manet started painting prostitutes instead of aristocrats, the art world has been slowly divesting itself of every single rule it once had. Some people are unhappy about this, but that’s the way it is. Anything can be art – a urinal, a tree, a dog – anything. Art has no rules.

There are, however, rules in design. Even if the result is “ugly,” there’s an underlying structure there that solves a problem. There are the physical rules of design: the grid, the color wheel, the rules of composition and layout. Then there are the rules about what the design is supposed to do. What problem are you solving? Is it ergonomic enough? What will the psychological response of the average user be to this particular arrangement of design elements? Will it cause them distress, or will they have a good experience?

These are all rules that designers must take into account if they are to create a successful design. These types of rules may make an artist break out in a rash. But not us designers. We love this kind of stuff. Why? Well, I’ll tell you…

Philosophical Opposites

You can appreciate a design even more once you know why it was made. It’s not just a pretty picture – there’s a concrete reason why it exists and a concrete problem that it solves. Design geeks love to get into the nitty gritty of what makes a particular design work so well. Simply put, designers use the left (mathematical) sides of their brains to create work that resembles something from the right (artistic) side.

Art, as we’ve learned, has none of this structure or reason for existing. You don’t need to understand why a work of art exists or how it was made. All you need to do is appreciate it for what it is. Art for art’s sake, as they say. That’s not to say there’s no value in analyzing art according to the time it was made, or deconstructing the process. It just isn’t necessary in order for you to enjoy it.

Too Much Design Ruins Art, And Vice Versa

Exactly what it says above. Art and design are related, in a general sort of way, but, as we’ve seen today, they are not identical at all. The two are entirely separate disciplines, and things can get very muddled if you merge them too much.

Imagine if you brought home a chair that was in an art installation, and you sat on it. It now has lost its value as art, and is just another chair. Art is much more dependent on the context in which it exists than design is. In fact, I would say that design is the context much of the time.

Again, art and design are both vital to human culture and progress. I love and enjoy them both, but at heart, I am a designer. If you love to provide solutions to problems, rather than ask questions, then you are probably a designer too. If you’re the opposite, you’re most likely an artist.

What Do You Think?

Are you a designer or an artist? What other differences and parallels can you draw between art and design? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Refurbished or Used: What’s The Difference?

For most businesses, computer equipment is one of the largest expenses in the annual budget. The costs for servers, CPUs, even monitors and keywords can add up quickly — and that’s not even taking…

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Bird Industries Skirt Garter: A little accessory making a big difference for frock-wearing riders

Bird Industries Skirt Garter

Bird Industries’ skirt garter isn’t a new concept, but this unassuming accessory certainly is a valuable item for any skirt-wearer riding on two wheels. The elastic band fits around…

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Cool Hunting

Good vs. Great Web Design: The Difference

While there are no rigid rules when it comes to web design, there do exist certain metrics that can distinguish a bad design from a good one, and even more so, a good design from a great one.

Yet, there indeed are many practices that you can implement in order to ensure that your web design endeavors rank among the good ones — clean typography, proper usage of colors, responsive and minimal design, and so on. The question is: how do you take your good design to the next level? How does a good web design become a great web design?

As a designer, you are not just competing against the others in the industry — instead, you are also attempting to outdo your own past works. Naturally, now that you are already knowledgeable about typography and colors and other design aspects, it is time you moved on to ideas that can transform your good design into a great one. And in this article, I shall be discussing those very ideas!

Overview: Your Side of the Story

As a designer, you must already be having an idea of what separates a good design from a great one. In all likelihood, it all boils down to aesthetics, doesn’t it? In fact, not just designers, but any creative-minded person tends to choose aesthetics over anything else. As such, if a designer were to be shown two different designs and asked to pick the better one, he or she will go for the prettier one.

Of course, in this case, the definition of “pretty” itself is different — when designers say ‘pretty’ or ‘good-looking’, they are not referring entirely to eye-candy. Rather, there is also a reference to usability and judicious design elements, such as clever usage of colors, readability and proper typographic choices, and so on. This is what makes a designer’s job important: not everyone can define aesthetics as a combination of usability and beauty (and if everyone were able to do so, designers won’t be needed, right?).

The Other Side of the Story

In a perfect world, there will be no difference between creativity and marketability. Sadly, ours is not (yet) a perfect world, and differences do exist. As a designer, you may claim that proper aesthetics deserve the foremost position in acquiring the user’s attention, but the marketers will try to pitch the idea that a design can convert well only if it addresses the needs and requirements of the end user, be they psychological, financial or social.

Thus, from the marketers’ perspective, aesthetics do not play the primary role when it comes to conversion rates: what matters is the fact that the end user should feel a sense of connection with the design. Overall, for your clients, an effective design is almost always preferable over an attractive one.

Combining The Two Sides

A great design is something that gets the job done without sacrificing on any aspect. A great design is both attractive and effective, but at the same time it is also functional. It is only when you combine these three qualities that your design can be called great.

Perfectionism: Attention to Small Details

Focusing on details does require efforts, but it is an established fact that if you focus on the small details of a project, the end result will be a more polished design. Minor elements such as that odd icon or that border which would otherwise be overlooked are what distinguish a mediocre or average looking web design from an excellent one.

As such, if you are eyeing to become a great web designer, you should have a perfectionist bend of mind. Any design can be good, but if you invest those few extra efforts and pay keen attention to small details, your good design will automatically be transformed into a great one. Such extra efforts are what set a design apart — compromising on even the minutest element of your design will act as a roadblock between the actual design and the image of a ‘great design’ that you had in mind.

Thinking Differently

Creativity cannot be taught by the book, but it can surely be improved by experience. You can train yourself to think creatively and look at things from a different perspective. Of course, most design projects have a clearly defined end goal that needs to be met, but you can attempt to improvise on the different approaches that can be taken to accomplish the end goal.

Stepping out of one’s creative realm is not rocket science; all it requires is a desire to discover ways in which an already existing and impressive design can be improved. Most of the time, you need not do anything out of the blue; instead, you just need to think beyond the box when it comes to design aspects such as color schemes, typography or layout.

Keeping Your Users in Mind

Quite often, usability comes out as the distinguishing factor between a good and great design.

If you are looking at the usability patterns of a given design, do not simply check out what works, but also pay attention to why it works (tools like Firebug are helpful). A critical eye that can study and deconstruct other great designs is a must in this case, especially because your clients may just ask for a website that can help their business, whereas the end users will be looking for a website that keeps usability to the fore. As a designer, it is your task to strike a balance between the two expectations.


Web design is a profession where you cannot allow your skills to stagnate. If you intend to become a great designer, you should regularly update yourself with the latest trends, innovations and technologies in design.

Furthermore, you should bear in mind that the difference between good and great web designs is not simply limited to colors and fonts. It is more a product of aesthetics, effectiveness and functionality, all merged together to produce a design that is not only visually appealing but also usable.

What are your thoughts regarding good vs. great web design? Share them with us in the comments below!

Good vs. Great Web Design: The Difference

Speckyboy Design Magazine

What’s the Difference Between a Web Designer and Web Developer?

What’s the Difference Between a Web Designer and Web Developer?

Almost everywhere you look someone is talking about or calling themselves either a web designer or web developer. But what does it all really mean? Who really is a designer or developer? Can you be both? While this can be a topic of hot debate, we help break down the terms, what they mean and […]

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You’re reading What’s the Difference Between a Web Designer and Web Developer?, originally posted on Designmodo – UI Kits. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!


The Difference between a Private and a Public Company

Phrases like ‘public’ and ‘private’ are commonly used amongst colleagues in the advertising sector. Both phrases suggest specific financial attributes. While some of these attributes become…

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The Difference Between Visual Art and Graphic Design

The fine line that separates art and design is something that’s been debated for a very long time. While both artists and designers compose visuals and have a shared toolkit and knowledge base, there’s a distinct difference between the two. Pinpointing exactly what the difference is, that’s where things gets tricky.

[Image Source]

Many designers would consider themselves to be artists, yet few artists would class themselves as designers. So how can the distinction be made? In this article we’ll take a quick look at the defining characteristics of the two crafts and consider the motivation and intention of art and design as a starting point.

In the Beginning…

I believe that one of the clearest differences between art and design is to be found in the first sparks of creativity. Broadly speaking, art and design come from very different starting points. Design work usually stems from the need or desire to communicate a pre-existing message. A strapline, a logo or a call to action. A work of art, on the other hand, is the expression of a completely new idea. It’s the process of breathing life into something private and personal to create an emotional bond between the artist and their audience.

Inspiration v. Motivation

Another way of looking at this could be intent. If it’s true that a designer’s objective is to communicate a pre-existing message, then you could say that they are working with the primary intention of motivating action in their audience. An artist will usually be aiming to inspire a feeling. This feeling may then lead to action, just as a designer can go on to generate emotional responses from their audience. It’s more a question of priority. I suppose you could call it a chicken and egg situation.

[Image Source: Abstract Easter Design via Shutterstock]

Lost in Translation

While most designers aim for their work to be immediate and clearly understood by their audience, an artist will work for a less obvious connection. As art can be interpreted very differently by the viewer it rarely has just one meaning. Think about the myriad of different opinions on Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Is it a smile of pleasure? Is it a grimace? Or is it neither?

[Image Source]

It all depends on the experience and opinions brought by the person who gazes upon it. Whereas if a piece of design is interpreted in a different way to what the designer intended, you can pretty safely say that it’s failed in what it was intended to achieve.

Design is a Skill, Art is a God-Given Gift

Let’s think about this in terms of personal style. Some designers like Saul Bass or Peter Saville have built names for themselves by developing a unique personal style. Yet for most designers versatility is the key to success.

[Image Source]

Design is a skill that is taught and developed. And while many designers have been blessed with a natural eye for the craft, it isn’t quite the same as being born with an innate ability for sculpting, oil painting or installation-based expression.

A Question of Taste

Opinion and taste are two very different ways of judging visual composition. When Damien Hirst preserved a shark in formaldehyde for his seminal work The Immortal, he divided public opinion. And it was considered to be a question of taste.

Taste is usually used when we’re talking in reference to people’s likes and dislikes. Whether or not The Immortal was a genuine piece of art was a matter of opinion to be debated. While design naturally involves an element of personal taste, it’s not the main criteria it’s judged on. Good design can still be successful without being to the personal taste of the creator or the beholder. If it accomplishes its brief it is good design and that boils down to opinion of fact, not personal preference.

Where does design end and art begin? Attempting to pigeon-hole visual communication into categories is complex, and ultimately impossible. Art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that’s one of the most, if not the most, wonderful and fascinating facets of these mediums. If you’re a designer are you also an artist? Could an artist create anything without a keen eye for design? The debate continues…

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