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Show Me What You Want: Using Card Sorts to Clarify a Vision

Workshop scheduled at 1:00-4:00 in Room 1 (Johnson)

It’s hard to understand the vision in someone else’s head: the aesthetic a client is imagining, the way a team wants their written content to sound and feel, the personality of a new product or service. If you’re like most of us, you’ve taken a stab at it only to learn that wasn’t quite what your collaborators were envisioning.

How to help people communicate a picture that’s living in fuzzy form inside their heads – before you take that first stab at the work?

Card sorting activities provide a powerful (and fun!) tool for helping others give concrete shape to their vision for a project. They’re as simple as they sound – giving people a set of cards labeled with descriptive words or pictures and watching them sort the cards into categories.

Along the way, your collaborators get to discover and clarify (and sometimes hotly debate) what they’re envisioning, and you hear rich details and stories that help you understand what they mean. Everyone’s aligned earlier in the game, and you can deliver exactly what they need with fewer rounds of feedback.

Drawing on the work of card sort greats like Donna Spencer and Margot Bloomstein, this workshop will teach you the practical details of running a card sort to clarify a vision, and the subtle nuances that will help you do it like the artful practitioner you already are.

Learning Outcomes:

You’ll walk away from this workshop with:

  • foundational knowledge about card sorting, with case studies to show you what it looks like in action
  • practical instructions for running a card sort, from planning to facilitating to figuring out what you’ve learned
  • tips and tricks from the road, so you can avoid common mistakes
  • hands-on practice at facilitating a card sort, so you can ask the nitty-gritty questions that come up when you try it yourself

Attendee Skill Level:

This workshop is appropriate for both students and beginners as well as seasoned practitioners. Attendees need only arrive with a baseline understanding of why shared vision is critical for a design project.

Presented By

Jen Sharber

Jen Sharber is a service designer in the fine city of Chicago, where she works as a consultant with small businesses who aim to do good for their communities.

In years prior, she led knowledge management and digital strategy programs at Teach For America, designing for the unique struggles of brand-new teachers. Jen spent her early professional years as the proverbial UX shop of one, doing a mashup of content strategy, information architecture, and web usability consulting.

Jen is passionate about coaching new designers. Her favorite challenges include building impossibly large affinity diagrams and mixing the perfect Aviation.

Follow @jensharber on Twitter

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