When Science and Art Dance – Business Results

Each year the Institute of Design in Chicago, IL, holds a Design Strategy Conference.  This year, Patrick Whitney, asked me if I would share how we used the human centered design process to develop Attenex Patterns.

The video of the presentation is available here.

The slides for the presentation are available here.

The following is the written script for the presentation on May 9, 2012.

For background on how Christine Martell collaborated with me on the slide presentation see her blog post on “Finding your Presentations Story.”

When Science and Art Dance – Attenex Patterns

Thank you, Patrick.  It is a delight to be back in Chicago talking about two of my favorite topics – design and strategy.

Pat in his unique way asked if I would share my experiences in value creation and valuation capture through the use of human centered design. Well, what he actually said was “I’d like you to describe the universe and give three examples and I’ll give you 30 minutes to do it.”

When Science and Art Dance, Business Results.  Let’s look at an example of this dance – the journey from vision to an innovative visual analytics product – Attenex Patterns.

See What Matters – Design What Matters

As I reflect on my last forty years, the thread that weaves through my professional life is the vision for creating tools for discovering, authoring and sharing to generate extreme productivity – doing things 10 times better, faster, and cheaper.

Along the way, I’ve experienced and researched what makes for a successful product and a successful business.

The start of our journey for value creation begins with Seeing What Matters. Sometimes Seeing What Matters starts with a personal insight that becomes a lens for seeing if others have similar problems.  Sometimes the “Seeing” comes from being awake enough to notice those irritants or hassles in daily life.  Sometimes the “Seeing” comes from a powerful process like the Institute of Design’s Structured Planning.

What we are looking for are two things – a latent unmet need and a need that if solved has real value to the customer – or more precisely to the user, purchaser or influencer.

Once we SEE WHAT MATTERS, then we are ready to DESIGN WHAT MATTERS.

Sleep and Poetry

The See What Matters that led to the creation of Attenex Patterns (the product) and Attenex (the company) started with a late night vision in the fall of 1968 when I was a sophomore at Duke University.  I was a part time research assistant in a psychophysiology lab with my very own “personal computer”, a DEC PDP-12 Minicomputer.  It was a huge closet sized machine with 8000 bytes of core memory and 256,000 bytes of really, really slow magnetic tape storage.

Late that evening I was in the lab avoiding writing a paper on John KeatsSleep and Poetry.”  I was feeling frustrated spending time on this silly English literature course when all I wanted to do was program my “personal” computer.  As I started reading this poem, I experienced the poetry putting me to sleep.


With my natural inclination to procrastinate, I shook myself awake.  I thought I’d warm up my analytical and writing skills by playing Spacewar, one of the earliest known computer games.

At least I’d spent enough time doing library research checking out several books and placing them on the table next to my Mean, Green Machine.

About 20 minutes into the game my wetware synthesis engine kicked in as I stared at the spaceships pulled by planetary gravity while shooting at other computer controlled spaceships.  In my peripheral vision was the stack of books for insights into what others thought of Keats’ “Sleep and Poetry.” I stopped the game and began wondering what if all of these texts were in digital format and I could “fly” through the texts like I was flying through virtual space.  What if I could use selected text from the poem as search criteria into this much larger digital space?

Was I sleeping, dreaming, visioning or maybe just a little too much into the 1960s culture?


Then I realized that if the texts were all digital then I could easily cut and paste the appropriate commentary into a digital document making the authoring and typing problem a lot easier.  It would be much quicker than using a typewriter and whiteout.  In an instant I realized that I could quickly build a tool that would let me digitally edit my English paper and then print it out on the IBM Selectric typewriter we’d recently attached to the PDP-12.  I might not have the best written paper, but I sure would have the best looking paper (with several different fonts, italics and bolding).

The next 24 hours were a blur as I created an authoring and formatting tool AND wrote my paper on “Sleep and Poetry.”

The second part of the vision was realized, the authoring, but there was a long way to go to realize the discovered part of the vision – the connecting to terabytes of digital information.

[NOTE:  The program that I wrote was eventually published through DECUS as Text12. A few years leater I translated the program to the PDP-11 and presented Text11 at a DECUS conference.  The command structure was modeled on IBM’s Text360 which was used to develop SGML which was used as a starting point for HTML.]


With a jolt near the end of the 24 hour coding and writing marathon, I realized that my paper was due on Duke’s East Campus by midnight and I had to run to catch one of the last buses for the 1.5 mile ride from West Campus to East Campus.  While sitting on the bus, I thought about how stupid it was that I had created this research paper in digital format and now I had to physically take it to the Professor’s office.  WHAT IF I could just send it electronically to the professor?

Oh, the things we take for granted these days.

Share – Author

For the next 32 years, I sought out jobs and resources that would let me pursue the vision of Discover, Author and Share.  I could find the resources to advance the content authoring and sharing parts of the vision, but I couldn’t find a business model that would justify the $10-15M of investment needed to create the discovered part of the tool that users might actually value and pay for like they were paying for the authoring capability.

I had the good fortune to work with a wonderful team at Digital Equipment Corporation to create a billion $ a year product called ALL-IN-1 which is still in use 32 years later.  I then travelled west to Aldus in Seattle to manage the development of software tools for the high end professional and consumer market for print and multi-media authoring.  Tools like PageMaker, Freehand and Persuasion.

Who are those guys?

During this journey of product development one of my frustrations was not being able to reliably design a successful product in the first version. While at Aldus in 1992 (yes, Patrick it was that long ago), we held a Graphic Arts Advisory Board Meeting in Seattle.  We gathered a lot of world famous graphic designers. Unfortunately, they were all in “tell mode” (mostly about how wonderful they were). And then there were these two guys (Patrick Whitney and Larry Keeley) from a place I’d never heard of (The Institute of Design).

Who are those guys?  I kept asking myself.  I’ll let you guess which is Butch Cassidy and which is the Sundance Kid.

The two of them kept asking these really penetrating questions that required a lot of thought and reflection on my part. Finally, I took them aside and asked where their questions were coming from.  I’d never encountered anyone that could ask that many questions without having powerful thinking frameworks. They smiled and invited me to come visit them in Chicago.  Little did I know how much of my time I’d be spending commuting to Chicago to learn and teach over the next decade?

Human Centered Design Process

Pretty quickly I discovered that the secret to the human centered design process was seeing – the user observation research.  Humans are very inarticulate if you ask them what they need.  They do all kinds of things like tell you what they think you want to hear or describe some whiz bang thing they’d seen recently or even worse they make stuff up (MSU). However if you know how to observe them, they are incredibly articulate.

As I reflected on the previous 20 years of product design and development it was pretty clear that the successes were the result of tacit user observation and the failures were the result of expert centered design or market research demographic design.

Yet the second step was just as important – prototyping.  That is how can you quickly and cheaply try a lot of things BEFORE you start hiring a lot of expensive resources. Understanding when to use paper prototypes for concept development, behavior understanding or communication was a revelation. It wasn’t a matter of being right the first time, it was a matter of failing fast and cheap – failing forward.

Unlike other design processes, it’s not good enough to come up with something cool; the design needs to create value (make money) for the customer and the company AND support human values.

Lastly, once the product idea is prototyped and the monetization model figured out then the lens expands to what the total user experience should be, the full brand experience in other words.

See What Matters

Let’s look at how this process worked in creating a product and a company.  Let’s See What Matters.

Sea of Bankers Boxes

In the late 90s Microsoft’s litigation expenses were climbing exponentially primarily as a result of the increasing burden of discovering and producing electronic documents.  Whenever a lawsuit is filed a request for production of documents follows.  The request looks something like give us all your documents from 2000 to 2005 from these employees on the following topics. The problem was that as Microsoft was an early adopter of its own products – Microsoft Office and Outlook – they had lots of documents – 10s of terabytes.

The process called for a lawyer to go to each employee’s computer and print everything out and put them in banker’s boxes.  300 to 500 gigabytes equals one Sears Tower full of paper documents.  Then $200 an hour lawyers would go through each box document by document.  Using this method in the year 2000 it took 200 lawyers one year to go through 300GB of documents for a cost of $18M for the Microsoft Department of Justice Anti-trust matter.

The Microsoft General Counsel came to their law firm, Preston Gates and Ellis (yes, that is Bill Gates’ fathers law firm), and asked (well, demanded) that they figure out how to dramatically reduce their expenses.  The GC did not like the trends that he was seeing in both the number of lawsuits and the amount of information Microsoft was being asked to produce for each separate lawsuit.

Lawyer Doing an Outlook Review

The law firm was doing everything they could from a continuous improvement standpoint.  They’d started employing contingent reviewers, lawyers from third tier law schools who were out of work that they could pay $50 per hour.  With contingent attorneys, you only had to pay them when you had litigation.  Further, the law firm shifted from printing documents out and placing them in bankers boxes to taking the electronic Outlook/Exchange files and reviewing them linearly in Outlook.  They dragged and dropped files into Outlook Folders labeled Responsive, Non-Responsive, Hot, and Privileged.

Can you imagine after 7 years of college and law school having a job staring at a screen and monotonously dragging email messages to the right folder for 10-16 hours per day?

Review Room

I was hired by the law firm to observe some of the 200 attorneys and see if I could come up with a technology solution that would dramatically improve electronic discovery and review.

See What Matters – Insights

We spent our initial observation time looking at the hassles that each reviewer went through.

A few of the major insights generated during this User Research phase were:

  • Boolean Search doesn’t work for electronic discovery.  We are so used to Google search that we forget the dirty little secret of Boolean Search – you have to know the answer before you start.  With eDiscovery you don’t really know what you are looking for until you see it.
  • Sequence matters or rather customized sequences matter – reviewers are handed a collection of documents and in a linear review process have to review the documents in the sequence they are given.  That is the most inefficient way to review as each new document means a complete shift in context which takes minutes of re-orientation per document or email.
  • Duplicate Material – there is a lot of it.  At least 30% of a collection of documents is an exact duplicate.  Then another 20% are near-duplicates – that is I email something to you and you respond with a copy of my email embedded.  Just presenting the last email in a sequence cuts out 20% of the material that has to be reviewed.
  • Human Beings tire really quickly with a repetitive task – over the years several published studies confirmed what we found – that human revieweres classified documents correctly only about 50% of the time.  They were pretty accurate in the first hour and then performance quickly declined over the next 7 to 15 hours in a lawyer work day.  Not only was this an expensive process but it was also a low quality process.

These insights served as the basis for our design criteria.

Mapping the Process

We also looked at the complete workflow process from when a document was collected at Microsoft to showing up on a reviewer’s workstation and then produced to the other litigating party.  We viewed this process through the lens of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints looking for the bottlenecks in the process.

Discover – Follow the Money

It didn’t take me long to realize that this eDiscovery process would finally pay for me to develop the Discover tool that I’d envisioned 30 years earlier.

A general view of the workflow is captured in the Electronic Discovery Reference Model we helped create for the legal industry.  By following the money, we quickly realized that most of the costs were contained in the three steps in the middle.  These three expensive bottleneck steps served as our design starting point while our competitors were trying to find solutions (poorly) for all of the steps.


In parallel with our user research and observation, we looked at what technology alternatives might already exist.  We came across the IN-SPIRE project at Battelle Labs funded by the U.S. Intelligence Community.  These tools and projects provided early clues that visual analytics (content analytics + visualization) could improve productivity by at least 2-3 times.

[NOTE:  For a Primer on Visual Analytics see this white paper by Sean McNee.]

The Billable Hour

While we had a good handle on the insights that would help drive our prototyping, it took us another four months to find a business model that would work.  The legal industry is still dominated by the “billable hour” model.  That is, attorneys bill for their work by the hour.  We fully expected to be ten times (@ 10 X) more productive than going through a linear review (either pulling paper from banker’s boxes or going through electronic documents one at a time).  Yet if we didn’t change the business model, it is generally bad form to go to your customer and provide a value proposition that goes something like “use our product and you will make 1/10th the revenue you did before.”

The answer was obvious after the fact but it took us a while to find the new model – moving from the billable hour to a fixed price model.  We landed on billing by the megabyte of documents processed.  We looked at ten years of the law firm’s billing records and created a value based price that gave Microsoft an immediate 30% discount.  The law firm would move from a 10% gross margin to a 40% gross margin.  We were happy to settle for a 70% gross margin billing $1.50 per megabyte processed with our tool.  It was important for us to have a volume based fee instead of the traditional enterprise software licensing model so that we would be paid for the value that we were providing continuously, not just a one-time fee enterprise license.

Design What Matters

We’d spent about six months seeing what matters with a small team.  That’s what I love about the human centered design process if done thoughtfully and intentionally – you don’t have to spend a lot of money until you know WHAT to build.  It was now time to DESIGN WHAT MATTERS.  It was time to bring in a development team and move to rapid prototyping and the agile development method.

Visual Analytics – When Science and Art Dance

The good news is that through many examples of content analytics tools there was a well-developed set of science associated with how to process unstructured documents and cluster related documents.  You can see some of the examples of the mathematics behind content analytics on the left.  My favorite is the Perplexity function from latent dirichlet allocation and its associated Predictive Perplexity function.

Wow.  Who knew there was a mathematics of perplexity.  If only I had a Predictive Perplexity function for my daily life, I’d be one happy camper.

The real problem for us was that we could find no research on first principles for the visualization component.  Prototyping of the visualizations was pure art.  Our designers would conceive of ways to organize the clustered documents and then we’d test the visual art with our lawyer users.  We looked at every published paper and book on information visualization for inspiration.

What became clear over time is that visualization is workflow and context dependent.

Metric Based Development

The “art” prototypes led us to the next problem.  How did we know whether the new “art” was working in our prototype?  We needed a measure of goodness to guide the evolution of the science and art.  We quickly hit on the key metric of “document decisions per hour.”

With each prototype, we could test whether the idea should stay in or not based on a clearly defined metric.  In the first five years we went through at least 350 prototypes and kept about 40% of the innovations that improved our “document decisions per hour.”  If the new design increased productivity, we kept it in.  If it decreased productivity, we took it out.  Over time we identified 12 different categories of productivity.

Rapid Prototyping

Here you see about 15 of the prototypes we quickly iterated through.  At the very center of the prototypes on the left you can see our first 3D interface.  As good technologists we felt having 3 dimensional views would be great (like IN-SPIRE had suggested).  We quickly found out that lawyers (and most humans) cannot understand abstract 3D unstructured document spaces.  So we shifted to representing multiple variables in a two dimensional interface.  This interface worked great and with Patterns V2 we launched the product publicly and regularly achieved >10X productivity improvement over our competitors linear review tools saving our customers millions per litigation matter.

Attenex Patterns V5

After 300 prototype iterations, we released V5 of Attenex Patterns.  Each dot represents a separate document in the right hand semantic network window.  On the left hand pane we have the organization side of the email address in a social network view for the same set of emails.  An email address provides both the identity of the individual and their linkage to their organization.  Both types of social networks are available for viewing.  Each of the two window panes has referential integrity.  In this case, I’ve clicked on the linkages between Preston.com and Yahoo.com (the yellow arcs in the left pane).  In the right hand pane, all of the emails that were exchanged between Preston and Yahoo are highlighted in yellow.  As I roll over each cluster of documents I can see the topics and subject lines of those email addresses to quickly see what the communications were about.  In this case the discussions were around Acme Construction.

Xbox Controller Interface

At the urging of Andy Cargile, one of my favorite students from the Institute of Design, we tried was an Xbox Controller to navigate and “shoot” the documents to categorize them.  We’d returned full circle to my 1968 midnight vision of shooting documents like I shot spaceships playing Spacewar.  Our production tests showed that we would get an additional 1X performance improvement over baseline.

Try to imagine us going to New York City’s largest conservative law firms and selling them on using a game controller to improve the productivity of their review.

Value That Matters

With the rapid advances in our human centered design driven process, we demonstrated that we could create value for all of the participants in our electronic discovery value chain.  Our pricing model was working, so now we were at the next level of Designing What Matters – Valuation Capture.  We needed an expanded strategy to figure out what to do next.

Value Creation

With the improvements in our technology we were able to achieve large gains for our end customers – the Fortune 1000 corporations involved in high stakes litigation.  Prior to our product, 300GB of material (if printed out in bankers boxes they would occupy an entire Sears Tower) took 200 attorneys a year to review.

My favorite example of the product power was the high profile board investigation in 2006 (any guesses?) where the lead law firm partner realized on the Friday before a Monday morning Congressional committee appearance that they were going to have to go through all 300 Gigabytes of material not just the small sample they’d reviewed previously.

The law firm hurriedly called in 65 attorneys from associates to senior and retired partners to spend the next two days reviewing all 300GB of emails.  Most of these lawyers had never seen our software prior to this emergency.  They learned the product, did the review and produced the results to make a midnight Sunday plane from the Bay Area back to Washington, DC.  What an improvement from 200 attorneys working for a year to review the same amount of material.

The astute among you will be asking the question, why is this a great business if you’ve done such a great job decreasing the costs for your end customers?

And the answer is – the amount of electronic information to review expands faster than the rate at which we increase productivity.  Nice business ecosystem to be in.  Last year the industry had its first Petabyte case – that would be 4000 Sears Towers full of banker’s boxes.

Design the Value Chain

Through our efforts at Attenex and our service provider partners we created accelerating benefits for each of the players in our value chain.  From previous company experiences and from academic value chain research (Porter, VRIO – Value, Rarity, Imitability, Organization), we’d learned the importance of making sure that everyone in our value chain would make money.  Because we were owned by a law firm, legal ethics kept us constrained to just providing software to our service providers who provided the distribution for our software.  While we generated $30M of software revenue, our partners generated significantly larger amounts of revenue.

Being the capitalist that I am, I wanted to gain more of the value we were creating for others.

Our Design Strategy challenge was figuring out our option space for our products and business model.  Our design strategy options for increasing our valuation were:

  • Should we sell the company now?
  • Should we expand our way up the value chain by becoming a service provider or a review provider?
  • Should we move to an adjacent market like patent analytics?

We needed a framework for evaluating our Design Strategy options.

Valuation Capture

From my academic research, I was fascinated with the proposals and frameworks for understanding knowledge based companies through the lens Intellectual Capital accounting methods.  Yet, I couldn’t figure out how to bring Intellectual Capital to bear in a real life situation.  Given our Design Strategy option space, it occurred to me to combine the types of Intellectual Capital (Human, Structural, and Relationship) with a map of product and service categories.

Remembering that “All Models are false; however some are useful,” this framework quickly focused our strategic conversations on which way we should Design What Matters for the future of Attenex – with the products, the business model and the kind of company we would become.

At that time, we were a software provider and were in the upper left quadrant.  If we sold the company we could expect to sell for $120 to $180M based on our revenue and the typical multiples of revenue in this quadrant.  In our value chain, the service providers were primarily professional services providers so they were in the bottom right quadrant.  The review services providers all used contingent temporary lawyers so they were in the bottom left quadrant.

Since the content we all used was highly confidential and sensitive, none of us in the value chain had an opportunity to move to the upper right quadrant where the potential for the highest multiples of valuation are located.

From our previous slide seeing the large revenue numbers ($900M) of the review providers, I argued that we should go into the review services business – the Contingent Services quadrant in the lower left.

However, I saw it was a 1X multiple opportunity, so even if we got significant review services revenues we wouldn’t increase our valuation that much.

With this framework, I argued for us to move from the Upper Left to the Upper Right Quadrant by moving to the adjacent market of Patent Analytics where we could leverage free publicly available content and use our software as is.

The executive team and board elected to sell the company to FTI Consulting for $91M.

I was in for the surprise of my life at the explanatory value of this framework when FTI Consulting announced shortly after our acquisition that they were going to spin off a minority interest in the division that had acquired Attenex for $1Billion.  They saw the opportunity to use the acquisition of a software product company to move from the professional services 1X quadrant to the software 6X quadrant.  Brilliant.

What’s Next?

Every time I think I am done with starting another company, I get the itch to build something.

Stories that Matter

While listening to Steve Jobs introduce the first iPad, I was captivated by his vision of a device which could integrate text, video, audio, and images to tell powerful stories.  The past few years have been disappointing in the lack of software which does integrated media rather than the simple handling multiple media.  And no one seems to be looking at combining discovering, authoring and sharing in a single tool for this magnificently rich hardware platform we now have – the iPad.

I keep waiting for somebody to make this leap.  Since nobody has, it’s time for me to build it.

Stories are the joy of life.  We need a better way to discover, curate and tell the rich stories that create our cultures.

I am reminded of many past interactions with Sundance (sorry, I mean Larry Keeley) while teaching at ID.  I’d get off the four hour flight from Seattle to Chicago with all kinds of new ideas for innovations and run into Sundance.  I’d immediately start sharing at a 100 miles an hour these ideas to get Larry’s insights.  Larry would listen not so patiently for a minute and then interrupt with – “Skip, tell me a story.”

Or more specifically – tell me a story about your idea that matters to me.

Integrated Media – Wasteland

Perhaps the closest example I’ve seen to what Steve Jobs was hoping would happen on the iPad is the implementation of T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland for the iPad.  This image shows a contemporary poet reading the poem with the written text simultaneously highlighted on the right.  Or you can continue listening and jump to one of several Eliot experts critique the poem.

Yet, I can’t add to the “hard coded” work.  I can’t share what interests me with any of my colleagues.  I can’t discover related articles and books and videos by using some portion of the text to search the internet.  And it took >$500K and eight months to produce this hard coded limited scope app.

What if I wanted to tell my life story and load all the digital accumulation of 30 years of email, documents, digital photos, video, and audio recordings.  I have 5 Terabytes of my own source material sitting on my desktop PC.  Not to mention the thousands of 35mm slides and photos from our own family and deceased relatives.

How do I curate multiple journeys through this stuff?  How do I make meaning of my shared personal history?

Personal Authoring and Discovering

Near the end of my time at Attenex, we had the bright idea to combine authoring and discovering in a single tool.  We started by creating a single user version of Patterns.  We demoed to anyone who would sit still.  They expressed only mild interest.  It wasn’t until we went back to observing users trying to combine authoring and discovering that we hit on a key insight – authors wanted to use whole blocks of text or an entire document to search their archives, not simple keywords – because they weren’t really sure what they were looking for.

We prototyped the slider bar interface where you simply highlighted the text you wanted to search.  Using the text as a giant Boolean “OR” statement we retrieved everything that remotely matched.  But as we’ve all found with Google, seeing millions of responses in a list doesn’t help.  So as you move the slider bars to the right we intelligently Boolean “AND” phrases together and look for those phrases in proximity to each other.  As you look at the count of hits you get to the point of narrowing down the search to something reasonable and then you visualize the results.

The first person we showed the demo to, our patent attorney, grabbed our laptop and said I’ll take it.  He could immediately eliminate a paralegal saving him $50K a year.  Would you pay us $25K for the app?  Gladly he said.

A few days later the CIO from a large Regional Telephone company was in and he did the same thing.  He grabbed the laptop and said I’ll take it.  What would you pay for it we asked again?  Several hundred thousand dollars if I can get a copy for all my managers.

Once again I was reminded of the power of SEE WHAT MATTERS – DESIGN WHAT MATTERS.  Potential customers immediately saw the value in this prototype of discovering and authoring with the same tool.

Potential to Discover

What might an integrated media authoring tool with the “potential to discover” look like?  The tool needs to work with four constituencies – authors, readers, the clan (or the community of practice for the reader or author), and the larger community (the public).  Each of the constituents should be able to dip into the sea of media on the internet and their personal clouds and discover what matters as they join their experience with the authors creating a layered integrated media.

The quality of interaction between reader, clan, author and community is critical.  With the current generation of students I’m seeing this repeating process of – study it a little, socialize it a little, personalize it a little.

What if a fiction author’s original work could serve as the framework for adding “Fan Fiction” material or what if a professor could provide their core text which their students could add to or what if I could curate my content so that my family and friends can add to my legacy and each of us can make meaning by the stories that we tell and SHARE.

What if all my content was an integrated combination of text, images, video and audio?

What if?  Why not?

William Blake – Illustrated Poetry

To learn more about story-telling and how to Design What Matters, I’ve been spending most of the last six months with the Digital Humanities crowd (see the Manifesto).  Until six months ago, I didn’t know such a realm existed. Then I ventured into a Modern Language Association conference panel discussion where two renowned English professors shared the podium with two distinguished computer scientists.  I thought I’d fallen down the Alice in Wonderland “rabbit hole” when the English professors were talking about “big data” and the computer scientists were talking about the need for curation and story-telling to make sense of the petabytes of data being collected every day.

My vision quest came full circle when I ended up in the office of Kate Hayles on Duke University’s East Campus. Her office was two doors down from the office that I had to submit my Keats paper at midnight 44 years ago.  Kate is a prolific scholar at the intersection of English literature, digital humanities and software development.

She described the classes that she is teaching on comparative literature, where the texts are that of the great authors side by side with the software that mediates them, like the Wasteland iPad app.  She shared that it was exciting for the students to apply the critical thinking skills of literature to a well written software program.

The thought of humanities students programming and thinking about literature through software was too much.  Kate noticed my disbelief and confusion and brought me full circle when she pointed out that the best authors have always been integrated media creators.  Say what? She reached into her bookcase and pulled out a copy of one of William Blake’s books.  “Blake wouldn’t let anybody else publish his works because he wanted each line of his poems to be accompanied by his own illustrations.  Blake was a poet, illustrator and printer.”

Kate looked straight at me and with an all knowing smile said “your new ideas are just so old school.”

[NOTE:  For longer descriptions on the interactions with Katy Hayles see the blog posts on “Digital Humanities – Really?” and “Too Much to Know – The Death of the Long Form Book?”  Also see Kate Hayles new book coming out shortly – How we Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis.]

See What Matters … Design What Matters

We are living at an exciting time of great convergence between science, art, design and engineering. Our challenge is to collaborate through differences and employ project based learning with an integrated media tool no matter what our profession.

This transition all starts with Seeing what Matters so that we can Design What Matters.

When Science and Art Dance, Business Results.


So I invite each of you to join this important conversation on the future of story-telling through integrated media.  Whether it is with me or your colleagues join the conversation and share a story that matters.

For the references and resources mentioned go to skipwalter.net/designstrategy.

I’d like to thank my colleague, Christine Martell, for her powerful process of VisualsSpeak and her artistry to help me See and Design What Matters for this presentation.

Thank you for your kind attention.  Conversation anyone?

This entry was posted in Attenex, Attenex Patterns, Content with Context, Curation, Design, eDiscovery, Human Centered Design, Intellectual Capital, Value Capture, Visual Analytics. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to When Science and Art Dance – Business Results

  1. Interesting stuff Skip. I remember getting paid in peanuts to perform Attenex product demonstrations to clients or prospective new clients at Preston Gates as a temp attorney. Patterns was definitely ahead of its time but it seems today every Tom, Dick and Harry is peddling a new product better than the rest. Times are a changin’, and I’m really interested to see how predictive coding takes off.

  2. swaltersky says:


    Thanks for remembering. I elected not to add in the predictive coding as I only have 30 minutes to make the talk and I wanted to spend some time talking about my next startup. I trust all is well with you.


  3. Pingback: Finding the story for your presentation | VisualsSpeak

  4. Pingback: Conveying Complex Thoughts | On the Way to Somewhere Else

  5. Skip, this is a great story of itself. Thank you so much for sharing. A lot of good, really good thoughts about the integral vision: Discover, Author, Share.

    Like, like, like.

    That catches me on a similar thought I persuade for our Zet Universe:
    Idea, Gather, Analyze, Author, Share.

    This makes Zet Universe a complete cycle. And somehow makes it similar to what you are talking, also from a different standpoint.

    And what do you think about Analyze? I mean, you already have done so much about Visual Analytics (and I can’t stop saying to myself how exciting it is to follow your thought about making value out of analytics), why don’t you put “Analyze” as part of your vision? Or is it a something you include into “Discover” part?

    • swaltersky says:


      Thanks for the comments. Now you are starting to see why I was so interested in what you are doing with ZET Universe.

      In order to do the Discover fully, you need the Analyze part. So that is why I haven’t pulled it out separately. Similarly, I would include the gather in the Discover and add curate somewhere between the author and discover.


  6. thick says:

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and
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