Lunchtime Conversation with Edward Boatman

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How did the project get started?

  • background is in architecture and design from Iowa State
  • graduated in 2006 and worked at Gensler in Santa Monica
  • while he was there he got into this problem of putting together a lot of presentation boards
  • wanted to use graphics to visually communicate these ideas
  • when he was doing a lot of sketches in college he hit a rut where he couldn’t find a subject-matter to draw that inspired him
  • so decided to draw the simple things that inspired him when he as a child
  • started drawing sequoias, trains, trucks, combines
  • in 2008 he got laid off
  • then decided to try to get this idea off the ground
  • the workflow in architecture is very fragment: you design everything and then you build it
  • he tried to bring this same mentality to build a website but found that it works very differently
  • with a website you start small and build from there, and you correct along the way
  • it’s much more user-centric

 

Kickstarter

  • at the beginning they sold these “noun shirts”
  • one of the problems when you’re just getting off the ground is inventory
  • if you stock a lot of inventory, the cost is lower, but if you don’t sell you lose
  • if you stock too little and a lot of people but, you’re out of stock and you lose that momentum
  • with Kickstarter you would know how many people purchased and then you’d get the stock, thus removing all the risk
  • the backers that invest in your idea are really invested in your idea and really want to support you
  • an amazing brand-building exercise and an amazing community-building campaign

 

When you wree initially building the site were there a lot of suprises, things you didn’t anticipate?

  • initially he was building a solution for a problem that he experienced
  • but right after he launched he got a lot of emails from educators and doctors, saying that they were really helpful for their work
  • that excited them to changed their mindset from it just being a graphical resource
  • they wanted these symbols to become more of visual communication tools and social objects and not just visual objects

 

Where do you see some of this graphic language going as a means of communication? What symbols do you feel are really new?

  • it’s one thing they’re not doing as good a job as they could and that’s why they’re trying to develop this API system
  • they want to allow their symbols to be shared like that
  • through the api they’re going to create some games that’ll test user comprehension

 

One color icons? Do you think of ever introducing color, or animation, or dimension?

  • as a a foundation, they’ll always have it as black and white
  • they want to allow people to give their visual interpretations of these concepts
  • and through technology they want to offer up the one that’s most popular

 

Do you ever kick anyone out?

  • struggled with what their threshold is
  • they have a pretty hands-on curation process

 

What happens if you receive a symbol that means something somewhere else in the world, do you accept it?

  • they see where the symbol comes from first and then might ask the person to explain it a little bit
  • they do want to accept icons like that

 

Did you build your own platform? What technology is it built on?

  • used a lot of web standards at the beginning but built it back in with django
  • Scott knows these things better

 

Categorization

  • redoing that at the moment
  • right now they have a noun paired with an icon
  • but they want a one-to-many relationship
  • they’ve creating a tagging system

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