Ten Reasons to Join Us in Minnesota

The NAI National Workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is fast approaching (November 8–12), and online registration closes this week. So go to the Workshop website and register now. Do it now!

Every October, I write a post about why you should join us at the NAI National Workshop. The actual reason is that it’s an inspirational and worthwhile professional development opportunity. And not only that, you just never know what sort of fun you’re going to have there. You may end up sharing a meal with a leader in the field, coming up with great ideas for new programs at your site, or witnessing two tubby knuckleheads getting their heads shaved against their wives’ wishes.

With that, ten reasons to join us at NAI 2011 next month!

  1. Saint Paul was established by the first-century apostle Saint Kirby Puckett, patron saint of Twinkies and dingers. (I may have to stop doing all of my research on Wikipedia.)
  2. Shea and I will present a concurrent session about blogging (Wednesday, November 9, at 1:00, for those of you marking your calendars). If you like reading Shea’s 150-word sentences with no punctuation on this blog, imagine hearing them in person! (If that doesn’t interest you, you can see the full list of other sessions here.)
  3. In the course of researching Minnesota culture and customs over the last year, I came across this thing called a Tater Tot Hotdish. If that doesn’t make you want to go to Minnesota, then we don’t want you there. (Photo by SEWilco.)
  4. Shea and I will be auctioneers at the scholarship auction. The event supports up-and-coming leaders in the field, and offers great deals on all sorts of goodies. Bring your own rotten fruit and vegetables to throw at us, free of charge!
  5. The largest ball of twine ever made by one person is located in Darwin, Minnesota, just under 70 miles away. You’d better believe Shea and I will be road-tripping there, and we’ll be singing Weird Al Yankovic’s “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” all the way there.
  6. The Minnesota Timberwolves have two games scheduled while we’re in town. If the NBA’s not on strike, we may try to win the T-wolves’ “Lucky Fan Gets to Be the Starting Point Guard” contest.* I will take my Christian Laettner Timberwolves jersey** to see if it brings me luck.
  7. Friday at the Workshop, we’ll celebrate 11:11 on 11/11 twice (though the second time will be after Shea’s 9:30 bedtime). Can you imagine celebrating that event with anyone but the IBD Nerd Herd?
  8. If it’s warm enough, we’ll go for a dip in the Mississippi River. We haven’t checked the weather forecast, but we’re going to be optimistic and take our bathing suits.
  9. Saint Paul is responsible for 14 of the epistles in the New Testament. (Sorry, that’s the actual saint, not the city in Minnesota.)
  10. You just never know who’s going to get their head shaved.

See you in Minnesota!

*Our first NBA joke on IBD!
**I actually do own a Christian Laettner Timberwolves jersey.

Saint Paul photo by Alexius Horatius.

With love, from Paula Poundstone

Regular readers of this site know that I am a fan of the NPR news quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and I am a hoarder of ticket stubs. (See the post You’ve got a Ticket to Design.) So when I had the chance last night to meet regular Wait, Wait panelist Paula Poundstone after a hilarious show in Boulder, Colorado, I had her sign my ticket stub just for you, the IBD Nerd Herd.

As she signed the ticket, I told her what IBD stands for. She said, “Well, everybody knows that.”

No Paper Airplanes

Over the Christmas holiday I was able to hang out with two high school buddies who are now life-long friends. It was a great time to be nostalgic and relive the good ol’ days—before the introduction of moral compasses, responsibilities, and obligations. It is remarkable how quickly we fell into circa 1991 personalities, roles, and behaviors (minus the pinch-rolled pants, acid-washed jeans, fluorescent t-shirts, and episodes of Saved by the Bell). It is equally remarkable how those memories and experiences can mean so much to us while at the same time be so under appreciated by our spouses.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the community that revolves around IBD. In the post, Star Wars Stamps, the concept of contributing and participating in the community, which can lead to a heightened sense of belonging, was highlighted. Just like my friends who encouraged me to return to the tenth grade (for laughs and to re-take Algebra II), readers of IBD have encouraged Paul and me (again to the disdain of our spouses) to continue with our actions and behavior.

If we had elected or appointed positions in the nerd herd, Kelly Farrell would rank high due to her willingness to support and share, and for her participation on IBD, along with many other personal reasons. I actually would have nominated her for the IBD Parliamentarian position (though not the highest ranking position but carries nerd-like qualities that can be unmatched) but that spot has already been reserved by an unnamed professor. Just in case you were wondering, Court Jester has already been taken by Paul.

The following pictures of interesting signs and the following comments were provided by Kelly:

On a guided hike at Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area, Interpreter Steve Chyrchel welcomed the group to the historic Van Winkle Hollow area, not AN historic area, THE historic area, and besides, even if it weren’t THE area, it would just be A historic area. [Note from IBD Management: If the latter portion of that last comment makes no sense to you read this post on Paul’s Grammar Pet Peeves.]


So, at the trailhead is this marker, which Steve pointed out clearly communicates the following:

  • go this way
  • wheelchair accessible
  • no bicycles
  • no riding horses (and actually, no riding them backwards)
  • no paper airplanes.

InI saw this sign in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I tend to be one of those purposefully far out parkers, one who doesn’t mind the extra walk. But, like most, I also enjoy the thrill of scoring a front parking space once from time to time.

However, I’ve never considered actually parking in the entrance. Designers have got to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Kelly, thank you for your participation, and thanks as well as the others who have provided support, encouragement and interpretive design fixes for us all. On our way home from visiting with my buddies, my wife counseled me on the reasons why it was good that I wasn’t that way all of the time or at all. Her key point was that she had worked too hard to change me. She may have removed my behavior from the early 90s, but she hasn’t removed the Right Said Fred from my iPod.

Star Wars Stamps

I try hard not to be a nerd, but sometimes I just can’t help it. With the Nerd Herd being a large part of the IBD community I am proud to say that not only am I a co-founder, I’m also a client. The value of community was confirmed to me in two recent incidents.

Incident #1 – A phone conversation between me and my wife

Shea: Hello.

Wife: (Laughing.) Hey, you won’t believe who I just got off the phone with. I have conclusive proof that you are the biggest geek in the world.

Shea: (Silence. Trying to think about who she could have talked to who would have sent some major geek news about me her way…oh, I got it…it had to be my first girlfriend from the 12th grade. That’s right I didn’t date much in high school).

Wife: It was Robert from the post office.

Shea: The Postmaster? (Thinking. Why is the postmaster calling me at home? I mean, we are close and see each other almost every day, but this is strange. Did I violate some postal code by shipping something that was fragile, flammable and perishable? Perhaps it was Paul’s Christmas present.)

Wife: Uh, yeah. He called to tell you that the Star Wars stamp collection is being discontinued but he had a few sheets left over to sell before they had to be destroyed.

Shea: Destroyed?

Wife: Yeah, he has 100 sheets of the stamps left and since you were the only one who ever asked for and purchased them, he thought that he would offer them to you before they are returned and destroyed.

Shea: Destroyed? (Perplexed and still distraught by the thought of those beautifully designed stamps being shredded or possibly even incinerated. Could you imagine being a beautiful Star Wars stamp and going through your entire life without the opportunity to even stick to an envelope? I can’t.)

Wife: Yeah, destroyed. I hope you realize that if the Postmaster calls you at home to offer you a lifetime supply of Star Wars stamps because you are the only person he has ever known who has ever purchased them, then you are the biggest geek in the world.

Shea: Destroyed? (Focusing.) Okay, I’ll call him and buy a few sheets (Thinking…100 sheets of Star Wars stamps, with 15 stamps on each sheet, times $.41 per stamp, equals…I’m not very good with math…but like $32…right). You may call it being the biggest geek in the world, but I call it flattery. We need more federal employees thinking this way and going the extra mile to make their customers happy. (Nice cover, right?)

Wife: (Still laughing.) Well Robert said he was under a deadline to return these stamps, so if you want them he wants you to call him as soon as possible. Do you need his number?

Shea: No I’ve got it.

Wife: You’ve got it?

Shea: Don’t ask.

Wife: I don’t want to know.

(The End.)

star_wars_stampsNeedless to say I immediately called Robert and purchased a lifetime supply of Star Wars stamps, even though to this day the wife thinks I only bought 50 sheets of stamps. For the record, 100 sheets of Star Wars stamps, times 15 stamps per sheet, times $.41 per stamp equals $615 (also known as an unexplainable charge on the debit card).

In this story Sebrena (wife) saw this as a direct representation of the geek in me, but I saw it as a representation of the service the community offered me, the geek. But when it comes down to it, somewhere through the years Robert and I had a “shared emotional connection”—a key element in the Sense of Community Theory proposed in 1986 according to McMillan & Chavis (wikipedia.org). A “shared history” is a large portion of this element and is key to a person finding or developing a sense of community. The history that Robert and I had together led to this connection that went beyond the normal postmaster/park ranger relationship. This relationship led to influence where Robert had some influence in my life as well as mine in his. I see this happening on IBD as well. I see the foundations of a community being formed with shared histories and influences shaping group dynamics.

We can apply this to the interpretive process as well. A shared history with visitors can lead to program or product success. In many parks and museums today you see opportunities for visitors to share their history or experiences. It can be as simple as a visitor registry where visitors can leave comments or a dry erase board where visitors can list the bird species that they saw that day. If we want to influence our visitors to action, we need to build relationships with them and allow them to build relationships with each other. As interpretive designers, we can provide that opportunity.

Incident #2 – Meeting a lurker (A person who reads discussions on a message board, newsgroup, chatroom, or file sharing or other interactive system, but rarely or never participates actively-Wikipedia.org) at the Southeastern State Parks Programs Seminar (SSPPS)

Lurker: So you are Shea Lewis? (Placing her hand out to be shaken by me.)

Shea: That’s right; did I do or say something to offend you? (I make a lot of apologies.)

Lurker: No, I read your blog and just wanted to meet you. You are insightful and really funny. (Okay, I made that part up; it’s my post.)

Shea:  Wow, that’s great, now there are three of us.

Lurker: Seriously, a few of us quote you and Paul around the office.

Shea: Paul who?

Lurker: We loved your posts from Chicago and love the way that you guys look at the world.

Shea: Yeah, our wives now only allow us (Paul and me) to have limited, supervised contact now and we have been officially removed from any future family vacation planning. Have you ever posted a comment?

Lurker: No, but it is great to find like-minded people who share similar interests.

Shea: Like baseball and sausage?

Lurker: No, like design and qwerks. Seriously, it’s like a community.

Shea: I agree, it is kind of like a community and kind of like therapy too.

(The End.)

As the Lurker walked away and I realized that I probably owe her an apology. Despite my problems with not being able to take a compliment very well, the Lurker provided us with some heartfelt comments.

There is value in community relationships. Even though the relationships founded under the banner of IBD are yet to be determined. Being connected to a community is a large part of success in any profession. Interpretive design is no different. If our goal as interpreters is to help our visitors reach the self-actualization stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs we should strive to reach that goal ourselves.

“Integration and fulfillment of needs” is another element of the McMillan & Chavis theory mentioned above. Our Lurker could achieve a higher sense of community through IBD by contributing or participating in discussions online but has gone on to reach her own level of community by communicating with co-workers about topics presented.

If there is a community revolving around IBD, it is our goal that it will help you develop your own attitudes, perceptions, and feelings that revolve around the profession. Hopefully you will find a sense of belonging as well as a shared attitude towards the use of Comic Sans and Papyrus.

If you are still reading this then you belong and membership is a key to the sense of community theory. The good news is we are looking for those who want to belong and membership is free. There is no way we could charge for this, so welcome.

Incident #3 – A conversation between me and my wife

Wife: Are you putting Star Wars Stamps on our Christmas cards?

Shea: You betcha, what else are we going to do with all of these stamps and nothing says Merry Christmas like…Yoda.

(The End.)

T-Shirts for Designers

Caution: If you read this post and consider any of the following articles of clothing stylish, cool, or even moderately acceptable your membership in the nerd herd is accepted, valid, and there is no turning back for you.

Several posts ago I wrote about the American Apparel Image as well as their popular t-shirts. Friend and reader of IBD, Joe Jacobs, referred us to another blog on design (not that he should be reading any other design blogs besides IBD) with a post on t-shirts for designers. After searching through the shirts, here are my favorites.  If you are looking for that holiday gift for that nerd in your life this post may help you (hint to my wife…I wish she read my blog).

Anatomy of A

Vonroxy has a nice “Anatomy of the Letter A” shirt that is sure to swoon as well as provide an interpretive opportunity discussing the ascender, mean line, and bowl of a letterform. IBD does not guarantee that this shirt will actually improve your chances with swooning. Based on actual results, the above shirt and typeography discussion could impair the swooning process.


They also offer the classic Helvetica shirt that is almost too mainstream for me now.  Just kidding, I really like it.


Collapse Design is offering an interesting collection of t-shirts with slogans based on design terms intertwined into pop culture phrases.


UG Monk provides a great example of message within a message. They’ve got some great oversized letterform shirts too.


Who needs a drop down menu with a list of sans serif typefaces when you can wear them? Turn Nocturnal has a shirt with 300 sans serif typefaces screen printed in a interesting design.  Their “huge type looks sweet shirt”  is sweet too.


Veer (which happens to be great online source for various design needs) is offering more whitespace in your life and who couldn’t use more whitespace. They also offer an entire line of other products for nerd herd members like us. That’s right.  Accept your official membership into the herd.