July 25-27, 2018 / Vancouver, BC

Interview with Donna Lichaw

April 5, 2016

Steve Fisher talks with Donna Lichaw, the author of The User's Journey, about her upcoming talk and workshop at the Design & Content Conference. We also hear about her great new book available through Rosenfeld Media.

Register for Donna's workshop!

Video Transcript

Steve Fisher:

Hi, we are here for our very first interview for the Design and Content Conference with one of our speakers and work shoppers, Donna Lichaw. Donna can you just tell us a little bit about yourself—introduce yourself to the Design and Content audience?

Donna Lichaw:

Sure. I am a story strategist, but I don’t work with the TV or film, or anything like that. I help companies figure out what the story should be for their customers or users that they have with their product or service or brand and help them build it into things like digital products, websites, cross platform services. I know there is more than that, but that’s the just of it.

Steve Fisher:

We are really excited to have you come out to do your talk in your workshop. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your workshop and what you will be doing with people there?

Donna Lichaw:

Absolutely. In my workshop I am going to be teaching things that that I have been doing with my clients and my students for years. I have taught at different universities, like I am teaching right now at the School of Visual Arts in their Interaction Design Program. What I do with the students and clients are things that I started doing many years ago when I was in Film School. My background is originally in film and what we were taught to do early on was—something that I actually forgot to do and I should have been doing along—mapping out stories for everything that we ever built or designed. In film it was you know I was making documentaries and films mostly but eventually when I moved into interactive and product design, product management and actually building more complex software websites, campaigns and things like that. What I started to realize everyday is that the same architecture that you apply to engaging an audience in film is the same architecture that you can apply to engaging an audience with your websites, software or app. I called it story mapping, completely arbitrarily is what is called in film school, and that’s what I’ll be teaching people in the workshop—how to map stories of their customers using their products and services so that they figure out how to make them as successful as possible.

Steve Fisher:

That sounds fantastic. And you have a talk that you are giving at the conference too. Story first: crafting products that engage. What do you think people will take away from that?

Donna Lichaw:

Sure. So my talk, my workshop and my book that just came out—which I am sure we will talk about in a moment—they, all work in an ecosystem together. So the talk really introduces the concept of using story to engage your users and customers. At a very, very high level I’ll walk through how story architecture flows through some successful products and services and how it works not just for film but also for planning intended experiences of use and building digital things even analog things. So the talk I consider something more high-level to really just get you interested and excited about the idea. Often times people will leave my talk and they’ll just start experimenting and trying a lot of things at work the next day, which is really exciting. A lot of times also—this is why I have the workshop—people really want to try it out and especially want to try it out with me there. With me in my workshop, you get a critique from me and rest of the room and really, really dig in deep which is fun. I think the audience is going to love the talk and the workshop. That’s what people told me before, but I’m biased.

Steve Fisher:

Probably yeah, and you should be, right? This is what you do and you’re great at it and we’re so excited that you are coming to the workshop and talk. And you mentioned your book—it’s sort of this great trinity of things that have come together in time for our conference which is really exciting. Thank you for that! Your new book! Tell us a little bit about that, and we’re going to provide a link in the notes for this too where people can grab that.

Donna Lichaw:

Excellent. So the book came out of a few things. It was giving my talk in two different variations on this theme for different talks over the years, teaching my workshops, working with students and working with the clients. Over the last few years people were asking for more and wanted to dig deep and a lot of people were asking is there a book that they can read that will explain to them how do you story structure—not to make films or TV shows—but to do the things that we do to build products and plan out experiences or how we want people to experience things. And after a while I realized I have to write this book because it doesn’t exist, unless you want to go back and read Aristotle, which I highly recommend but.. Applying some of that old philosophy and thoughts to the things we do—there is a big gap between jumping from one to the next. So I decided to write a book and it was such a treat to write. The book just came out last week. It seems like a month ago!

Steve Fisher:

I know it seems it's been there for a while. But that is just fantastic, and it’s through Rosenfeld media right? It’s The User’s Journey?

Donna Lichaw:

Yes, The User's Journey—and its short! So everyone can read it in a couple of subway rides or a couple of lunch hours. It’s around a 150 pages and has lots of diagrams. I designed it that way because it didn’t need to be an encyclopedia. It’s short to the point, but I think it fills in a lot of those questions people had over the years.

Steve Fisher:

Oh, that’s fantastic. So we are bringing you out to Vancouver for the event in July and I think you said that you never been to Vancouver before. This is always exciting for me because I love this city and one of the reasons we put in the summer is so that you can experience everything that is going on around here. What’s something or some things that you’re excited about coming out here?

Donna Lichaw:

So the thing that I am most excited about is I have been wanting to visit Vancouver for years. I grew up being a huge X Files fan and Twin Peaks—I don’t think Twin Peaks was filmed in Vancouver. It was filmed in the Pacific Northwest, but I assume it was Oregon or something like that. But X Files was definitely filmed in Vancouver, or at least the surrounding area. I recently rewatched it all a few months ago. It was so much fun. All I could think was I was oh my god I really want to go to Vancouver. I just want to see—Steve I’ve seen some of your pictures from your morning hike. I want to see what the forest looks like, the woods and just the city itself. I’ve heard wonderful things and gave a few talks and taught a few workshops in Pacific Northwest last year and it was so much fun. I love it up there and I all I could think was that I want to go a little further north and make it to Vancouver. I’m really excited.

Steve Fisher:

We are actually in the heart of where they shot a lot of the urban scenes a lot of the urban scenes for X files right where the (conference) venue is.

Donna Lichaw: Nice.

Steve Fisher:

I can take you on the tour to one place at least where they shot. That’s where David [Duchovny] got out [of a car right in front of me].

Vancouver is spectacular in the summer and we’re really looking forward to having you out, Donna and thanks so much for being a part of the 2016 event.

Donna Lichaw:

Thank you so much, Steve. I’m so looking forward to not only presenting at the conference but attending and meeting all of the attendees.