Monday May 04, 2009

Awevangelizing

When you've got something you really want to say, but really want to say well, what is your best method for getting that message across, so that it plants a wow seed in the minds of your audience? You know, the corporate presentation equivalent of freshly baked bread and an ergonomically sourced spiral staircase centerpiece when you have house viewings? Recently, the web experience team here at Sun have had a couple of great opportunities to spread our message about the web experience lifecycle, our role in how we enable partners and stakeholders to maximize their potential on the web and, well, more importantly, how great we are. These opportunities were manifest as review meetings with executive management (there's a few of those going on), and, maybe more exciting, the chance to spread the web experience message to a larger group of design specialists.

Once you've established that in the 2 days you have to create this meisterwerk you won't be a) compiling a National Geographic style video documentary including over-the-shoulder footage of senior designers bevelling a fish and marble-backed talking heads reminiscing wistfully about Network Computing launches, or b) be building 'presoworld' in the Sun Microsystems Second Life hub where your SVP will have to negotiate the training course just to learn how to fly to your portal where they'll have to find a place next some anatomically altered engineer masquerading as Wolverine in an OpenSolaris free virtual tshirt who clacks their fingers over an imaginary keyboard throughout the entire session, or c) in person, then what you're most likely left with is filling that vital 25-minute timeslot with a presentation. I mean, not even a web-based presentation, but one that you put together with slides, templates, stickmen, graphs and everything.

Of course, traditional slideware is anathema to most self-respecting web experience design professionals, but, since I have a rather low self-respect threshold, and 1.5 days left, I though it might actually be a nice way to get our message across. More importantly, the presentation was required to be 'taken away', meaning it would, by design, need to be easily located in a laptop file system and spewed onto a white screen or even just viewed on-screen on the back seat of a taxi to Redwood City. With these core requirements in mind, it was painfully clear that however I created it, it would end up as a PDF, and so it was just a question of what applications and tools in the slideware creation cycle I picked from to build the thing out, knowing that, since I'm as manically possessive as any designer, I need to have TOTAL CONTROL OVER ALL THE BITS. In the end, it doesn't really matter what I used (InDesign) or what other tools helped me out (Photoshop, Illustrator, FastStone Capture), because having settled on the nuts and bolts, it was all about the bread and butter. Thankfully, it wasn't a solo effort to actually create the content - the web experience design team is crammed with wonderfully skilled and articulate individuals who can deliver that stuff - but there was a certain slackening of the reigns in terms of consolidation of content, arrangement and style, which is obviously the bit which appealed most. And the style I chose was awevangelization.

Awevangelization - Which I would patent, if I had any clue as to how that happens - is "the method of communicating one's value in such as way as to avoid any ambiguity in that message through the tactical deployment of stuff which looks so awesome that it must be true". As designers, we're constantly, subconsciously striving to deliver projects that awevangelize, in that the frameworks that support the message render it unequivocal. There is, of course, a sliding awevangelical scale, depending on the strategic approach for the campaign or message. Viral is not awevangelism in its purest form, but it applies to execution, in so much that if you are required to understand a fake to be real, then it must be an awesome fake. Similarly, you might choose to derive design impact from actually sliding off the scale altogether so that you, apparently, have no impact at all. But other designers know that really, you've just done a modulo on the awezangelization scale and actually, you're super-anti-awesome, which is, of course, awesome.

In the end, for the presentation. I just made the background black and did that mirror reflection thing with screenshots, but everybody is so busy these days that they don't even have time to do that, so it seemed to rate fairly high on the awevangelical audience feedback metrics. Which made me happy for a while. Until I remembered I'd forgotten to submit a project brief for sidebar ordering to encapsulate requirements for content attachments to document types for sun.com in our publishing system. That wasn't quite so, well, awesome.

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The Sun Web Experience Design team is a group of user experience professionals committed to making the online experience with Sun the best it can be.

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