John Ellison

Day 66: Training Project Playback

7 min read

On Day 66 I had the pleasure of participating in the Training Project Playback. James Box, Andy P and I had been discussing the presentation structure over the past couple of days, but I had run with the bulk of the preparation work. We sat down on the morning of Day 66 and discussed final responsibilities. At that point we split the presentation into thirds and set off to refine our parts of the presentation.

In less than an hour we had all completed our part of the presentation and we needed to join the three parts of the presentation together.

Here was the structure of the presentation:

  • Purpose
  • Context
  • Concepts
  • Next Steps


The main purpose of the session was to create a shared understanding of the work that we had done and the concepts that had arise from our human-centered process.

While we did want to critique the ideas and examine their feasability, viability and desireabiliy, we wanted to wait until next week to do so because we had a small amount of time to present a large amount of information. So we asked participants to provide feedback that was clarifying in nature as opposed to critiquing.


James provided a very elegant introduction to the context of the project, answering questions like:

  • Why did we decide to start this project?
  • What process did we use to move this project forward?
  • What themes and insights did we discover?
  • What should we expect from the concepts we're about to see?


This slide demonstrated the spectrum of concepts that we were presenting—from incremental improvements on existing offerings through to potentially radical new business concepts.

spectrum of concepts

1. Improving Existing Offerings

improving existing offerings

I thought Andy Parker did a wonderful job of sharing insights on how we could apply our learning to improve and reframe existing offerings. It was interesting to hear that Andy Budd and another team had almost identical insights during a project retrospective earlier that day.

It seems like there is a lot of overlap and alignment between the problems we've identified in our research for the training project, and the problems that other teams in Clearleft have been experiencing in working with clients.

It was great to hear Andy Budd say "I think you've hit the nail on the head". I tip my hat to Andy P for all his work in this part of the project spectrum.

2. Clearleft Foundation

press start Clearleft Foundation apprenticeship

During the training project, Andy P spent a fair amount of time exploring the world of internships. He interviewed the past three years of Clearleft interns, including the present ones, to learn more about the problems they are facing. Here was the summary of the problems he uncovered:

  • Transition between education and work life
  • Takes up to 18 months to collect enough relevant work experience
  • Often repeating internships in order to woo employer

The Clearleft Foundation concept centered around a handful of ideas:

  • Mentor interns through all aspects of digital design
  • Begin the journey to 10,000 hours in a specific discipline
  • Provide flexible work hours to help employment exploration
  • Help interns create stand-out portfolios and CV's
  • Create life-long relationships

Looking back at these ideas, I realize that this would have been an ideal opportunity for me to explore when I was first starting off my career. I ended up fighting a much harder battle and taking longer to accomplish the items above. I think Andy P got this one right as well. Well done mate.

3. Chorus

chorus background slide image

Problem Landscape of Design Education

The concept of Chorus centers around the problem landscape of public design education. The problem can be summed up by one sentence:

"School as we know it is obsolete." — Sugata Mitra

Proposed Solution

After exploring the landscape of public education and specifically design education, I showed how new education models have emerged and have dealt with the obsolescence of school in different ways. I then presented the Chorus value proposition as a solution to the problems that all of these institutions are facing and all students of design incur along their journey.

It was interesting to me that in order to properly communicate the concept, I needed to express the beliefs and purpose from which the concept arose.


Everyone is a student and a mentor: We all have something to learn and something to share.

The quesiton is no longer 'Can we build this?' but 'What is the future we want to build together?' - Braden Kowitz


To solve one problem at a time and make the world a better place along the way.

I then broke down the value proposition into a series of slides describing 'How Could It Work?' follwed by a few lingering 'What If?' statements...

Tangent: (Known & Comfortable) vs (Unknown & Uncomfortable)

There were a few interjections along the presentation (as I expected), and rather than feeling defensive about the concept, I felt like there was value in creating tension and pushing boundaries. Where concepts are easily digested and ideas easily implemented, I think you are in the territory of the known and the comfortable.

But the place where concepts take time to digest and give you a funny feeling in your stomach, I think you are in the territory of the unknown and the uncomfortable.

I might prefer to live my life entering into the latter territory. The known and the comfortable can be a massively limiting force in any individual's life. I think it is the unknown and the uncomfortable that truly make us grow.

In short, I would rather take a risk at creating something flawed that enters into the unknown than creating something good that remains in the known.

4. Praxis

praxis background slide image

Coming onto the last concept, I followed a similar structure that I used to present Chorus.

Before presenting the problem landscape that Praxis was proposing to solve, I used a logical comparison to illustrate the concept:

If this is true about design: "The best designs are coming from teams that work together as a unit, marching towards a commonly held vision, and always building a new understanding of the problem." (Jared Spool).

Then wouldn't the same be true about design process?

Problem Landscape of Design Process

The problem landscape surrounding design process can be summarized in a handful of points:

  • The problems designers are trying to solve are increasing in complexity
  • The tools designers use to help solve those problems are constantly evolving
  • Design process is like a river—it is never the same twice
  • The 'how to' of design process is scattered across hundreds of sources. Some of them are consistent with one another, some are contradictory.
  • There is no demonstrable evolution of design processes throughout history, thus designers need to read between the lines to see where ideas came from and why design processes changed

Proposed Solution

I presented the value proposition of Praxis as a solution that would address the problems mentioned in the points above. In order to explain the solution sufficiently though, I felt I needed to address the beliefs and the sole purpose behind the solution.


Praxis as a concept hung from three core beliefs:

  • Process is the best reflection of a designer's maturity
  • Design process should be shared, critiqued and improved
  • Modern design process has great potential to mature


The purpose of Praxis would be:

To expose the evolving process of design and make it universally accessible and useful.


Overall I thought the presentation went well. It was long and seemed to drone on a bit but I think we got the core concepts across. I was certainly fatigued by the end and maybe wished we could have been a bit more swift in the presentation so that it didn't stretch on so long.

I am looking forward to seeing how the organization decides to approach these concepts and in what form they will take place. I've got about four weeks left of my 90 Day journey here at Clearleft and am hopeful to witness a few of these concepts come to life.