Day 1: Say Hello to Clearleft

7 min read

A few weeks before I started my 90-day adventure at Clearleft, I was asked to give a 20-minute presentation to introduce myself to the company. The team at Clearleft was kind enough to film the presentation and stream the video on Periscope.

Watch The Presentation

Watch the video of my presentation, if you like.

Or Download The PDF

http://john-ellison.com/pdf/hello-clearleft.pdf


The Backstory

Given that most people fear public speaking more than death, you can imagine how I felt when I was asked to give a presentation on my first day. Or maybe you can’t because you have superhuman confidence and never get nervous talking in front of people.

But I was nervous, yet also incredibly excited about the journey that lie ahead. I had been given the opportunity to work with the brightest minds in the industry doing exactly what I love to do for a living.

The bright light of the potential adventure that lie ahead outshone the scary first-day prospect of a 20-minute presentation — after all, how hard could it be to introduce yourself in a way that is both authentic and engaging?

But the thought of self-promotion made me cringe.

So I tried to dig deeper and figure out a way that I could articulate who I am, what I love to do and my goals for three months at Clearleft in a way that would be light-hearted, quick and engaging.

Finding The Problem Statement

I realized that I had a stumbled upon my problem statement for the project: How do I articulate:

  • who I am,
  • what I do and
  • my goals for my time at Clearleft

Finding The Guiding Principles

I also had gathered a set of design principles which would guide my creative process:

How do I present in a way that is:

  • light-hearted, yet genuine
  • quick yet informative
  • engaging and relevant

My Process

Step 1. Synthesis

This reminded me of my conversation with James Box when we walked through my portfolio and he described to me the role of a UX designer at Clearleft. He said it was about clearly defining the project’s problem and coming up with the right activities to solve that problem.

So here I was faced with a very clear problem and I was trying to think through all the different ways I could solve it. I thought about sharing stories from my childhood about how I’ve always aspired to be something great. I thought through a dozen different paths but none of them felt right.

Then I realized that I didn’t know who my audience would be. Would this be a small group of designers or the whole company?

Step 2. User Research

I asked James who would be attending the presentation and in the meantime embarked on a period of user research. Using the Clearleft’s Team page as the basis of my research, I read through online portfolios, blogs, and websites of the entire team. I was trying to uncover a common thread that resounded between the audience of my presentation. I wanted to grasp what made the Clearleft team tick. I wanted to understand the undercurrent passions and philosophies beneath their work.

Step 3. Choosing Appropriate Artifacts

After I read through the team page and explored each team member’s background I had an idea: Why not articulate who I am, what I do and what my goals are for my time at Clearleft through the same artifacts that my audience uses to design digital experiences?

I would be communicating the experience of me using the tools and methodologies of user experiences designers, user interface designers and front-end developers.

So I decided to put together a quick persona to help layout the groundwork for ‘who I am’.

Persona / Who I am

To communicate ‘what I do’ I needed to tell the story of what I have done. The format of a user journey would work perfectly because I could incorporate any of the elements in my journey based upon my knowledge of the Clearleft team.

User Journey / My Journey

The final section of my presentation surrounded my time at Clearleft. I wanted to articulate my goals and my approach at Clearleft and also my dedication to serve the company and its clients. Also, I wanted to facilitate feedback about what the team had experienced and to ask for advice. Who better to consult about how to be a successful designer at Clearleft than the designers themselves?

Figuring out how I could succinctly communicate my goals, approach and request for feedback was difficult. I took a step back from the presentation for a few hours and went on a walk to let my mind gather loose connections and draw parallels.

I did a little research on mental models as a UX deliverable and found an article which listed a bunch of different UX artifacts: http://www.uxforthemasses.com/resources/example-ux-docs/.

Mental Model & Conceptual Diagram / My Approach

Upon seeing word clouds mentioned in the article I decided to create a diagram that expressed my goals and aspirations for working with Clearleft in a visual, high-level and conceptual manner. I dedicated 30 minutes to writing every goal, dream and aspiration I could think of. Then I ran it through a word cloud generator and experimented with super-imposing the word cloud over Clearleft’s logo.

My goal was to represent Clearleft’s brand identity as the central element in my approach and to show my thoughts in relation to what I understood of the company and its goals.

In seeing my concept diagram come together I realized the importance that design collaboration played in my upcoming journey with Clearleft. I had purchased and begun reading Dan Brown’s Designing Together and referenced his book to help come up with some specific principles for thinking about design collaboration.

In the first two chapters of his book Designing Together Dan lays out a solid argument for mindset as the basis of all behavior. Mindsets frame the way that we see the world and the way that we respond to stimulus.

If I was going to succeed in being a successful collaborative designer, I needed to understand the mindsets that great designers held in their work. I also needed to understand how those mindsets fostered specific behaviors — what those behaviors were and how I could emulate them effectively.

So I came up with a kind of hybrid mental model / concept diagram to express my approach in working at Clearleft. All I had left to articulate in my presentation was to communicate my goals and what I was hoping to achieve.

Requirement List / My Goals

Pretty quickly I realized that the easiest way for me to articulate my goals would be a simple list of what I wanted to achieve and when I hoped to achieve them by. As daunting as creating a list of career goals seemed to be — it all came quite naturally.

Step 4. Practicing The Presentation

I practiced the presentation in front of my wife and a few friends to get their feedback on how I could improve the presentation. Their input was incredibly valuable. I also filmed myself giving the presentation and watched it over again a few times to observe myself a bit more objectively.

In Retrospect

Looking back at the presentation I feel like it went well. I was able to confidently introduce myself to my new team in a way that was authentic (and hopefully engaging). The next half of my first day was a workshop with Ben Sauer and the digital team from Brighton and Hove Community Council.


Originally published at 90days.john-ellison.com on August 4, 2015.