Comparing Jay Ward of Pixar’s Process to Product Design

Reviewing my notes from Ford’s annual thought leader conference, the Sculpting the Future talk seemed to have the most scribbles in my notebook. The talk was comprised of Seth Godin best-selling author, Jay Ward Pixar Animation Studios, Rachel Shechtman Story Boutique, and J Mays Ford Motor Company. Each speaker spoke for a couple minutes before going into a panel discussion. While each individual had a lot of smart things to consider, I thought Jay’s talk was the most applicable to consider process wise.

Over on the Pixar Wiki his bio is described as this: Jay Ward was one of the art coordinators, characters manager, and an additional voice in Cars. He is considered the guardian of the Cars franchise due to his in-depth knowledge and love of cars. As with process it is an always evolving flow of ideas. Below are a couple slides that I wanted to take some time to review and add my own thoughts from his points through the eyes of product and application design.

Story is King
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Tell a compelling story, something that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat wondering, “What’s going to happen next?”.
• There’s a couple ways to approach this. Work from questions that need to be explored, take those answers and work backwards to carry the story.
• Aside from articles, books, films and music, what other things could be a story? Instructions, intuitive UI’s are a couple that could be applicable to these slides.

Populate the story with memorable characters, characters that are relatable—even the bad guys.
• Consider what makes someone memorable. What is motivating that person?
• While thinking about a character, how is audience participation going to reflect the story? What are some common traits that are universal?

Put those stories in a believable (not necessarily real) world.
• Photo filters came to mind, use them to make the image believable.
• World’s become plausible in context, very useful to consider with user interface for a specific behavior.

Quality Over Content
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Why are we making this?
• Fundamental question that often can be forgotten while iterating based on technology available.
• Something that should be questioned over and over again as more information becomes available.

Does it further this Pixar story?
• Something to remember whether it’s the Pixar story or the product or application I’m working on. Consider how the feature moves the product forward.
• The question forces a knowledge of what the big picture story is.

Does it grow or enrich the brand?
• If the answer is no it makes it easy to cut.
• If the answer is yes, figure out what those principles are so they can be iterated on.

If it doesn’t do these things, why are we doing it?
• If the feature is cut could it be used elsewhere when the context is right?
• While it might be obvious that it doesn’t fit, does everyone at the table making the decision feel the same way?

The Basic Rule of “Bookends”
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First Review: Initial Concept Buyoff–On same page.
• Keep it rough, let each person fill in the blanks instead of being too polished.
• Open–ended allows for exploration.

In Process Reviews: Notes and Creative Input.
• Start getting buy in so if things need to be changed there’s still time.
• Create elements that can still evolve.

Final Review: Final Notes if needed, and no game changers!
• Important to lock everything down so the elements can be polished.
• Know when this phase begins so final focus can start.

Bonus Link: Pixar’s Jay Ward Responds To The Unified Pixar Movie Theory

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