Week 7 – UXD Principles and Concepts

Our final week of Module 3: Visual Design and the final week of this course had us studying Aesthetics. We began the week with an overview of a variety of design principles like color, layers, transparency, textures, patterns, and contrast and how they are all defined and used in creating a cohesive, immersive, enjoyable design. I feel like I understand color theory a little better now, especially when considering its additive and subtractive nature across different usages. There are a lot of definitions related to color that I need to spend some time memorizing, so hopefully, I can do that before the next course begins.

Along with the presentation, we watched a few Lynda videos on color. Sidenote, I didn’t realize that Lynda was free to us – guess I should say goodbye to what little free time I thought I had. Beyond the physical properties of colors, the videos demonstrated how they can set a mood, and how palettes are designed to evoke emotion and memory and to create a sense of time and space. I think I’ll find myself exploring more of that particular video course if only to better understand how to start developing more thoughtful color schemes (beyond just hitting up a generator online). The last bit of Required Material was a piece on contrast, which was insightful too. Probably worth spending more time there too…

Finally, our assignment this week was to use persona data given to us to design a single page Persona exhibit. I found myself trying to find interesting ways to create a grid system that wasn’t too informed by the articles that we were linked to, but once I was an hour or so in I wished I’d gone with the 11 x 17” paper size as the 8.5 x 11 started feeling cramped. I tried to use what we’d learned last week around font sizing and colors to contrast the appropriate sections of the document while maintaining a consistency that made it all blend well. The only hiccup I had was in trying to settle on a way to handle the “Goals” section of the Main Points. It felt like it should be its own thing, but was included as a bullet within the Main Points list. I took that a cue to treat it like a sub-head of sorts, so I did something a little different with it.

In all, I’m sad to see this course end. I feel like as a concepts course, it definitely did its job or introducing me to a ton of stuff that I only knew a little about, and has me eager to explore a lot more of it in-depth. Here’s to hoping that we will cover more of it later, or that I find time on my own at some point to continue to dig in.

This week’s notes are here. Thanks Jess!

Week 6 – UXD Principles and Concepts

Week 6 has been focused on typography. I’ve never been as consciously uncertain about every text formatting decision I’ve made as I was this week. Starting to learn about how text should be used, while you’re still not an expert is fairly disconcerting. However, after this week’s assignment, I feel a bit more competent in choosing appropriate font pairings.

This week’s assignment took me the longest of any assignment to date. Even after the recommended and other materials, I feel like there is so much more to learn. As far as the terminology that accompanies fonts, I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground. But each glyph of a typeface seems like it should be governed by some laws of geometry and mathematics, especially rules for how to pair fonts. There were enough readings and videos this week that I didn’t dare go down that rabbit hole for fear of not finishing the other assignments.

This week felt light in discussions with peers, but I’m hopeful that we’ll get to see each other’s work through a summary video. For my assignment, I stuck close to the example in the presentation we covered but put my own spin on it. I would have liked to do something different, but really had no idea where to start. Seeing others work would be helpful, but I’d love to read through their thought process as well.

I did find all of the readings this week incredibly interesting as usual. I never realized typography was so refined, detailed, and important to our visual sensory system. Between last week’s exploration of design principles in general, and this week’s focus on type, I feel like I can look at a design and do a somewhat satisfactory job assessing it. That’s pretty significant progress in a short amount of time.

Notes aren’t quite ready this week, but I will update the post when they are.

Week 5 – UXD Principles and Concepts

In Week 5 of my Principles of UXD course, we moved on to Module 3: A Visual Design Primer. We began the week with a lecture on the topic, learning about principles like visual hierarchy, points lines and planes, balance, rhythm, scale, figure and ground, graming and grids. Together, these principles should create a pleasing harmony and delightful dissonance that help the user easily find the information they are seeking. Each of the principles is important on their own, but they must also work together across a page, across multiple pages, and even from property to property if strategically necessary.

Our assignment this week was to find effective and ineffective examples of designs. For my ineffective examples, I chose wwe.com and a chart from the Iowa CPAs website. The examples were different because wwe.com failed to use many of the design principles and felt flat and littered with random videos. My other example used all of the principles but used them inconsistently, not only across the page but inconsistently within the gridded system itself. My effective examples were airbnb.com and one of the most well-known ads of all time, VW’s 1964 Beetle print ad. Both of these were simple examples, which thinking about it now, I should have tried to find an effective example of a busy site.

Fortunately for me, even though I didn’t find a busy example of effective design, others in the class did. In our discussion, there were countless examples of both simple and busy designs that worked. Everyone did a great job of “noticing” design taking place, and seeing their thoughts alongside the examples was really helpful. The only thing that I’m still struggling to see “in the wild” is the golden ratio. I feel like anything that is off-balance and asymmetric to the rule of thirds can have the Fibonacci spiral placed on it and scaled just enough to make it look like it “works”. Beyond that, all of the principles we learned are simple enough that we can start applying them to work immediately.

As always, notes are here… although with no books this week, they are quite a bit lighter.

Week 4 – UXD Principles and Concepts

This week’s assignment was to create a flowchart for the user process of performing a mortgage insurance inspection. Creating the flow chart itself was difficult because I anticipated a lot of individual steps for the user based on all of the document they need to collect. I’m hoping that I went about it correctly, so we’ll see. To build the flow chart, I actually had to start by drawing out what I imagined the portfolio screen to look like. Based on the needs of the user, they need to be able to move expeditiously throughout the process, but must also be errorless. I used a lot of visual cues to the user to indicate what documents applied to the property, and where there were gaps in documentation. I also “baked in” system checks that would find and highlight those gaps, as well as lock-outs that would prevent submitting the portfolio if notes didn’t exist where a documentation gap existed.

In reviewing this week’s Pinterest shares, I tried to dedicate more time to reading full articles that people shared. In previous weeks I was focused on finding infographics and visuals I could swipe, but I found a few of the articles this week really good. The User Experience Design for Museum Exhibits article was full of cool tips and ideas from someone with 40+ years of experience, like the concept of rapid-prototyping with non-expert staff. I also enjoyed one of the articles shared around creating positive emotions through the experience by removing things like fear. I liked the article, but some experiences can also be heightened by leaving in a little bit of fear, namely games and gamified systems. Scarcity, Unpredictably, and Avoidance are all fear-based motivators that can be used to encourage users to embrace different elements of the design, and deliver even more heightened positive experiences, i.e. nothing wagered, nothing gained.

We also closed out our books for the course. For me, Norman’s book was a little dry through the last two chapters. It was good to read but didn’t lend itself to much note-taking. I will remember though that oftentimes where a safety system is implemented, it often creates another user hurdle and potential safety risk. I also liked his quick delve into innovation. At work, our department is focused almost completely on innovation. What we often treat as radical, is actually incremental. It actually reminded me of another book I read last year, The Creative Curve, which explores where new ideas and innovations come from. Designing with the Mind in Mind was less focused on these topics, and spent its time continuing to explore how our sensory systems work. I especially enjoyed the section on how we make irrational decisions. Since I’m a huge fan of Dan Ariely, I enjoyed exploring how the mind applies in these situations. Now that we’re done with the books, I’m excited to see what’s next!

Week 3 – UXD Principles and Concepts

I really enjoyed this week’s readings. I’ve always found work that studies how our brains operate fascinating and reading about how memory works has been no different. I constantly feel like I should be memorizing both of the books that we’re reading. I do plan on spending some time trying to memorize Norman’s section on Slips and Mistakes. Much of that language and the concepts it captures will be critical to effective design. Understanding the type of error and why it occurs, should help a designer anticipate problems and prevent them. All of it ties in perfectly with Johnson’s discussion of attention, creating memories, and recognition and recall. I mean, the fact that there’s a difference between recognition and recall in itself is wild. But understanding that recognition is instantaneous, and recall a focused effort to recreate a memory is not something I expected to learn from this course. So cool.

I also really liked Sherman’s lecture/presentation. I’ve never heard the phrase customer corridor before, and his explanation and following examples regarding onboarding a user were solid. I’ve found that reading the script alongside the video has helped me better retain the info. The Pattern Types he described are pervasive, yet I’m not sure that I’ve given them much consideration until now. Today I set up a Nintendo 2DS and immediately found myself thinking through the implications of their initial setup which uses a combination of modal and first-run callouts. One setup function in particular (signing in to your Nintendo ID) was troublesome. If you have issues signing in, the only recourse is to use the “back” button to navigate through 6 screens to return to the home screen. In that situation, the home button doesn’t work. Boo.

Finally, our first real test of what we’ve been learning was the Tiny Critique and Redesign assignment. Even though the rubric was clear on expectations, I still found the task challenging. We’ve covered a lot of ground in three weeks, so trying to pull concepts from 3 lectures, 5 chapters of one book, and 9 chapters of another book was daunting. It may have been necessary though because the prompt we were reviewing wasn’t specific to one section of study. I ended up taking issues with the language they used, the groupings they picked, and the buttons they choose. It was definitely a challenge, and I’m eager for feedback to see if I thought about everything appropriately.

As always, my Week 3 notes are here.

Week 2 – UXD Principles and Concepts

This week has been pretty fascinating, examining the eyes and the mind. As people, we get habituated to our vision and take for granted how it works both for and against us. Understanding how the eye receives light, and then how the brain interprets it to serve both survival and cognitive purposes now seem obvious as critical knowledge for designers. Especially when we are trying to account how Gestalt Principles impact our ability to perceive the world around us. Some Gestalt Principles seem basic, like proximity and symmetry, but others like figure-ground and common feet still leave me a bit curoius.

It’s just as interesting to me how our memory dances with design. Norman’s Seven Stages of Action seem silly to lay out at first, but if you’re helping design the means of facilitating that action, it’s clear how imperative it is to consider the Gulfs and each step that crosses them. Some stages are likely behavioral, while some may be reflective, depending on the action taking place. I’d also never considered Prospective Memory or Memory of the Future, and how “feedforward” enables you to prepare the user with foreshadowing.

I also dipped into the supplemental material a bit, reading Section 4: The Game of Seduction in Stephen Anderson’s Seductive Interaction Design. I’ve previously read a few books that covered similar material, so I wanted to compare his work to what I already knew. He does a good job of covering a lot of ground in a few short chapters, but I really should go back and read the first ¾ of the text to see his approach to interaction design, beyond the gamification basics. The O’reily resource seems like a place where I’ll spend some of my… free… time. If I can find some.

My colleagues shared a lot of great examples this week of good and bad designs according to Norman and Johnson’s books. The examples were fun to read about and provided thoughtful critiques that cemented some of the learnings in a more practical way. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the subjects of critique, and I think that was helpful because I didn’t have my own biases influencing my opinion.

Notes are here.

Week 1 – UXD Principles and Concepts

Preface – As of Jan 2019, I’ve enrolled at Kent State University, seeking a Masters of Science in User Experience Design. As such, certain coursework in the curriculum will require regular blog posts (reflections) of weekly learnings. This is the first of those posts.

In reflecting on Week 1 in UXD Principles and Concepts, I feel that we’ve covered a lot of ground. We began with the Kent State LUMEN model for design, which is similar to the Design Thinking Process, but contains a final element (iNform) that necessitates thinking about why designs are made and reporting to stakeholders. That led to a foundational understanding of what roles exist on a UX team that may use LUMEN, how the reporting structure for that team may look, and how that team may go about its engagements with its partners, whether they be internal partners or clients. I find that I’ve done many tasks similar to those defined by the Content Strategist, but am just as interested in UX Strategist and Interaction Design roles. What’s interesting to me is how imperative it is that all of the roles come together to achieve UX success. In a business world where we preach the importance of experience, my department (if not our entire company) is ill-equipped to handle the experience design needs of all our customers.

We also learned the basic elements of experience design this week, as defined by Jesse James Garrett. Garrett’s Elements of Experience are conceptualized as “planes” on which different components design considerations take places. Each level – Surface, Skeleton, Structure, Scope, and Strategy – has its own significance in the design process. But it’s important to remember that this is not a linear path and that there must be some overlap during phase shifts to ensure each is applied thoughtfully. This is complicated, though necessary when we traverse both the software and information sides of each plane. Additionally, the software vs information mindset stipulates specific needs that must be accommodated on each plane, resulting in a more comprehensive model for considering the end-to-end design process.

“Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology.” – Don Norman

Finally, we learned to think about the human element of design. The Ted Talk from Tony Fadell implored us to think bigger, think smaller, and think younger, to better notice things that we’ve habituated to. The Design of Everyday Things communicated the importance of discoverability and usability in design, whether it be a product, site, or anything else. My favorite line from the first chapter may be this: “Design is concerned with how things work, how they are controlled, and the nature of the interaction between people and technology.” That concern is made evident through designers use of affordances, signifiers, constraints, mappings, and feedback. However, a designer’s most important job may be helping craft the visualization of the conceptual model, which affords the user the ability to see how the object should work, and what to do if it doesn’t.

My Week 1 notes are viewable here.

Gamification is Poised for a Podcast-like Resurgence

Gamification Origins

Gamification is a stupid word. I think at this point just about all of us agree on that. Yet despite the words silliness, the definition is important: the process of applying game-based elements to non-game activities. We humans have been trying to gamify non-game situations (at least knowingly, at scale, in business, according to this definition) since the 1990s. That should come as no surprise given the influence the video game revolution of the 1970s had on youngsters of that time.

Twenty years later the kids that grew up in front of arcade cabinets and playing early-gen home consoles were heading off to college and joining the workforce. Their mental models, full of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Galaga patterns, mechanics, and scoring systems, acted as the lens through which they viewed nearly everything.

It was inevitable that they would bring systems of play with them, both to the work they did and to the way they thought. As they did, people took notice when things worked, copied their ideas, and then tweaked and hyped gamification until the weight of the gluttonous idea collapsed on itself, thereby negating most of the footing it had gained.

Game Over

To the masses, gamification faded as quickly as it came. Google searches for gamification peaked in September 2012, after a half-decade of fever pitch hype.  Amara’s Law says “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Side note, Amara’s Law would be a great title for an RPG.

The cause of death for gamification, I think, was its rapid ascendance in our psyche as the silver bullet for moving people through unfriendly systems with the intention of extracting as much value from them as possible.

Need a student to learn something? Gamify it.

Need an employee to be more productive? Gamify it.

Need a customer to be more loyal? Gamify it.

I could go on and on – that list is endless. Where the silver bullet failed though, was that the implementation of these ideologies used simple mechanics to push people through systems, and I’ll say this again, focused on the extraction of value rather than the creation and exchange of it. Before people had time to ask why and how gamification worked, consultants and designers were throwing point systems, leaderboards, and badges on anything they could hoping those minimal incentives would push users to do more. To want more. To buy more.

Points, badges, and leaderboard mechanics can be important for some gamified systems success, yes, but most implementations forgot that those systems were merely the scoreboards of the games being played. Points, badges, and leaderboards (or PBLs as they’ve come to be known) are not they themselves the game.

The hype of gamification didn’t deliver,, and the phrase itself was so pervasive that it reached a point of cringe-inducing cliché whenever it was used. Our collective culture constructed a conscious block for mentions of the practice, and it’s been largely ignored or muted since.

But it’s there, in that out-of-sight out-of-mind basement, that the cognoscenti have continued to hypothesize and test the mechanisms that make gamification what it is. It’s there, that modern innovations in technology, and further research into behavioral economics and neuroscience have been applied to the frameworks that lay under gamification.

And it’s there, where the word gamification is hardly used but its essence still permeates, that the concept has gone through a string of evolutions to become a stronger, more diverse, more capable – albeit more complex – version of itself.

The purveyors of the hype train a decade ago may disagree. They may still sore from being burned by the number of consumer audiences they tried to inflict PBLs upon, but the rapid failure of their work was their own fault. They’re likely the same people that have run from social media platform after platform, scratching the surface and never seeing results. They’re the groups that hyped VR and built cheesy systems that customers didn’t use. They’re the clowns that are cobbling together too-simple Messenger chat-bots and voice recognition apps for the Alexa’s of the world, with the only aspiration of being as functional as the already much-hated voice navigation phone trees. No doubt in time they’ll declare that they too don’t work and will start pushing something new. These are the modern day snake oil salesmen, except these days they even have the snake oil to sell you, just an ever changing recipe.

Our first go-round with 8-bit gamification ran out of lives too soon. But what I think you will see is that this time around, the new 64-bit gamification system is ready to explode.

Marketing Evolutions

If you take an aggressively oversimplified view of marketing during the last hundred or so years, it’s safe to posit that the business function has gone through some changes.

Originally, marketing was basically just made up of sales functions. Something was made, someone went out and told others about it, and subsequently sold it to them. If people were interested enough after seeing someone else use the thing, maybe they would even come to the salesperson. But at the core of it, was that one person, with the insight and swagger and salesmanship that could get people to bite .

Things got more complicated when marketing decided that it’s main function should be showing people “the thing”. The salespeople needed the good leads. So marketing became advertising. Plus, getting people to come to you was far easier than trying to go out to each and every one of them.  Marketing became less about the hard sell to the customer, and more about spreading word of your product (often with a disregard for truth – hello regulation), so that people would come to see the salesperson.

But as marketing and sales diverged, they quickly realized their distinct need for proximity to one another.. Every operational discussion became “sales and marketing have to work hand in hand.” But how do you symbolize that work and the hand-off from a mass messaging strategy to the hard sell? How about a marketing funnel, made ever-so-simple with the application of the acronym AIDA? It so very conveniently helps us symbolize the movement of a person from Awareness at the top-of-the-funnel (tofu) to the Action at the bottom-of-the-funnel (bofu). And if we want to be REALLY customer centric, we’ll slap a Satisfying “S” at the end, so those customer service people feel included too. Voila! Marketing becomes the funnel. That is, until we acknowledge the leaks.

The more we know about something, the more we realize that we don’t know anything about it at all. As we adopted the marketing funnel, we allowed ourselves to think more complexly about the systems at play. But then we gained access to more and more data, thanks to technological advances. The data said that our attempts to linearize consumer purchase decisions with a funnel. AIDAS turned into AIAAIAIDDDIIAIDDA…..S? Add in multiple devices per user, and poof – that right there is some finely observed chaos. So what do we do? We revise our definition of marketing again to be based upon… say it with me, the Customer Journey. And we love journeys now because they’re non-linear! If the customer isn’t moving through the system, we can just diagnose that they must be looping and need more content. Problem solved, right?

The journey we measure, now covers the space from *pre-awareness* to *brand advocacy*. That’s a large swath of land to manage, so while most of the visuals created depicting the journey make it look simple, it’s far from it. It’s great that we’re finally thinking about how all these pieces fit together, and with so many moving and changing concurrently, it’s really difficult to manage.

I know you’re probably thinking “thanks for the history lesson, but you said this had something to do with games.”

Well, next we’ll need something to help us understand a customer’s movement throughout the journey. To make sense of the motivations that compel a consumer from one stage to the next, for the right reasons, for the right value exchange. Have you ever used a 5-by to made a piece of content that was supposed to move a consumer along their decision journey that didn’t work? Then you know what I mean.

Attention is a currency. For messaging to be given attention there has to be either, 1) value within each individual interaction with your brand or 2) a whole gob of value at the end of all interactions with your brand. Gamification, done thoughtfully, establishes how to assess those value transactions and how to make progress with your messaging.

Datas Ex Machina

If you’re going to manage the customer journey properly, you need one thing more than anything else: data. I guess we’re lucky then that our data sources, storage, and reporting capabilities have progressed tremendously since our last go-round with gamification.

We now have more and better data on individuals that don’t know our brand, those that do, and those that really-really do. Today’s’ digital tracking (and increasingly, offline tracking) allows us to maintain robust real-time databases, to link those databases with hundreds of others, and to query them simultaneously for instant results. This access to consumer data allows us to paint elaborate pictures of our audiences, and their needs and desires. These databases store consumers history and algorithms can predict their future. Properly analyzed data can tell us where consumers struggle, and where they’re apt. The data can tell us how to engage in a way that makes consumers, the real humans on the other end, want to actually engage back with us.

If we’re smart enough to have that portrait for each one of our customers (not personas), then we’re beginning to have the underlying structure we need to effectively implement a gamified system into our entire marketing ecosystem.


Another big change in the last decade has been the shift to subscription-based services like Netflix, Spotify, and Blue Apron. Businesses have gone from a buy once mentality, to what is essentially a membership model. Heck even Microsoft is starting to sell their XBOX game consoles as part of a subscription model. Activity looping, like membership and subscriptions, is ABUNDANT in games.

As humans, we love the safety of repetition. But also quickly get bored with it. Game designers have for years found ways to adjust games in-flight so that the boredom arising from the repetition is mitigated. As brands and non-profits alike come to grips with the cyclicality of their work, and as those kinds of systems become increasingly more common, they’re a veritable breeding ground for gamification. Every year members renew service, but what considerations are made that need accounted for? How can you make that transaction more exciting? More inviting?

Consistency, Familiarity, Simplicity = Experience

The final piece of the gamification 2.0 mentality is our renewed focus on Customer Experience. You know, the end to end experience. The online and offline experience. Every touchpoint crafted in the perfect way, for just that user and where they are in their journey, with the right message delivered at the right time in the right medium. All done by cheap and efficient AI so we don’t have to pay real employees to do anything. The holy grail of marketing.

Right now, people are obsessive about “experience”, and they should be. Maybe not quite as pumped as they are for design thinking, but that’s another post. And I totally get it. Getting experiential consistency, familiarity, and simplicity right is critical. Establishing solid constraints, feedback mechanisms, and recovery options are just as. But you know what modern UX has in common with game design? Everything I just said. Modern mass-applied UX is many cases is following in the footsteps of what game designers have been doing for decades. The only difference is that game designers have been crafting these systems in worlds where they have full control, so it’s no wonder it’s taken us a bit of time to figure out how to make that play in the real world where we aren’t in control of anything.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some UX innovations that video games need to learn from too – it’s a two-way street after all. But games themselves are self-contained experiences. If you’re going to craft an experience, you should accept some insights from a domain that’s been successful for hundreds of years.


You might be asking yourself “if we’ve got the journey figured out, and we’ve got the data figured out, and we’ve got the experience figured out… why do we need gamification?”

To address that, we need to explore where the cognoscenti have been spending their time with gamification. It’s not unexpected, but it is a bit of a deviation. The experts who continued working in game-based systems found that the application of game mechanics, as I mentioned earlier, were not enough.

The most successful implementations of gamification relied on a deeper level of design, that provoked humans into acting. Those implementations have been in educational/learning arenas. They knew the systems would fit perfectly in this space, but have to finely tune the use case for each environment. They’ve found that successful gamification is reliant upon motivational systems that are balanced between extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators, and between black-hat and white-hat motivators. And it’s those understandings that will start to creep into the regular business world, to be adopted for better, and likely for worse by the nefarians that always show up when something is working.

Where gamification 1.0 was merely the process of applying game elements to non-games, modern gamification 2.0 has become more of a motivational design. Or as prominent gamification author Yukai Chou (@yukaichou) calls it, Human-Focused Design. We are after all humans, with 99.9% of the same genetic and evolutionary composition. Our lizard brains react with fear and love in similar ways regardless of geography, skin color, or deity. Good human-focused design starts with that at the core, and works its way out – all the way out – to those points, badges, and leaderboards we started with. That’s the difference between good and bad gamification. Between where we were, and where we are now.


So do I really think gamification is going to blow up like podcasting did after languishing for a while? Very much yes! All the underlying technological tools that enable gamification are reaching a point of usable maturity, while neuroscience and psychology are helping distill down specific human conditions we’re all attuned to. All these elements are coming together at a time when marketers are finally exploring meaningful, lasting relationships with consumers by adding value to their lives, which is btw, the real goal of any business.

Here’s to hoping that the next wave of gamification does just that.

What is The Gen Z Frequency?

I was selected by publisher Kogan Page to read an advance copy of one of their upcoming titles, The Gen Z Frequency (scheduled for release on September 28). Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked my way through the text with relative ease. It’s a well written, fun book.

In what I would now call the quintessential guide-book for marketing to Gen Z, authors Gregg Witt and Derek Baird explore everything from finding relevance with the cohort to the procedural steps needed to align with Gen Z’s culture and expectations. The book’s tips and frameworks are explored via well-known brands, but examples including Nike, Lego, Carhartt, Glossier aren’t the same stories you’re used to hearing. There are even some case studies from unnamed companies exposing how they’ve failed trying to implement tactics to reach Gen Z. It’s all incredibly insightful.

Here are some key take-aways about Gen Z that you’ll get to explore even further throughout the book.


  • is comprised of individuals born between 1996 and 2011 (approximately)
  • is estimated to be a little more than 1.9 billion, or 27% of the global population, with the most significant proportions being in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa
  • is estimated to be between 62-65 million people in the US
  • has a minimal tolerance for companies that don’t take the time to get to know them individually (you’re going to need better data)
  • expects brands to see and adapt to trends before they become cliched
  • rejects being called anything besides Gen-Z, as the notion of a cohesive generation is nonsense to them
  • is open to all ethnicities, races, genders and orientations; and expects that those values will be reflected in the brands they are loyal to
  • manage their social media profiles more like brands, having watched and learned from Millennials mistakes of over-sharing
  • tends to reject companies without a clear brand story that they can ascribe cogent values to, if they can’t find out who you are and what you stand for, they won’t risk buying from or working for you
  • seeks brands that connect with their passions and interests, and contribute to their lives (are you adding value, or selling stuff)
  • expects “unique”, hyper-individualism is the norm
  • wants to interact with companies who produce content that makes them feel cool and look unique, using all the digital assets available today like emoji, artificial and mixed reality, stickers, etc.

The latter half of the book is filled with deliberate examinations of and recommendations for building a marketing ecosystem that works for Gen Z. The authors expose you to their “youth culture engagement playbook”, which, by itself, is probably worth the price of the book. They also break down specific social strategies for each and every dominant digital platform, explain content strategies and appropriate brand voice development, and they explore how you can parlay engagement with your content into the creation of a vibrant community.

There’s a lot here, and the book doesn’t waste words. Gregg and Derek are the experts that have been working with the biggest brands in this space, and their experience and omniscience is clearly evident. It’s an engaging and illuminating look into the next big driver of our economy, and subsequently, your organization.

The Gen Z Frequency is a worthwhile way to start exploring the audience you’ll be working with, and the marketing operations you’ll need in place in the not-so-distant future.

My 2018 Personal Balanced Scorecard

Every year, I take a different approach to resolutions. Since 2013 I’ve crafted a personal balanced scorecard to guide my personal behaviour, and, hopefully, improve it. Most of this is pretty personal to me, but I’m happy to talk with anyone about it if you have questions.

For the last few years, I’ve broken my scorecard into four categories; mind, body, spirit, and wallet. Not every item fits perfectly into a category, but I’ve done my best to organize them in a way that seems most logical.

Mind / Learn 

  • Read books for 30 minutes a Day
    • Goal: Read 24 Books in 2018
      • New
        • Great at Work (Jan)
        • Empower: What happens when students own their learning (Jan)
        • Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus (Jan)
        • Blood, Sweat and Pixels
        • Slaughterhouse Five
        • In Praise of Slowness
        • Die Empty
        • Superbetter
      • Reread
        • Octalysis
        • Nonsense
        • Ready Player One
        • In the Line of Fire
  • Use Duolingo for 1 Lesson Per Day
    • Goal: Learn basic Mandarin
  • Spend an hour a week training w/ After Effects
    • Goal: Fluency in core skills
      • Organization
      • Masks
      • Animation Curves
      • Kinetic Text
      • Motion Titles
      • 2D to 3D images
      • Screen Replacement
      • Double Exposure


  • Workout every day
    • Goal: Weight – 250, BMI – <35
      • Walk 30 min or 1 mile or Leg/Arm/Core Sets
      • Daily back stretches
  • Zero soda intake
    • Goal: reduced heartburn and sleeplessness
      • Focus on 1 gallon of water daily
  • Visit physicians for ailments
    • Goal: Improved mobility/health
      • Left knee
      • Spine T7-T10 area


  • Meditate for 15 min a day
    • Goal: Relaxation/Mindfulness
  • Engage thoughtfully about how weekly church scripture applies to my life
    • Goal: Build habit of bringing message home
  • Volunteer 1x per quarter
    • Goal: Support orgs/missions I care about
      • Focused on core focus areas of hunger, shelter, or equality
      • Possible: Iowa Homeless Youth Shelters via Nationwide Volunteer Match


  • Pay off smallest fed student loan – $3k
    • Goal: Reduce monthly bill obligations
  • Do all 100k maintenance to Venza – $1.2k
    • Goal: Preserve condition
  • Do all 50k maintenance xB – $500
    • Goal: Preserve condition
  • Contribute to kids 529 plan
    • Goal: Double existing balances