Creating an App in the Rainforest

I just got back from an amazing experience at the Digital Naturalism Conference in Gamboa Panama. We met our daily two sloth quota, got really sweaty, and met incredible humans.

Gamboa is a character in this experience as well. It’s a sleepy, suburban canal town inhabited mostly by field scientists at the Smithsonian. We toured the butterfly conservation labs, traipsed down the old pipeline road, took in workshops, saw some innovative art and technology projects, and still managed to find time to work on a project.

The fellow attendees were biohacking mushrooms, making music with tadpoles, and creating en plein “rainforest” artwork. It was very hard to not geek out. On top of all of this, I was able to collaborate with one of my oldest friends and her incredible boss. Raja and Ann’s curiosity to follow many (really hours of this) leafcutter ant trails while I was most likely on sloth watch provided the impetus to create the ATTAFit app.

We wanted our conference contribution to be lively and educational, which steered us to creating an exercise app that mimics the tasks of leafcutter ants. Were we missing our kettlebell and kickboxing classes? Probably.

Additionally, here are just some sloth pictures from a sanctuary because you needed it.

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Making the case for UX at your job with whiteboarding

UX has many misconceptions about what it is. Ask a UX designer what it is and you're gonna get a Venn diagram that intersects with research, visual design, service design, architecture, business needs ... the list goes on. But most people at your work might think it's UI and ask you to "make it pretty." A cringe-worthy statement for certain and one where I have threatened to hide pandas in the design...

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It's important you share with your coworkers and clients your purview as a designer, but even better if you can show them. One of the best exercises you can do is a design sprint, but let's say that even that is too ambitious? Start with a whiteboarding session and create conversation. 

Here's my favorite instructional video on how to model a whiteboarding session in a design sprint. I used the same tactic on a project last week and it created dialogue and I was invited to more client meetings.