Category Archives: Design

Concepting for UX Designers

“UX people squeeze all of the fun out of creative ideas.” ~creative director

It can be tough for UX designers to embrace the ‘fun’ of concepting. We are trained to explore the dark corners of ideas to make them work smoothly for human beings. We consider the detours and side paths and button them up neatly. Our teams depend on us to apply logic, structure and rigor.

That’s a heavy load.  It’s easy for user experience designers to get typecast as someone who shoots holes in everything. Concepting is an opportunity to set that burden down and imagine the future. If that’s not an exercised part of your repertoire you may not know how to participate. It’s easy to fall into the familiar role of pressure testing the idea, tethering it to the earth. What’s a UX designer to do?

Concepts need space, time to grow before being anchored to structures and interfaces. Let yourself have fun building up ideas without editing. Send your inner analyst on a break. Resist worrying if something will work. Trust that the time for that exercise will come. Don’t fear ideas that fall apart. There is value inside every pie-in-the-sky, you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me concept.

UX Design is part aesthetics, part logic and applied science of human behavior. We make easy connections between the analytical and delightful. Jumping into “will it work” mode too quickly deprives your team from your insight. It also makes you a really lame playmate.

There will be time to revise and mould ideas into a usable experience. But it is not the only standard you have to march behind. You must play. When you catch yourself creating a user flow in your head, set that mental work aside. Reassure your inner IA that you will come back to the comfort of structure…later. Reeling in an idea that is overreaching is easy. Unleashing a design that is constrained and nudging it toward innovation is near impossible. Start big. Give yourself permission to play.

An Unexpected Interaction

I was surprised by a garden along my usual path of concrete and steel from the train station to my office. It was clearly marketing a product, but I was intrigued enough to look closer.

Ordinary midwestern garden vegetables. A nice contrast to my surroundings. I miss growing food, nurturing the little plants tending to them lovingly. Did I read that sign right? They want me to touch the plants? My mother’s voice echoed in my ears, “don’t touch”.

Garden sign
Touch the carrot plants

I reached out.

They giggled.

And gurgled.

I smiled.

tweet to water garden sign
Tweet to water the garden

This experience brought a moment of unexpected whimsey to an otherwise drab morning. Not only was the placement of the garden unexpected, but also how I was able to interact with it. To touch a plant and have it audibly respond was a small delight. A bit of marketing that gave back to me in exchange for my attention. I look forward to listening to the ripening tomatoes.

Car Seats: an 80/20 Rule Exception?

After I was done swearing while reinstalling the child safety seats in my car, I began to question why automotive companies don’t design seats that keep our kids safe. Why do we spend hundreds of dollars to purchase the work around seats for our kids? Our beloved 80/20 rule mandates designing for the most frequent (or valued) use case. How often do adults sit in the back seat of a car? For most automobiles, the primary back seat inhabitants are kids. We allow the auto industry to sell a product that does not safely accommodate our little ones.

Child safety seats are expensive, difficult to install, a flat-out pain in the ass. I’d much rather be able to trade them for a built in system of some sort. They do afford us control over our children’s level of safety at least the illusion of control. We research and select the highest rated, most expensive child seats and feel like we are protecting our children. Statistics show that most of the seats are incorrectly installed. That means that even with the workaround, we are not solving the problem for most families.

Does anyone else think this is a solvable problem? Should the manufacturers provide the solution? I for one think we should demand it.



May 29, 2013

It turns out that Steven Levitt posed a similar question in his TED talk in 2005.

Volvo has started incorporating booster seats into their backseats. See them in action.