“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

MoMA does Pixar – Pixar does process: The importance of Interactive Prototyping in Interaction Design

Pixar: 20 Years of Animation @ the MoMA
As you might have discerned from my earlier post on Pixar, I’m a total fan, so going to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) this past weekend to see their exhibit
Each item told the story of their design process. How they took a core idea and expanded in many different directions at various points in the process, as a means of refining that part of the idea till it pushed the story as a whole forward to the next piece that required that level of exploration, play, delight, and precision.

It is this, to me that so illustrates the power of Design that we in the UX community do not speak enough about. We do not acknowledge enough the reasons for our different types of deliverables and bring in other stake holders to that process so that they can also delight in the joy of discovery that comes with that process.

Finding Nemo: Whales
Just look at this picture here. We never see a baby whale in Nemo, but what a great “cute” idea, right? I mean its a “Disney flick”. How can you not have something as cute as a baby whale in the picture? Or the picture above, Dori and Marlin barely look like themselves in this colored story board. It doesn’t even look like Marlin was decided to be a Clown fish yet. Wow! that wasn’t just assumed?

There were 2 techniques that really caught my attention because they were so applicable to our work as interaction designers. In both cases static objects like detailed colored storyboards were converted to pieces that had “time” added to them as a component. The first one I saw, was just thrilling. Storyboards were used to push around a frame of film (side to side; up and down, but also in depth) with minor pieces added as animation. Classic anime which was created as a form of cheap animation, is used just as that, as a cheap prototyping. They made a reel of the different pieces of these that they put onto a wide screen that required 4 projectors in order to cover. It was just stunning the artistry to this.

Incredibles: The Jumper
The other technique was not presente in as artistic a manner. Basically, the storyboards of the entire movie were made into a movie. Each board was a frame. Entire sequences of storyboards were turned into movie clips in this fashion. Again adding time as a component. Again giving it this real feal of anime.

Both of these techniques really drove home for me the importance of creating interactive prorotypes. Ya never know what ya go until you see it in action. Time is one of the elements that we as interaction designers manipulate. There are many aspects to time that can greatly effect the aesthetics of an interaction, the usability, and the overall experience, and if you are just using wireframes in your design models then you are not getting enough of the elements of your design reflected back to you so you can better explore it and hone it.

The best way to create our work as IxDs is to do what they do, level your fidelity with flat storyboards and then use those storyboards as a script in which you layer, like creating an oninon, the fidelity of interaction on top of it. I like to do this in Flash, but I know of many who prefer to do this in the tool of their choice.

Thank you Pixar, for making it so clear how powerful “time” is and how important it is for designers to fight to hold onto their processes. And let’s all remember to “Trust the process” and trust it enough to let people in to see it. Black boxes are one of many reasons that our conspiritors in crime sometimes take issue with our requests for time and resources.

All pictures, taken from the MoMA.org web site and are the property of Pixar Animation Studios.


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