The Mental Notes Card Deck (and One Use For It)

I ordered a deck of @stephenanderson‘s Mental Notes cards shortly after seeing them at #UP2US13.


See more at

The cards each feature a principle of interaction design — explained, categorized, and beautifully illustrated and packaged. The deck has been a good conversation starter just sitting on my desk, and a few weeks ago, I found another great use.

At work, I facilitate a monthly ID workshop across teams, and I’ve been looking for an easy way to turn participants into presenters so that we all get more practice leveraging each other’s expertise. So I created “invitations to present” designed for Mental Notes cards to be tucked inside them, selected a few cards with concepts relevant to learning, packaged them in nice envelopes, and distributed them to coworkers with a simple challenge: to explain the concept and show an example, whether in learning experiences or other interactions.

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The thought behind these invitations was the result of another conversation with Stephen, in which he explained the value in making the presentation of a Mental Notes deck very premium. In the case of the workshops, I wanted my audience to know that I valued their participation, that they would be missed if they didn’t show, and that what they were doing was part of a cohesive whole. And while my graphic design skills definitely aren’t premium, the invites seemed to resonate at exactly the wavelength I wanted.

How do I know? The results were fabulous: no one bailed, everyone brought ideas I never would have thought of on my own, we had great conversations, everyone learned more about interaction design, and we “formed” a little more as a group. Total win.

Is training really the answer? Ask Cathy Moore’s flowchart.

Cathy Moore is one of my heroes in the L&D world because she releases a lot really helpful stuff for designers. I’ve written some here about how her Action Mapping method often plays a part in my process, and her Elearning samples collection is the most comprehensive answer to What does good look like? in our field.

Today she released another gem — a flowchart to help L&D professionals determine whether training is really the answer to any particular problem.

A couple of the really great things about this:

1) Often, L&D professionals who are aware that training won’t solve all problems tend to limit the domain of training to knowledge and skills. I concur with the inclusion of “lack of motivation” as something that the right training may be able to address.

2) The accompanying video focuses on how to use this in a consultation — “helping the client discover” an appropriate solution instead of just pushing back.

She’s asking for feedback, as well — please check it out and contribute.

Style Tiles

Here’s a new (to me) resource: Style Tiles, a template that helps communicate the look and feel of a web design project.

styletilesI prototype interactions completely without graphic treatment, so doing something like this separately shows stakeholders that I also have the visual aspect of the experience in mind and allows us to discuss those components separately.

As useful as the template, though, is the collection of design resources on the website: See “Step 1: Listen” in particular. Good design advice.

The template is a PSD offered under a CC 3.0 license, but there’s nothing about it that requires Photoshop, so I’ve adapted it to PowerPoint and Keynote.

As the original template encourages, “Be creative, [sic] don’t just use this template as-is!”

Thanks to my coworker, , for sharing.

Startups, This Is How Design Works

startupsdesignA few weeks ago, a number of friends and colleagues shared Startups, This Is How Design Works, a primer on design for entrepreneurs. It’s no less relevant for instructional designers and in particular, those who design online experiences; we often work as single-person “teams”, the lone individual responsible for “starting elearning” at our organizations.

What I love about this more than anything is the separation of design as the discipline of solving problems from graphic design. I’ve often seen that as an effective starting point for showing design is and isn’t, because it’s a common misconception, even among designers.

He also shares some excellent resources on design — a few of which I’ve shared here before, such as Objectified and Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Design – and breaks down some different disciplines of design. Which one comes closest to what you do?

Blog Recommendation: Live Virtual Space by Tracy Ross

Since moving to the Portland area, I’ve enjoyed reconnecting (in meet space!) with , a former classsmate from UMass-Boston, and now I’m enjoying catching up on her blog, Virtual Learning Space. Virtual ILT isn’t something that I do often, but that makes her tips and thoughts even more applicable for when I do.

From her recent My New Space Hero:

It’s not just about using the tools, but knowing how to connect with the audience. It’s not about presenting. It’s about conversing. When you bring the audience into the conversation (either directly or by allowing them to submit questions) it becomes a richer and more meaningful dialogue.


Also worth checking out is her recent series on Virtual Facilitator Training, starting here. I particularly liked how she addressed issues of resistance when training classroom trainers to deliver virtually, as I’ve seen so many colleagues deal with this.