What Is Your Mental Model?

Written by: Chris Baum

B&A readers get 10% when purchasing from Rosenfeldmedia.com (use code BARMMM10)
Rosenfeld Media has just released Indi Young’s Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy With Human Behavior. Boxes and Arrows sits down with Indi to talk about:
* The origins and evolution of the mental model
* How the mental model is a way of visualizing nearly any research data
* What shortcuts you can use to get started on a mental model with minimal time investment
* Why “combing” an interview is like riding a bicycle
* How Webvan failed because it ignore the mental model of its customers

If you’re unfamiliar with Indi’s mental model diagrams, download the excerpt(.pdf), check out the “book’s description”:http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/info/description/ for more information on the method, or visit “this Flickr set”:http://flickr.com/photos/rosenfeldmedia/sets/72157603511616271/ for images from the book.

Discount for Boxes and Arrows readers: Get a 10% discount by purchasing the book “directly from Rosenfeld Media”:http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/. Just use the code BARMMM10.

Mental Models: Origins & Evolution

Boxes & Arrows: Our readers would benefit from the story behind the Mental Model. Can you tell us how you created it?

On a project at Visa back in ’93 or ’94, I was the interaction designer on a team of consultants including developers, business people, and analysts.

The business analysts didn’t have their work together, so I started working on the customer service rep workflow table in MS Excel, a kind of state diagram from “Computer Science”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_diagram. At the same time, a Stanford professor did a presentation on the layers of user experience at “BayCHI”:http://www.baychi.org/. One of those layers was a “task” layer, very much like the state diagram.

At first I only documented the the behaviors; I didn’t let any of the emotions or philosophy get into it at all. For one client, I presented the state diagram by lining up the internal workflow underneath their customers’ workflow, the flip of the mental model. Kevin George was there and immediately encouraged me to pursue this method as it was a very powerful way to explain these relationships to a customer.

B&A: It’s interesting how this really arose from trying to allow communication between stakeholders. How has the mental model changed since then?

I did some projects at Charles Schwab, and started using the long horizon diagram. In doing that format, I started realizing that I was trying to capture motivations that influence behavior as well as the behavior itself. I was never interested in the granularity about how you actually use an application that the usability people were seeking. I wanted to know understand what you’re thinking about.

Figure 1: A mental model diagram (click to enlarge)

Figure 1: A mental model diagram (click to enlarge)

“Todd Wilkens”:http://adaptivepath.com/aboutus/toddw.php mentioned a year or two ago that I am looking for behavior, and I realized that they weren’t tasks. He was absolutely right.

These days I’m trying to call it behavior, motivation, philosophy, and emotion but stay away from statement of fact, references to things, preference, and the actual use of the tool. I want to know what people think as they walk down the hallway to go do something. I call this the hallway test.

Customers are just thinking about their reactions to the tool. They are not trying to squeeze water out of a water bottle, they are trying to quench their thirst. Of course you want to listen to them, but at the same time you want to interpret.

They aren’t going to approach you and say, “I’m trying to quench my thirst, make it quench faster.” When you try to do it at the level of the tool, you’re blinkered by what that tool does already. I’m interested in the mind process – what you are you trying to get done.

B&A: This doesn’t acknowledge the base influences that are going to make that successful or not. As a business, you have an objective you’re going for and need to balance it with the customer’s objective, not their preference. Even business decisions are many times colored by preference.

I like to talk about how CEOs and founders for startups have the original mission statement at heart. “I do this because my son is having trouble in school, because the school system doesn’t work.” They sometimes lose sight of all the details.

They start off down the path with one certain solution, they’re solving the problems associated with that solution and losing track of the mission. What if it’s the wrong path? What if they branched left when they should have branched right?
They start losing the ability to go back and explore other branches or go back to the root and start in another direction because they have so much investment in it.

B&A: Interesting. What you’re doing is taking a mission statement and giving it a skeleton to grown on, to iterate a strategy. The mental model includes the details of what both the business and the customers are trying to do. Is that right?

Yes, the diagram looks like a skeleton or a spine if you turn it on its side. That’s the whole idea! It’s something that’s going to last for a very long time, and you can hang all of your decisions off of it. It’s something that you want to go back to on a regular basis when you want to start a new path or shake things up.

The diagram also helps you show others how you’ve prioritized your current focus and how their item fell into the quadrant of things that you’ll do later.

Comparing Methods

B&A: How do mental models compare with different research methods?

Many different methods allow you to collect data, but I have not found others that let you represent the data effectively. The mental model diagram can visualize ANY research data as long as it’s data about why customers do things.

For example, diaries can feed into mental models. You can process them the same way you process a transcript. You won’t be able to drill down into the “why” further, as you have no control how deep people go.

Ethnography (field studies) can also get built into a mental model. Once you’ve followed people to their offices, you have third-person notes (she did this, he did that) rather than transcripts. Just translate it to “I” and make a mental model.

At “Adaptive Path”:http://adaptivepath.com/, when we were asked to do usability, we’d run an interview either the first part of the last half of the test. Then, we would add the interview data to the mental model as well.

Just get this information somehow. What is going on in their head before they use the product? Why are they using the product? How are they using the product isn’t that important. Ignore the product.

B&A: So you just do some research and dissemble it into the mental model. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

That’s why I have all these shortcuts and why anyone can create a mental model. It’s just a representation of a process, and the purity of that representation is dependent on how much time you put into it.

That purity arises from how much you can disengage yourself from your own world and tools. Look at the user from their perspective.

Creating a Mental Model

B&A: Ok, let’s shift gears a bit. You go do your interviews. Can you talk about extracting the behaviors, what you call “combing” the script? You were saying that sometimes it’s difficult.

It is hard to do a mental model, until you get it. As I mentioned, this is not just tasks. It’s behavior, motivation, and philosophy. You have to think about how to distinguish preference from philosophy and statements of fact from actual behaviors.

Here’s an example:

When interviewing a manager who oversees fleets of vehicles, she might say:
“I believe in not overloading my employees with work.”
“I’m gonna assign 3-4 jobs per day.”
“We send out 300 vans a day.”

These words come to me as 3 things:
* Assign 3-4 jobs per day. This is a true task.
* Not overloading the drivers. This is a philosophy that guides how the jobs are assigned.
* Send out 300 vans a day. That is just a statement of fact that I will not include in the mental model.

Sending 300 vans out sounds like a task. It has a verb, but it’s not a task. You aren’t doing it, the organization is.

They can talk about the process of how they decide where to send the drivers, prioritize things, or deal with emergencies. All of that is behavior. It can be difficult for designers to sort between those at first.

You also want to leave preferences out of the diagram. They actually began with the verb “prefer.” “I prefer to come into work early.” In his next statement if a driver told you his philosophy behind coming into work early “because…” That is what you want. If you picked that up during the interview, you could have explored it a little bit. There may or may not be a reason. Maybe he’s just a morning person.

Philosophies are important to get into the mental model because your business is going to want to be aware of and support those kinds of things.

B&A: There’s a subtlety there. Both statements sound like descriptions of why they do something. One has a reason, the other is just what they like or don’t like.

Not only is it difficult when you’re trying to comb tasks out of a transcript, but it’s also something that poses difficulties when you’re writing the interview. Before you try running an interview, you have be somewhat aware of what the tasks are going to be. A great way to do that is to practice combing a transcript.

Be careful that you don’t ask leading questions using do, did, would, or could. Rather, start with who, what, where, when, and how. If you do this, you’re generally scott free. And always remember to follow up by asking why, like a 4-year-old. It may be annoying, but that’s kind of what you’re trying to do.

Even with all of my experience doing this, I still find myself not going deep enough. One blatant example: one woman told me that she holds meetings with her team every week. In my head, I made this instant assumption of what those meetings were about, because i’ve been to weekly meetings with a team leader.

When I was combing it, I thought, “Why is she holding those weekly meetings? Is she trying to…?” The assumption I made was that she was trying to find out status on everybody’s project. In the end, I had no idea why she was holding those meetings.

A lot of these interviews that I do are a little more psychoanalytical, because it is not conscious why were doing some of these things. Maybe the woman holding the meeting has never had to enunciate why she’s doing it. I ask her to do that during the interview.

B&A: In the “Women in IA podcast”:http://iavoice.typepad.com/ia_voice/2007/04/women_in_ia_ind.html, you mentioned that you don’t find it difficult to get people do to mental models. I have to press on that fact. It’s not a very simple, easy process.

Well, let me go back to the shortcuts. You and i could sit here in Starbucks (where we met for the interview – Ed.) and sketch out what the baristas do. If we watched them greet the regulars and non-regulars, we could sketch out their tasks and mental processes. There is a real strong mental model right there. We could note what we see, but we’re going to miss things. For example, we won’t capture what they do in before opening the doors in the morning.

You don’t necessarily have to do it the hard way – going out, doing the interviews, and combing the transcripts for tasks. However, that’s the most agnostic and data-driven way to do it, and by going through the extra effort is how you’re going to make discoveries of things that aren’t already in your head.

I list a couple options in the book. For example, you really believe in this, but your employer doesn’t. Well, I’ve heard people interviewing people and combing the interviews and creating a mental model in their spare time. Then they unveil it in some team meeting to kisses and hugs.

B&A: It just sounds like that will be a little more focused on the tools that exist rather than the philosophies around them.

That’s the problem. All of these shortcuts have the same troubles. I actually ran a lot of the “stakeholders around the table” discussions back in the dot com era because every wanted to spend the time to doing it.

I even did this for Webvan, but I could not get them to pay attention to it. For example, their interface was about picking delivery windows, which made the customer pick the end of the transaction up front so the company could maximize the efficiency of the trucks going out. It just wasn’t working.

Customers didn’t like picking the delivery window first. It wasn’t in their mental model. “I want to tell you what I want, because that’s what I know now. Then we can discuss how you bring it to me.”

Every single one of the Webvan mental models was missing the mental spaces that would have gotten them ahead of their competition or help them understand their customer base. So the “sitting around the table” method is a little dangerous, as it might mislead you to believe you’ve got it all.

B&A: Luckily for those of us still standing, we can try to avoid those mistakes. Mental models seem like fantastic tools. Thanks so much for taking the time, and good luck with the book!

I enjoyed it, too. Take care!

Excerpt

If you liked this interview, download the excerpt. (.pdf)

Boxes and Arrows readers can get a 10% discount by purchasing the book “directly from Rosenfeld Media”:http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/. Just use the code BARMMM10.

About the Book
“Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy With Human Behavior”:http://www.rosenfeldmedia.com/books/mental-models/
by Indi Young
Paperback, 299 pages
Publisher: Rosenfeld Media (2008)
ISBN-10: 1933820063

Interactions 08 in the Garden of Good and Evil

Written by: Chris Baum

In 2003, design luminary Bruce Tognazzi called for interaction designers to get their collective act together and become a force for better software design. As a result, a small group of impassioned professionals kick-started what is now the “Interaction Design Association”:http://ixda.org/index.php (IxDA).

After being hard at work starting the organization and getting local groups off the ground to seed its growth, the IxDA is now inviting people interested in interaction design to join the community in person at Interaction 08, the first IxDA conference.

Boxes and Arrows supports all UX communities of practice, so we like to see new endeavors like the IxDA that provide places to have focused discussions that don’t exist. B&A is thrilled to be a media sponsor of Interaction 08, so we will be bringing you some stories about the conference and the speakers before it happens February 8-10, 2008.

The first is this interview with Dan Saffer, Conference Chair and IxDA Director. Dan discusses the context of the organization, how the conference emerged and formed, what the conference will be like, and how one might get a flavor even if attendance is not an option.

Boxes & Arrows: In the “User Experience as Communities of Practice presentation, Andrew Hinton discusses how the different practices in UX relate and overlap with each other.

The IxDA is a good example of an organization that emerges because one of those communities feels under-supported, also exemplified by the IA Institute, which at first glance would potentially fall under the aegis of UPA, CHI, or AIGA. Tell us a little about how that fits with what you’re doing at the IxDA.

Dan Saffer: The IxDA is definitely the AK47 of the UX world! Inexpensive, networked, and built of mostly off-the-shelf parts. It’s designed for conversation, not for instruction, and it is constantly evolving. That’s why we want to keep the barrier to entry and participate low, even if it means some risks to the organization (like running out of money).

When Bruce “Tog” Tognazzi first did his call to arms to create a professional organization, I think the founders of the IxDA (at that time the Interaction Design Group) did look around at all these large organizations and ask, “Could we live there?” And the answer was always, on closer look, no. Most of those organizations overlap our organization in some ways, but there is still a monstrous piece in the center of the Venn diagram that was empty and that was where our interests lie.

We aren’t human-computer engineers, usability professionals, information architects, or industrial or graphic designers, even though we have a lot in common with all of those groups. We’re professional designers, not engineers or researchers or testers, and what we design is behavior—how systems behave in response to human action. The combination of interaction and design really set us apart from what existed.

And aside from that, we simply wanted a different kind of organization, a 21st century organization, designed and built differently, focused on the members and how to best serve them and not some self-perpetuating organization. The conference isn’t being done just because some people wanted to do it, but because it is a vessel to serve the needs of our members in the best way we know how.

B&A: What made you consider creating a separate conference rather than doing presentations or tracks at existing ones?

DS: It’s really for the same reason there is an IxDA at all: We feel there are issues and experiences and techniques that are unique to the field of interaction design. The conference is just an excuse to get a large group of people from around the world in rooms together to talk about those things and create a community of practice.

The mailing list and our online tools do this already to an extent, but we know the face-to-face contact is important, the personal network is still important. For any organization. That’s why we have local chapters in cities around the world—from San Francisco to Hong Kong to Stockholm to Pune, India.

For years, interaction designers have spoken at various conferences: CHI, the IA Summit, IDSA, AIGA, DUX, DIS, and numerous web design conferences, just to name a handful.

I’ve always had to wade through the taxonomy and tagging sessions at the IA Summit to get to the interaction design material, and CHI and DIS and other conferences were always far too academic for my taste; they were all about academics presenting research papers that had little to do with professional practice.

We did briefly consider combining with another conference, but we knew we had so much material and interest that it simply didn’t seem feasible. Part of the reason we’re doing the conference is to really cement and spread the word about interaction design as a separate discipline.

B&A: In an ideal world, what would a relative neophyte experience there? A long-time expert?

DS: Hopefully both will experience the same thing: a fun, well-designed conference that features some of the world’s best interaction designers. It’s a chance to rub elbows with luminaries like Alan Cooper who literally wrote the book on interaction design, as well as up-and-comers like frog’s Michele Tepper talking about interaction design across platforms. We’ve set up the conference to have a lot of great content—and insane amount of content, really, in just two days—but also to have activities and social time to hang out and talk to other designers.

For newcomers to the field, it’s a chance to experience the breadth of what interaction design has to offer the world. We have Carl DiSalvo talking about interaction design for community empowerment, Gabriel White on everyday design ethics, and Yasser Rasid talking about visualizing radio for the BBC.

For experts, it can be learning new tricks like Dan Brown’s Concept Models or how Jenny Lam “hits it with the pretty stick.” Or you can get deep and conceptual with Sarah Allen’s Cinematic Interaction Design or Dave Cronin’s Designing for Flow.

But it’s definitely not all theory; we have a lot of great practical sessions like Jonathan Arnowitz on effective prototyping and case studies like Saskia Idzerda on redesigning Sony Ericsson’s Product Catalog. And if you want more hands-on, we’ve got four great workshops on the Friday before on prototyping, designing in an Agile environment, turning research into design, and effect mapping.

B&A: How did you pick Savannah? It’s an interesting place to consider visting as a tourist, but we would guess that it wouldn’t occur to most people to got there for a conference.

DS: We knew we wanted to do it early in the year in a small city—both for budgetary reasons. We looked at several different cities like Portland, Austin, and Providence alongside Savannah. The people at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) were so accommodating and excited about having us there that the answer was clear. They are showing us some real Southern hospitality.

Plus, Savannah is a great city; one of America’s little gems. It’s beautiful, filled with history, fun, and very walkable. I’m personally a big fan of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which captures the spirit of the city so well.

B&A: What has it been like creating the conference? What has surprised you as particularly difficult or easy?

DS: It’s taken a while to get the conference off the ground—over a year now. Some of it was simply generating the willpower to do it, but once we committed and found a location, it’s been all-go. Of course, the logistics of setting up a conference for the first time is a challenge.

Choosing and balancing a program was also very difficult. We got 80 entries in our call for submissions, which we had to whittle down to 20 lightning sessions.

Any one of them could have gone on the program, so getting it down to 20 was agonizing. We initially set the sessions at 14, but we couldn’t bear to exclude so many so we squeezed in six more. Even then, some excellent sessions and interesting topics had to be excluded. It was an awful lesson in design constraints.

What has been great is the support SCAD is giving to us. We’re excited about the launch they are giving this conference. Having the students and faculty of SCAD participate in the conference is going to be a real added bonus.

Another good surprise is the enthusiasm people have for the conference. People always want to talk to me about it and are psyched at the program. I’m thrilled at the caliber of speakers we were able to get our first time out of the gate.

B&A: The IxDA is doing some interesting things to show what it means to be an IxDA member. Tell us a little about those and how these things might affect people that want to, but cannot, attend the conference.

DS: We’ve been working on a number of initiatives for our members, while keeping our commitment to keeping membership free and open to all. Not only do we have the IxDA Mailing List, which has some 4000 members, we’ve also recently created the next generation of the IxDA website, so you can follow threads and topics in various ways, such as via RSS.

We’ve also stepped up our efforts at getting local IxDA chapters off the ground. We now have groups that meet regularly in cities around the world. We have groups in cities all across the US, Europe, India, and parts of Asia.

Conference-wise, we’re hoping to share, via Boxes and Arrows and other media partners, some of the content we’re going to have at the conference available via articles, reviews, slides, and podcasts of the speakers. It won’t be like being there, but it’ll be the next best thing.

B&A: Thanks for all the great information, Dan. We’ll look forward to seeing you at the conference!

DS: Thank you. See you in Savannah!

For more information, visit the “IxDA”:http://ixda.org/index.php or Interaction 08.

Foundations of Interaction Design

Written by: Jeff Parks

iTunes     Download    Del.icio.us     Pod-safe music generously provided by Sonic Blue

banda_headphones_sm.gif The other day I had the opportunity to speak with David Malouf on his article, Foundations of Interaction Design. We discuss several foundations of Interaction design including time, metaphor, abstraction, and negative space. David also provides greater detail to comments posted on his article from readers from around the world.

We Discuss…

*What is Interaction Design?*
Interaction Design is about interaction and behavior within a specific context.

*Foundations of Interaction Design*
Dave talks about how these foundations were developed from his work at Pratt Industrial Design including elements such as line, space, color, and texture. Taking these elements into account creates a better design.

*What do you get when you cross a fax machine with a modem?*
Another aspect of Interaction Design is how machines interact with each other. Dave uses the iPod and Blue Tooth technologies to describe how Interaction Design plays a key role in making better products.

*Four on the floor*
Dave goes on to discuss four aspects of the following Foundational elements in Interaction Design:

1. Time
2. Metaphors
3. Abstraction
4. Negative Space

*TRANSCRIPT*

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Interviewer: The other day I had the opportunity to speak with David Malouf on his article “Foundations of Interaction Design”. We discussed several foundations of interaction design, including those of time, metaphor, abstraction, and negative space. David also provides greater detail to comments posted on his articles from readers around the world. A big thank you to David for taking time to speak with me, and I hope everyone enjoys the podcast. Cheers!

David, your article on Boxes and Arrows Foundation of Interaction Design struck me as really interesting, especially as an information architect. I can appreciate the complexity of defining a multi-faceted profession like interaction design.

You noted in your article that interaction design is distinct from the other design disciplines. It’s not information architecture, industrial design, or even user experience design. It also isn’t user interface design, it’s more ephemeral, it’s about why and when whether than about what and how. So maybe you could elaborate on this definition of interaction design for our listeners?

David Malouf: Yeah, sure. Something that I like to do is to make sure our terms are well defined, and I believe in very particulate definitions of things in order to help people understand the total concept. So a word like “user experience” doesn’t require that because it’s meant to be an umbrella term that’s all encompassing, but terms like “interaction design,” “UI design, ” and “information architecture, ” “industrial design”, are particulate in their nature. They have relationships with each other in order to bound those relationships with each other, to better understand them, it’s important to have a clear understanding.

So when I talk about interaction design, I’m trying to not necessarily create a hard wall between other disciplines, because there’s a lot of overlap and practice and methods and things, but it’s more about being able to understand the core essence of those disciplines and of interaction design. For me, interaction design is really about interaction. If you think about an interaction, an interaction is a form of behavior and behaviors take place within specific contexts. So defining context and defining behavior are at the core of what an interaction designer needs to do.

Interviewer: Right, and some of those core elements you illustrated in your article itself. You talk about foundations specifically. Can you elaborate on some of those ideas for our listeners?

David: Yeah, sure. I think the concept of foundations itself is something that comes out of the design schools of Europe and early US design schools, and my experience is through Pratt Industrial Design, where we put together a series of foundation classes for industrial designers at Pratt. I’m not going to remember all of them off the top of my head, but line, volume, space, color, texture are all part of those foundations.

Basically the way the education system works is to do studio classes where you dive deeply into each one of these foundations and master its language. So that in terms of negative space for a graphic designer, for example, is understanding when something is in close enough proximity or not enough white space so that it is assumed that those elements are somehow related to each other, versus those when do I separate it enough so that I know that they’re not related to each other? So a lot of that is done in graphic design and industrial design.

When we talk about interaction design, there really hasn’t been a sustained conversation about elements like these that we can use to communicate what is good interaction design, what is bad interaction design, or even what is interaction design itself. In thinking about these foundations of interaction design that’s sort of at the core of what I’m trying to put together.

Interviewer: It’s brilliant, and it’s also very complicated, of course, because you’re talking about behaviors. Of course if we were building things for other machines it’d be simple, but we’re building these technologies and tools for other people, so how do they interact with those applications?

David: Yeah, and lately actually, I’ll just add this in, a lot of what I’ve been thinking about is actually machines interacting with each other. That is another aspect of interaction design is when you think about ecosystem design and how my iPod needs to connect to my laptop and how that happens and how they can communicate to each other and what are the expectations between those two devices.

It’s very technical on the one hand, but there’s also a place where it affects the human interaction between them, such as how will my Bluetooth headset communicate to my phone? What types of information do they need to pass back and forth to each other so then the human beings on either side are able to clearly understand stakes and other information that’s viable as well.

Interviewer: Absolutely. And just getting back to the metaphors for a second, you talked about a few in your article that I’d like you to elaborate on. I know you and I were talking before about how we could spend an entire hour talking about just one of these things. Maybe we could start by talking about the element of time and how that relates to interaction design.

David: Well, I think time was probably the most complex element. I think in terms of product design, time is probably the clearest foundation for interaction design. There are other types of design such as film and dance that require an understanding of time, and there is a place where interaction design, like dance and film, is the place for narrative, is the storytelling.

So if you think about narrative and time and timing, you end up with basically one core aspect of time is pace, which is the feeling of flow through time for the end user’s experience. Like going to a movie, how often do you look at your watch, and managing that. There are times when you want the pace to be slow because you want to engage yourself that completely with it and feel that moment, but sometimes that’s take a little too far and then the end of “Lord of the Rings” comes by the fifth ending and you’re looking at your watch again.

The same thing exists within interaction design. Is that transition animation too slow, is it too quick, did I need more time to understand what was going on, do I need less time to realize the change? Things like that are important with interaction design. Do I really need to have a step-through wizard to do this process, or can you put it on one form on a screen and I’ll figure it out? To make it more concrete, that’s one element of time.

Interviewer: It’s interesting because you were noting in your article and we were talking right now you were mentioning this idea of choreography and dance and you mentioned one of the elements being metaphors, and in particular you were talking about how all metaphors break down at some point. I’m wondering why that is and what a path forward for the interaction designers would be in helping clients understand these complex ideas once the metaphor breaks down.

David: Yeah. I think all metaphors break down just because they’re not what you’re prescribing to it.

Interviewer: Right.

[laughter]

David: For some reason whenever I think of metaphors, all of a sudden these similes come into my head. But you could say a metaphor is an analogy, right? [laughs]

Interviewer: Sure.Yep.

David: You could say, “He’s as fast as a horse.” Well, obviously he’s not as fast as a horse because people can’t go 40 miles an hour. He’s faster than you would think a normal human being would be able to go. So the analogy breaks down at a certain level because he is not the analogy. He is just like a quality of the analogy that you’re trying to possess.

So you take the trashcan from a desktop or the recycle bin. Well, they’re not a trashcan or a recycle bin because of the fact that I can’t carry it someplace else. [laughs] I can’t move it. I can’t…

Interviewer: It lacks the physical properties of being literally able to go over, pick it up, and move it somewhere or throw out the trash quite literally.

David: Right. I can’t play my drums on it. [laughs]

Interviewer: And being a drummer myself, that’s my biggest frustration with these things for sure.

David: [laughs] Exactly.

Interviewer: But I understand. All kidding aside, I completely understand your point. You mentioned in your articles working in tandem with metaphor abstraction relates more to the physical and mental activity that is necessary for an interaction to take place. So what is the difference between an abstraction and a metaphor?

David: I think for me I wrote this article actually looking for people to help me with this stuff as much as to feed it. And I think abstraction is this thing that I’m trying to get my head around. It makes perfect sense in my head. Every time I talk about it, people sort of get a little bit lost. So I do think though that abstraction is metaphor grounded in physicality in a way.

So I think one of the examples I gave is talking about Google Maps. Being the first one to do the whole Ajax Map thing, what they were able to do is create this amazing metaphor of a map on the table. Not using the blurred focus of the reality, but definitely taking that clipping effect and saying, “You know, you’re just dragging the map around the lens of your eye basically. We’re going to clip it for you more precisely than your eye would do.”

But that’s basically the metaphor and play there. But the abstraction part of it is how you actually use the map itself and how you click down on the mouse. And the distance that you move your arm with the mouse is in exact ratio to how far you’re going to move on the screen, right?

Interviewer: Exactly. Oh, for sure.

David: You compare that to the original, the old version of Maps, where you clicked in north or northwest. And that click had nothing to do with the physical movement of distance or even how long it took to make that motion of the map. So there was a further abstraction or a lack of physical connection between those types of interaction.

Interviewer: So would this be similar to the idea of how we’re losing our ability to do cursive writing? And how just because we type keys — like my pinky is ASDF — you almost get used to this idea of, well, I’m used to writing A with a pen versus just punching a key with a finger, for example?

David: I think that there’s definitely realities, like the whole spelling is degrading among kids who do S & S too much, right? There are those realities. But I also think it’s important to understand that we don’t want abstraction or the value of abstraction to be a value of interaction design. There could be points where higher abstraction might be more valuable.

So if you look at command line interfaces, typing has nothing to do really with what I’m doing onscreen. But there’s an efficiency to that. So people who are interested in command line interfaces, an interesting product is by the folks at Humanized. They have a product called Enso, where you can command line interface your Windows desktop pretty easily.

But it still is very abstract, but there’s an efficiency involved in using that level of abstraction. So I don’t think that there’s an absolute value judgment to abstraction itself. Less is a little more.

Interviewer: Excellent. One of the questions you asked in your article about the fourth foundation of interaction design is that of negative space. You had put out the question, what is the negative effect on interaction based on negative space”

Have you gotten any feedback about that? Or could you describe to our listeners a little bit about how negative space is the fourth foundation of what you look at when you think about interaction design?

David: Yeah. For me I think there is no one negative space. I’ve been thinking about this a little bit in terms of the foundations of other design disciplines. But I think there’s a negative in each of the other foundations in a way, especially within time. There probably is a negativity in each foundation. I think that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

But what I’ve worried about here: there’s time, so pause is an obvious “something’s not happening.” There’s no reaction, which also relates to inactivity, which is the other one I related it to.

But then there’s the human element of negative space or negativity, which is just the human cessation of thought. There was a game called BrainBall or something like that where the less you think the better you do kind of thing in controlling your mind. Or think about meditation where you try to stop your language thought.

Interviewer: Less is more type thing, right? Because I know Dr. Barry Schwartz wrote a book called “The Paradox of Choice, ” why more is less. He went to the Gap one day in inspiration for this article. He had never had more selection of jeans in his entire life. He had never walked out with a better fitting, more comfortable pair of jeans, and he never had a worse experience in his entire life in buying jeans.

So he determined the more choices people had, actually the less satisfied they were with their final decision, which I thought was really kind of interesting. So maybe if we start from a negative space perspective, if we looked at the idea of removing choice, we could actually increase the capacity to get people what they need.

David: I don’t think it’s about removing. I’ve always had a problem with the paradox. I have a paradox with the paradox of choice.

Interviewer: OK.

David: Losing choices where there isn’t always as much choice is what we’re used to in the U S, you sort of miss your options.

[laughter]

David: So I think it’s about presentation of choice as much as it is too much choice.

Interviewer: Excellent point. I never thought about that, but you’re absolutely right. Yeah, for sure. It would have to be. Maybe we could turn a little bit to some of the comments that the readers made on your article?

David: Sure.

Interviewer: And get a little more clarification from you. Paul Bryan from Musography Corporation in Atlanta commented that, “I agree with the foundations you listed but was left wondering why you didn’t include a foundation for goal, that is why I undertook the design and why anyone else would undertake the steps of the interaction.

“Fully understanding the context and mechanics of relevant goal seems fundamental to any interaction design and constrains all of the other foundations you describe–unless by ‘foundations’ you mean the components of the interaction itself or the philosophy of the art apart from the science.” So what are your thoughts about the foundation of goal for interaction design as Paul has pointed out?

David: For me goal is something that comes from the outside of the design. It constrains the design, but so does technology. What technology I’m doing is going to constrain that design. But to me it is a parameter of which I design within.. But it is not a foundation of the design itself.

Quite honestly, it comes outside of the practice of interaction design in, like I was saying, the particular. Goals are defined from design research. They’re not defined from interaction design. They’re defined from research, so the activity itself is there.

And the last thing is that design can exist for good or for bad outside of research. If you look at studio work in the design education environment around foundations, it’s very, very much about creativity and language acquisition. There are basically three fundamental elements of any kind of creative endeavor. You need to be able to have muscle memory. If you think about playing music, you need to be able to actually put your fingers on the keys in the right places in the right time. Right?

Interviewer: Absolutely.

David: You also need to know and be able to create good music, so you need to be able to come up with your own musicality in a way. Then the final thing is you need to be able to recognize what is good and critique and things like that. Those are the three core aspects of it, and you can do that with or without research involved in that. It’s a very creative endeavor.

So that’s probably why I just leave goals out of it. Not to dismiss the importance of design research, but that’s the same as all of the other disciplines around doing user experience. They’re all important. You can’t have interaction design without some kind of formative design working in play, whether that’s visual design, UI design, or industrial design. All of those formative elements are just as important as the interaction design, and so is design research.

Interviewer: Right. Absolutely. The other question I wanted to talk to you about from a comment was a gentleman, Parek, who stated that: “While not countering what you said, I was left with the impression you believe it’s better to reduce abstraction. I’m not sure that should be a goal in itself. I would say it’s better to push out the abstraction to the right level of the given interaction.” Do you agree with what Parek is saying here?

David: Yeah, I think Parek is really just stating what I said earlier in the conversation in terms of there are points where it’s about appropriateness — to bring goals back in [laughs] or about user understanding more than goals, actually. You need to design to the appropriate needs of the users who you’re designing for. So I wouldn’t say that abstraction is a negative in and of itself.

I would say though that there’s a tendency for human beings to feel more engaged — the more the physicality feels like it’s related to natural motion or natural interactions, the more that we have to create artificial interactions in order to achieve the tasks of the solutions we’re designing, I think the more it encumbers people. So there’s not an absolute answer here, but I would tend to want to reduce abstraction, would be my answer. I would to tend to want to.

Interviewer: The last comment that I want to point out today was by Jamie Owen, who’s a visual information specialist for training at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Jamie had said that much like differing cultures have recognizable characteristics unique to their dance and their music, the “choreography” of orchestration of their interaction should also be designed as to their unique cultural characteristics.

In short, the elements of the foundations are different from culture to culture. So in my mind, this begs the question: Should culture be considered as a foundation of interaction design?

David: Again, it’s like goals in that it’s an outside constraint. I would consider it really similar in that regard, but the foundations themselves exist no matter the culture. They may be interpreted differently. Just like you take music. There is such a thing as a scale, or to get it more precisely there is rhythm. There is melody. Right?

Interviewer: Absolutely.

David: Good rhythm and good melody differ per culture, but rhythm and melody are the foundations. Then you can’t tell in other musical elements. But I wouldn’t call the culture a foundation of music, and the same thing here with the designs.

Maybe I’m going to use a visual design. Maybe I can’t use the color red in certain cultures because it may be insulting, but it still is that hue that’s there. The value attributed to that is different culturally, but it exists. And its relationship cognitively to other colors, meaning that red and green are always in contrast to each other, will always be there. Right?

Interviewer: Exactly. Well, David. Again, the article is “Foundations of Interaction Design,” obviously a conversation that is going to be carried on for quite some time outside of this podcast and definitely an important piece of work. So thank you very much for taking time to talk to me today. Is there anything that you’d like to announce to our listeners before we sign off?

David: Yeah, sure. [laughs] Well, as attributed to me, I think, in bios I’m the vice-president of the Interaction Design Association, plus my love affair with interaction design. We are having our first annual conference this February in Savannah, Georgia, being hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design industrial design group.

It is going to be great. We have four amazing keynotes from the various parts of the interaction design worlds. Alan Cooper from Cooper and About Face. And Inmates Who Run the Asylum is going to be our opening and primary keynote.

Interviewer: Great.

David: Then closing is going to be somebody probably new to a lot of people in the user experience community, which is Malcolm McCullough. He’s actually professor of architecture at University of Michigan, and he wrote what I would consider one of the best books on interaction design. It’s about architecture called “Digital Ground.” He will be giving a great talk to send us on our way into the new universe where space, form, and interaction are all sort of converging into one sort of design discipline.

In between we have Bill Buxton, principal design researcher from Microsoft – -pretty much a luminary — and recent author of “Sketching User Experiences,” will be talking about designing the ecosystem.

Our fourth keynote is Sigi Moeslinger from a design firm called Antenna Design. You probably know her work because you’ve used it, but you probably don’t know the firm as well. But Sigi, a former IDEO person, more on the industrial side of things, will be talking about the intersection, intervention, and interaction. It will be a great talk.

We have eight invited speakers from around the world. Then we have 20 lightning-round speakers doing 25-minute talks also, which comes directly from our community. It was really hard to cut those down [laughs] to only 20. So that’s going to be a high quality event that we’re looking at. Our host, Savannah, is going to be an amazing place to be in February. It’s looking like a great show.

Interviewer: Sounds fantastic. Well, living in Ottawa, Canada in February, Savannah, Georgia, sounds like a lovely place to be [laughs] in terms of the weather. So hopefully I can make it down there. But again, Dave, thanks very much for taking the time and best of luck in all of your endeavors.

David: Thank you.

Interviewer: Cheers.

Blasting the Myth of the Fold

Written by: Jeff Parks

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banda_headphones_sm.gif Jeff Parks had the opportunity to speak with Milissa Tarquini on her article, “Blasting the Myth of the Fold”:http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/blasting-the-myth-of. They talk about how this long held rule in web design is being de-bunked by web analytics and user testing, as well as how this will impact design and development processes based on screen resolution and browser compatibility.

We discuss…

*Defining the Fold*
Milissa outlines the different terms that people use for the fold. Anything that falls below that point in the screen where the user has to scroll is the fold

*Back in the day*
In the early 90’s at AOL scrolling was prohibited. Milissa talks about the need for balance in designing for the fold while being creative.

*A moving target*
She goes on to talk about the challenge of designing for the fold with different screen resolutions and browsers and how in her opinion no one should be designing for the fold.

*Content is still king*
According to Milissa it all comes down to the quality of the content. If content is engaging and the user is interested in the information, they will follow the path to what they are seeking, regardless of the medium.

*Interaction Design is everywhere*
As Derek Featherstone pointed out in his discussion with Christina about Accessibility, IXDA plays an important role when designing with how users will find content on a page.

*Not the last, but a new frontier*
Milissa addresses social media tools such as Blogs, Facebook, and MySpace and how these new web services reinforce the notion that users do scroll. As Eric Reiss commented, “…perhaps the new frontier is the bottom of the page.”

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth with Chris Fahey

Written by: Christina Wodtke

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banda_headphones_sm.gif Christina Wodtke traveled with microphone to the IA Summit in Las Vegas this year and sat down with some of the most interesting and accomplished information archictects and designers in all the land. Bill Wetherell recorded those five conversations, and now B&A is proud to bring them to you. Thanks to AOL for sponsoring these podcasts.

In this fantastic finale, consulting powerhouse Chris Fahey of “Behavior Design”:http://www.behaviordesign.com/ talks with Christina (herself a former consultant-turned-entrepreneur) about the conditions that led to the founding of the firm. He speaks with great nuance and honesty about how the practice developed, what it means to lead the consultancy, and how the partners’ work has changed because of its success.

For those who have ever considered striking out with a few colleagues or are just curious about the path, do yourself a huge favor and listen to this podcast before you jump off that cliff.

We discuss…

*Your future…*
Chris discusses the reality of the business world today when it comes to careers. How we start to think less about how we can do well for our clients and more about how we can get involved in larger projects.

*Virtual detox*
Chris talks about how he and his four business partners created his company Behavior Design and the challenges of moving into an office after working virtually for years.

*To hire or not to hire*
Chris discusses the hiring process at Behavior Design and their good fortune in hiring staff. His biggest challenge remains whether to out source work to trusted consultants or hire staff full time. Pros and Cons to both are talked about.

*In through the out door*
Although one of the partners left the organization to take on a dream job at the NY Times as the lead designer, the culture that was developed allowed for a smooth transition for the organization and its’ people.

*Shameless Self-Promotion*
Christina describes the importance of shameless self-promotion in order to continue to advance your company. Chris describes other important aspects including knowing when to say “No!” and when to be hungry for sales.

*Come together*
Christina and Chris talk about the challenges and advantages of working with several partners when building a company.

*Summing Up*
Part of the natural growth of the company is for people to walk away to take on new challenges. As Christina points out, we’re human beings, we grow, and ultimately we’re bigger than what we do.




*TRANSCRIPT*

Male Announcer: This podcast brought to you by AOL, now hiring designers in Silicon Valley, New York City, and the Washington DC area. Help us set the standard for what happens next on the web. Send your resume to uijobs@aim.com today.

[music]

Female Announcer: Boxes And Arrows is always looking for new thinking from the brightest minds in user-experienced design. At the IA Summit, we sat down with Chris Fahey from Behavior Design.

[music]

Christina Wodtke: This is Christina Wodtke of Boxes And Arrows and we ran into Chris Fahey in the hall of Behavior Design and we thought we’d catch up with him and see what interesting things he’s up to. So Chris, what are you up to over in New York these days?

Chris Fahey: Well, Behavior Design is growing quite a bit, we just passed our fifth year mark, so I think that’s sort of the marker as to whether or not a business can survive, so that’s been great for us.

Christina: Do you wake up every morning going “not dead yet!”?

Chris: [laughing] I wake up very late sometimes, because we’re still working very late. Even after five years, we’re still putting in massive hours and still working as if we’re in our first year.

Christina: So, you know, a lot of folks on Boxes And Arrows are becoming really excited about the articles we’re running about careers, because they’re asking themselves, “Where am I going to go with my life? I’m a designer, and I could become ‘best designer in the universe,’ but maybe I should try something else, maybe I should run my own agency, maybe I should become a product manager.” Do you have some fun thoughts on what brought you here? What made you decide to run your own shop?

Chris: Actually I was just in the hallway having an interesting conversation with some other people about the very same topic actually, so it’s fresh in my mind. Someone said there was a sort of series of ingredients that go into making you a ‘superpowerful’ consultant as an individual, and that is starting a business, publishing a book, and speaking at conferences, or teaching at a university of some kind. So, these ingredients add up to escalations in your ability to make money and get premier clients.

I guess, over the years, we start to think less about how we can do good on our projects for our bosses and clients and more about, “Well, what’s going to happen to me coming up in the future? Am I going to manage people? Am I going to work on bigger and bigger projects? Am I going to work on more and more refined, focused projects?” And, you know, I’m in my mid-thirties right now and a lot of people I think in this industry – while it’s very broadly ranged – I think there are a lot of people in that kind of boat, where there’s a new generation coming but there’s people who are entering the second generation, having started in the web industry in the 90’s. We’re kind of all facing that question, you know, where do we go now?

Christina: So, as a way of thinking of the question, can you tell me what was the moment that you said, “Hey, take this job and put it in a trash bag, and let’s go start our own thing.” How did that happen?

Chris: Yeah, that was an interesting decision for us. At Behavior we started with five partners, including myself, and we all were working together at Rare Medium, which is one of the razorfish-like global consultancies that managed to…

Christina: I actually remember…

Chris: …driving to…

[laughing]

Christina: …Rare Medium, believe it or not, and March 3rd, and…

[laughing]

Christina: …Vividenson [?], Gohan [?]

Chris: Yeah… March 1st, March 3rd is my birthday, actually.

Christina: Oh, must have been in the air.

Chris: Yeah, but we were the last people to work there as they gradually went from a thousand to five hundred to fifty to three… you know, thirty people. Finally it was down to about ten people and we realized we all liked working together, we had clients that like working with us that were going to be upset when their vendor disappeared. So we continued to work with the same clients right away, working from home.

It wasn’t hard for us to decide to continue working together and to serve clients as almost like a virtual agency. What was hard was deciding to incorporate and move into an office and start delegating tasks to underlings and start to, you know, build an organization. You know we had all managed people before, but kind of we had this brief period of time where we were virtual freelancers as a virtual company. It was very awkward.

Christina: What made the decision hard?

Chris: I think it was just sort of the change of focus. It was sort of transitioning from working out of your home, to spending money on an office. I think it was financial difficulty. We grew organically. We did not have any investment. I think we all lived off of credit cards for a few months in the early stages when we had unemployment. [laughter]

Gradually I think we made enough money in our first year to be able to afford the down payment or the deposit on a space. We started with folding tables, worked our way up to buying actual doors that we could then varnish and make into real tables. Now we’re actually getting furniture built for us from friends of ours. [laughter]

I think the hard part is financial but its also just sort of cultural, understanding yourself to be not the person the client hired, but you are the embodiment of the brand that the client hired. So clients don’t necessarily get Chris Fahey 100 percent on a project. They get me leading a team, and my selection of that team. My course correction of that team. My standardization of the deliverables that we do. That’s been hard. That’s been tough to do because I really like working on stuff too.

Christina: You know, I was talking to another entrepreneur who just made his first hire and he was talking about what a terrifying moment that is. Can you talk a little bit about what it meant to change from five guys who are all kind of responsible for their own troubles to being responsible for a team of young people who you have to grow and nurture and keep your brand going.

Chris: One of the hardest parts about that was when people started sending us resumes from outside of New York. Then we have to say to them, yeah, OK you’re going to come work for us, and relocate and move all your stuff, and move your wife or your family to New York. That was a big tough decision. I think hiring other people…

Christina: And then you might have to fire them two weeks later.

Chris: Exactly, that was the tough part, was sort of feeling comfortable enough in our pipeline and our growth and our stability that we could make that kind of commitment. We’ve never made a wrong decision in that regard. We’ve hired people that weren’t great, and that sort of works out eventually.

We’re generally very, very careful about who we hire. Most of our interviews don’t, you know, end up really short. [laughter] Because we want to hire the best and so we wait a long time to hire people. It takes a long time.

Christina: It’s got to be tempting when you’ve got this incredibly fat pipeline and the market is red hot. You’re like, gosh, if we had three more people, boy, that would be a lot of leverage.

Chris: We looked at a pipeline recently that said if we got every single client that we could get, and we felt like was a sort of a good nibble in this business development, we could hire up to a hundred people.

Christina: Wow!

Chris: [laughter] Over time, that shook up and we decided, we said no to some clients. Some clients said no to us. It turns out you don’t actually have to grow that much.

One of the hardest parts though, is deciding between freelance and staff. We have a lot of freelancers working for us as well as staff. I like staff better, because they grow our competency and enable us to have an organization which has institutional knowledge which you don’t get from freelancers quite as much. Except that our freelancers, we like to keep for a long time, in a long-term relationship. So it’s virtual staff.

Christina: Almost staff. And you can flip them sometimes, right?

Chris: Yeah, we’ve done that a couple of times and hope to do more of that.

Christina: So are all five partners still with you?

Chris: No, one of our partners, Khoi Vinh, took his dream job at the New York Times as the design director. I think it was the one thing that could possibly take him away from us, literally of all the jobs out there in the whole world. I think he spoke to some other companies that at some point were interested in him, and the New York Times was his dream job, and he’s loving it.

Christina: Well I would be. If the New York Times comes knocking sometimes… but it’s still got to be hard right? You’ve got this core five, and you’re seeing your company turn into something that isn’t about you five guys but is its own entity.

Chris: Yeah, and actually we thought that would be a difficult transition, and while we miss Khoi very much, we were able to do it because the company had been abstracted enough away from the personalities and to the communal culture. And that culture is embodied not just in our methodology and our deliverables, but also in the zeitgeist of the group of people.

There’s five partners, well, four partners now, and there’s 16 additional employees working around the office and that’s the culture. We’re bringing people at every level and that’s great too, so we’re actually transitioning from bringing in people that we’ve known for a long time with the same experience as us, to bring in people from other cities, from recent graduates. We’re sort of nurturing that, so the culture is constantly evolving and that’s really exciting.

Christina: So let’s say that I’m a practitioner in my late twenties and I feel pretty good about my craft and my game and I come up to you and say, “You know, I’ve been talking to a couple friends and maybe I want to start my own thing.” What would you warn me about? What would you ask me to think about?

Chris: You want to start your own thing? You mean as an entrepreneur?

Christina: As a consultant. I’m going to start a consulting gig, a consulting company. I’m going to go out and there’s so much work right now I feel kind of brave and I might be able to get together with a couple friends and start a consultancy.

I know what I’d say if they wanted to be an entrepreneur and it’d be a very different story.

[laughing]

Christina: “Are you mad?” is what I’d say.

Chris: I don’t want to say it’s luck, but I think there’s a lot of faith you have to have in your own personal connections and their ability to drum up business for you.

I think you have to be shameless in certain ways. You have to tell people what you’re doing more often than you might feel comfortable with, in what they call shameless self-promotion. You have to be gentle with that too, you can’t just spam everybody, but you have to keep in contact with people, have lunch with people, something I’m really bad at.

But don’t get too caught up in your work that you forget that business development is… I’ll be honest with you, business development has and always has been, ever since we started this company, probably a third of what I do. Defining our process in a way that is digestible by clients, that is sellable, actually going to pitches, working on proposals, having a business developer on staff and helping her craft our pitch, marketing ourselves, writing press releases, editing press releases.

That’s a lot of stuff you don’t have to do when you’re working inside of an organization for someone else. I’ve seen you doing it too, a little shameless self-promotion!

[laughing]

Christina: Of course!

Chris: It’s the hard part, I think. One of the hardest parts.

Christina: Oh, absolutely. Well, I was at South by Southwest where you were, and I was tired, it was eight, nine in the morning and I was a little bit hung-over and I was like, “Oh, God. Am I really going to stand up and try to ask a question that promotes my company, and yet doesn’t do it in a really horrifying fashion.

I felt really guilty and shy and tired and like drinking water and laying down. But I did it anyway because you don’t actually have a choice. You think you have a choice, and you don’t actually have a choice. You just always got to stand up there and have a way that your company’s name gets in front of more people.

Chris Fahey: Yes, and you have to make your presentations very sleek, and even to the point where they go beyond doing what they have to do. They have to put on a good show. Another piece that I thought was interesting is really defining what you’re aiming for and knowing what your target is. We don’t say no a whole lot to clients, lately maybe more so just because of the saturation of the market.

But, you have to understand when to say no, and when to just be as hungry as possible. I can’t say that I’m not practicing what we preach, because we’ve taken a lot of almost everything that we got, but we have to decide what to pitch for, we have to decide who to contact, who to send our marketing materials to.

I guess, it’s a good idea, especially if you have partners, to have constant communication. We have summits with our partners twice a year where we just go outside and we’ll hang out for a while. It’s surprising how you’ll realize that you haven’t actually spoken to your partners one-on-one in weeks or months sometimes. Especially when you start getting a staff and you start getting kind of into your projects. So when you communicate internally with your partners, sometimes you’re surprised as to what your company vision is and then the company vision gets embodied in how you pursue business.

Christina: Interesting. I got to say, I’m very impressed that you started the company with five partners. I started the company with five partners, but we had never worked together. So a huge amount of our time was just trying to figure out how we’d relate to each other. So there wasn’t as much time that we could spend with clients or, if we were spending time with clients, we weren’t working through those details. So it was just a tremendously hard thing to do.

Chris: I can’t imagine doing that. I think we had all worked together for five years before we started Behavior or almost five years, maybe four or five years, at Rare Medium. Two of my partners had worked together for four or five years before that at IO/360, a Web design firm in New York that was pretty influential, from day one of the Web.

Also, two of my partners that I’d gone to school with in college, so we all know each other very, very well and we’re able to–I think we’d shaken out a lot of our kinks early on. Every partnership has kinks, and we still have disagreements as to how we want to do things and personal styles and stuff like that, but I think we shall grow out of it early and that was a really big event.

Christina: OK. Well, you know, MIG and Adaptive Path are both two partner companies now.

Chris: Oh, really?

Christina: Yes, absolutely. So I think that’s something else I would say, when they were starting up, it’s like start with one person and get to know them really, really well or start with somebody you already know really, really well and build from that. I got to say, those early years, as you were talking about not having any money, being scared about rent, that’s a lot of stress for any relationship, friendship or otherwise.

Chris: I would say also that part of the natural growth of a company is for partnership to break up and then people go on. There’s no guarantee that everybody, especially if you have three, four partners, wants to spend the rest of their lives doing that. People move on, Adaptive Path has had a very organic changes and behaviors, we’ve had one. Then we don’t see anymore coming, but six years have passed and we’re still together. We all put our vision, like we want to do this for the rest of our lives, that’s just how we say it, but you’ll never know.

Christina: Yes. I think that’s part of our lives, is just to remember that. We’re human beings, we grow, we change, you do one job, you do another job, you become partners and then you go off and get to be the Design Director of New York Times. That’s not personal because we’re human beings, we grow more bigger than what we do.

Well, thanks, Chris. It’s been really, really wonderful.

Chris: Thanks so much. It’s great to be on the podcast for my first time.

Christina: Yay!

[music fading]