I was very fortunate to end up in the mix for SXSW Interactive this year, and very excited to get to share a presentation that I’m very passionate about. I always appreciate the opportunities to get to present things that I am passionate about to a group of people, and I am fully aware of how fortunate that I am to get to do this. This presentation means the world to me, and it’s one of those that I really hope I get to share again. At SXSW Interactive this year, I think it was a great fit and I’m still riding the high from it a week later!
I took my oldest daughter to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry over a holiday break, and the Smithsonian’s exhibit of Henson and the Muppets was one of the attractions. I bought us tickets and through our normal “getting lost in the museum” thing that we do (it is filled with SCIENCE, after all!) we stumbled into the exhibit. And that’s where it happened: my daughter did her thing–she found the activities and played, found ways to express herself in drawing, and I, well, I got lost–completely–in this wonderful set of worlds that this incredible man had created.
It was great–a lot of fun–to experience so many of the Henson creations. I was mixed with joy and sadness; I was clearly late to the game. I’ve always known about the Muppets, I watched the movies, and I was nerdy and geeky so I saw Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and, well, I knew my way around the topic, but I clearly hadn’t been paying near enough attention while Henson had been alive. The more I walked the exhibit, the more I got caught taking pictures of things that reminded me of how a lot of us in the UX community work–lots of sketching, storyboards, patterns, iterations… I was drawn in, sucked in, as entirely as a person can be. I found myself scouring Amazon for everything I could learn about Henson, searching through old book stores, Goodwill stores, old libraries–you name it–to find as much as I could to learn more about this amazing man.
Somewhere along the way, I ended up with a couple of Muppets of my own (Slide 39–and if you’re ever at FAO Schwarz in NYC near that one Apple store, well, go to the Whatnot Workshop and build one of your own, too!) and found myself drawing from the similarities of Henson’s world to my own, and hopefully to the broader world of UX. I took something that was a brief 13 minute topic at WebVisions to a full session last year at Big Design (where I was *very* lucky to have received a lot of critical feedback from Jared Spool that convinced me to not sunset the talk, but to instead revise and improve it–thanks Jared!) to a very fun presentation at this year’s SXSW.
If you happened to have been one of the people who stopped by the talk instead of hanging out with Al Gore or the “Future of Porn” presentation–thank you! I hope you had as much fun as I had giving the talk–and I really did have a lot of fun; the material is so fun to share, so fun to talk about!
If you didn’t, you can check out the slides and the audio above! I hope you enjoy this as much as I do, and I am hopeful to get to present this again!
I mentioned that I started doing this talk awhile ago, and that it has been in a rather constant state of evolution. If it hadn’t been for Jared Spool providing me with some extremely valuable critique, I would have likely sent this talk into the sunset. That all happened at a time when everything was spinning into a pretty big toilet bowl (and a bigger toilet bowl than I could have imagined at that point), and some guidance and input was sorely needed, just in general. I received critique on my talk, but a lot of it worked into other areas of my world then.
On top of that, I wisely attended the “Tweak Your Talk” workshop at SXSW; not only do I help out with those things, but I also throw myself under the bus and look for assistance with my own material, as well. I received incredibly valuable feedback from Dan Willis, Adam Polansky, Laura Creekmore, David Panarelli, and the entirety of the attendees in that session. My introduction was weak, and a comparison of the Fraggles to project teams wasn’t as well-connected as it needed to be. This group kicked me squarely in the ribs–which I asked them to do–and that got me steered in the right direction.
And it would be foolish of me to not mention Brad Nunnally. He not only served as roommate who had to listen to me talking about this talk non-stop, but he also guarded a muppet with his life, retrieved books that I had to give away and forgot about, and was a pretty superior friend throughout it all. He’s seen this talk go through its evolution more than anyone, and he still managed to show up for the session when he had every right to bow out and check out Al Gore, who likely had some fresh content.
I look forward to seeing how this continues to evolve.