Meet a HOW Interactive Conference Speaker: David Sherwin

David Sherwin strikes me as something of a Renaissance man: creative guide, author, principal designer at frog, musician and self-described chocoholic. (Get a full sense of David’s many interests on his must-read blog, ChangeOrder.) The HOW team has really enjoyed getting to know David as we’ve worked with him in many capacities. David is an advisor for the HOW Interactive Design Conference, and he’s concocted something called the Progressive Design Challenge that’s geared toward helping conference-goers exercise their gray matter. We recently traded e-mails to chat about the challenge—and other interesting stuff.

First, tell us what you’re up to these days.
I just moved a few weeks ago to the Bay Area from Seattle after a month’s break, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in frog‘s San Francisco studio, getting to know this fabulous group of product and service designers, strategists and technologists, and starting work on some research and design projects. At the same time, I’ve been participating as a mentor in The Designer Fund, a new nonprofit that’s focused on providing support for designers who want to found their own software startups (see an article in Fast Company about it). Oh, and in my free time, I’m finishing my second book for HOW called Design Business from A to Z, which will out in November 2012. (Note: Check out David’s first HOW title, Creative Workshop.)

Tell us a bit more about The Designer Fund.
It’s a community of designers who invest in designer founders of businesses through mentorship, angel funding and access to our network. Designers can apply for an investment, similar to AngelList. Then Designer Fund mentors and angels help applicants pre/during/after accelerators, getting their business off the ground. I serve as a mentor for startups, helping foster their ideas so they can bring them to fruition. Any designer with ideas for innovative products or services, and the willingness to take on running their own company full-time, can apply for support.

When did you realize that digital design was the wave of the future?
When I first used a Commodore 64 to play games and play around with basic coding, I had a taste of the immense potential for designers in computing. It just took a long time for computers to catch up to the fidelity, flexibility, and vibrancy of printed magazines and books. Once I saw what was happening with the Mosaic web browser in college, and how designers were hacking and stretching the capabilities of HTML, I was totally hooked.

Based on your book, Creative Workshop, you’ve developed a Progressive Design Challenge at the Interactive Design Conference that will encourage participants to create a project throughout the event. What can people expect from that experience? What’s your vision for the challenge?
We ended up calling the challenge “Thinking Outside the Page” for two reasons: First, we thought it would be fun for the attendees to take something they understood (print design) and extrapolate it into a digital medium. So we’re jumping from the print magazine format into mobile, tablet computers, websites and so forth. Second, we’re going to challenge attendees to think outside the page metaphor, and consider what alternative approaches they could come up with for navigating through and consuming content on a device that uses touch input, has an accelerometer, and so forth.

So what attendees should expect is that some of the speakers will prompt them to take a method or tool that they’ve provided to them, and then immediately put it into practice. Since the talks at the event are arranged by the ideal interactive design process, from the inception of a project to the end, they will be able to take material from each bite-sized activity and plug it directly into the next. By the end, they should see how their initial planning and design efforts come to fruition in a paper prototype that expresses how their interactive solution might work.

What’s your favorite:
1) website
Recently, I’ve really gotten into checking Hipmunk for a quick visualization of travel options when I need to book a plane flight fast. I like the spartan visual interface and the ease with which I can check out the options available.

2) mobile app
I adore Cinemek Storyboard Composer. It comes in so handy when I’m thinking about telling a story, or scouting a location for where I’d like to shoot photos or video. At $20 it’s pretty steep, but I’ve been super-satisfied it. Oh, and on long plane flights, I like to play the Carcassonne app on my phone.

3) book
My favorite book that I recently read was The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton. A lovely anthropological journey into what work means in our lives, shown through real-life people that the author shadowed for months at a time with a photographer. I hope someday to write a book that approximates half of the brilliance in this one.

Add your name to the waiting list for the HOW Interactive Design Conference.