Stephen Covey intervenes in wire-framing Ivanhoe

When the SLab folks recommended we split into groups and begin creating wireframes for our Ivanhoe games, my first thought was, “How can we start building when we don’t really know what we’re doing yet?”  However, talking about what we were doing in the abstract had been generating somewhat circular discussion, so I took a leap of faith and began drawing.  Jeremy handed out colored pencils, and we all started sketching individually.

It occurred to me in that moment that what we were doing was analogous to stream-of-consciousness writing—imagining in the very moment of creation.  So, inspired, I took up a violet pencil and commenced.  To get the creative juices flowing, I drew a rectangle to represent a computer screen, and the empty spaces suddenly demanded, “Fill me with something brilliant!”  Ideas began to arise spontaneously.  I mused first about what our game-play space would look like—which led to more musings on what Ivanhoe was all about.  This time, however, rather than just spinning my wheels, I drew out two visualizations to follow the two trains of thought arising concurrently: one, a linear view of Ivanhoe which would represent moves much the way Facebook posts pop up in the Newsfeed, and the second, a nonlinear model which displayed moves as a web representing them in relation to one another.  Simply by sketching out the tension between linear and non-linear Ivanhoe concepts, I had a couple concrete visualizations in hand—already a step forward!

We split into groups of three to envision two possibilities for Ivanhoe: Eliza, Scott, and me; and Francesca, Veronica, and Zach.  Our goal was to create wireframes and present them to the SLab folks in our meeting today, so both groups met separately over the past week to prepare.  I realized that not only did sketching out my ideas help me delineate specific problems to address (such as the issue of linearity), but it helped us to collaborate more efficiently, as well.  We were able to communicate in concrete ways as opposed to trying to speak about abstract concepts.

At this point, I could speak about a lot of aspects of wire-framing; it was a rich experience in a variety of ways.  What strikes me the most, however, is the way the simple act of having to get our ideas on paper helped us communicate better with one another—an unanticipated benefit.  For those familiar with Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I understand this phenomenon best in light of Habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  The premise is self-explanatory: if you are trying to make another person understand your point of view, first try to understand his.  The reason I bring up this concept is that I saw drawing out our ideas together as a facilitator for understanding one another.  If Scott had an idea, he drew it on the board, and Eliza and I both could immediately understand it and then build on it by adding our own ideas to Scott’s drawing.  The space of time in which something was being drawn created a moment in which discussion ceased, and everyone waited to continue until the idea was fully formed on the board and could be considered.  In this way, Eliza, Scott, and I were able to lay out a solid plan for what our Ivanhoe might look like.

I find group interaction fascinating.  This being my first major collaborative project in a working environment, I see it as an opportunity to grow socially in a professional sense.  Working with other people is not easy.  It is rewarding, fun, exhilarating and inspiring, but not necessarily easy.  We are a group of confident high-achievers, and that means that every one of us has excellent ideas that could stand alone.  The challenge is to meet each other in the middle, and by taking the best of each, to fashion something even better.  Covey’s Habit 6 is “Synergize,” which means combining the strengths of individuals to collaboratively create what no one person could create on his or her own.  This is what we’re doing now, and I look forward to seeing what we’ll build together.


Stephen R. Covey.  Web.  Accessed 6 Nov 2013 <>.

This past May, 2014, I completed my M.A. in English at the University of Virginia. As a graduate student I focused on American literature, textual studies, and learning as much about digital humanities as possible. I served as project manager for the 2013-14 Praxis cohort, rebuilding the Ivanhoe Game. I now work at Rare Book School and the Washington Papers doing bibliographical research and social media. In my spare time I enjoy jamming on my violin, researching family history, and having movie nights with friends. I love ballroom dance, can't get enough opera, and enjoy making gourmet pizza at home.


  1. I find it interesting that exercises such as wireframing and paper prototyping have become standard practice in web development, to the point where web designers and devlopers will debate which tools are best for it, but will almost never debate *whether* some kind of exercise for visualizing what needs to be built is useful or necessary. And yet it’s not something that most non-professionals know anything about.

    Your “conversion” to wireframes, Stephanie, is actually a good example of what Steve Ramsay and Geoff Rockwell call an “epistemology of building” (see To a rather startling extent, we can’t know what to build until we begin building it: wireframing and paper protoyping are ways of building without building.