SXSWi’s growth is no more evident than by the conference’s Trade Show. I was shocked at the quadrupling in size and overall impact of this year’s nerd flea market over previous years. Carpeted aisle after aisle of web app peddlers and technical service providers awaited t-shirt seeking attendees. I’m pretty sure I got lost. Twice.

In search for a place to charge my phone (and maybe a beer), for about 45 seconds I was lured into one uncomfortably interesting booth display. It was my own fault. I made eye contact.  Along with two other innocent passersby, I shuffled over to hear about the big idea – a live video chat service called Yowie, basically Skype.

I should stop quickly and mention that this web-based software may be a fantastic live video chat solution. It likely has features and purpose I’m completely ignoring. That’s not the point.

It goes without saying that the best way to demonstrate your live video chat is to do a live video demo. Well, Yowie came prepared.

In one massive exhibit hall, exposed to hundreds of exhibitors and amongst thousands of festival-goers, there we are. Three random attendees. Two Yowie salespeople. One Yowie technician. One laptop set up with video camera. And one Corey Feldman on the other end. Waiting.

You know that expression that somebody has as they sit in the dunking tank? Eagerly awaiting the assault, Corey looked out through the large screen display as three of us passed on the “opportunity.” It was an awkward and sad moment as a former fan of Mouth.

Later, when lost in the Trade Show, I was relieved to catch that Yowie found a couple of Feldman fans at SX. Ultimately, while I’m sure that there were many folks compelled to Yowie (I know it’s not a verb) with Corey, I’m curious if the buzz expectations were ultimately met.


If your experience (web, application, product, etc) already exists and in need of repair, take the time to do a complete inventory of it. What’s good and what’s bad about it. What’s broken. What functions great. Be ruthless about it and don’t leave anything unturned. Start your process with the audit. At the end of the day, all the pieces you come to know should work to accomplish the one vision you have for the experience.

In December of 1968, Douglas Englebart drives the “Mother of all Demos” with his wooden mouse.
View old school demo >>

The following is a brief lead-in to the work of Khoi Vinh, Design Director at NY Times.

HISTORY // Creating order is a intuitive. Go back in history and the fundamentals of creating things rely on lines/grids. The most simple objects and tools reflect this. Take the brick. A grid in it’s own right. You start piling up bricks and you create a grid system. The grid system becomes a wall, that creates order and unique societies.LOOK AT PRINT // The basic principles of print still apply. Using the international paper standard, leverage the grids to organize your story. For the web, you can add order, continuity and most importantly, harmony with your information. Allow your audience to predict where to find information. And make it easy to add new content consistent with what you already have in place.PROCESS BASICS // Make sure you include these steps in your process:
Research: Understand the technical, content and business constraints It’s reasonable to expect to know what you’re working with before you get started.
Prepatory Design: Use pencil sketches to try different approaches to quickly get to some ideas that may work. Use whatever form you like for this. Whether it’s pencil or Illustrator. Keep sketching to stay loose throughout. Try to do basic math calculations where you can with the space. Start with hacking away at 960×568 page. At a high level, consider the rule of thirds with 3 regions to your page. You’ve got 8 columns, which break down into 16 units.

NEXT // While anticlimactic, that’s as far as this post is going to go. But please check out these resources as you’ll find them much more compelling (and credible) in describing how to use lines and boxes.