Tuesday, October 25, 2011

uxWaterloo design workshop with REEP

Last Thursday the uxWaterloo meeting for October featured a new kind of activity. While we had done design workshops in the past, we had never previously had a design workshop focused on a real-world problem.

REEP Green Solutions, a Waterloo Region not-for-profit organization focused on the environment, is working on a web application that’s intended to help consumers understand the case for making upgrades to their homes that will increase energy efficiency. REEP approached uxWaterloo for help, and Thursday’s design workshop was the result.

Working in small groups, workshop attendees brainstormed initial designs to deliver a compelling user experience for the application. REEP team members provided input, answered questions, and otherwise provided context for the design work. They had previously provided personas to work from, and a high-level functional description of their vision.

While the timeframe was ridiculously condensed — the meeting was only 90 minutes from start to finish — the workshop was a great success. Everyone seemed to have a great time, with many interesting ideas emerging from the action. The REEP team was excited by the ideas they saw and heard, and are already thinking about next steps.

Steve Jobs

I’m surprisingly saddened by the passing of Apple’s Steve Jobs, a man I never met. I’m also feeling surprisingly reflective. I can’t think of any other company or person whose products have had such a profound impact on my daily life for such a long time.

The Mac wasn’t the first computer that I ever used, but my first Mac made a liberating, empowering, and lasting impression on me. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that I would not be doing what I’m doing in my career as a designer without the Mac and later products from Apple.

I think that my best response today is to use my Mac to try to make the world a better place. I hope that I can have even a fraction of the impact that Jobs had.

It feels overwhelmingly fitting to finish off this short post by saying that I wrote it on my iPad.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Oktoberfest Parade

I enjoyed another Oktoberfest Parade with my family this year. We live near the parade route, and it’s a short walk for us to get there and set up our lawn chairs. The beautiful weather seemed to bring a out a larger crowd than I’ve sometimes seen in years past. Personal highlights included some sort of precision rake team from the City of Kitchener, the Fergus Pipe Band, an implausibly cool float from the Waterloo, Wellington, Dufferin & Grey Building & Construction Trades Council, and a very mobile giant airplane balloon that was helpfully identified as “Inflatable Airplane” on the WestJet sponsorship banner that preceded it. Fun stuff.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Jazz Room finds its groove

I’m a bit of a jazz fan, and I was excited at the news last winter that Waterloo Region would soon be home to a jazz club. Even better, the Grand River Jazz Society (GRJS) planned on presenting weekly live jazz events.

By September the society had opened The Jazz Room at the Huether Hotel in Waterloo, and had generated some real buzz around a musical art form that has been around for a century. They have performances planned for every Friday and Saturday for the next several months.

The venue has been open for a few weeks now, and I finally made it out this past Saturday night. I’ll note here that I’m no music critic, and I won’t try to review the music in any way, other than to say that it was terrific — having been to many jazz performances over the years, I do believe that jazz really is an art form that is at its best when experienced live.

My friend Michel and I arrived for our evening of jazz at around 6:30pm, getting supper and enjoying a set of solo piano by Glenn Buhr. Having arrived early we had great seats in front of the small stage, which made it easy to get immersed in listening to the music.

The headliner for the night was Kollage, represented in a quartet form — it’s usually a sextet — by its leader Archie Alleyne on drums along with pianist Stacie McGregor, bassist Artie Roth, and trumpeter Alexander Brown. Again, the music was terrific, and listening to Archie’s stories drawn from his decades-long career was a real delight. The three sets of great music from Kollage were enthusiastically received by the audience.

On a final note, the venue itself is warm and inviting, and has a great small club feel. Of course, that’s what The Jazz Room is, but getting the vibe right is still a tricky balance. GRJS has done a great job in preparing an intimate space for live jazz. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, and the experience is enjoyable all around.

Waterloo life has gotten better with the arrival of The Jazz Room, and I’m looking forward to returning there soon.