HIVE 2011

On Friday I went to the HIVE 2011 conference on Microsoft’s campus. This is the first of many, I hope, HIVE events. Their focus is on connecting designers and developers and making each other seem more approachable. Push Design, my employer, was involved in the branding of the event and I was able to markup the website as well as design and develop the Tumblr page. My favorite contribution was this animated bumper:

The conference itself went off really well and the speakers were really great. One thing that I liked was that they chose speakers who contradicted each other and stood by their opinions. It made for an interesting time. I’ve included my notes below as well as commentary where I thought appropriate.

Hillel Cooperman

  • Creating a product is an opinion, not a provable fact
  • The opinion is tested in the marketplace, not beforehand. Once in the marketplace it’s time to iterate, because then the opinion can be tested.
  • The best designers are generalists, not specialists. He meant in design related tasks, he went on to say that it is a waste of resources to expect designers to code. I disagree and so do most of the other speakers.
  • Michelangelo was an engineer.
  • If you’re not going to give designers the authority to guide the process towards their opinion, then don’t bother. He used Steve Jobs as an example. Steve Jobs was able to push design so hard at Apple because he was the boss, a point I made here.

Jay Greene: Design is How it Works

  • “Design is how it works” -Steve Jobs. This quote was used be many of the presenters.
  • Constraints can help, but there’s no single formula for design success.
  • Successful design minded companies encourage design in a way that works for them. They don’t have a prove-it culture.
  • He gave examples of companies and how they approached design, including Porsche, Lego and Cliff Bar.

August de Los Reyes

August’s presentation style was awesome. It’s pretty good advice to not expect people to read your slides but this was an exception.

  • The myth of design education: teachers are not necessary for learning
  • Absolute freedom within carefully chosen constraints
  • In the future design will be done by algorithm. Designers should learn to code.

Andrew Otwell

5 different fighting styles for getting hired:

  1. Centipede: people who have many different ideas
  2. Snake: people who can quickly zero in on problems and goals
  3. Scorpion: a secret weapon besides base design skills
  4. Lizard: see opportunities and problems from many different viewpoints
  5. Toad: they can take criticism, they have thick skin

Tyesha Snow

  • In-house vs Contract

Robby Ingebretsen

Robby wins for best use of typography in a presentation.

  1. Cultivate Passion
  2. Have Educated Respect
  3. Focus on Chemistry, not Characters

Scott Berkun

This was one of my favorite presentations. What a powerful and forceful argument for making critiques worth while.

Bad Critiques:

  1. Blood Baths: factions that constantly attack
  2. Water Torture Experience: one person is constantly victimized
  3. Dog & Pony Show: the critique is just for show


  1. If it’s your work, own the critique. Be proactive about seeking feedback and define the terms of the feedback.
  2. Have a designated facilitator. Someone who keeps things going and on target.
  3. Have critique goals. A list of expectations/goals that the work can be compared against. Should closely align with the project goals


  1. Separate Like/Hate from Good/Bad.
  2. Avoid too many cooks. 5-6 people is the max that can be in a critique and be productive. Control the number of people in the room.

Jon Bell: Make it Relevant

This was pretty similar to a presentation that I saw back at the IxDA Bauhaus. An oldie but a goodie.

  • “Art is a thing done well”
  • It’s not about great design, it’s about relevance
  • Design is communicaton, communication is political
  • Make it relevant

Matt Brown: Facebook

Problem: Content & Design are on unequal footing

  • Stop Filling buckets
  1. Start with copy. Engage a copywriter early
  2. Edit that Copy
  3. Re-edit that Copy.
  4. Mobile before www (it helps you pare down content, Mobile is the squint test)
  5. Design a screenful
  6. Test with Users

Christen Coomer: Valve

Valve sounds like a killer place to work.

  • Valve has a high revenue per employee
  • They don’t have job titles, that makes collaboration easier
  • They control their own destiny, because they serve customers, not clients
  • Everyone has ideas and opinions and deserve to contribute
  • Everyone they hire is responsible for the customer experience, they have to trut eqch other and not get defensive about job titles
  • Ship it and get data from users, test in the real world. It’s possible to iterate quickly enough to get past mistakes.

Jeff Weir: Prototyping is Power

  • Play before Commitment (product)
  • Prototyping builds consensus amongw stakeholders because they know how it actually works.
  • Designers need to learn code. Designers don’t code, but powerful designers do.

Jake Knalp & Braden Kowitz: Google & Google Ventures

4 Things CEOs should do:

  1. Build a team. Make sure there’s a lead who you can trust to make decisions.
  2. Hire the right skillset.
  • hire with overlapping skills. This establishes common vocab, doesn’t make redundency.
  1. Watch your users. Research, user testing. Run studies every month.
  2. Prototype, then decide.

Design = Humility

Kelly Smith: Curious Office

This was an great presentation about the realities of producing a mobile app. Lots of great tips.


  1. Embrace Constraints
  2. Change how you think
  3. Get more technical
  4. Plan for faults
  5. Prioritize
  • Lesson 1: Read the HIG
  • Mistake 1: Failure to edit down feature essentials for the impatient, on-the-go user.
  • Lesson 1: get as close to the actual product as possible Before you do anything.
  • Lesson 3: Learn the terms for gestures.
  • Mistake 2: Failure to understand the difference between iOS, Windows Phone, and Android.
  • Lesson 4: Appreciate what the vendors have given you.
  • Lesson 5: Over-design at your own risk.
  • Mistake: Lack of attention to detail
  • Lesson: Lack of attention to transitions and other animations
  • Mistake: Failure to create a good graphic asset workflow for both resolutions (Retina, non-retina)
Design Development Event Notes