I have been working with T-MobileNL for quite a while now and I had yet to meet the brand and Com team. I got the opportunity to challenge their UNLIMITED thinking by filling in the activities at an off-site team retreat, which was geared towards creating a new bond between a newly configured  group of professionals. The location was a perfect place to do a couple of exercises that would not only bring these people together, but also introduce a new frame of mind. How do you think UNLIMITED?
It is one thing to say you have an UNLIMITED amount of data to use when you join T-mobile as a client… but what does this mean? What does it mean for this team, what does it mean for the company, but most important…what does it mean to offer something without limits???
We carried on with a Challenge that was to be executed in a FERRIS WHEEL! A great way to get some distance and look beyond just the challenge. What became very clear very soon, was that going on a Ferris wheel can be a challenge in itself (for some people). During the ride an extra Challenge was added (by Whatsapp!) to keep everybody thinking on their toes! The presentations that followed were based on a simple comic book style presentation in which you introduce a situation and go through an UNFORTUNATELY, FORTUNATELY, UNFORTUNATELY & FORTUNATELY to add some drama to the storytelling. Worked great!
By the end of the day the biggest challenge was to keep the energy up… so this is why we did a standing catchphrase carousel ending up in one shared battle cry!

No Story, No Glory!

No Story, No Glory!

Ianus Keller asked me to put together a workshop on the creation of scenarios and/or storyboards as part of a series of extra curricular workshops organized to close the gaps students are feeling in their chosen paths, studying at the Delft University of Technology.
I did not have to think long to come up with a general premise for this class, which is why  I started  the first real explorations with an extra ordinary  host: Pieter-Jan Stappers, professor of design techniques at the faculty of Industrial Design in Delft.
thinkingwith pieterjan
Now with some 11 years of design experience of my own we were able to fly-over and dive deep  into the subject of storyboarding or telling user stories. We ended up covering most of the Whiteboard walls in STUDIO TALK, which by the end of our exploration was exactly the skill we wanted the students to (re)-discover. Being able to explore a general idea and find focus by making the start-up process visible and clearly articulate what it is you want to design for whom, is something that even designers still have trouble with. It is however the start of any good design story…so this is why we ended up settling on creating a workshop for groups to find their SHARED STORY and move from being a group of individuals to a DESIGN TEAM with a shared goal and story to realize!

[Writing this now, I realize that we strayed from the given scenario path, driven by a shared frustration of students nowadays attacking any problem with a laptop… The faculty used to be filled with hands on practical MacGYVERS, which seems to have ‘evolved’ into some sort of  an IT-Lounge filled with networked designers. To bring back some HANDY WORK into the way master students start up their design challenges together, logic and practicality takes over to help these design “experts-to-be” pick up a pen and get to the wall… to explore, funnel, discuss, test and improve their ability to think out loud and CREATE at the wall …TOGETHER.]

When going into any kind of process with people you do not really know, it is time well spent focusing on creating  a shared idea and finding the path that fits the team. A DESIGN story will help focus a group to make conscious decisions during the design process itself and give direction to the path to be taken by the different experts in the group. Along the way all the intricate detailed work done by the members of the team needs to connect to the overarching AIM of their DESIGN story. The ability to be flexible in your focus (FLEXIBLE FOCUS) will give a team the opportunities to test and fail early. Improving every time.
flexible focus1

But now for the workshop:

The simplest way of getting a group to function like a team is to make them go through some sort of high pressure make-session… forcing them to pick up a pen and draw out their challenge… like MACGYVER used to do drawing a plan in the sand or Doc Brown in back to the future with his “crude”models of how he was going to send marty back to the future. The objective of this workshop was hidden in its practice. By experiencing the value of drawing out thinking and allowing the group to build upon what is made visible, you are creating a shared story!
In the morning the group found common ground sourced from their own likes and dislikes. If you are totally free to chose your own design…what pain do you solve…together? We explored the unique contexts of 8 groups and what their proposed successes will look like for their stakeholders. This created a shared focus that would guide the group in a high pressure design process in the afternoon. By mapping out current and future desired states you frame your own design space…a luxury not to be underestimated for designers… Something that hopefully these groups will have experienced and will use in future projects…

flexible focus

This workshop was made possible in fact by the FLEXIBLE FOCUS of the day. The overarching AIM of the day was to experience the creation of a shared design narrative using visual techniques, which were shared mostly in the final half hour when all the stories started to result in abstract designs. The small tips and troicks can only be shared when you run into real little barriers. This waqs a great way to share some of my experiences in translating thinking into visuals.
The day ended with a 15 minute run through of all the stories AND a little feedback. Courtisy of Pieter-Jan! Check it out:

For more pictures of the process : https://goo.gl/photos/wtxPAD8jkaDjP1NH9


2015 was a fresh start for me. After a 6 months personal recalibration following my exit from JAM visual thinking,  I had to leave my temporary Shop in Wassenaar and needed a place to work.
Like many things in my life…when i draw my problems out, stuff starts to move. I was looking for a way into a company to see how I could understand better how people work together using images or sketches…and what happens? An old study acquaintance called me and asked for some visual guidance on a project, while at the same time he requested some information about a simple DRAWING course to balance out the heavy duty text content that was filling the T-mobile website with a healthy dose of Sketching.IMG_6339
His foresight was that his department (Digital Services) could do with a little more visual power, which lead to our first meeting. After which  we quickly realised that we could help each other out. I needed a space with people and they needed someone to help them balance out their mostly textual product (content for the T-mobile website) with a broader sense of visual connection. What happend next was a great collaborative ride where I was able to put together a Training based on real challenges and relevant communicative situations.


How to hack a table on wheels… glue clamps and industrial wheelies!


the beginning state of the Temporary Visual Laboratory

The Mobile Drawing laboratory was born!
I was able to take over a flex space and make it my own for 3 months. The effects of adding some Drawings to the daily workplace were amazing! It started slowly with the people who already knew they wanted to do some more with Sketch noting or visual planning. Then by offering lessons in the use of visualisation the department started to warm up to the idea of drawing as a valuable tool to be using!
My intended plan took a little longer to unfold, but Connect/Care/Create is exactly the process that was followed. The connection phase took about 3 to 4 months… after which I was getting quite familiar with the content and inner workings of this TELCO.

But this is when something started to happen… Based on the slow getting to know you phase I was able to home in on what this department needed, which was a little different for everybody. Based on their roles and responsibilities my new colleagues  exhibited 3 different thinking levels in which they thought they would benefit from being able to draw. I have been working with this theory for a long time now and was happy to see it in real life!
The strategic level demanded a way to map abstract ideas and translate them to relatable story triggers. The planners of the bunch wanted to learn the basics in mapping out stakes and showing/sharing clear goals, while all operationally focussed workhorses were interested in being able to draw people and scenarios.
Based on their preferences I constructed a curriculum consisting of 5 balances and 1 spine connecting them all to being able to use drawing in a professional environment.
This course changed a lot of bias around drawing by really spending the time to talk about the fun & value of drawing as a thinking & sharing tool. After going through the 8 lesson course an evaluation of the entire experience resulted in one big reality check. In order to get people to invest in a course like this the timing and time spend on physically teaching people would have to be shortened.
Another essential feedback point was space in which we would be able to nurture a culture of drawing. We started to figure out what a department would need to organize an environment where the comfort to help each other out by drawing would grow in time. Giving everybody there the opportunity to see how drawing would support, enhance or even improve their primary role.
The final feedback was about material and gear. The barrier that is thrown up by empty whiteboard markers and absent wipers is not one to be underestimated. Could it be that simple??? Just give people the right gear and good material? It turned out to be a great way to get people to be enthusiastic about drawing out their challenges and build their own small toolkit of favourite pens that fit their personal needs the best.

  1. Simple compact lessons – clear assignments
  2. an inspiring space with ample drawing room
  3. the right gear and materials

visuele werk ruimte_1