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Airbag International

Last Build Date: Mon, 08 May 2017 07:38:10 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2017

C'est la Vie Austin?

Mon, 08 May 2017 07:38:10 -0600

UnderConsideration, the force behind some of the best and longest running digital publications on design, organizers of amazing conferences, and fellow Austin residents have pulled stakes to move to Bloomington, Indiana. That's right, some incredibly creative, entrepreneurial, smart people just left one of the hottest cities in North America for a small town in Indiana, the type that was recently the subject of parody on television.

Armin Vit (co-founder of UnderConsideration) provided some rationale for this seemingly-crazy relocation.

One of the keys to doing what we do, which is an unconventional and highly unlikely way of earning an income—an income that is sufficient for a few extravagances like an HBO subscription (I know, living large!)—for two adults, two kids, and two dogs, is to have a low cost of living. The cost of living in Austin has increased, our property taxes are off the roof, and the traffic has become pretty insane. Even the Austin airport, which was super chill is now nearing JFK levels at peak hours.

As an Austin resident of six years I find myself nodding in agreement, especially at the last bit about the airport. Austin Bergstrom was one of the most chill airports in the country and now it's just as stressful as Oakland on a Monday morning—every day. I knew Austin was going to blow up, but I had no idea it would scale so big, so quickly. And it's still growing like crazy. The city and surrounding area is set to double in size in the next twenty years.

I don't know that Kitchen Storey and I could move to the middle-middle of the country, but we're certainly starting to consider that it's time to move back to the Pacific Time Zone. Airport lines be dammed.

Yellow is the new normal.

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 08:21:17 -0600

Roughly fifteen years to the day, I published the fourth blog post on Airbag. It was a quick reaction to an exciting game Super Bowl between the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots. The Rams mounted a last-minute comeback that was surely going to force the game into overtime, but with one minute and thirty seconds on the clock, Tom Brady drove the team within field goal range, and the Patriots added three points to their scorecard and one the game.

The year was 2002, and everyone was still trying to process 9/11 and the aftermath--we were still processing shock. Due to national security concerns, the NFL season was pushed by a week while the country considered what security precautions were necessary for events like football games were potential future attacks could occur. Thus, the Super Bowl XXXVI was the first NFL game to be played in February.

At the time we were collectively looking over our shoulder for another round, the next wave of attacks, all while trying to get back to routines. Before the Super Bowl, there was special news coverage on security--demonstrations of tactics and a showcase of equipment to be used to thwart any attacks. This was especially true for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. There seemed to be just as many news stories about security as there were stories about athletes and the games themselves. You had to wonder if this was going to be the new normal.

I can't recall the last time I read or watched a story about event security. And I don't remember the last time I heard what security color we're on. It's yellow or "Elevated Condition." Thankfully, I had to look it up.

Holiday Office Hours, the Airbag Way.

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 13:12:06 -0600

Dustin Senos, former Head of Design for Medium, and all around good guy came up with a pretty cool idea after a bit of introspection.

As the year comes to a close, I've been reflecting a lot on my career, the future, the past, and the present (2016, you've been a doozy.) When thinking about companies I've had the chance to work with, and the people I've met, I always come back to how thankful I am for those who took me under their wing. The people who took a risk hiring me when I was young and inexperienced, the people who supported me taking on more responsibility later in my career, and the people who took the time just to chat. My career exists because of those people.

Looking back at my early career I too had a handful of supportive mentors during school and at work (I could use one now come to think of it). More recently, I have enjoyed building up and continuing to mentor nearly one-hundred early career designers, developers, and offering managers at IBM Studios around the world.

Inspired by his career reflection, Dustin came up with Holiday Office Hours—a way to give back by arranging eight hours of time in thirty minute blocks over the holiday break to provide consultation for "people who may be in school, getting into the industry, new to design or engineering, or struggling with their first tech job."

Once I caught what Dustin was up to and why I joined up along with Noah and a growing list of industry professionals.

So, as long as you don't work for IBM (because you all already know how to find and schedule my time), sign up for a time slot and lets talk*. I'm happy to answer any questions you have and give what advice I might have after being in the industry for twenty-plus years.

* I removed the link because all slots have been taken. Given the response I'm going to consider doing this again soon, but after I get through the initial round of sixteen discussions. Follow this account and @brilliantcrank for future

The new MacBook Pro, the one without the "Touchbar," is pretty great.

Tue, 01 Nov 2016 13:06:22 -0600

As I have done many times in the past, I snatched up a new Apple product on the day of its release. This time it's the new MacBook Pro—the thirteen-inch model, the one without the second screen above the keyboard. While I think it's a nifty idea, I prefer my keyboard sans an area that is sure to become a different place to put logos and convenient links to "buy more," because the laptop screen already does a great job with those things.

Before this model, I have been using the MacBook that is so thin you can almost see through it. I really like the smaller form factor, but found that I really missed having a laptop that didn't choke on things like trying to load The Verge (Had I known that the publication was going to release a new version that is 25-50% faster to load prior to my purchase I might have thought otherwise, but now it's out of the box, all the files migrated, and my scent on the keyboard so there's no going back. And Mr. Marcotte, if you're reading this then I know you just made a grimacing face. You're welcome.)

Speaking of the keyboard, as I tweeted earlier, this is by far the best and fastest keyboard I have used to date—Apple or otherwise. It may have helped that I have a lot of hours clocked on the MacBook keyboard (the predecessor to this one), but I feel a lot more spring after each strike which, for me, means I can type faster with fewer mistakes. The keys feel snug and confident which makes a great writing experience.

The screen is nice, and I like that I don't have to touch it because finger prints on screens spread disease and just look super gross under any light source more powerful than a 60-watt bulb. I've never understood why people want to poke and swipe their computer screen so badly. Most people don't poke and swipe their HDTV and then try to Netflix and chill, because there would be no chill while trying to view a crystal clear image through little bits of DNA. That's like watching Netflix through a car windshield after a driving a few miles on a turnpike.


Anyway, back to this amazing device. It's small, powerful, and light just as the old white guys on stage promised. The one thing I still have not been able figure out is how to get a handful of jerks to respond to my direct messages on Twitter, but Apple Support seem pretty sure that's not the product's fault. Not satisfied with that answer, I tried to argue my point of view with Siri, but "she" is still dumb as a post. Maybe I should have waited for a different model, but somehow I don't think a "Touchbar" is going to fix that white hot mess.

A moment for us all to rally and answer the call to help someone who has helped us all.

Sun, 19 Jun 2016 16:31:41 -0600

In an effort to draw more attention to a story that some of you may have already heard, I have spent more time than I should have to try to put together words that will drive a response from you. I have failed to write a successful narrative that begins with a meaningful backstory, relatable to you, so that when I come to a conclusion, you, filled with empathy and emotion, feel absolutely compelled to act and share the story within your sphere of influence, but in an attempt to be clever I have wasted too much time.


So let me get to the point: Carolyn Wood—someone you have likely never heard of before—a quiet, but important member of our community is in dire need of help from all of us.

If you make things for the digital world (World Wide Web, mobile, etc.) then you owe some part of your career to Carolyn. She has worked mostly behind the scenes, helping the community at large express, present, and distribute ideas, strategies, and tactics on building a better world—a better career path for you and I. This may come across as hyperbole but I assure you it is not. Many of the quintessential books and articles that have steered our industry in the right direction.

If you use the Internet directly through a web browser or possibly indirectly through an iPhone app, you have Carolyn Wood to thank. She has worked to support the community that creates compelling arguments and supportive statements that foster curiosity, innovation, and conversation that lead to many of the delightful experiences that you and I enjoy.

There is a hard working, very smart, important, kind woman who has been there for all of us, albeit in a small, maybe obscure but impactful way and she now needs our help and support. I hope I have held your attention enough that you'll click through and help Carolyn Wood—please contribute what you are able either financially or through sharing this story to your network. We have to get this done; we can't fail those who's hard work helped pave the way for us to enjoy better careers and experiences.

A peak behind the gigantic enterprise design kimono.

Tue, 14 Jun 2016 11:55:04 -0600

Tomorrow I will join a panel to talk about "Designing the Enterprise." The event is hosted by Funsize and will take place at 6PM in downtown Austin at TechSpace.

Ryan Rumsey, Anette Priest, and I will share our experiences and point of view on how to "navigate the sometimes tricky waters of enterprise organizations. The discussion will center around Culture, Career Path and Professional Development as well as Hiring."

Funsize has put together an interesting group around an interesting topic and I'm looking forward to sharing what I know--what I feels--and hearing from the experiences of Ryan and Anette. Especially Ryan, because, well, Electronic Arts!

If all goes well the session will be recorded and turned into a future program for Hustle. If you aren't subscribed to the podcast yet, make it happen now.

Jeffrey Zeldman announces a new startup: 1999 2.0.

Mon, 13 Jun 2016 09:53:13 -0600

True fact, I am the only person on the planet who has been a Happy Cog client, contractor, and captain. As many of you know I merged my business with Happy Cog in 2009 and ran one of three studios for five years. When I went out on my own and started Airbag in 2005, I worked on several projects for Happy Cog as a freelance contractor. And long before any of that nonsense, in 2003, I convinced Jeffrey Zeldman (at the time, the sole proprietor and employee of Happy Cog) to work with me on a redesign project for my employer at the time, The Crystal Cathedral Ministries.

Our project kick-off took place in Jeffrey's flat that sat atop Murray Hill. We sat in Jeffrey's living room which featured a gorgeous, white, thick, shag-like carpet. The room was surrounded by a fantastic collection of books, music, and movies (everything classic or destined to be). I took a spot on an amazing orange leather couch and did my best not to lose my shit because I was sitting in Zeldman's living room, and we were working together on a project.

So you can imagine what it was like for me to get to work with Jeffrey for the next eleven years. Though, to be honest, we didn't work together nearly enough. If I have one regret from my time with Happy Cog, it is that I wish we could have worked on more projects together as I have always enjoyed my time with Zeldman, especially when we commiserate as designers and writers.

This morning Jeffrey announced his next endeavor, Studio.Zeldman—now open for business! I presume this means he has said goodbye to Happy Cog, the studio he founded seventeen years ago. I don't think I'm wrong to say that Zeldman is one of a select few pioneers of the digital/interactive/web/device/whatevs industry that is now available for consultation. Anyone who operates a content-based property or business should have Zeldman on retainer.

Meanwhile, I need to convince someone to give me a project and a budget to hire Studio Zeldman and start the cycle over again.

Vive la Happy Cog! Vive la Airbag! Vive la Studio.Zeldman!

Making sense of all the jibba jabba during user research.

Sun, 12 Jun 2016 18:44:52 -0600

Talking to users is paramount to the success of any design project. It's one of the activities I enjoy a lot because I can talk to users until they suffer from discomfort due to hunger and dehydration. The hard part of research, the part that sometimes puts me into a round room is the work that's required after having a nice chat--synthesizing the results into meaningful insights.

One of my former Design Campers, Jessica Zhang, now a UX researcher at IBM, recently shared her thoughts on the topic in an essay called "What Should I Do with My Interview Notes?"

You just interviewed a user. You feel excited about all the insights you obtained from him or her. You upload your notes into your online storage with a click. Now what?

In other words, how do you turn lines and lines of words (and snippets of your memory) into an accurate picture of what the user needs, without needing years of formal training? Moreover, how do you strike a balance between doing this collaboratively and getting it done quickly?

Please click that heart shaped icon at the end of the article. Unlike most of my designers, Jessica is one who actually listened when I said that writing is vital to early career success. More importantly, Jessica is one sharp tack so follow her on Medium and look for more productive thoughts as she navigates the world of user research in enterprise software and cognitive intelligence design.

An unexpected, worldwide turn.

Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:40:04 -0600

My one year anniversary at IBM Design is on the horizon. Ten months in I have successfully co-created a new program that provides systematic incubation capabilities available to every business unit at company. More importantly, I have, as Monteiro puts it, I "designed" sixty designers. Together we created nine new products and services for a wide array of business domains including global procurement services, cognitive Internet of Things, cognitive education, cloud product support, cloud marketing SAAS, and Blockchain—patents pending.

I have learned a lot about myself and where I want to go in my career in the last year. After closing Happy Cog Austin, I was repeatedly asked what I wanted to do, and I didn't have a good answer at the time. It goes without saying that I wasn't prepared to go from studio owner one day to unemployed the next.

Now, after a year of working on the Incubator Program, I know without a doubt that I love leading and mentoring designers—especially the ones right out of school. I have had the privilege of working with world-class talent. But after time, I realized that as much as I enjoyed leading with these teams, I grew weary of having to start over after six-week sprints. It takes a lot of effort, energy, and passion to take a team of strangers and turn them into a highly functional product design team within a few weeks. I enjoyed the challenge, but I got tired of saying goodbye.

So I have been on a search for a different type of experience. I thought for sure this meant leaving Austin to join a team on the West coast. Many conversations were had, and multiple opportunities were on the horizon, but something seemingly came out of nowhere that I was not expecting.

A few weeks ago I was invited to join a new team at IBM with a mandate to duplicate the success of the Austin studio around the world (That's right folks; Storey Style is going international). While I genuinely want to be reunited with the Pacific Time Zone, this is an opportunity I could not pass up. In this new role, I have the pleasure of working directly with design leaders I admire, and some of you know: Nigel Prentice, Sarah Nelson, and Doug Powell, who has a new role of his own.

In my first year at IBM, I proved that I've still got it when it comes to leading team's of designers to fantastic outcomes at a large scale. My attention will now be focused on building a global community for studio directors and design leaders in every continent except that cold one down South.

West Coast, I will see you soon, but I've got a new job to do.


Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:51:43 -0600

One evening, eleven years ago, I got an instant message from Cameron Moll. He asked if he could show me some work he recently completed. After agreeing to keep what I was about to see a secret, he sent over a hyperlink. I clicked the link and got my very first look at Authentic Jobs.

Cameron had a history of posting design jobs to his blog. Those posts became so popular that employers and recruiters started sending him emails asking to have their job listing posted. Seeing an opportunity, Cameron, got to work creating one of the first job boards devoted to our trade.

That evening, he also showed me a new addition to the sidebar of his blog featuring links to the last five job listings. Wanting to help a friend, I asked how I could put that list on my site, Airbag. As I recall, Cameron seemed slightly confused that someone would want to help promote his site, but a few weeks later I got the code and happily added it to my site.

That gesture turned into an opportunity to join the advisory board for Authentic Jobs. I served for ten years, happily peppering Cameron with ideas and thoughts on how to expand market share and revenue. Not every suggestion made it through the Storey Filter, but enough did to make me feel like a worthwhile contributor to the team.

Though I resigned from the advisory board a year ago, I am still a big supporter and fan of Cameron and his team. Last night the guys deployed a brand new Authentic Jobs that has been a long time coming. It's a big improvement, and the team should feel proud.

With that in mind, a heartfelt congratulations go to Cameron, Adam, and Myles. Nice work boys.


Sun, 06 Dec 2015 20:10:25 -0600

A weird question came across the Dear Design Student desk recently: "What are some things (if any) that designers are incapable of?" My immediate reaction was, "nothing." Why would anyone seek to define limitations to someone's capabilities? I grew up in a community that assumed anyone from fifty miles out was better, smarter, and more successful. That point-of-view sucks and it took me decades to understand that it's simply not true. That said, after giving the question more consideration within the context of my experiences as a designer, I uncovered more than a handful of things designers are incapable of doing. Things Designers Simply Can't Do, The List Designers are incapable of fixing your disaster in a fraction of the time and of the budget that it took to create the problem in the first place. If you want a miracle call the Pope. Designers are incapable of reading minds. When they present work to you, speak up and provide constructive, useful feedback. Share user and/or sales data that can help inform creative and user experience decisions. In short, be professional and stop playing stupid mind games with your designers. Designers are incapable of delivering their best work for free. Stop asking designers to waste their time and your's through the creation of misinformed, misguided comps as a way to help you make a hiring decision. Look for results and recommendations—good designers will have both in spades. Designers are incapable of doing their job when they are art directed by someone without any design sensibility. I'm talking to all of the CEOs, Presidents, VPs...anyone who feel they know better. Take your misguided OCD malfunction and direct it towards HR. Designers are incapable of learning if they are not nurtured. Invest in your designers through continuing education opportunities. Start with a modest book budget, time off for related community events, and throw in an annual conference. Designers are incapable of working well with developers and engineers if they can't collaborate. Throwing work back and forth over a fence never produces great results. So stop doing it. Designers and developers should work side-by-side (that doesn't have to mean cheek-to-cheek, there are plenty of ways to work collaboratively remotely). Designers are incapable of helping to take your company to the "next level" when they are directed to copy what the competition is doing. And, holy hell, stop asking designers to "just do what Apple does." Designers are incapable of creating "tomorrow's future." I heard that from a client once and it still makes me want to reach through the phone and smack them upside the head. So stupid. Stick to the fundamentals of good design paired with good data, user insights, and creative freedom. Designers are incapable of being happy with their work when they are micro-managed. Just, stop micro managing. It probably kills babies or something. Designers are incapable of coming to work excited, energized, and ready to deliver amazing work when they are merely asked to color in wireframes or make whatever engineering cooked up look "good." Designers are incapable of growing if they don't read, write, and share their thoughts with the community. Give your designer time to do these things and require outcomes on a regular basis. Designers are incapable of saving the world with design. We have a lot of problems and challenges on this planet that are not going to be fixed by an iOS app. Sure, design has a role to play in working towards a better future, but we're not going to do it alone. Sorry FastCompany. Each of these points was written based upon a lot of career experience earned the hard way over the last twenty-plus years. There are a lot of bad expectations out there regarding the design tra[...]


Fri, 04 Dec 2015 19:58:47 -0600

In the days after September 11th, I waited for news of terrorist attacks in small towns around the United States. As horrific as the attacks were in New York City and Washington D.C. (including the crashed plane destined for the White House), they took place in two big cities on the East Coast. At the time, I lived in Southern California, three times zones or a six-hour flight away. I felt a certain amount of security being so far away from Ground Zero (except that one time a F/A 18 flew CAP (cover and protect) above Disneyland for about an hour, that was pretty freaky).

I thought for sure a few small towns around the country were going to get hit. Nothing as spectacular killing by jet plane, but maybe a local diner or cafe shot to hell. Keep in mind, assault rifle massacres were not so common as they are now. At the time, I theorized that the best way to really shut down the United States was to hit a handful of really small towns in Middle America. Thankfully, it never happened.

This evening I read the attack in San Bernardino is being investigated federally as terrorism. And now, though I am thousands of miles away in Austin, I don't feel the same security via distance as I did fourteen years ago. Look, I'm not going to avoid public places, but with all the shit going down this year, nowhere is 100% safe. Nothing is off the table anymore: Elementary schools, university campuses, offices, government buildings, theaters, malls, coffee shops, and now Christmas parties.


Given the current state of our country--our government--I am concerned that our country's leadership will be more willing turn parts of Syria and Iraq into glass (that is to say, drop a nuclear weapon) than they are to conduct level-headed discourse and take appropriate action about access to weapons in this nation. I don't see the government willing nor able to come together to work this out.

So, Happy Holidays everyone! Drink and be merry, this will all pass soon or at least never happen in your town—maybe. And may little, Instgramable, birthday boy, baby Jesus bless the United States of AR15s.


Sun, 15 Nov 2015 22:19:34 -0600

"I work at IBM Design here in Austin." For many people outside the program, that statement doesn't do much to explain what I do or what IBM Design is and what it's trying to do. Even after I explain what I do exactly, I still get puzzled looks.

This is understandable. After six months, IBM at large is an enigma to me, but I'm learning. A lot of people I talk to think IBM makes the Thinkpad and that I'm required to wear a suit to work every day. Neither of these things is true and haven't been for some time.

This morning, the New York Times published a fantastic, well-rounded article on the IBM Design program in Austin. The piece provides a full overview, from humble beginnings to a group that is tasked with helping IBM do what it has done time-and-time again: Evolve. A major theme to the story, and where my own comes into play, is that for IBM to evolve with the times we have to hire designers at an incredible scale.

IBM has hired several hundred designers, about two-thirds of them freshly minted college graduates and a third experienced designers. By the end of this year, IBM plans to have 1,100 designers working throughout the company, on the way to a target total of 1,500. They are embedded in IBM product teams and work alongside customers in the field or at one of 24 design studios around the world.

The recruiting pitch made by Mr. Gilbert and his colleagues has been essentially twofold: First, you can make a difference in socially important fields because IBM's technology plays a crucial role in health care, energy, transportation, water and even agriculture. Second, you can be part of a groundbreaking effort to apply design thinking in business.

The wonderful part of my job is to work with the new hires in their first three months and lead them through a six-week-long project that has a direct impact on a product or line of business. To date, I have led six teams of six-to-seven designers and front-end developers—forty people total. And that's just my teams, there are several others.

We have created everything from re-envisioned service designs to prototypes for brand new mobile experiences. The work is real, not theoretical. The teams is tasked with a tremendous amount of research, prototyping, and user testing all the while learning how to interact with IBM executives and presenting their work for discussion and critique.

This is the type of work that would make the average new employee fold, give up, but not these young men and women. Oh, if I could share their portfolios with you! I'll just say that the recruiting department does an amazing job finding and hiring a lot of very intelligent, smart, and gifted designers to the program. And it is my pleasure to be a part of their first projects at the forefront of their career.

Tomorrow begins the last week of the current cohort. On Thursday, my three teams will present the culmination of their work to executives. It's nerve racking and exhilarating. Come Friday, "my" designers will move on to their assigned business unit, the 7th floor will go quiet, and I will begin preparing for the next wave of work in early 2016.