This is a new blog for me. But it’s not my first blog. The inspiration for this blog started back in December of 2010. It came out of the fact that I was a bit restless and bored both professionally and personally. That boredom pulled me towards dusting off some skills that I hadn’t used or practiced with for quite awhile—telling stories with pictures and motion and not just words. This led towards a not insignificant set of experiments with cameras, lens, computers and all the gear required to make some of these things work. It culminated in April of 2011 when I got the chance to collaborate with a former colleague from Microsoft named August de los Reyes. I, along with Thomas Lewis and Corey Schuman had a change to participate with in a programming track at Microsoft’s MIX 2011 conference that focused on design.
August’s brilliant work at that event was the final push that motivated me to do my own personal and professional reset. August delivered such a brilliant presentation that I literally spent an extra 36 hours practicing mine in Las Vegas, a presentation I’d done multiple times, because if I was going to be on the same stage with him I wanted to give the best talk I could and honor his ideas.
So here we are, a good six months after that presentation and perhaps the first visible step of some of the changes I’ve made is this blog you are reading now. But more has happened. For starters I have a new job, I now spend my time at Microsoft not just working on design problems for BIG customers but instead/also, almost exclusively, focus my energies on startups, entrepreneurs and some of the structures and communities that are rising up to serve them (Think incubators and coworking facilities). While I spend time ensuring that great Microsoft programs like BizSpark and Azure are available friction free and just plain free to startups the most important part of this new role is it lets me work in an area that I think is critical to the continued and future success of not just the US but the entire world. I get to help solve a WICKED PROBLEM that if we’re all successful will change the world.
Quite simply, startups and entrepreneurs are the folks that are going to drive and create the next generation of businesses and success that will fuel our growth and pursuit of knowledge in the coming century. This may seem like something that only matters if you’re in the Silicon Valley, New York, or Boston. But the reality is that this mission and what people that build businesses do for their local economies is true everywhere—from Nairobi to Omaha to Sofia entrepreneurs matter. If they fail, we all fail. This is where the fight is—and it’s where design can play a critical role, in helping companies succeed and in creating jobs. It’s an amazing and fun role but the stakes are very high, we’ve got a generation of college graduates that risk crippling college debt, and a mature set of skilled and experienced folks that have all but given up on remaining in the workforce. People are literally taking to the streets around the world because of their frustrations. We need to fix that, and I can think of no other problem that I want to help solve.
So why is this blog called 21st Century Storytelling? You’ll need to watch August give his talk below to get some insights into that. This blog is what I would call an evolution of August’s thesis, that our lives, what we do, what we consume, what we create—all have the element of a story at their root. This blog is about TELLING those great stories, CREATING those great stories and SHARING those great stories. I owe August a great deal for lighting a fire under my ass, I think you’ll find yourself similarly inspired as a designer if you watch what he has to say.
August starts at about 11 minutes in on this stream. An important thing to note is that all these presentations were highly choreographed. When August hits play on his demo it just goes, he can’t stop it, pause it, speed it up or slow it down. Keep that in mind as you watch it. If you jump ahead to the 31:00 minute mark you can see how my own modest presentation attempts to build on his thesis.