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The Elastic Brand Podcast · Show Notes

I was delighted to be interviewed for the Season 2 finale of The Elastic Brand Podcast, “A podcast exploring the art of creating outstanding brands and identities for the digital age.”

The Elastic Brand’s host is Liz Elcoate and, if you’re looking for someone to assist you with branding, I’d recommend her in a heartbeat. Not only is Liz incredibly knowledgable, she’s also lovely to work with.

Here are notes from the show and links to what we covered…


I have a number of slidedecks currently on Notist, I’m adding more as I develop new material.

Everything I’m sharing on Notist is drawn from my 25+ year career as a designer and my 15+ year career as an educator (teaching at Belfast School of Art). My goal is to help others as much as possible by sharing some of what I’ve learned. Here is my main Notist page:

My latest workshop – ‘Let me tell you a story…’ – explores content marketing, particularly focusing on creatives who need to develop content marketing to promote themselves as efficiently as possible. The slidedeck is available – with notes – here:

There are other Notist decks, but they’re in ‘ninja mode’, hidden, but still available. I’ll be sharing these more widely (and removing the ‘ninja mode’) when I have a few more completed.

Paint a Product Picture is about the importance of what I call ‘product storytelling’ for brands. The slidedeck is available – with notes – here:

When things go wrong… explores the role that words play in design, especially in the design of interfaces. It stresses the need to write for clarity and helpfulness. The slidedeck is available – with notes – here:

The article I referred to in the podcast (and in the preceding slidedeck) is called Forget Coding: Writing Is Design’s ‘Unicorn Skill’. The Fast Company article refers to John Maeda’s excellent Design in Tech Report 2017.

All of the Design in Tech Reports are worth reading, there’s a summary of the first four reports here. The relevant slide from the 2017 slidedeck is Slide 28, which explores the importance of:

  • Verbal Design
  • Words as Material
  • Why UX Design is a Lot Like Writing

The case studies I mentioned – of (physical and digital) brands that are very good at product storytelling – are as follows:

Nicole Fenton’s excellent Tiny Content Framework that I mentioned in the podcast is well worth looking at and using. Nicole describes it as, “A tiny content strategy framework focused on goals, messages, and branding.” It’s very good. If you’re dealing with a client that doesn’t have the budget to run a brand messaging workshop, I recommend it highly!

Nicole – co-authoring with Kate Kiefer Lee – also wrote the excellent book: Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose. It’s a fantastic book filled with great advice and I’d strongly recommend buying a copy, I return to it often in my work.

The ‘course in a book’ that I’m currently writing for Adobe is called Building Beautiful UIs. I was delighted to see it featured on Sidebar on Sunday, 28 July.

Building Beautiful UIs is a classroom in downloadable format designed to get you up-and-running as a user interface designer, even if you have zero experience. I’m adding chapters to it as I complete them.

I’ve shared some thoughts on Disrupting Design Education and The State of Education via my gists page. My thoughts on ‘The State of Education’ might be a little unguarded, but they capture the frustration I have with formal education systems in the UK (and the US).

Education – which I believe is a right that should be available to all – has become marketised. I think that is wrong. Education should be about helping everyone to fulfil their true potential, regardless of the size of their salary or their social status.

I am working hard on a new project – designtrack – where I hope to share my learning materials more widely. Through that project, which I’m aiming to launch in 2020, I hope to open up the opportunities of design education (particularly UX and UI design) to as many as possible.

The first book I mentioned was:

There are two books:

  • Part 1 deals with words at the service of brands;
  • Part 2 deals with words at a user interface (UI) level.

Together both books cost £5, but if you use the code ‘onefree’, you can get both books for the price of one.

The second book I mentioned was:

‘Start!’ is ‘a course in a book’ drawn from 15+ years of my teaching with a focus on helping others successfully start a profitable business. Use the code ‘voyager’ and the book, which normally costs £9, is free.

If you’d like the full course – which includes the book, the screencasts, the slide decks and the worksheets – use the code ‘atlas’ and the course, which normally costs £18 (which was already priced far too low!), is just £9.

You can find me on the web here:

When I’m not writing or teaching, I work with the incredibly talented team at Little Thunder. Little Thunder – “Tiny Studio; Giant Reach” – counts Electronic Arts (EA); Visa and Adobe as clients, and I’m immensely proud of the work they are doing. (I taught all four of Little Thunder’s team.)

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