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'Happyimadesignr' Joins the ZURBians

Shawna wrote this on July 22, 2014 in . It has 3 comments.

A 'happyimadesignr' isn't a strange creature from a strange land. It's actually the screen name of our latest designer, who joined us this week.

So without further ado, let's introduce —

Jennifer Tang, Designer

Jennifer Tang, designer

The nickname of 'happyimadesignr' came about after Jennifer designed her first website, and it perfectly describes the excitement and satisfaction she felt in that moment. And while she's designed other things, her passion is for interaction design and the web. That makes her the perfect addition to our wacky team at ZURB.

Believe it or not, Jennifer did have a life before ZURB. Born and raised in San Jose, Jennifer's desire to create came from her great-grandmother's side, which is full of artists, and her grandfather, who is a renowned painter. You could say that creativity is in her blood. She's always crafting small art projects, but didn't discover design until she started blogging and customizing her blog. She then designed websites and flyers for her church — and that was it, she was hooked!

Jennifer got her BFA in Graphic Design from San Jose State. While she pulled many all-nighters at SJSU, Jennifer made some great friends. Now she's joined us at ZURB to do what she does best — use her skills to solve problems and create beautiful, smart designs.

Using technology to create something that is both visually engaging and also solves problems excites me. I love how design works to communicate a message.

When she's not solving tough design problems, she's spending time with her husband and their pets, a black cat named Sammy and a border collie/springer spaniel mix named Jojo. She often runs the Los Gatos Creek trail and gets her workout on at the gym.


Create Blurred Images With HTML5 Canvas

Geoff wrote this on June 20, 2014 in . It has 10 comments.

We love experimenting with emerging features of CSS3 like gradients and shadows. Today we're releasing another slick effect onto the Playground that follows the spirit of those effects and lets you create a blurred background like the ones you see on Rdio.

Our new Image Blur Texture tool takes a photo, blurs and enlarges it, and turns it into an abstract yet appealing background texture. You can use it on any block element — it stretches to fill any space just fine.

Using HTML5's Canvas or CSS3's filter effects, we take any old image, stretch it and blur it, to create a nice mottled texture effect. We've written a CodePen with all the code you need to mess around with it yourself. And look no further than the next iteration of Forrst, which will use image blurs in its headers.

Blur Your Images


A Designer With a Head for Business: Introducing Our Newest ZURBian

Shawna wrote this on June 18, 2014 in . It has 7 comments.

Imagine it's your first day on the job. You stroll into a new environment a little bit nervous. New faces want to shake your hand. Then, the coffee machine explodes, spewing coffee all over the kitchen floor. That was Keri's first day as our new Business Designer. You can say we certainly made it a day to remember for her.

Every moment for Keri is her favorite moment, and the coffee machine exploding is now among them. If you're going to leave an impression, either go big or go home, right? Well, enough of that, let's introduce you to Keri!

Keri Fullwood, Business Designer

casual photo of Business Designer Keri Fullwood

Before exploding coffee makers, Keri bolted from her hometown of LA to study Marketing and Business at a computing/video game school in Scotland. To make her way through school, Keri worked as a freelance designer and web developer for local papers and magazines. She gained some valuable on-the-job experience that she'd later use in life (like here at ZURB).

Keri stuck around Scotland after graduating, working for a security software company managing accounts. Because Keri's also a bit of a shutterbug, she created a small photography team as a side project. But nine years of sideways pouring rain eventually drove Keri to move back to her native home of California. So we have the rain to thank for having Keri on our team!

As our new Business Designer, Keri's design background will help her work closely with our clients and customers to figure out ways to better solve their problems. And she can't wait to get to work on our annual 24-hour design sprint to help a local nonprofit, ZURB Wired.

I'm only new, but I'm really excited about Wired mostly because if I have one skill, it's staying awake for unnecessarily long periods of time.

When she's not solving problems in technology and design, or watching Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, Keri snaps pictures and goes on adventures! So please everyone welcome Keri!


Design, Pizza and Cats. Introducing Our Newest ZURBian

Shawna wrote this on May 29, 2014 in . It has 7 comments.

The title says it all. Those are the three things that roll around in the mind of our former intern turned full-fledged ZURBian. It's all he thinks about. After all, aren't those the only things that matter in life? We think so, which is why we asked him to come back. OK, that wasn't the only reason. He's a really talented fella.

So it's our pleasure to introduce you to …

Geoff Kimball, Designer

photo of Geoff

We've missed Geoff since his internship ended last year, so it's nice to have him back! It's also nice to have another Hoosier in 'da house.

Raised in the quiet suburbs of Fisher, Indiana, Geoff fell in love with technology at an early age — way back in the dark days of dial-up modems. His love grew to include design while studying at Ball State's Emerging Technologies department.

As he told us:

I developed a fascination with how people interact with technology and incorporate it into their lives. By the time I graduated high school, I knew design was in my future.

He even got to tinker on websites and apps for the university, Ball State's first National Science Foundation grant and even the Indiana state government. So you could say, he got a little experience before coming to ZURB as a summer intern.

From Intern to ZURBian

When it came to applying for a ZURB internship, Geoff didn't just send his resume. He actually built a website to show us why he was the right guy for the job! Unfortunately, the site is no longer up. But trust us, it was impressive and got him the gig.

As an intern, Geoff didn't fetch coffee and answer phones. Nope, we put him to work, tasking him with updating our oldest property — the Playground. It was built on our old code, CSS Grid Builder, which you can consider to be Foundation's ancestor. He took that gnarly code and updated the entire Playground to be responsive. Quite a feat!

He also took a casual idea mentioned in a meeting and, a few days later, came back with a completely new product, Wrangle, which let's you ... wait for it ... wrangle up images using your fingers.

So you can see why we brought Geoff back on board as a full-fledged ZURBian! Now everyone please welcome Geoff!


All Your Mock Copy, Mocked Up.
Introducing Laura Ipsum!

Ryan wrote this on April 01, 2014 in . It has 5 comments.

Just when you thought we were done at Foundation. Just when you thought we couldn't get any better than "Lol and Order: CSS". Now we're mocking ... up your copy.

We're proud to announce, Laura Ipsum, our newest service and the latest in all your prototyping and mock-up needs. We've even hired a Laura Ipsum (what are the odds?). A 20-something with the wit to write all the Lorum Ipsum you ever wanted for your prototypes.

Totes McGoats! Lorem Ipsum is my fav!

Laura will be writing in her own unique voice, from the perspective of a 20-something living in the high-paced, high-tech world of Silicon Valley. Or is it just the Valley? Doesn't matter. It'll be words to tickle your prototype. Here's what she has to say about her new job:

Totes McGoats. ZURB is total amazeballs. So sauceome. Can't wait to do Fireball shots with the ZURBians. OMG. Right? So cray cray. Turn up, a'right. Hashtag twerksies4lyfe.

A recent graduate of Claremont High School, Laura is an expert in all things Lorem Ipsum. She was all A's in her dummy copywriting class. Here's an interesting tidbit: she can type nonsense at 100 word-per-minute. Whew! That's really fast. Only a room full of monkeys can type faster.

Get Laura Ipsum Today!


An Irish Import Who Loves a Challenge
Introducing Our Newest ZURBian

Shawna wrote this on February 24, 2014 in . It has 6 comments.

We don't have to look far for new opportunities here at ZURB. Sometimes they arrive at our doorstep, even from as far away as the Emerald Isle of Ireland.

It's with great pleasure that we introduce you to our newest ZURBian, an Irish import who loves a challenge. Everyone say hello to …

John Leenane, Business Development and Partner

John Leenane

John may have originally come from across the pond, but he's been in the Bay Area for about 14 years. He's worked with companies, big and small (read: startups). He recently founded two companies of his own, but once his path led him to ZURB, there was no turning back.

John's our newest Partner and Business Developer. And he's already gotten his hands dirty, opening up new opportunities for ZURB. He's focused on growing our business and finding new ways to bring ZURB to the next level. As part of our Connections Team, he'll continue to foster relationships, both new and old, sharing our mission of "Design for People" to anyone within earshot. And he can't wait to do so:

I'm really excited about helping all of us at ZURB, our community and all the companies we work with to reach their potential.

Not to worry, he's not all business. John knows how to have a bit of fun. He's a snowboarder, a windsurfer and a concert goer. These days, however, most of his spare time is spent with his wife and four boys — the latter which provides its own unique fitness regime.

Everyone please welcome John to the ZURB team!


How to Lose All Your Content Search Ranking: A Cautionary Tale

Matt wrote this on January 07, 2014 in . It has 5 comments.

Not too long ago we gave our Playground page a brand-new responsive polish. The Playground is one of the last ones we made responsive. And when we finally released its update, something horrible happened — our search ranking evaporated until nothing was left.

screenshot of Google Analytics that shows our search rank dropping off

A screenshot of Google Analytics showing our search rank dropping off.

When launching a new product or a redesign, we usually mind our Ps and Qs. We have a laundry list of things that we check, double check and, sometimes, triple check. Since Playground gets a ton of search traffic, we tripled-checked all the SEO things we knew, such as:

  • Titles
  • Keywords
  • URLs and redirects

We even fixed a number of things broken in the previous site. But that due diligence didn't seem to be enough. Week after week, we watched in horror as our search ranking dropped and dropped and dropped to nothing. We didn't even rank for some of our more well-known Playground pieces, such as Orbit and Reveal. What the heck was going on? Where did we end up going wrong? Was there something we missed? We were scratching our heads.

Whittling Down the Problem

First, we combed Google Webmaster Tools, which showed no errors. Bing and Yahoo still worked as expected. The problem was only in Google (read: the only one we care about). To figure out what happened, we went through all of the things that we could've messed up:

  • Duplicate URLs
  • Broken URLs
  • Bad redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Content being loaded via AJAX
  • WWW vs. no subdomain
  • Page load time
  • Invisible text
  • Service disruptions
  • Bad robots file
  • All of this stuff here from Google

We did all these things. And like we said earlier, we had even fixed most of them with the redesign. We even reached out to Google to figure out what happened, and they finally gave use a short response explaining the problem:

Hello Matt,

Thank you for your email.

It appears that you're serving Googlebot a different content type than you're serving to regular users. This is preventing Google from correctly interpreting your site. If you use the Fetch as Google tool in Webmaster Tools, you'll notice that Googlebot sees pages like http://zurb.com/playground/ajax-upload with "Content-Type: application/zip; charset=utf-8". Googelbot is unable to interpret the content type of your page which is preventing your page from being crawled properly.

What does that mean? Well, the root cause of the problem was that our server was setting a content-type that Google didn't like, so they stopped indexing our pages. All browsers were either not getting this content-type, or just ignoring it and figuring out to us the right one. If you knew exactly what to look for in webmaster tools, you could ferret out that Google was getting this content-type. But no error was reported anywhere. In fact, the page was indicated a "success".

Eventually, the problem was fixed with the correct content-type on our back end code. Everything was back to normal within a week. And Google gave us a curt response to our questions about why this happened in the first place. We asked how do we get the content reindexed now and why webmaster tools didn't show this crawl error.

Hello Matt,

It might take some time for Google to start reindexing URLs on your site depending on a number of factors like how often Google is able to crawl your site. These pages most likely did not show in Webmaster Tools as crawl errors because the pages were live and able to be crawled returning an HTTP 200. However, when Google tried interpreting the data on the page, it was unable to convert the file type and may have chosen not to index a page that did not have any content on it.

A Cautionary Tale

But this isn't about the solution or the resolution. This is a warning. You can't just launch something and not pay attention to your traffic. You might find out something horrible went wrong, long after it's occurred.


Building a Learning Organization: Top 10 Things We Did in 2013

Ben wrote this on December 27, 2013 in . It has 2 comments.

We always look ahead to new ideas, new events, and new ways to help people make great products. But as we close out 2013, we also stop to look back — and what a view it is. This was the year we brought into sharp focus our educational efforts with the launch of ZURB University, a better strong Foundation, new apps and improved ones. So let's take a look at 2013 ...

1. We Acquired Forrst

forrst acquired

The design and developer community Forrst joined our family in January. We acquired this feedback community because we wanted to help people iterate through their work and learn from helping others. We saw an opportunity to build upon what founder Kyle Bragger started and make Forrst a place of active learning.

2. The Smartest Foundation Yet!

Foundation 4

We launched Foundation 4 in February. This was the Foundation that changed everything and helped product designers build responsive websites faster and smartly. We retooled the framework to be Mobile First, made it more semantic and added faster JavaScript plugins.

Yeti Progression

The Yeti also got a makeover this year.

3. Teaching Product Design Through ZURB University

ZURB U

We began holding live, online Product Design training sessions in April. We felt, and still do, that it's crucial for every business to understand product design, especially with the proliferation of mobile devices. We've poured our 15-year experience into each of the ZURB University classes. We've held more than 30 webinars so far, held several in-person workshops and even sent our designers abroad to help hundreds of people learn our approach to better product design.

4. Creating a Library Resource for Product Designers

books

Education as a product designer is ongoing. There are always new things to learn. And we're happy to share our what we've learned, whether it's through a new Playground piece, a new pattern or an interesting factoid. Over the years, we've built several resources for designers, but they'd all been their own separate ventures. With ZURB University, we organized some of our properties — including Playground, ZURB Word, Pattern Tap, Friday 15, Design Quips and Behaviors — into one Library resource. There are also weekly product design lessons. This resource helps product designers learn the many facets of product design under one umbrella.

5. So Long Painful Images Loads on Small Devices

interchange

Images in responsive web design have long stymied designers. Many have proposed solutions, but none quite fit every need. In May, we tackled the problem and released Interchange, our solution for sending the right images to the right browsers. This new technique inspired people to design sites that look great across any platform while saving bandwidth and time for end users. So much so that we took this and baked into the next version of Foundation with some additional changes (see number 8).

6. Beating the Clock for ZURBwired

ZURB Wired

In August, we worked with nonprofit Rebuilding Together Peninsula to create an entire marketing campaign during our sixth ZURB Wired. They learned from our 15 years in a marathon 24-hour sprint. We do this every year to help nonprofits learn the benefits of design thinking and not getting stuck in details. The philosophy behind Wired is that anyone can learn product design to break through barriers and create something wonderful.

7. A Mobile-First Forrst

new Forrst

Eight months after we acquired it, we unveiled the new Forrst site. The focus of the redesign was to make it easier for Forrsters to give contextual feedback and truly make Forrst a place of active learning.

The new mobile-first design makes it easier for designers and developers to give constructive critiques on the go. Notable-style comments help people give contextual feedback on every screenshot. Versions, our most recent feature, helps people see the progress of each post over time. The end result: people can iterate through projects with outside opinions that provide new insight.

8. The Fastest Foundation Yet!

Foundation 5

A new Foundation blasted off in November. The fastest version of our popular framework ever was also the most downloaded at launch. Foundation 5 brought a whole new game with Interchange, which can now work with any type of content, improved speed overall. We also switched from Zepto to jQuery 2 for greater compatibility with the web design world. Designers and developers can now spend more time designing and developing than reinventing grids and UI components, making it even faster for them to use..

9. Strengthening the Foundation Community

Foundation tforum

We also placed an emphasis on faster learning with Foundation 5. Along with that, we launched a new forum for Foundation users to discuss issues, get help, and swap tips. This gives designers a central venue to learn about the CSS framework from each other. Since launching, we've had more than 550 posts!

10. Launching Ink, Our Responsive Email Framework

Ink

We introduced Ink, a responsive design framework for email, in November. We built upon our previous responsive email templates, but this time we created an entire responsive framework not just another series of templates. Why? Because frameworks give you a consistent code structure and styling that makes it easier to modify layouts in the long run. Better than just a single template, Ink allows designers to build complex layouts tailored to their needs.

It wasn't easy to create a framework that works across any email client, but we found a way to create a mobile-, tablet-, and desktop-friendly framework that makes emails look great, even on Outlook. We learned so much from developing Ink that we started an online course to share our experience with others.

2014 ... and Onward!

This was the year we strengthened our education services. From Foundation 5 (faster product development) to Forrst (smarter iterations) to University (formal design education), we've dedicated ourselves to building a learning organization that helps us and others improve their design skills. But our work doesn't end with the year — you can count on more resources and services to further your design education in 2014!


15 Days of ZURBmas: How a Flexible Process Helped Us

Shawna wrote this on December 19, 2013 in . Add a comment

On the first day of ZURBmas, a ZURBian gave to me … an hour-glass with cards. OK, we won't bore you with our caroling. But it's pretty amazing to see our annual gifts get into the hands of our customers and friends who've supported us over the years. And wouldn't have been able to get them there without the entire team helping and applying a flexible process. And the last part is what got us over humps in the project.

gift images

A collection of photos taken by our friends and customers.

This year's gift was based on Friday 15, which are creative challenges that our entire team does every Friday afternoon. We started doing these fun exercises a while ago to hone our product design and problem-solving skills. It's become part of our culture and allows members of the team that don't usually work together team up (pun intended). While we had a concept, we needed to approach the problem of creating something special the same way we'd do for any project. Having that process made us get the gifts out the door in a tight (really tight) timeline.

On the 1st Day of ZURBmas, Build a Prototype

We got the idea to make a card set because we spend a lot of time playing card games after work. But would the idea fly? With sharpie and paper in hand, we whipped up a back-of-the-napkin sketch to estimate costs. Having a ballpark cost allows for better-informed decisions and helps manage the iterative process. It allowed us to answer: was the concept technically feasible? Did it meet our goals? How would our customers interact with the card set?

prototype cards

Our card-set prototypes next to the final product.

Prototyping also helped figure out these questions, including what exactly we needed to order, and costs. We constructed two prototypes: 2×3 (playing card size) and 4×6 (a bit bigger than an index card). Having something physical allowed us to investigate different ways of constructing the cards. We got a feel for how the cards felt in someone's hands. The winner: the playing card-size set. The 2×3s fit nicely between the fingers and was much easier to flip through. With that decision made, we could now make other decisions — like the design and who was going to be on our ZURBmas list!

On the 2nd Day of ZURBmas, Get Everyone Invested

Sending out an annual gift takes an entire team. But to get the elves into the workshop, they have to be invested. Storytelling was key to this. We had to tell the team the story of ZURBmas. They needed to understand the why of sending gifts — the benefits to ZURB, to themselves, and to the customers. And that was important to help the team visualize the end goal — getting the gifts in the hands of our recipients. Or else they might not give a Dickens. (See what we did there?)

We started telling the story of this year's ZURBmas gifts with the leads, then spread out to the rest of the team, like concentric rings when you plunk a pebble in a pond. This also allowed us to get feedback on the concept as well as on the prototype, and the designs for the card set, the greeting card and everything else. With the team onboard, we were able to divide the labor because no one person can do the holiday list, order the materials, create the designs and then box everything up for some 1,000 people. And the more people involved, the more we were able to open up problems.

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Timeboxing All the Way

The timeline for this project was tighter than Santa's suit after he's had a few Christmas cookies. Starting in November, we had to ship everything by Dec. 13. And our sled hit a bump in the frost with our mailing list. We had to open up the problem and having others involved helped get us to a better answer.

For instance, our mailing list. It was collected from various sources: our clients, our close friends and those who signed up for our monthly newsletter. Not everyone was going to get the 15-minute hourglass. We had to decide who was going to get that or get the card set. We enlisted our Connections Team and our accountant to help divvy up the list, and our leads and interns contributed by pruning it of old or out-of-date addresses. Having those folks participate in the list allowed us to explore why only one group would get the hourglass/cards while others would get a card-set and a special holiday ZURB sticker. Our solution: clients, customers and close friends would get the former while everyone else would get the latter.

We took a similar approach when it came to figuring out the vendors for printing the cards. Creating burndown lists the entire team on target. And as the old adage goes, two heads (or many, in this case) are better than one when it comes to solving problems.

Let's Build a Gingerbread House

But that wasn't the only problem we opened up. We explored what else we could do to make ZURBmas special, especially for those who weren't getting the hourglass and those not on our holiday list. After exploring different concepts, we came up with the idea of creating an interactive game related to the "Gingerbread Tower" Friday 15 challenge.

sketch of gingerbread site

Sketch of the gingerbread site.

gingerbread house

A gingerbread house created on the site.

This game was another way to get other people on the team invested — this time our engineers. They were able to create the site in JavaScript. But it was tricky. Our engineers used Parse, which helps integrate an interface with your data, but can't handle relational queries. However, they found a workaround to get the site working. They also used touchpunch.js to for the drag-and-drop feature. Try it out for yourself, then share your creation!

'Twas the Night Before ZURBmas …

… And all through the house the ZURBians were packing. Having solved the project's problems, the entire team spent the last few days before our shipping deadline stuffing boxes and envelopes or filling out customs shipping forms. That's because they were invested. Like we said, they got the story of ZURBmas and wanted to be part of it. And they were all excited to see people tweet out pictures of the gifts they got. And we wouldn't have been able to sell that story or get the gifts in their hands without a flexible process. It allowed us to load up the sleigh, hitch up the reindeer and deliver the gifts to all our good friends and customers.

And with that, we want to wish a Happy Holidays!


Like Ninjas, Great Ideas Aren't Always Visible at First Glance

Alina wrote this on December 13, 2013 in . Add a comment

Conventions tend to turn invisible. Like ninjas, they blend into the background. We blithely accept that privacy policies, for example, are long blocks of indecipherable, dull, gray text. They don't encourage people to understand what tapping that "I agree" button actually commits them to. As a result, few people read fine print thoroughly.

But privacy advocate Michelle Dennedy wanted to make her company's policy more engaging. Doing so would explain how would make privacy policy more than just an obligatory legal form. As she put it in a ZURB Soapbox:

Not just write policies, but to build fabric, and build culture and build passion, and build architecture and engineering behind human rights."

Don't be Afraid to Suggest Outlandishly Creative Ideas

Michelle said most agencies took the traditional route to learn project scope, asking questions about format and branding requirements. They talked about typography for pages of text, and gave professional — though standard — presentations about making the policy more digestible for people. We took a different approach.

"Pirates or ninjas?" Our first question to Michelle set the tone for our relationship and, as we learned, helped define the project.

Our design process always begins with opening up problems, exploring opportunities, and focusing on the concepts that stick before closing down on solutions. Long before we touch code or Adobe products, we reach for sharpies and paper. So we explored many ideas that we could pitch to Michelle. Such as:

  • What if we presented the policy as a video?
  • What if we offered "legal" and "human" modes?
  • What if we arranged the policy in Q&A format?
  • What if we formatted the policy as a storybook?

screenshot of the storybook format with helpful explanations

Screenshot of the storybook format with helpful explanations

Half-jokingly, we threw a ninja into the presentation. "A comic ninja who explains the legalese — wouldn't that be hilarious?" Maybe it would be too flippant. McAfee was a serious company, after all, and privacy isn't a trivial subject. But the ninja stayed. Why not?

To our surprise (and her delight), Michelle loved the ninja idea most.

New Ideas Need Extra Development

This format was the first of its kind, and by risking something new, we had to discover new conventions. So we took an extra week to second-guess the ideas and test assumptions. Several iterations later we settled on a storybook-like format. It was easy for users to learn and — most importantly — approachable.

The more we riffed on the concept of a fictional privacy ninja, the more unusual — yet plausible — our ideas became. The project became more than a single document. We explored:

  • A "build your own ninja" tool
  • The option for users to choose a character to defend their rights — super hero, ninja, or security guard
  • Using the ninja as content, not decoration. More infographic, less clip art in the margin.

Examples of the ninja art evolution. First, a pencil sketch with a face-concealing mask. Second, a red-suited ninja with a simple eye mask. Third, a refined version with stylish hair.

We went through a few iterations before finalizing on the ninja illustration.

Versions of the ninja became less cartoony, more realistic. But in the end we opted for our original simple cartoon that almost didn't make it into the presentation.

Unusual Ideas Need Support Before and During Iteration

While Michelle loved the unorthodox idea, we wondered how to propose it to others. How would they take it? Once again, we found that wondering about rejection was needless worry.

When Michelle presented the ninja idea to her boss, she was careful to explain that the "cartoons" were a means of communication, not a means of making the policy seem childish.

Illustration of a browser cookie explained with a chocolate chip cookie. There's also a cartoon ninja eating cookies, used elsewhere in the policy.

More than extras on the side, cartoons illustrated important concepts to users.

She also took the idea to the Federal Trade Commission. She said companies preemptively telling the FTC, "I"m taking a risk," was unusual. In this case, it worked. The FTC had never seen anything so creative in a policy — and they liked what they saw.

Michelle returned to McAfee with outside acceptance. The risk of a cartoon ninja — an afterthought and half-serious cartoon — was paying off.

Risks Pay Off in Unexpected Ways

Originally, we agreed that concepts and mockups would be our final deliverables. But later McAfee asked us to build out a working prototype storybook. Over two weeks we created a single-page microsite with animated, jQuery-based "pages." At the time, no one else had created reliable animation for the particular look we wanted, so the project's lead engineer took a risk and wrote his own.

Part of taking risks in design is knowing when they're appropriate. Storybook or not, the policy was a legally binding document. The legal team was adamant on certain phrasing. But while the legal text remained essentially the same, our new format organized it into easily digestible chunks. Graphics showed what text meant. And the ninja illustrations made the document approachable.

It pays to question assumptions. Even if the ninja hadn't panned out, it got us thinking. By suggesting "crazy"'ideas, we were able to open up the problem, break away from convention, and deliver something unique. You never know when a bad idea will lead to a great one. Like ninjas, great ideas don't appear unless you're willing to risk looking for them.



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