The latest edition of Digital Design Talks, titled Launch Pad, took place recently (Wed, Sept 12) at the VFS Main Theater, exploring the theme of Startups. The speakers were current Digital Design student Novita Prasetia, and Digital Design grad and co-founder of Unbounce, Carter Gilchrist. The evening was introduced and moderated by Digital Design Head of Department, Miles Nurse.
The first speaker was Novita (Vivi) Prasetia.
Vivi started her engaging presentation with an anecdote about two salesmen who went to a place in Africa to investigate a new market for shoes. The first salesman reported back to his boss, “Nobody wears Shoes here — Forget it!” …. But then the second salesman reported back to his boss: “Nobody wears shoes here — What a great opportunity!”
Now, as it happens, Vivi had a similar experience in Indonesia when she investigated the possibility of knitting and crafting as a local business. The initial response was, “It’s 40 degrees in Indonesia — who’s going to want to wear a knit sweater?” This attitude frustrated her because she saw the applications of such crafting as reaching beyond sweaters (e.g., toys, bags,) — but it also energized her because she saw an opportunity. So, she set about transforming her garage into a crafting store (Knit Knot Crafthouse), developed a Facebook/Web page to help promote it, and within a short period of time, she was operating close to her capacity.
While she’s studying in the Digital Design program, her mother is minding the store back home, but as you can see from the motion piece she did with fellow student Stephanie Bailis, called Typocrafty, which is based on quotes from a book by Jim Williams, Vivi is combining her crafting sensibilities with her design sensibilities — It’s a very nice instance of integrating your passion into your profession.
Have a look:
The second speaker of the evening was Carter Gilchrist, who spoke to us a bit about the process of starting up Unbounce, the now 3-year-old company he co-founded with five other colleagues.
Unbounce is described as “a self-serve hosted service that provides marketers doing paid search, banner ads, email or social media marketing, the easiest way to create, publish & test promotion specific landing pages without the need for IT or developers.”
Carter’s story was profound for the way it made plain the dedication and perseverance it takes in order to survive the operations process of a successful Startup. It also requires good solid understanding from all parties of one another’s roles. TheUnbounce team relied on one another to fill in gaps in each other’s experience, skills and business acumen. It was a sometimes painful learning process, but the moment when, after some very hard times weathered, the company got to the point where it was doing quite well, they found their success was not only self-satisfying, but totally exhilarating. Now, the company has 11 employees (on top of the original 6) and has 3,667 paying companies as clients.
One of the really interesting aspects of Carter’s experience is his relationship to the tension between a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and User Experience (UX). He describes an MVP as that which has only the features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. And UX he describes as the way a person feels about using a product, system or service. As a result of the difference between these two orientations, as Carter puts it : “Good User Experience in a Lean Startup (MVP) is hard!”
To underscore the importance of UX for an entrepreneur, he pointed out that entrepreneurs often assume that everybody is on the same page as them. As an example of this sort of disconnect, he related a study where people tried to communicate what song they were singing in their own heads by tapping it out with their hands (the song was Happy Birthday). The frustrated tappers couldn’t understand why only 15% of the audience could work out what song it was, because it was so present in their own minds.
But UX Professionals are trained to understand a user’s initial state of mind — what you might call “beginner’s mind.” They work with the challenge of understanding that, once we know something, it is difficult to imagine what it was like to not know it. The UX Professional does the work of that imagining. And by so doing so, comes up with better communication solutions, which for marketers, for instance, can translate into more conversions.
Carter believes the tension between MVP and UX is a necessary and productive one: each perspective adds (sometimes by subtracting) to the over success of the design. The UX designer also needs the entrepreneur’s commitment to an MVP — strip it down, make it simpler, make it leaner, make it better.
Carter made reference to two books he considered useful for understanding the lean-mean Startup and the importance of UX: 1) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries; and 2) Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. Check them out if you would like to learn more about the subject, or are considering to create a Startup yourself.