Instructions Included

2By Christopher Knaus, director of program management
Whether you’re completing a specific task or initiating some serious change, instructions can mean the difference between success and failure. Designing instructions was the theme of a recent Visual Thinking Workshop held at our Portland headquarters and attended by approximately 30 people.

We explored giving and receiving instructions with incomplete information. One experiment had two instructors guiding a blindfolded builder to complete a predetermined toy block structure. Following that experiment, the teams then did some movie scriptwriting, both text only scripts and visual only storyboards. These scripts were used for our third and final experiment. Different groups were given a script or storyboard, and two by two the groups came upfront to act out their script; one group working from the text only script while the other worked from the visual only storyboard.

This revealed the importance of audience, context, and common ground in instruction design, and perhaps more importantly, it revealed that there are a lot of people who hadn’t seen The Breakfast Club.

The session was led by: Cynthia Owens, Marvin Gaviola, Matt Morasky, and Christopher Knaus.

Visual Meetings Workshop at the Oregon Department of Education

By Dave King, vice president of client services
We had the honor of being invited by the Oregon Department of Education to deliver a derivative version of our November 2013 Visual Thinking School topic, “Visual Frameworks for Effective Meetings.” On February 18, XPLANErs Patrick Dodson, senior vice president, business development, and myself spent two hours with 20 remarkable educators in Salem.


The workshop focused on teaching participants how to create custom visual canvases to plan and run more meaningful meetings that make effective use of everyone’s time and deliver better results. The result of meeting canvases is two-fold:

• Maintain meeting focus and overall mental alignment of the group through a discussion
• Instant documentation of the meeting in already-organized template or worksheet

For more information on creating and running visual meetings, see Kathryn Jarrell’s xBlog post,
XPLANE-ify Your Meetings”.

XPLANE at 2014 ACMP Conference

By Traci Jones, senior marketing manager
XPLANE is excited to be sponsoring Change Management 2014, the Association of Change Management Professionals’ Global Conference being held March 30 – April 2 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL.

Drew Mattison and James Macanufo will be hosting a pre-conference workshop, Visualizing Successful Change: An Introduction to Visual Thinking, Sunday, March 31. This workshop is intended not only for change management professionals, but also any business executive who wants to learn how visual thinking can accelerate user understanding and adoption of change.


Workshop attendees will learn about the holistic approach to Change Activation; aligning, engaging, and embedding change and how Visual Thinking will help get them there.

To register for this event please visit,

James will be partnering up with Parker Lee to lead another session later in the week, Change & Interaction, What Might Change Management Learn from Interactive Design? Participants can anticipate exploring techniques from interaction design that will enable them to reframe change challenges, create meaningful communications, and lower barriers to behavior change.

If you plan on attending please come by our booth to talk with an XPLANEr!

XPLANE Helps HP Unlock Their Automotive Solution Story

4By Drew Mattison, vice president of business development
Telling a good story about your solution is important. Telling the right story is critical. Recently HP partnered with XPLANE to craft the new Automotive Solutions Story, creating four engaging, integrated visual sales tools that illustrated HP’s Automotive solution in a clear and concise manner.

As a result of the broad solution story success, HP is working with XPLANE again to begin shaping the narrative and visual story for specific engagements, as well as building the initial training tools to help guide and inform the sales team on the use of the Solution Story materials.

Service Design, in brief

By Sara Mesing, XPLANE business development manager

What is Service Design anyway?
My favorite definition comes from Live Work, a creative agency in the UK that has really furthered the evolution of Service Design as a discipline1.

“Service Design is the design of intangible experiences that reach people through many different touchpoints, and that happen over time.” – Live Work

Service Design is not new. It draws upon all the various design disciplines; graphic, industrial, information, and heavily from interaction.

What is new is that the focus on the intangible experience means that designers must work in new ways to collaborate with organizations. It marries human-centered design with the operational and process capabilities of organizations.


Why should you care?
Our world has changed significantly in the last decade. In the digitized landscape, it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish between products and services. The original iPod and the iTunes service platform are classic examples of how products/services being integrated.

There is business opportunity. 80% of the U.S. GDP is services and poised to grow2.  What’s required to win in this market is a systems view of functionality and an understanding of how that rolls up into what customers or “users” experience emotionally as they interact with your service/product/brand.

There is also social opportunity. Co-creation is at the heart of Service Design. Services are produced in the moment of consumption. Meaning that the “customer” or user is taking an active role in creating the experience they are having. Think of what this could mean for healthcare! What if we could actually influence the system so that the patient takes an active role in creating their experience? Game-changing!

How do you do it?
A few foundational tools help frame the emotional understanding and the process understanding.  Storyboards and personas help capture the context, the “how”, and the “why” of a user’s needs and desires. Service Design blueprints and journey maps capture the “what.” Blueprints are visual representations of each step or each function that happens ‘behind the curtain’ invisible to customers, but required for the organization to offer the service.

More than meets the eye
There is so much more to Service Design that a one-page summary does not begin to do it justice. There are many practitioners and researchers doing important work in this field and it is thanks to their work that Service Design is emerging and finding a much wider audience.

Service Design Resource Links:

Bottom line
Service Design is all about execution. It’s about the organizational discipline required to deliver excellent experiences. It is not one and done. Undertaking Service Design engagements meaningfully builds organizational muscles for resiliency and graceful execution.

1“The Changing Nature of Service & Experience Design – LiveWork.” Livework. N.p.

2“Office of the United States Trade Representative.” N.p.

XPLANE-ify Your Next Meeting

By Kathryn Jarrell, XPLANE vice president of operations
Meetings get a bad rap. Late or inattentive attendees, endless recapping and talking in circles with little or no progress made, a waste of everyone’s time.  It’s enough to make you ask — Should we abandon meetings altogether?

At XPLANE we believe meetings, when done correctly, can be a valuable tool. The key is in how you plan and execute your meetings.  Here’s how XPLANE approaches them.


First, do you even need to have a meeting?  Stop and ask yourself, what am I trying to achieve?  Can it be achieved faster or more effectively without calling the meeting?

If you need a meeting, what kind of meeting do you need to have? This will influence everything from meeting location to duration. Most meetings fall within the following categories:

  • Decision Making / Problem Solving
  • Planning
  • Learning / Sharing
  • Brainstorming / Co-Creation

Meetings are generally won or lost before they even start. It’s essential to think through the details of what, who, when, where, and how. For a bulletproof meeting plan – ask yourself these questions:

  • What result are you trying to achieve?  (This is your goal)
  • What decisions will be required?
  • What information is needed to support or inform this meeting?
  • Who should have input? (These are your attendees)
  • When is the best time (day/month/year) to have this meeting?
  • Where should we have this conversation (boss’ office? a coffee shop? any old meeting room?)
  • How much time is required to do this correctly?
  • How can you engage the attendees in an effective way? (framing questions, post up exercise, visual presentation)?

Those answers will begin to inform an agenda – the key ingredient to a successful meeting. Here are some template agendas based on common meeting types:

Decision Making Planning Brainstorming
  • Purpose / Goal (the Framing Question to answer)
  • Options to Consider
  • Plus / Delta those
  • Discussion
  • Decision
  • Next Steps
  • Align on end state you are trying to achieve
  • Key Milestones to get there
  • Requirements / dependencies
  • Risks / pitfalls
  • Assign owners
  • Next steps
  • Framing Question to answer
  • Independent idea generation
  • Post up all ideas
  • Sort similarities
  • Have each person vote on 2-3 favorite ideas
  • Next Steps


Back to the earlier question, how can you engage the attendees in an effective way? Consider creating a MEETING CANVAS. This is a visual framework based off the meeting agenda which will help anchor and hold the meeting together.



As the meeting transpires, fill out the canvas with key decisions and notes. This will focus the energy of the attendees and keep them engaged. It also creates instant documentation of the meeting so meeting notes are already taken care of.

Follow Through
Without follow through, it’s like the meeting never happened. Don’t forget to provide the meeting notes or canvas to attendees with clear actions items and corresponding deadlines. It’s also a best practice to get feedback from attendees on how effective the meeting was so you can continue to tweak and improve for next time.

Doing all of this for a meeting is a lot of work, we know.  And not every meeting needs this level of effort, but for the meetings critical to your organization, you’ll get better results and a better experience.

Heed Your Call, David Howitt’s Modern Manifesto


In his provocative and life-shifting book, Heed Your Call, Howitt cites countless examples in which empathy and compassion make all the difference in professional and personal endeavors. In an economy in which office workers around the globe bemoan the lack of transparency, Howitt encourages us to bring more authenticity into the boardroom, which we applaud.

David Howitt might call it blazing your own hero’s journey, as a nod to Joseph Campbell. Howitt’s tale is a personal story of disrupting his life and professional career to integrate his heart.  It’s well worth a read.

We are pleased to celebrate the success of a fellow Portland businessman encouraging the value of empathy in traditional business. Three cheers to that!

Preorder your advance copy at

Creative Summit kicks off the New Year

021414_5By Matt Morasky, XPLANE associate creative director
January saw designers, copywriters, illustrators, and animators converge on XPLANE’s Portland studio for our first-Annual Creative Summit. The idea was simple: invite our extended creative family (aka our friends) into the workshop and unleash their expertise, experience, and ideas.

The results were fantastic. Tapping into decades of session and project experience, we examined what’s working, what’s not, and where our work is going. We identified opportunities to improve the XPLANE experience for our clients, and ourselves. We even found time for local Weiden + Kennedy art director and illustrator, Lloyd Winter to share his work and offer up a few inspirational, and comical, anecdotes.

Of course, we missed many familiar faces from around the neighborhood and around the globe, (you know who you are). But in XPLANE fashion, for those who couldn’t make it, we’ll soon be sharing the outcomes and seeking input so that we can begin rolling out Summit-inspired initiatives over the course of 2014. So keep your eyes open and your pens at-hand. The first-Annual Creative Summit kicked 2014 into high gear and we can’t wait for 2015.

The XPLANE Graduate Internship in Design Consulting


Do you use design to solve complex problems? Do you communicate your ideas visually? Are you equally comfortable across the table from a CEO as you are collaborating with designers? Are you passionate about organizational dynamics, human behavior and helping people navigate change? If you answered yes, you are a rare bird indeed and we want to meet you!

The XPLANE Graduate Internship in Design Consulting

XPLANE is a design consultancy focused on empowering changemakers. We envision and drive change through visual thinking and people-centered design to clarify complexity and inspire action. We help organizations through vision and strategy planning, visual communications, process improvement and adoption and behavior change.

There are a lot of design consultancies out there, most of them focused on designing for consumers and markets. XPLANE has a 20 year history applying design thinking inside organizations, sparking innovation in the way people work. We design communication and human interactions within organizations with a passion for alignment, clarity, co-creation and innovation.

The XPLANE experience combines:
• Visual Thinking to accelerate understanding and alignment
• Storytelling to power human connections through shared meaning
• People-Centered Design to build on insights and empathy gathered from all audiences
• Co-Creation of solutions, because people support what they help build
• Multidisciplinary Teams to blend different talents, experiences and views, fueling innovative thinking and practical solutions
• Iterative Design so teams build the right solution quickly and efficiently

About the Program
XPLANE is seeking the best and brightest for a 10-week internship (dates TBD based on your academic calendar) in beautiful Portland, Oregon for Summer 2014.
• Complete a challenging 10-week strategy project (custom-designed internal project based on a mutual fit of your expertise and our needs)
• Contribute to multiple client-facing projects
• Get to know the XPLANE team, culture and work so you can figure out if you’re destined to join us
• Enjoy the legendary Portland summertime
• Learn from you and your unique perspective
• Support you with a talented collaborative team
• Expose you to our methods and secret sauce
• Hopefully find our next great talented XPLANEr!

• Currently enrolled in a graduate level program in business, design, organizational behavior, communications or some interdisciplinary combination of those
• ~5 years relevant work experience prior to graduate school
• Passion for a career in design consulting post-school

So you think you want to apply…
Please send the following to
• Current resume and cover letter
• 1-page visual resume – what we call an xmap. An xmap is basically you on a page, represented visually. We want to know where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what you’re passionate about. Feel free to structure it however makes sense to you, and don’t let the visual aspect worry you – we believe everyone can draw (even if we’re a bit rusty from kindergarten). It’s not about making beautiful art, it’s about communicating clearly and simply!
• Oh, and if you maintain an online portfolio, we’d love to see a link to that too.

Questions? Send those to too. Looking forward to hearing from you!






Sample XMAP.