In an effort to speed up iterations and get prototypes in from of peoples eyes much sooner, I spent significant time this past year trying to convince the team to both pare down their documentation and form a studio approach to collaboration. I hadn’t realized that this strategy fell under the lean UX umbrella. But as I read through Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf it seems like a convenient label.

… the lean start-up method to product design, a strategy that implies fast-paced experimentation and validation. It works like this: Prototypes are turned out as fast as possible to test market assumptions early on. This early testing then generates feedback almost instantly, telling you what works and what doesn’t. This way, inaccurate assumptions and weak ideas can be scrapped with little effect, freeing up the resources for your best ideas to flourish.

… design processes normally involve a design team being briefed by someone else, and subsequently creating a product based on this secondhand information. If the design doesn’t work, it is then sent back for reworking, a process that can go on forever

Lean UX gets around this problem by putting designers to work with other employees right away, allowing the team to fix problems immediately and move the process along. Consider a designer and a developer going back and forth in an informal dialogue to design a dashboard. It takes them a few sketches and adjustments but they soon agree on a design. The designer is then free to iron out the specifics, while the developer writes the infrastructural code.

Apple Music’s Visual Mess

I can guess who Apple is trying to appeal to with using Emoji art to represent themes in the browse playlist section but it certain adds to what I can only describe as a visual mess; actually visual diarrhea might be a better term. A strong structure is undermined by lack of visual direction. I guess this is acceptable to the Snapchat generation?

Unrelated, why does Apple after having data of my musical tastes for so many years, still serve me music recommendations that I would never have any interest in?

Co-designing with Camren

Camren and I last year out for dinner.

I’m trying various activities over July with my son and perhaps some of his friends to gradually gain some insight and experience in working with children. The ultimate goal is to work with kids to develop simple software that works for them.

I’ve been fortunate to run a number of usability test sessions with kids — most were successful and changed the course of the product I was working on.

Hopefully working with children earlier in the design process will give me greater insight to what their needs are before the first or final prototypes are made.

I think it’s going to be fun.

Good design means not leaving traces of the design, and not overworking the design.

People shouldn’t really have to think about an object when they are using it. Not having to think about it makes the relationship between a person and an object run more smoothly.

(The principle of) Design dissolves in behavior is about finding products beautiful not simply because of the way they look, but from the experience of interacting with them.
Naoto Fukasawa from Szita, Jane. “Without a Trace.” Dwell Sept. 2006: 134-140

To be minimalist …

I believe we have to get away from the idea of minimalism as a style and instead understand it as a way of thinking about space: its proportions, its surfaces, and the fall of light. The vision is comprehensive and seamless, a quality of space rather than forms; places, not things.

Minimalism is not an architecture of self-denial, deprivation or absence: it is defined not by what is not there, but by the rightness of what is there and by the richness with which this is experienced.

…the glory lies not in the act of removal, but in the experience of what is left. Profound – and pleasurable – experience is located in ordinary experience: in the taking of a shower or the preparation of food.

For me, comfort is synonymous with a state of total clarity where the eye, the mind and the physical body are at ease, where nothing jars or distracts. This emphasis on a quality of experience is important. Some people seem to have an idea that the only role the individual has in such spaces is the capacity to contaminate. In the sort of work that interests me, the antithesis is true: the individual is always at its heart.
John Pawson

Gender neutral profile photos

For a number of years I have been questioning design decisions that lead to the standard masculine default profile photo — many designers I’ve worked with in China and Taiwan don’t yet understand the importance of gender neutral imagery. Though the original egg icon was a far better fit for their brand, in a recent redesign of the default profile photo have made an effort to address the issue and graciously shared their design thinking. It’s interesting.

Twitter’s blog post announcing the new icon.

For the new default profile photo, we decided that we wanted to use people’s existing expectations for default profile photos and how they serve as a temporary placeholder. From this process, we identified a set of traits the new default profile photo should have:

  • Generic
  • Universal
  • Serious
  • Unbranded
  • Temporary
  • Inclusive

We went through many iterations to develop the new profile photo to make sure it displayed those traits. First, we explored gray, generic images to communicate that this profile photo is intended to be temporary. We looked at figures, photos, and patterns. For the figures, we thought about combinations of very common, circular shapes – these were a good starting point because they didn’t have any notable physical attributes. Because photos are usually communicated with a landscape icon, we felt that this was also a good route to explore. We additionally considered a simple, line-based pattern to try something without a figure.

After deciding on a figure, we began our refinements. We had to determine how to bring inclusivity into our single default profile photo, given that we don’t require people to specify their gender on Twitter. We felt that the circle of the head in the figure still seemed masculine, even though it technically had no design characteristics to indicate that it was a man. So for inspiration, we looked at how women are portrayed in generic, wayfinding iconography, such as bathroom signs, and noticed that the only difference between the sexes is the shape of their clothing.

Regardless, people have come to associate the circle head with masculinity, and because of this association, we felt that it was important to explore alternate head shapes. We reviewed many variations of our figure, altering both the head and shoulders to feel more inclusive to all genders. When the shoulders were wider, the image felt overly masculine, so we decreased the width of the shoulders and adjusted the height of the figure. As a result of these iterations, we ended with a more gender-balanced figure. We chose grays because they feel temporary, generic, and universal. With that, we included a higher contrast color combination to make this image accessible for those with visual impairments. Because of its coloring, the new profile photo also gives less prominence to accounts with a default profile photo.
From Rethinking our default profile photo

5 Talks on Empathy

Empathy, the essential element of good design.

To understand someone’s worldview that is foreign to yours is the hard work of being human. We need space to critically think and also have the support of people who possess a compassionate understanding so that our assessments aren’t entirely self-serving.

…five talks … that teach the beauty of empathy in multiple contexts: leadership, product design, social change, technology, and for the people you work with (including yourself).

5 Talks on Empathy That Will Change How You Connect and Create

It was shallow thinking to maintain that numbers and charts were the cold compression of unruly human energies, every sort of yearning and midnight sweat reduced to lucid units in the financial markets. In fact data itself was soulful and glowing, a dynamic aspect of the life process. This was the eloquence of alphabets and numeric systems, now fully realized in electronic form, in the zero-oneness of the world, the digital imperative that defined every breath of the planet’s living billions. Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole.
Don Delillo, Cosmopolis: A Novel (Scribner, 2003).

Get Out Of Your World Of Expertise

The most inspirational people, not just inspirational, but the best people period, that I have had to good fortune to work with or know have all been experts in more than one discipline. An engineer who was an expert in classical music, a designer who could play the violin, a doctor who could play the drums; all were multi-dimension and great at what they did. These kind of people are a joy to be around too.

Throughout school, I was laser-focused on learning everything I could about design. When I came to IDEO, this passion for design was no longer something that made me unique. It’s what you know beyond design that allows you to come up with a solution that your peers haven’t considered. Good design skills are most powerful when they are applied with another discipline or two, or three. I found the designers I most admired were experts in some other area—neuroscience, climbing, magic, baking.
From 3 Ways to Fight Impostor Syndrome

“The deepest form of understanding another person is empathy…[which] involves a
shift from…observing how you seem on the outside, to…imagining what it feels like to be you on the inside.”
Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project, Chapter 9, “Empathy is a Journey, Not a Destination,” p. 183.

Designing something requires that you completely understand what a person wants to get done. Empathy with a person is distinct from studying how a person uses something. Empathy extends to knowing what the person wants to accomplish regardless of whether she has or is aware of the thing you are designing. You need to know the person’s goals and what procedure and philosophy she follows to accomplish them.
from the book Mental Models

Products are realized only as necessary artifacts to address customer needs. What Flickr, Kodak, Apple, and Target all realize is that the experience is the product we deliver, and the only thing that our customers care about.
From book Mental Models