John Ellison

Day 58: Training Project Chat & Clearleft Interns Playback

4 min read

Training Project Chat

James Box, Andy P and I sat down for a chat about how we were going to present the training project concepts to the stakeholders. We discussed the presentation structure as well as the questions that we needed to address with each concept. We explored the different objections or obstacles that we might have to address in stakeholder's minds.

possible training project structure


By the end of the session we had a shared understanding of how we were going to approach the presentation and the content that we needed to create as inputs for that discussion. In the meantime, Andy P and I had some catching up to do. We had effectively split to work on two separate concept paths and now needed to come back together and reconvene.

Creating Shared Understanding w/ Andy P

Andy P and I took a short break after our session with James and dedicated an hour and a half to discussing the concepts that we'd created. There were some gaps in our shared understanding and so we decided to do our best to fill those gaps.

We started off with the concept that I had been focusing on, since that was the area where Andy P felt like we didn't have the same understanding.

Looking through the value propositions and the '1-2-3' statements I'd generated for the concept as our base, we discussed the concept at a high-level and in detail.





Coming Together

In asking questions and providing answers, we had a twenty-minute period of back and forth. We were bouncing around different ideas and different languages, but then something happened and we started to click. I don't know exactly what happened but it was a sort of 'Aha!' moment between us and we knew that we were coming closer to the same page.

Andy P sketched his ideas in his sketchbook so that we could think out loud and reference ideas later in our conversation. This, above all things, is probably the most useful process that designers exhibit as opposed to other professionals. Thinking out loud is crucial to creating shared understanding, but thinking on paper (or a whiteboard, sticky note, index card— however you like it), is another level.

There is something about getting ideas out of your head and into the world that makes a huge difference. A lot of people are afraid of sketching because they can't draw well, but sketching isn't about being able to draw pretty pictures, it's about being able to communicate ideas.

That is definitely a big lesson I've taken from my time at Clearleft. Not many people here can draw, but everybody can sketch and articulate their ideas visually. I feel like I've gained a lot of confidence in this area and am happy to exercise this sketching muscle more and more each day...

Moving Forward

At the end of our session, we had a quite abrupt break point and decided to continue our conversation later that day or the next. We had covered a lot of groud but there was still a fair amount of ground to cover. We were definitely making progress...

Clearleft Interns Playback

After lunch I worked on the training concepts a bit more on my own and then jumped into the Clearleft Interns Playback session where they were pitching two product concepts to the team. The purpose of the session was to decide on which concept to pursue for the remaining 6-weeks of their internship.

The conference room held a high energy as we walked in, and as Chris began presenting their concepts with beautiful videos that demonstrated their ideas, I think we were all really impressed at their work.

clearleft interns playback 1

clearleft interns playback 2

clearleft interns playback 3

You can read more about their project and the concept that they've chosen to pursue on their blog:

Tagged: ,

John Ellison

Day 22: Silverback, Stories & Blog Workshop

5 min read

kicking off the blog workshop


At this point in my 90 Day journey at Clearleft, I had narrowed in on two main projects: Silverback and the Clearleft Training Project. I spent the majority of Day 22 working on documenting Silverback's functionality and core use cases. I also worked with Andy P. to refine the stories we generated for the Clearleft Training Project on Day 19. Andy did most of the leg work with writing and refining the stories because documenting the use cases for Silverback took longer than I expected.

I also had the pleasure of sitting down with Anna Roback and talking about her career journey. Anna is in the process of documenting her transition from being a teacher to becoming a UX Designer while holding down the fort as a mother and a wife. I had a lot of fun hearing about Anna's story and am greatly looking forward to seeing how she decides to share her story.

Clearleft Interns Blog Workshop

Last week, a group of three new interns joined Clearleft to work on a really cool product design project. They were given a fascinating brief:

As a team we'd like you to create a product or service that utilises digital technology to enrich the lives of local residents. ... we'd like you to consider the following as part of any solution: - You should solve real rather than imagined problems. - Your solution should be theoretically possible and demonstrable. - The solution should work at city scale. - Any solution should include both a physical and a digital component - Consider the role of sensor networks, "big data", the potential of connected devices and the Internet of Things - Consider the privacy and environmental implication of your solution

Within the first couple days Chris, Monika and Chloe had a blog up and running and were documenting their project's process.

I was really impressed with their work and the way they approached the problem and though it could be cool to spend a little time together creating a bit of a content strategy for their blog. The three of them seemed keen so we went downstairs to the auditorium and spent an hour or so exploring their goals as individuals and a team for their blog.

Kicking Off The Workshop

I was curious to know more about their experience in working at Clearleft and how they've found the project so far. It was a good transition into talking about their blog. I confessed my secret desire to join their project, and expressed my appreciation for the project's complexity.

It seemed like they jumped into creating a blog without much planning or strategy so my hunch about the value of a content session proved correct.

I shared with them a bit about my process in creating a content strategy for my 90 Days blog and we chatted about how we could best spend our time together.

Defining Goals

Practicing a bit of workshop facilitation that I'd learned from guys around the office like Ben Sauer and James Box, I asked Chris, Monika and Chloe to write down their individual goals for the blog as well as what they wanted to achieve as a team.

Then in Lean Coffee style we read each of the stickies aloud and began grouping the stickies as we saw fit.


brainstorming blog audiences with clearleft interns

We saw that there was a clear distinction between individual goals and group goals. The user audience arose out of the conversation around goals, and then we talked about each audience segment. From that conversation it became clear that there were three core audiences:

  • Clearleft team & network
  • Potential employers
  • Design community (students, peers, industry leaders, etc.)

Roles, Structure and Process

Once we'd laid out the initial segment of the Clearleft Interns blog, we discussed what roles people wanted to play, what kind of structure could facilitate the goals we'd defined and what process would help keep us on track.

In talking about roles some clear divisions became clear: Monika was interested in practicing writing as a daily practice, Chloe wanted to document project milestones and major learning and Chris was interested in writing recaps and reviews at larger project milestones.

Story Structure

We talked about basic story structure, Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey and Donald Miller's apt summary of the hero's journey in his eBook How To Tell A Story.

I find Donald's summary to be incredibly useful when approaching any kind of writing:

A character has a problem, then meets a guide who gives them a plan and calls them to action. That action either results in a comedy or a tragedy.

With this helpful snippet we arrived on a simple 'Beginning, Middle, End' structure for the blog posts and had an idea of the goals, audiences, roles and process for the Clearleft Interns blog.

blog workshop with clearleft interns

Looking Back

Having a quick session with Chris, Monika and Chloe was super fun and allowed me to practice a bit of workshop facilitation at the same time. I am looking forward to watching their project progress. You can read about their journey on their blog here:

How Do You Approach Content Strategy For Your Blog?

I was talking to Jeremy Keith yesterday and he gave a refreshingly different perspective about content strategy: He writes for himself. The blog is a documentation tool that allows him to look back at his life and work and learn from it. Any feedback or followers or conversation that comes from the blog is a plus, but it is secondary.

That new perspective Jeremy gave me yesterday made me think about the wide spectrum of ways to approach content on the web. If you've read this far you're probably interested in blogging or design in some capacity. Any thoughts or opinions you'd like to share would be greatly appreciated.