July 17, 2007

Improv Presentation Application

Filed under: Portfolio — admin @ 5:18 pm

Presentation Mode Library Slideshow Splashscreen

This is an application I carried out from concept, design to development. I did have some help in the early stages from my good friend Dave Bowman. The software is intended to be used by Sales Technicians conducting proof of concepts at prospective customer sites. A proof of concept in enterprise software involves actually installing the software and taking screenshots which will be used in a future presentation.

Presentation! Why not use Powerpoint? The main finding that Sales Technicians discovered was that clients were more receptive (and likely to buy) when the presentation did not use Powerpoint. Possibly, not using Powerpoint is perceived as a high level of effort, and, thus signals a high quality of product. In addition, Powerpoint has a lot of features, most of which were not appropriate for this scenario. So, this is designed to be as simple as possible, removing any unnecessary features.

The application was created in Flash and uses Zinc to enable operating system level commands (e.g. “create a folder”, “rename directory”). Just like Powerpoint, a Sales Technician can use the same application to edit and present. As you can see, the edit mode is clearly denoted by the construction motif. The navigation on the left side allows for pages, directories, sub-directories, and so on… We conducted contextual research (i.e.actually watch people give presentations) and noticed that presenters and the audience wanted to go back to previous material or skip ahead. In other words, the preferred a non-linear format. That is not conducive to linear presentations, and hence the name Improv.

The application includes a library where all assets are managed. While typically screenshots are imported, any file type is allowed (e.g. Documents, Videos, Scripts, and, yes, Powerpoint files). A slideshow can be assembled from the image assets. Think of this as creating a playlist in iTunes. Then a slideshow (or other document) can be linked to a navigation item.

This is really the beginning of a vision that I have where off-line presentations, online ads, and online user-driven presentations are connected together, and lots of metrics are captured. I call it “Integrated Mechanisms for Presentations using Real-time Online Vehicles”. Okay, I admit it, that took me a bit to coerce that name into Improv. But it’s not terribly far off.

July 16, 2007

Recruiting Advertisements

Filed under: Portfolio,Signaling — admin @ 5:59 pm

screen_mensa_know-it.jpg screen_mensa_airplane.jpg

“Know-it-all” Recruiting Ad PDF
“Airplane” Recruiting Ad PDF

These are some recruiting advertisements that I designed. They were printed in Mensa magazine as well as in the Detroit News classified section. They were quite successful and have been reprinted many times.

This is probably one of my first attempts to think analytically using economics when designing. They are based on two concepts: signaling and screening. The objective was to induce innovative and creative IT-focused individuals to apply for employment.

You might think that simply saying “Are you innovative? Apply with us.” would suffice as an advertisement. Unfortunately, the recipient cannot tell for certain our commitment to innovation (i.e. an asymmetric information problem). Any company can say they are looking for innovative people (and most probably do). It used to be that simply creating an advertisement was a strong signal. It was costly and is a non-redeployable asset, and a rational organization would not incur such costs if they were not serious. Information technology is changing that landscape, though, and what used to be strong signals are now weak. In other words, anyone can make an advertisement. Signaling now exists in the content of the ad.

To accomplish this we delved into the concerns of innovative individuals. Specifically, they could be at odds with the social system they belong to. They think outside the box and what appears to be unproductive behavior is actually genius at work. They experienced that at school, and realistically could experience that in work as well. By going through this effort to understand what makes innovative individuals, we can credible say that we understand and working for us will be conducive to you.

The second issue is screening. An ad that lacks credibility might create an adverse selection in that truly innovative individuals are not convinced and simply apply to opportunities that appear better. This ad is fair but not exceptional on this issue. I was inspired by one of Google’s ads. It featured a vending machine of items with a puzzle. Simply solve the puzzle and your application is bumped up to the front of the queue. Clever. Those who don’t do well on puzzles will more than likely not apply (which is what Google wants). It’s just quite amazing to think that an ad can be designed such that only the individuals you to want apply. In addition, this lessens the burden of sorting by the Recruiting department.

July 14, 2007

VISP Visualization 0.4

Filed under: Portfolio,Projects,VISP — admin @ 6:30 pm

VISP Visualization 0.4

I had to make some changes. First, the agent-based model for packing fact circles was computationally intensive. In other words, as networks with larger sets of nodes were loaded the visualization become slow or just simply stalled. Lada pointed me to this circle packing algorithm. Hat tip to Weixin Wang, Hui Wang, Guozhong Dai, and Hongan Wang for a very useful solution. Here are some other additions:

  • added url text pop-up
  • automatically scales network to fit screen
  • user can change the default size of the base node
  • changed the variation of node sizes to be based on area

You can see it here

VISP Visualization 0.4

copy and paste “data/test.xml” into the get dataset text field.

Colormixer Web Application

Filed under: Portfolio — admin @ 5:26 pm

Colormixer Web Application

It’s common for designers to create color standards in Marketing. You may write those standards in documents and distribute them to everyone you think needs to know. You may create a webpage and say check back often for changes. As you might expect, everyone ends up having different documents in different places (i.e. electronic vs. a print-out tacked to a cubicle wall). It’s awkward when you consider that web colors are not easy to work with (i.e. they look random — #FF0066). It seems completely unmanageable if you want to say that tints and shades are okay.

In graduate school, I recall a brief mention about how software is progressively being viewed as artifacts. If you wanted to reconstruct how did, say, accounting make decisions, insight could be derived from examining the software they used. Simply put, applications do not necessarily have to be tools to use, but they can also be codified knowledge.

It occurred to me that all of the color standards knowledge should simply be codified into a web application. Users can simply “copy and paste” the color they need, users are always up-to-date on recent changes (e.g. given that they adopt the application), and there is no need to keep track of who needs to know when changes occur.

Try out the application for yourself.

Also, I discovered that different applications (e.g. Photoshop and Fireworks) have different algorithms for determining tints, shades, and PMS to Web conversion. That made the need for a tool like this more salient.

Alternate Text Bookmarklet

Filed under: Portfolio — admin @ 2:57 pm

Alternative Text Bookmarklet

Bookmarklets are a fascinating little innovation. Essentially, they are snippets of javascript that a user can store as a bookmark. Rather than go to a website when selected, the bookmarklet will a simple routine task. For instance, Google Reader offers a “Subscribe to Google Reader” bookmarklet. When I stumble upon a website I like and it has an RSS feed, I can simple click the bookmark, and it’s added to my reader. Simply elegant.

Here’s the revelation. This can be used a productivity tool for groups working together. For instance, one issue that arises when creating web pages or emailers is that there is a lot of invisible content inside. This is problematic for writers that are proofing content. They can’t see it, it’s an arduous task for them to remember that there is hidden content, and it’s difficult to mark-up and say make these changes.

I put together this little bookmarklet to help. While it is “proudly found elsewhere”, I did make some modifications to make it work specifically for the aforementioned context.

Executive Briefing Invite

Filed under: Portfolio,Signaling — admin @ 1:17 pm

Executive Briefing Invite

This is an invite that I designed. It was sent out by sales people to executives of companies that we believed would be interested in purchasing our products. Executives that responded would be invited to spend a day at our Detroit headquarters discussing challenges and concerns that we potentially could solve. While the invite is aesthetically pleasing and has a unique package, it was designed with some economic principles in mind.

First, the Executive Briefing Program is quite costly, and we only allotted and printed 1000 invites. It was important that our sales force did not send invites to just any contact. If you’ll notice there is stationary that is placed in a pocket on the inside of the invite. This is for a sales person to write (actually by hand) a personal invitation. Without this note the invite is awkward (i.e. there’s nothing in the pocket). In addition, the size of the pocket is too small to print on 8.5×11 paper, fold it, and place it inside. This may seem superfluous, but the added cost to sales people induces them to select prospective customers that are worth the cost of the program.

Secondly, the hand-written note has a dual purpose in that it serves as a signal. Making a nice invite is relatively cheap and easy to mass-produce and send to any company. A hand-written note signals that we could not simply mass-produce the invite and send it to just anyone. To recoup the costs of the program and invite, we have to actually be able to bring value to selected customers. The recipient can see this correlation via the signaling.

Both of these principle worked together to create a very effective program.

Graduate Research Papers

Filed under: Research — admin @ 1:15 pm

Here are several research papers I’ve written while in graduate school. Hopefully, you can see that they are becoming progressively more scientific and interesting.

Web application for customized clothing

Filed under: Portfolio — admin @ 1:13 pm

Web application for customized clothing

This is a web application I designed for a company that does customized printing on clothing. This is by far one of the more challenging and exciting projects I ever worked. Here are some of the details.

  • There were a variety of types of apparel (i.e. hats, pants, shirts, hoodies, etc…)
  • Each of them had a variety of colors and sizes
  • There were a variety logos, fonts, and printing regions
  • Every combination of apparel, colors, sizes, logos, and printing regions was feasible and could change at any given moment (i.e. “we ran out of medium shirts” or “we now have yellow ink”)

What was challenging was the infinite range of combinations that could have occurred. To solve this, I developed a (beautiful) XML schema that was adaptable to all of these attributes and could be generated from a database. All of this means that just about everything in the interface was editable outside of the Flash application.

In addition, the client partners with other companies (usually radio stations). These other companies can create a customized version of this application (via XML documents) and only display logos and apparel they wish to sell.

Lastly, I developed a novel technique of layering transparent graphics that allowed for realistic presentation of the apparel. This meant that the apparel only had to be photographed once and all color combinations could be created from that one photograph.

See the application in action