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There is a 3M Lounge here at the convention center where they are showing off all sorts of innovations like their 3M interactive presenter, 3M Touch interactive table, tiny mobile projectors, and the super-popular giant Post-It Notes, which Emily Reeves and I discovered make awesome umbrellas and conversation-starters. Because it wasn’t supposed to rain today, right weather app? Anyway, thanks 3M.

Emily shows off her “signature color” Notas Gigantes!

The biggest news from the world of technology, not just SXSW, was during the keynote from Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot. As the story goes, SXSW was a catalyst for MakerBot’s hugely successful first product, the Replicator, which brings manufacturing capabilities right into the homes of anyone who wants it. There wasn’t much of a song and dance as he whisked away the cloth atop MakerBot’s newest innovation, the Digitizer, a desktop 3D scanner that allows you to turn physical objects into 3D designs that can be shared and printed (by the Replicator). To demo the product, he scanned an 8” tall gnome statue in less than 3 minutes.

I hear you snickering. “So great, now I can make shelves full of brightly colored toy gnomes and cubes,” right? The Replicator technology is still in it’s infancy, but even now the possibilities that are being discovered and utilized by people around the world is staggering. The most memorable example from Bre Pettis’ talk was about two men who built a prosthetic hand for a boy in South Africa. Quite the story. And just one of many examples of how one innovation can blossom through the ingenuity of its users. The Digitizer will be available this fall.

Oops, I stood in front of the “Film” backdrop.

The Mechanics of Magic: 7 game-design insights was a continuation of a trend in the past few years of SXSW of looking at the mechanics of games and using them in other digital projects. A few examples include:

  • Understanding “player types” instead of “personas.” Advertisers traditional gather data around a demographic and create “personas” based on age, viewing habits, purchase histories, etc. But what good game designers do is understand the way people behave, and allow them the types of interactions that satisfy that. One way of breaking out different player types online (when it comes to games) is killers, achievers, socialites and explorers.
  • “The Pinch.” Many games in the app stores today have a moment where the game comes to a halt and the user must decide whether they want to go further or not. The best “pinches” happen at a moment when the user can see a glimpse of what’s to come, or can see the next level of achievement. This is where many games ask for money to keep going. If the engagement is powerful enough, and the investment asked of the user is one they can accept, then they’re hooked!
  • Reciprocity. Ever notice how LinkedIn asks if you’d like to recommend someone who has just recommended you? Reciprocity.
  • Achievement! Everyone likes a little pat on the back, so game makers are increasingly building mini achievements into the gameplay instead of saving victory for the very end.
  • Mastery. If there is opportunity to repeat an action and do it better, users will be all over it.
  • The Elder Game. If you have loyal brand fans, are you treating them any differently than first-time users? Are you recognizing their contribution to your brand? Maybe you should.

Web typography in a responsive environment was incredibly nerdy. And for SXSW Interactive, that’s saying something. The presenter was Richard Rutter from His main point was something well-known to those of us immersed in web design: typography is an incredibly important and very often overlooked element of web design. Especially in responsive environments where the same site can be viewed with devices with vastly different screen sizes. The chosen typeface must “say” what the content is saying (stylistically) and enhance the user’s ability to read it. A good designer has the ability to design the actual content, not just the frame. A quote from Paul Rand comes to mind: “Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.”