Why would a software design firm create a video game?

Human beings like boxes. Specifically, we like putting people, and things, and companies into boxes. As in, you’re this kind of person, and you’re that kind of person. As in, your company does this, and your company does that. In the simplest terms, we here at Jackson Fish Market are a design firm. We design experiences. These experiences span everything from the identity of a company or product to its marketing collateral, to its physical presence, to its software, to its support experience. We look at them all as being holistically connected, and when done right, all contributing to create a genuine emotional connection between the creators of the business, and the business’ customers. That is our purpose.

While we’ve talked about it a little bit before, when we’re not working hard for our clients, we’ve set aside a micro-team to work on a video game. So the question is this: Why would a software design firm create a video game? At first blush, it doesn’t seem to fit. But to us, it does. Let me explain.

For us here at JFM, we strive to create user experiences that are effective at creating emotional connections between the makers of a product or service and their customers. The experience in the broadest sense, is a bridge between the two groups. The wider, shorter, and more comfortable that bridge is, the deeper the connection is between the two groups. For us, even though our gaming experience and active gaming practice is completely across the board when it comes to our team, we are all in sync in terms of where game design fits into the overall pantheon of holistic interactive design. In our opinion, interactive game design is the highest form of our art.

Services like Netflix, or Facebook, or Uber all have high points in their user experiences (and some low points). And while their design is definitely a benefit for each of them, each also provides a core service that people really really desire – an instantly available good movie, connection with friends and family, and a quick ride without any hassle, respectively. In other words, as users, sometimes we will put up with small or even large speed bumps in their experiences because their core service is so desirable. But when it comes to a video game, there is nothing but the experience. There is nothing but the design. The user experience and the game are one. If the design gets in the way, then the game is not fun. And I don’t need to play the game to get home. I don’t need to play the game to do my job. In fact, often, spending time playing a game is a luxury that takes time away from doing something that’s probably more important.

A video game needs to immediately and unequivocally connect on an emotional level with a user and satisfy their craving to be entertained. It needs to do so in multiple dimensions at once. And abandoning it for another one is as easy as disposing of a piece of chewing gum. This purity of form, and this disposability, means that designing a video game that people fall in love with is the most difficult thing a designer in our field can do.

We are proud of the work we’ve done. Proud of the work we do for clients, and on our own products. But not a day goes by when we don’t long to improve. Not a day goes by when we don’t strive to elevate ourselves to be better designers, better communicators, and better storytellers.

We’re proud to (re-)announce that we are making a video game – Drey Duncan and the Haunted Hotel.

Drey Duncan, a newly minted graduate of the Columbia University graduate school of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation spent her last savings going to school to learn how to preserve the old buildings she loves. A city law firm comes looking for a grad student to evaluate a property in the city – a gorgeous art deco hotel, built in 1930, that opened for one weekend, and has been closed ever since. At first Drey says no. She’s fresh out of school and has no experience taking on such a big job. But after losing her only source of income, Drey has no choice, and accepts the gig. What will she find? Why did the hotel close? How could a beautiful hotel remain untouched for over 80 years in the middle of Manhattan? These are the questions Drey will try to answer on her first adventure.

Stay tuned to this blog where we’re going to be incredible transparent about the entire process of creating this game. And in the meantime, meet our hero: Drey. :)

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Responsive TV Remote — Dream Project #2

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This is the second in a series of posts describing some of the projects we would love to work on. As a holistic digital design firm, Jackson Fish Market is very fortunate to have really bright clients come to us with super interesting projects on a regular basis. But rather than wait for them to come to us, we figured we might let the world know which projects we’d love to work on. Each of these ideas is something we’re passionate about. And for each we have a deep set of ideas to help make them a reality. So if one of these is something you’re thinking about, call us. We’d love to help.

I think a lot of designers, sit back at the end of the day, turn on the television, and fantasize about redesigning the interface to their television. And while there are certainly challenges and opportunities when it comes to remote control of all the devices and services that connect to our televisions, that is not the are on which we would like to focus with this effort.

This effort would be about improving remote control of televisions in one simple yet profoundly important dimension — responsiveness.

I have personally probably used three dozen different remotes over the last decade or two. These include remotes for: DirecTV, Comcast, XBOX, Windows Media Center, AppleTV, Samsung televisions, Roku, Boxee, soft Remotes on iPhone and Android devices, and more. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I’m not talking about the ability for these remotes to render themselves gracefully on large and small screens. I’m talking about old school responsiveness. You press a button, and the thing you wanted to happen, happens instantly.

This may seem like a simple problem. From determining the right technology to wirelessly connect the remote to its target device, to making sure the device can render the results fast enough, there are many little details needed to make sure this happens properly. And yet, for some reason, when it comes to television especially, the gap between when you press a button and when something happens on screen is maddeningly long. You could recite an epic poem in that gap in some cases.

The set-top boxes we hook up to our televisions are so much more powerful these days than the fastest computers of yesteryear and yet, when we want to change a channel, they plod along. This is a thorny design problem, but there are many techniques that can be used to speed up the actual and perceived response of the device to the remote. We would employ all of these to create a tv watching experience that’s as instantly responsive and satisfying as it is to manipulate something with your fingertip on your touchscreen device.

If you’re looking to create something like this, and would like an excited team to help you design the identity, the hardware, the software, and the marketing experiences, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Disposable Video Display — Dream Project #1

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This is the first in a series of posts describing some of the projects we would love to work on. As a holistic digital design firm, Jackson Fish Market is very fortunate to have really bright clients come to us with super interesting projects on a regular basis. But rather than wait for them to come to us, we figured we might let the world know which projects we’d love to work on. Each of these ideas is something we’re passionate about. And for each we have a deep set of ideas to help make them a reality. So if one of these is something you’re thinking about, call us. We’d love to help.

It seems like every few months we read another article about how scientists are creating low power, flexible, super-thin, high-resolution displays. And that soon, really any minute now, maybe even yesterday, we’ll all replace those reams and reams of paper with flexible, bendable, foldable, and of course disposable, pieces of electronic paper. Of course, we’re not quite there yet. Not even close. But we may be closer than we think if we’re willing to set our sights a little lower.

What we want to create is a display that will retail for less than $10. It does not need to be color. It will play a 3 minute video. It will have no networking. It will run on batteries. Getting video onto the device will be a matter of a USB cable or perhaps a USB stick with a video file that is labeled correctly. The device will have almost no user interface as it will either be off, show the video, or show a still. The device will have rudimentary audio. When the battery runs out, the stored video remains. We’d like it to remain indefinitely so that decades from now new batteries will reveal the video on board.

The design of the device should be such that it will survive being mailed with no packaging and some stamps on the back.

Ultimately we believe these devices can serve as an analog to handwritten notes. Custom videos from businesses to favored customers. Personal video postcards from parents to their children at summer camp.

If the cost is in the $10 range, recipients of these “postcards” may be interested in using them. But we believe that as the cost goes down, the use will become more ubiquitous and the devices thought of as more disposable.

If you’re looking to create something like this, and would like an excited team to help you design the identity, the hardware, the software, and the marketing experiences, don’t hesitate to let us know.

We’ve written a new User Experience and Design Book just for you — Making Things Special

This week marks the eighth anniversary of Jackson Fish Market. In the last eight years, and the many before that, Jenny and I have contributed designs, identity, strategy, and a fair amount of execution to dozens and dozens of technology projects large and small. We’ve spent years thinking about and honing our answers to the fundamental existential questions of our profession. What is a User Experience Designer? Why do they exist? And how can they make a meaningful creative impact?

Often, engineers, business leaders, marketers and other non-designers in tech don’t understand what user experience designers are actually supposed to do. (Hint: It’s not write code.) But even worse, UX designers are often complicit in this dynamic by trying to live up to the rest of the organization’s misplaced expectations. And they do this at the expense of learning fundamental skills that every designer should have – e.g. color theory, typography, etc. What if designers embraced the depth and complexity of their roles? What if designers exceeded the industry’s low expectations? What if designers demanded and earned leadership roles across the tech industry?

Today we have launched our new book Making Things Special – Tech Design Leadership from the Trenches.

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We never would have reached this point without the support of our Kickstarter backers, the hard work of our Jackson Fish Market team and you, our loyal fans. Special Thank Yous to Tom Chang who illustrated the book informatively, beautifully, and with a sense of humor, and to Scott Berkun who edited our rambling text and kept us relentlessly focused on telling our story clearly.

You can read the book three different ways right now:

We worked really hard to make this book as useful as possible, your honest and thoughtful review would be greatly appreciated. There’s always room for improvement, and we can’t do it without your help. Feel free to spread word of our new book on social media by pointing people to http://makingthingsspecial.com.

As always, thanks for your support.

Introducing Slide Bureau 2.0

Since launching Slide Bureau in the Spring we’ve been working hard, polishing and improving existing features, listening to our customers, and gathering real world feedback and suggestions. We’re thrilled to announce Slide Bureau 2.0 including a slew of new functionality that’s focused on exactly what our customers told us they wanted.

Already Slide Bureau has received some great recognition.

“Slide Bureau keeps the creative process in check, and layers in some slick tech goodies (real-time mirroring of the presentation on the web, embedded data)… Man, what I wouldn’t have done for a tool like this in the marketing department at the brokerage where I once worked.”

- Joel Burslem, 1000 Watt

We’ve always known Slide Bureau was going to be a great tool for helping people uniquely and beautifully deliver their messages. In the beginning, we envisioned Slide Bureau as a great way for even non-designers to create gorgeous presentations. But our customers told us two things: 1) slideshows were only one of the many formats in which they wanted to communicate, and 2) they wanted to share their Slide bureau creations everywhere. With our new functionality, we’re helping end users create content they can be proud of and that they can easily share across multiple channels, in multiple formats. Here are all the new features we’ve been working on:

Create once, Share Everywhere. Content in Slide Bureau automatically adjusts to its environment. You can share the same content as often as you like in multiple formats, but editing the core presentation will keep them all up-to-date.

Webpage view. In addition to the existing slide show view, you can now view your “slides” as a single, scrollable, web-standard compliant web page. Wondering why you might want to take your content and “stack” it as a webpage? Here’s an example for you to check out to see how impactful it can be: http://slidebureau.com/BPZZPUKGZAXPKRBWA/play

Autoplay. Create a slideshow that will auto-play on infinite loop. Great for weddings, graduations, sales pitches, etc. You can even customize the length of time the slides are shown and on which slide you’d like the show to start.

Links. Add a link to any user-supplied image or block of text in the presentation. When you share your content as either a slideshow or as a webpage your viewers can click your links like they would on any other web content.

Export content as PDF, JPG, and even video. Export your Slide Bureau content to your DropBox or directly to your iPad. Additionally, what you can export has been greatly enhanced. Content authors can choose between pdf, a set of JPEG images, or even a movie! Users can decide between large, medium and small resolutions, as well as choosing between 4×3 or 16×9 aspect ratios.

Social media overlay. Since its inception, Slide Bureau has let users share their creations directly to Facebook and Twitter. Now content authors can give their audience a way share the content themselves. When you share your content from Slide Bureau, turn on our social media sharing overlay to add sharing buttons that allow your fans to share your to their Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest feeds.

Copy. Now you can duplicate your presentations (great for keeping your master draft in tact), by tapping and holding on them from the Slide Bureau home screen.

Tons of new templates. We have over 400 new templates in our boutique and are creating more every day. Many were created as a direct response to customer requests we’ve gotten. These include a plethora of templates focused on the Real Estate industry, service business proposals, and many many more. We’re adding new templates all the time and they show up automatically in your copy of Slide Bureau. Check out the full template gallery to see what else is new.

These templates were simply gorgeous, super interactive, and, well, fancy with a capital “F”… Using Slide Bureau in my market would definitely stand out from the crowd and wow any seller.”

- Stefanie Hahn

Check out some of the ways you can use just one piece of content to create tons of micro-content, using only Slide Bureau:

Thanks for your support, and keep your comments, suggestions, and requests coming.

Download Slide Bureau | See what’s new in the template gallery