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Smarty Pants Book Clubs gets skilled up

July 01, 2014

The Smarty Pants Book Club’s June meeting focused on skills. As usual, each member of book club selected a topic within the theme that he or she wanted to learn more about. This format always displays the diversity of personalities and interests within the group. Adding in the twist of showing off an example of the skill you learned made for an extra fun share out!

Chris started our meeting by sharing the paper folding skills he learned reading Folding Techniques for Designers. He selected this book to a skill that could enhance early prototypes that he creates for projects. Adding movement and texture into early prototypes or models will help his teams clearly and quickly convey ideas. He brought a handful of practice folds to show us what he learned:

Vivian’s new skill was acquired through the knowledge of colleagues rather than a book. She attended a blacksmith workshop this spring and worked on a hatchet. She put the finishing touches on it back in the Design Concepts shop. What started out as a quarter inch steel plate and ended up a band-saw cut, sand blasted, wax coated, paracord wrapped hatchet. She worked with several colleagues in the shop to learn how to employ different tools and techniques.

Amy read The Back of the Napkin with the hope of improving her story telling through drawing skills. While she found value in the sections of the book that talked about how to communicate frameworks for decision making, she came away from the book as a whole thinking that perhaps not every picture is worth a thousand words. The book did not have as much drawing or sketching technique as she was looking for, and it was difficult to focus on ways to share an insight without having a particular insight in mind.

I had a similar goal as Amy – to improve my quick sketching and drawing skills – and selected Ed Emberly's Drawing Book. This book was published in 1972 with the intended audience of elementary school children, which matched up perfectly with my current drawing skill level. Each lesson shows you how to combine simple shapes to create people, vehicles, animals, and other common things. The technique was easy, and the results were satisfying. I’m definitely going to keep practicing, and can’t wait for a project that allows me to show off my moose and Iditarod illustration skills:

Adding movement and texture into early prototypes or models will help his teams clearly and quickly convey ideas.

Max’s goal for June book club was to teach himself how to design a basic website. HTML & CSS: Design and Build Websites was appealing to him because it did not feel like a text book. The book itself had a nice design and layout, and did not focus on technical matters at the expense of looks or usability. He is still working his way through the lessons, but was able to create a basic portfolio page for himself after reading just a couple chapters.

Finally, Rachel told us what she learned in Gamestorming. This book contains a number of exercises and analysis tools to facilitate brainstorming activities. The title was a bit misleading, as the activities were not actually “games”. However, there are a number of good objective based examples and tips on when to employ different techniques in brainstorming sessions. Understanding what you want to get out of a brainstorming session – a variety of divergent ideas, refinement of a certain feature, or inspiration from adjacent issues – informs which activity you employ to provide structure to the brainstorm. This book is a helpful reference tool for keeping brainstorms fresh and relevant.

Check out photos of our projects on Design Concepts’ Facebook page.

Smarty Pants Book Club will be back in August when we select classics – titles that are seminal in their field or inspired us years ago and stick with us to this day. How and why does something become a classic? Stay tuned for our August discussion!

— Written by Leah Ujda