Notes from Digital Design & Web Innovation Summit

This event featured an impressive list of very high-profile brands (Dolby, Netflix, Starwood, Disney, AT&T, and so forth) with executive-level design leaders speaking on various topics pertaining to shaping digital experiences for web and beyond. I attended only the first day of this 2-day summit, but it was definitely worth it if only for the following set of takeaways and reminders of what it takes to deliver top results:

** Defining and extending a brand from logo to product to personal emotion involves a constantly circulating process of moving from “iconic brand” to “great product” to “compelling storytelling”, that taps into latent emotions, of the aspirational variety.

** Think of the “consumer touch points” as “jewels” (physical like the Macbook Pro shiny button or Virgin’s mood lighting) that serve as signature moments and designed elements that differentiate and speak to the brand, as well as resonate with the user’s expectations.

** Where is your “innovation investment balance”? In some cases it may be under-balanced (too much on maintenance of existing) and other cases may be over-done (excess of exploratory research projects lacking focus).

** Seducing the CFO is a good thing ;-) Don’t forget to include CFO as part of your influence strategies.

** Consistency is good for setting a baseline, but don’t rely upon it as a competitive differentiator. Instead, focus on what’s appropriate for the platform and context of use. Esp true of mobile devices (watch / phone / tablet / laptop). Keystone elements like the logo and certain stylistic constants should help anchor, but should still allow for interaction and behavioral variance suited to the device situation of use, to make that branded device experience come alive.

** Innovation can be hampered by over-pursuing consistency: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Quote from Oscar Wilde.

** It’s actually good to be inconsistent, sets up innovative opportunities! Just like breaking rules of grammar after mastering them, allow for poetic flourishes and novelty after baseline established.

** Think about proactive, dynamic curation of content, beyond static websites towards “state-aware” content systems: Using mobile device geo-location awareness and other forms of contextual sensing.

** Give users the content they need when they need it (or find most value from it).

** When evolving a social media UX strategy, go beyond “Like me”—sounds desperate! Instead think of the vanity and lifestyle aspects to build up “brag equity” ;-)

** What is “innovation”? Many many many definitions (sigh!) but most gravitate around “delivering change” that has “net relevant value impact” financially and culturally.

** Thus, value (and innovation) can be eroded and destroyed when there is confusion and lack of clarity due to mess of features, convoluted brand value prop, etc.

** Knowing your own intention is critical to setting on good path for viable innovation. However you may not know where you end up—that’s ok! As long as support user’s goals, contextual params, etc.

** Meaningful innovation arises from a magical mix of intention, intuition, and insights. Requires data and iteration. There is no formula or recipe. Requires risk, so don’t expect easy answers or crisp known decisions.

** The team has to care about the final 1% of a product, which is the hardest part. Involves craft and pride, moves the team morale forward.

** Don’t use user research to invalidate creative risk. For innovation to happen, need to support risk. Use research to invalidate assumptions and hypothesis about user goals/contexts/problems to “not be risky”.

** Inform your intuition by observing behaviors and being aware of situations. Keep exploring and learning and exposing yourself to new situations, radically different from your own daily routines. Empathy, curiosity, learning, it’s all a nice circle of continuity, must keep sustaining over a career.

** A “pivot” is really a mindset, not just a series of shifts to the business model. Stay focused on the aspirational customer-centric vision, anchored in values and principles that speak to your team and brand.

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