Develop an idea towards what we want to do, not, “What can we do?” There’s plenty of time to sort out technical parameters later! (Ahem, no really!) We need a good idea to tell a story with. Besides, in the process of developing a chosen concept, we might be surprised what technology can do for us. I’ve learned more about technology and what it is capable of by pushing from the creative side of the equation and not leaning on what technology can provide by default.

Alfred Hitchcock (the famous suspense film director of such movies as, North by Northwest, Psycho and the Birds) created every scene in his movies with a beginning middle and an end. Why? It’s only part of the movie, let’s literally cut to the chase. If we think about it, It’s more compelling for the viewer to want to stay with the big picture. They are engaged with each scene, anticipating where the story will continue to lead. The audience doesn’t have to understand why that is. But designers do. We will be able to keep the user’s interest, if a story is worth telling.

OK, this isn’t a film conference, but the principle is the same. This is the point of the visual reference “Reel” and the Hitchcock analogy. Appeal to the intelligence of the user. It doesn’t matter if it’s an online app, logo, a website, a video, iPhone app or a local Yellow Page ad. There is a beginning, middle and end to every good story. We can think of each page, frame, screen or window, regardless of the media, as a unique scene with its own story to tell, while still being an integral element to the whole picture.

In design school, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the computer room. I swear I even left fingernail marks on the doorjambs on my in! Of course, after a few days, I realized a new set of powerful tools. And 20 years later of making a living in front of a box, there remains a constant learning curve. That’s likely why I am still engaged in the process. But, I can get too comfortable with the tool set sometimes. It’s good to peel away from the box and sketch out a few ideas, these are not works of art, it’s a process. It’s necessary creative problem solving that starts with simple building blocks.

I once saw a concert where there were two drummers onstage. There was a huge circle of every size drum imaginable suspended two rows high. These drum racks sat off to the side of the stage for most of the show, while the drummers each sat at their conventional drum kits. Everybody knew the inevitable drum solo was coming, we were looking forward to it. It was one of the reasons we came. After a while the rest of the band left the stage and the anticipated celebration of drums began. These were two of the best drummers in the world that had played together for years, developing their craft that culminated to what we saw in front of us. This night it was clear they weren’t communicating well with each other. Each took turns becoming frustrated with the other. It escalated to such an extent that one threw their stick at the other! Undaunted, the victim, threw down his sticks, made eye contact with his partner and they dropped to the floor. They put their bare hands out in front of them and began the simplest rhythm pattern on the ground. Eventually, they built up layers of rhythms they played off of, until they reached the drum racks again and completed their musical thoughts. I was grateful they didn’t settle on the tried and bored, instead seizing the opportunity to start with a fresh idea they could enjoy evolving with and we, as an audience would appreciate, and in this case, never forget!

Because at the end of the story, we are all experienced users.