Untangling Communication Design

Alli McKee
Jul 3, 2018 · 3 min read

Design Systems Meetup in LA with Figma at Headspace

This spring, I gave a talk at Figma’s Design Systems Meetup to share the story of Stick’s first Communication Design System prototype. Our goal, from the beginning, was to establish a Design System that balanced consistency and control.

Here’s a bit more behind the journey:

The Design Challenge at hand: Can you turn a manual service into an automated system?
The Vision behind it: enable anyone to communicate visually, not just those with “design talent”
The video that inspired the design challenge: going from process to program
Step 1. Content: Reverse engineer the parameters based on an extensive analysis of existing visual communication assets. In this case, we started with slides and decks, publicly available on SlideShare, and took an inventory of all visual structures used, frequency, and use cases.
Step 2: Style. Understand the “levers” of branded visual communication
The challenge: ultimate simplification of branded communication design. Could we simplify the factors driving a company’s look and feel into a few simple levers to turn the art into a science?
Prototype Results: Stick’s initial brand dashboard
The goal: increasing complexity and personalization. Sidenote: in the early days we experimented with neural networks style transfer as a way to generate branded assets. We were a bit early :)
Experiment: Could we take structured text and systematically “translate” it into visuals? Ran the first experiment with class content from Stanford MBA curriculum, provided by “third-party” authors (classmates). Left: Before, text. Right: After, styled visual.
Using NLP APIs to extract key ideas from the text content.
Step 2: Using Typeform form to force author to make styling decisions by choosing objectives, not outcomes.
The result: Bringing it all together.
A closer look: The Prototype’s style parameters: (1) Casual vs. Formal determined typography, (2) Hot vs. Cold determined color, (3) “Rubik’s Cube” vs. “Rubber Band Ball” determined visual structure, (4) Left Brain vs. Right Brain determined icon illustration style, and (5) Coke vs. Pepsi determined Background vs. Foreground balance.
The result at scale: Dozens of unique visuals, all from Arial text input, and quantitative style survey data

About the Author: Alli McKee is the CEO and Founder of Stick.ai, a communication visualization platform that illustrates your ideas, in real-time, using natural language processing and machine learning. Built for B2B Sales and Success teams, Stick helps you communicate more more clearly and quickly so your ideas actually stick. For more, visit www.stick.ai.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

Alli McKee

Written by

CEO and Founder, Stick.ai - Illustrating Ideas in real time with NLP + ML. Painting and Improv on the side. TEDx Stanford.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

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