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OFFF 2016

OFFF – the festival of Barcelonan creators – originated as far back as 16 years ago, in 2000, and its name stands for Online Flash Film Festival. The initiator of the shinding was Spanish designer and artist Héctor Ayuso. Héctor himself calls OFFF not just a festival but a life journey which is constantly changing and evolving.

The festival is not about how to work and solve problems in the processes according to the instruction. Quite the opposite – it is about how to always love what you do feeling free to be open and to make mistakes trying something new.

OFFF captured my interest just a little while ago, after the Russian version of the festival which was organized by the guys from Ikra. It was the first time I learned how crazy is Joshua Davis as to mixing analogous and digital worlds. I saw with my own eyes that IDEO is considered to be one of the greatest innovators with good reason. And during the festival afterparty I was trying hard to make “Igor Nikolayev” from AKQA drink to love.*

And next, half a year after, I find myself standing in a queue to register at the authentic OFFF near the Design Museum of Barcelona.

The entrance wristband is being put onto my wrist, I am given a book named Archetype about the festival participants into my other hand and not given a T-shirt which were intended only for those who had bought festival tickets a year before (!) this day.

Something about how we spent time during the breaks. Drank Satan’s coffee.

Walked along the neon corridors of the hotel.

OFFF in Barcelona is a wow. Cool atmosphere, more than three thousand participants and maitres of different branches of art standing along with you in a queue for burgers from the old Citroen little truck where they are being cooked (burgers, not maitres!). There are Denis Kortunov and Yury Vetrov standing.

By the way, queues were always long.

Those who enjoyed Barcelonan hot sun more than a large cool hall inside the Design Museum were sitting outside watching livestream on the big screen in the food court.

Meanwhile in the hall, almost all chairs were occupied, and those who wanted to sit closer but did not manage to occupy a seat were sitting right on the floor between the rows. We were doing the same thing several times as well.

The first impression of the speakers – people are not afraid of being themselves, they are sincere and open up to very personal topics. Many of them were talking on how crucially important it is to love what you do since it is when you can do your best and do really good things which you will not be ashamed of later.

Next, something about the talks I liked the best. And in case you would like to read in detail about the speakers, I will be sharing relevant links.

Teaser and Opening Titles

The festival has a very cool tradition. Every time some of the participants creates opening and main titles which are shown on the first and last days. This time there was a freaking awesome and bright teaser which was described by the authors something like this: “We wanted to show how every OFFF organizer and participant feels annually: the incredible mixture of pure craziness, hard work, adventures, nerves and fun!”:

The teaser was made by the students of Atelier, an independent design school located in Barcelona. Not only the teaser, but the opening titles came into being thanks to them. And all the festival style including T-shirts was made by them.

After the opening titles the guys told about how they made up the teaser and brought it to life, experimented with festival branding and changed the book format to enable it to contain everything they wanted.

It is funny that the typical joke of the Russian design world “It is too expensive and my son can do it on his laptop for 15 minutes” is typical of the whole world design judging by the Atelier guys quotations.

Ustwo

The studio was represented by two people who told about the same thing as Mans Adler did in Russia. If you were absent at Strelka last September, I advise you to read the interview.

The guys are famous for creating Monument Valley which earned $14,5 mln in two years after the release. And in a day after they accidentally were spotted in the House of Cards – $40 000!

Do you know what has led the guys to success? This: “We don’t care about that marketing of yours, monetization and all that stuff. Let’s just do the game like we want it to be!” And this perfectly reflects their inner motto “Just F#@king Do It”.

Something about processes in the company. Everyone works in sprints including designers, and the cycle “Build » Test » Learn” is a common practice for them. Ustwo remind of two things: always work together, forget about your ego and remember that people measure the outcomes of your work by the part which had been done the worst.

Creativeapplications.net

A little vague talk, but still interesting. Among good thoughts: you need to search for inspiration in nature and review your past experiments. If you are not aware of these guys, then visit their website – they tell about many projects across science, technologies and art. A very interesting project is a framework allowing to generate sounds and visual effects on the basis of human body movements. The topic of mixing the analogous and the digital is superpopular at the festival – Joshua Davis and Rama Allen have covered it in the most powerful way, but more on that later.

The Mill

The coolest masters of special effects and visual technologies from New York. The Mill was represented by Rama Allen who is a Chief Creative Officer of the studio. Rama was talking on “magical thinking”, the essence of which is finding your practice which produces the biggest results. In his case, a simple way works (it helps me too): you should make up a special playlist, plug earphones in and go outside the office to walk.

Among the studio projects there are several ones with biometric data apart from “usual” ad videos for market monsters and special effects for movies. I will show you the history of creating a project which I liked the most: the smartest mixture of the analogous (mascara, oils and alcohol) and the digital (framework generating sacral geometric patterns and a “flower” changing its appearance with music): the article and video for the ones who don’t want to read for too long:

Signalnoise

James White, a stylish Canadian who is appreciative of his niche, and his studio Signalnoise. James was talking on how his childish drawings on the theme of comics and various sport icons of that time have grown into what he is doing now. And it is straight madness how he makes play with the eighties subject matter which is gaining popularity: neon noire, multilevel bright gradients and illustrations concerning the pop culture of eighties. He mentions his slogan “Don’t you dare to ignore a stupid idea” exactly right and continues to make “joint projects with himself” after 30 years.

James made titles for the OFFF last year, it is them I am going to show you:

As James (like many other speakers as well) was staying at the same hotel, I managed to catch him and take a picture together:

Also James reminds: don’t be shy to show others what you do. You never know where it will lead you:

Joshua Davis + Kiran Gandhi

My heavy favorites of the festival. Joshua Davis is a man who has been doing for a long time the thing I want to learn how to do but still can’t find time for it. Wonderful generative art, a mixture of the analogous and the digital. But here, he led it to a new level in my perception: this time, Joshua performed with a cool drummer Kiran Gandhi. Kiran is a very interesting person by herself: activist feminist who demonstrates her views through deeds not pretending to be an offended and wretched girl. Just look how talented she is: Kiran performed as a drummer with M.I.A. and got her MBA degree not so long ago. Not only does she cultivate arts, but also improves her professional knowledge.

The first minutes of the performance, the video which I took sitting on a floor between the rows:

By the end of the performance all the audience were dancing and clapping. It is the moment when a conference turns into a party when you feel the real atmosphere:

For people who are rich in free time here is a full version of the visuals with music:

This is what Kiran tells about her performance: “I understood that the best moments in life are the ones when you remain yourself and share the best of what you can.” Fast Company have posted the interview with the guys recently. Please read, it is worth it.

Tony Brook

Tony Brook from the Spin was giving a long and melancholic talk about various print works in British style, book design and printed guidelines of different companies (damn, he did mention design systems, I lied) and cool rebranding of Ministry of Sound.

But the coolest he showed, again, is the mixture of different disciplines. Joint project with Universal Everything about how architecture evolves and moves:

Lullatone

The ones who don’t know Patatap now must be ashamed. I didn’t know that, but they spent the whole 60 thousand hours for the development! If you are not familiar with this project, just know: this is music mixed with visual effects in a very cool way, but in a maximally simple and understandable appearance. The guys even made a special version for the OFFF, type a little: http://offf.patatap.com/.

This is how the guys experiment to find a sound:

Also, they have a very interesting project on how words sound. There is, too, no sense in telling, you should go to http://typatone.com/ and type, type, type.

If you liked these two projects and these links are already not enough, here is a couple of another ones from the same guys: http://lab.johnwai.co.uk/ideogram/и http://jonobr1.github.io/two.js/.

Johnny Cupcakes

Johhny was talking on how he succeeded in turning his little hobby of producing T-shirts into quite a business. You can read the whole story on his website.

Johnny places greater focus on the importance of the user’s experience from the product presentation and up to its package.

He describes himself as a world first “T-shirt bakery”. Naturally, it is connected with a lot of funny stories about how people came to his shop hoping to eat cupcakes but left disappointed and made negative posts in the net.

An interesting approach with limited editions – for example, a series «Breakfast special» which could be acquired only in breakfast hours. Johnny had a special offer of T-shirts distribution: during 20 minutes after he posted an ad on Instagram, anyone who caught him got a T-shirt.

Mr Bingo

My another favorite, but now regarding the presentation and courage of the product. An incredibly cool speaker, courageous and crazy just enough everyone should be. When Mr Bingo was going to launch a campaign at the Kickstarter named Hate Mail (you should necessarily assess the degree of craziness by the link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mrbingo/hate-mail-the-definitive-collection), he asked himself: why shoot a boring video which every other campaign has at the Kickstarter? It is possible though to shoot a cool one that no one dared to and be remembered! It is how his hilarious rap clip was born which he shot together with his friends:

We didn’t watch his talk till the end for good reason: I was being suffocated by Denis at the Adobe Stock stand.

Timothy Goodman

Timothy was telling how he had built his career due to the fact he was using a usual Sharpie marker and about his projects which were intended to help him and other people to become more humane.

Among what he did I liked the most the project about people’s relationship, 40 Days of Dating. This is how Tim and his best friend Jessica describe the experiment: “It is said that a man needs 40 days to get rid of a habit. That’s why in trying to study each other and get rid of fears Tim and Jessica will go through all the thorns of relationship during these 40 days. Will they be able to learn how to help each other? Or will they keep their habits? Will they destroy their friendship? Or maybe they will fall in love with each other?”

12 Kinds of Kindness is another experiment of trying to learn how to be kinder and more attentive to each other in 12 steps.

Main Titles

Main titles were made by Gavin Strange together with Merlin Crossingham and Aardman Animations. An OFFF dude is appearing in the titles symbolizing the participants to the festival. Also, the guys did bother to make vinyl figures of this very dude but only the first row could get them.

In Conclusion

A modern man is hard to be surprised with something – this I can see by me myself and by other people. But until now, I still can’t shake off the magic of the OFFF. The event is incredible in its atmosphere and energy and it gives you a good kick in the ass and says: “Why the heck you got so relaxed?” It is at the end of the festival when standing knee-deep in the cold Mediterranean Sea, I experienced a feeling almost forgotten when it is sad because something has come to an end.
Don’t forget that your future is shaped by what you do in your free time, be crazy and create your own projects. Also, don’t drag feet and go ahead for the tickets to the next OFFF: http://tickets.offf.ws/events. It is worth it!

Special thanks to Yura Vetrov for leading me along 14 blocks to the fashionable Danish brewery Mikkeller. It is due to that evening many people know now that trying Chipotle Porter is a big risk and danger.

*Igor Nikolayev is a Russian pop singer, and “Let Us Drink To Love” is one of his most famous songs which became a meme in the Russian-speaking environment.

2017  

Archiving As an Art Piece

How we tried to find a way to tell in an interesting and clear manner why a new opportunity of archiving files into a cloud is handy and practical.

(Russian version of this post is here: https://habrahabr.ru/company/acronis/blog/280842/)

But What For?

Our kind of guy is a professional of IT world aged forty-fifty who helps to solve various technical problems of those who call him “you are a computer professional though!”

A tech savvy person doesn’t get lost in modern technologies and is ready to try something new. But this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that such people will understand fully how good your product is. A person buys not your product, but “a better version of himself” which he hopes to get as a final result. You should help them to get to know your product to the full extent even if it seems simple and self-explanatory to you – the creators.

If you already have a successful product which is on sale and has its dedicated fans, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be the same forever. The product should develop not only technically, but also become simpler in use. You can read here about how we were simplifying True Image for Windows.

The Starting Point

Helping a person to become familiar the product is harder than it seems. Digitally – emails on certain schedule and assistance in the product itself. If a person buys a packaged version, then printed guidelines and phone support are at his disposal.
I will tell you only about how we tried to help a user to get orientated inside Acronis True Image for OS X.

Last year the subscribers to Acronis Cloud gained a new useful opportunity in Acronis True Image – archiving files into a cloud. It works simple from the user’s side: using mouse you drag files into the app window or you click and pick in the usual Finder window everything that takes much space in the drive but isn’t used quite often. This is how the archiving tab looks now:

In case the user doesn’t have a subscription to Acronis Cloud, he sees a very similar stub:

Seems elementary: you drag files and send the whole pile to the unlimited cloud. In two years you want to relook at the wedding video – you enter Acronis Cloud, download and watch. Impressions and important files are safe. And are available almost any time, and still you have plenty of free space in your drive.

But actually it’s not that simple as it seemed. Originally we tested a short archiving tour on the Windows version, so we already reaped a harvest from the mistakes we had sowed.

It turned out that the variant with abstract illustrations which we liked doesn’t give people any help to understand how they can benefit from archiving. The tour hasn’t reached out to everyone as well. And this is where our mistakes correction hard work has begun.

Dig, Shura, Dig!*

We look for the problems a user has experienced and how we can help him to solve them. The very first sketch found his room in this sheet worn by reality:

Discussion in the Basecamp was so long that plugins to make webpage screenshots collapsed when I tried to make a screenshot for this article. So you will have to take it on trust. Actually we agreed that along with each new slide we will give more and more detail dwelling on main four slides:

  1. User greeting and short description of archiving. Here the information will be sufficient enough for some of the users and they can decide to use the app further closing the tour. But others will want to learn more and they will proceed to the following steps.
  1. Step-by-step instruction about how archiving works. Here is detailed information about three simple steps. Pick files at your convenience; let the app move your files to the cloud freeing up the hard drive space; use the drive free space for new impressions.
  1. Picking data center. If you live, let’s say, in Germany, and you have slow internet, then domestic servers will allow to save and pull back the data you need. If, according to the law, your data must locate domestically, pick domestic server.
  1. Simple access to files. You want – you use the drive assembled in the system, you want – you open the browser from any device. You can pull back the file you need regardless of the device where you use the browser as long as it is modern.

Style

As the company sticks to the policy of maximal nativeness in the Mac app, we began our search for stylistics in the OS X standard apps. This is how one of the iTunes tour page looks like:

And this is how the Safari startup page looks like:

The advantage of this approach is that the user is training in the conditions close to the real ones using the screenshots of the product. And he will have a better understanding of the product after such tour. But in our case, there are more disadvantages.
Firstly, it will be necessary to redraw the tour even after the minimal changes of the interface which was spotted in the tour. For example, if iTunes decide to use the user pic the user has chosen himself instead of the user icon, they will have a heavy and dirty workload. All the screenshots with the old icon must be replaced with the new beautiful ones having the user pic. This is one of the examples how expensive it is to change something in the interface of the product working for quite a long time.
Secondly, the problems of considering all the possible sizes of the text block during the localization. It is such a broad theme that it will be discussed later.

The Approach Using Real Interface

Although we knew the problems we would have to face, we still decided to circumvent it boldly by decreasing the number of elements in the screenshots we will have to localize. Our task was simplified as the appearance of Safari and Finder changes seldom and this means that supporting such screenshots in the tour will be not that expensive. For our first steps we chose the most difficult slide about access to files. That’s why we talk about Safari and Finder only.
The slide essence is simple: the drive with archived files is assembled into OS X as a usual net drive. And through browser you can reach your files almost anywhere in the world.

Sketchy Approach

Notes, the app to keep notes renewed in the OS X El Capitan greets the user by quite abstract illustrations:

Notes use both icons taken from the interface and abstract illustrations.

We however decided to make a variant combining sketchness and screenshots of the real interface:

Fit check:

Neither fish nor fowl. We throw it to the dogs and try another approach.

The Approach of Real Interface Screenshots With No Sketchness

iTunes and Safari did manage, right? They did. And that means we can try to seek the solution in the framework of this approach.

We quickly sketch the main features of the access slide:

We try it:

We fit it to the environment:

And again:

On the other slides:

No, we fail to overreach ourselves. The latest OS X La Polkovnique has been released? Be so kind as to redraw your screenshots! Renewed the icons at the sidebar of the app? Well, you know the drill. So we’re seeking further.

The Approach of Qualitative But Not Very Abstract Illustrations

Deliciuos, rich and attracting approach, thus widespread. We begin to seek for a sufficient level of abstraction, meanwhile fitting it to the future interface and playing around with the text:

We present details:

We’re so close, we make tracks:

This is it!

We continue developing and fit the stylistics to other slides:

Remarks begin to appear on the uselessness of such sophisticated and playful verbal acrobatics. Fair enough. We need more about the essence and further from the abstraction:

We try to do without a separate window, replace the elements and make a tour integrated into the archiving tab.

The result is ugly and inconvenient. We go back.

We finalized with the illustrations, now we begin to perfect the element which is equally important – the text. And it is the moment when the necessity to think of product localization comes on the stage.

Localization

Acronis True Image is used in 145 countries, it “speaks” 15 languages. Forgot it? Brace yourself: technical writers will cut to the quick hacking to pieces the well-loved interface. Great limiting factor to value each word. Approximately like a 140 symbols limit in Twitter.

For example. Capacious English command “Back up” turns into a broad, like a famous Russian soul, 3-word-phrase.** This also often happens in Portuguese or German languages.

Thus, having gone around the ritual circle «make — check — think» once again, we came to a simple decision. Buttons-links «Next» and «Previous», reliable, as a Kalashnikov, solve our problems perfectly. We bring round all the links at each step of the tour beginning from the slide about files access.

Results

The design results are reflected in the complex of artifacts.

1. General layouts

These are standard “screenshots” where the product is fitted to the environment. In the case of archiving, it is the interface of the app in the context of the OS X desktop.

2. Technical layouts

Same general layouts from the first item. But here we additionally specify all the parameters of the elements, their location and interdependency. It happens that we begin from the printed layout version where the developer specifies the data he needs.

Next step is generating the layout in the Sketch where we have the description of all elements and how they are going to interact. Here the popular plugin Sketch Measure snaps into action. Thanks to it, you almost don’t need to draw with your own hands when creating technical layouts and it only remains for you to think of what to do with the saved time.

Detailed layouts (as in the picture in the title) help the developers to assemble the interface close to the desired one. After that we together shape up what has been baked in the test assembly.

It is crucially important to be friends and communicate all the time with developers. You will be able not only to promptly polish the result of bringing the layouts to life, but also learn to understand which technical limits developers (and you) face. And if you know the rules, then you can think of intricate ways to circumvent them without loss of quality and operability.

3. User’s path

We gather all the accumulated layouts into the user flow visual diagrams analyzing the user main path. We try to detect all the “turns” that may distract the user from the main flow: internet suddenly collapsed, the absence of subscription and other similar obstacles.

In this very case we didn’t have to create such a diagram for the reason of linear flow: the person either sees the whole tour or not. The interface behavior in cases different from the main one was able to be described with a usual text.

Something About the Moral

Start from nothing. Draw with a pencil, create mindmaps and wireframes.

Don’t be afraid of experiments and seek for new lines of approach to the problem. Without raising a bump from mistakes, you will gain no experience.

Never think you know the user like your ten fingers. Test the hypotheses, try the approaches, seek for what will work out just in your case.

Furnish all the design developments with technical layouts and the description of negative scenarios. Season highly with a well-thought user flow with real layouts as steps. Everyone will hug you mentally if you discipline yourself to perform the whole ritual all the time before you get a similar comment:

Thanks!

//*A popular meme in the Russian-speaking community.
** The English command “Back up” is translated into Russian as “Создать резервную копию”.

2017   acronis   macos   onboarding