Friday, September 17, 2010

Sketching User Interfaces - Meeting Review

by Emily Young

The Lone Star Community (LSC) of the Society of Technical Communicators met Thursday, September 16, 2010, at the REI sporting goods store off LBJ Freeway in Dallas.

The meeting kicked off with old friends greeting each other, some of them meeting again for the first time in many years. Jason's Deli catered the informal dinner and LSC members chatted and mingled before the program began. The most interesting part of the dinner was the disappearing/reappearing chicken salad sandwiches. I looked for a chicken salad sandwich before I sat down, but could not find any, and concluded that they had all been liberated from the table. However, when the person accompanying me to the meeting sat down next to me, I was shocked to see that—even though she was behind me in line—she had a chicken salad sandwich on her plate! I promptly returned to the sandwich trays, but still could not find a chicken salad sandwich. It was so disappointing. I mean, the chicken salad had pineapple in it for gosh sake.

President Arroxane Eber called the meeting to order and began with reminders for LSC members that our greatest tool as a community is our website:

The website has a job board, a "help desk" forum for questions, and links to past newsletters and upcoming competitions. LSC is also on Facebook. This is a great opportunity to help build a great online resource for ourselves and to create a guidebook for future technical communication professionals. Join us online today!

The highlight of the meeting was Brian Sullivan’s presentation on “Sketching User Interfaces with the Design Studio Method.” The process is based on the theory that sketching ideas leads to innovation. This remarkable technique uses a trained facilitator to take a group of developers through an intense design session and forces the group to collaborate on a single, well-thought-out product. It is a method for involving all development team members so that the strong personalities are balanced out by the more timid personalities. It is also a way to bring the good ideas to the surface and leave behind the rest, saving a great deal of time. The team is lead through several sessions of pencil-and-paper sketching with group discussion sessions in between. The goal at the end of the session is that a fully fleshed-out idea to present for creation.

Contact Brian Sullivan at if this sounds like something your company could use or if you would like more information. Brian suggests reading Edward de Bono's book, “Six Thinking Hats” if you want to learn more about facilitating groups of people.

The LSC will meet online for the first time on October 21, 2010, with a webinar on “Designing Surveys for User Experience” presented by our own Elisa Miller.