Tag Archives: UX


Stories– yes! I’ve had excellent results in the past few years using a graphic novel approach to communicate project outcomes–showing a client, “here’s what the world would be like if you implemented these ideas.” Follow this link for a good post by Nick Babich on storyboarding and UX, with a nice synopsis of elements for successful storytelling.


Giant Steps

I’m working in New York this week, and was lucky enough to catch Jeff Han and Bill Buxton in conversation at the Cooper Hewitt. I know–right? What a pairing!

Bill Buxton and Jeff Han

Some pieces of the conversation I wanted to share…

“I believe that, in design, you really have to understand what’s been done before…to understand not just the point you’re at, but the vector you’re on.”
– Jeff Han

“Our job is not just to make a digital analogue of a physical device. It’s to see what can really be done.”
– Jeff Han

“You can easily impedance mismatch to the customer. You have to scaffold not only up to the customer, but up to the industry.”
– Jeff Han

“I wouldn’t hire anybody that I wouldn’t work for myself.”
– Jeff Han

“The only way you can manage is if people feel that you’re not a manager but a collaborator.”
– Jeff Han

“We’re not technologists. The thing that binds (Jeff and I) is that the technology we know the most about is people.”
– Bill Buxton

“When people talk about mobility–it’s not the mobility of the device–it’s the mobility of the human.”
– Bill Buxton

“Don’t develop technologies; develop solutions.”
– Bill Buxton

“Your expertise has to be on the human side of things.”
– Bill Buxton

“Now that we can do anything, what should we do?”
– Bill Buxton

Classic Fail

Dear eBay,

This is a classic van:

1968 Chevy

A classic van is not:

  • Organization Development Classics 1997 by Hoy, Judith C.; Van Eynde,
  • NWT Irene Van Ryb Sz 38 Classic Trench style Sz 6 Btn Raincoat Belt
  • VAN HALEN 1984 david lee roth rock roll classic vintage photo glossy t-
  • IC046 Womens Van Huesen Blue Jeans. Dark Wash. Wide Leg. Size 12.
  • Scion : xB Base Wagon 5-Door

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 11.29.43 AM

While the panoply of items presented by the new “feed” feature might inspire me to redesign an organization in a svelte trenchcoat while listening to 80s rock, I can’t say this was what I was after when I saved that particular search a year ago.

Design Research is a Bridge

Cup used as iPhone speaker resonator, Tahoe, CA

I had an interesting dialogue recently at Steve Portigal’s excellent talk on ethnography as cultural practice at PARC. The woman I was speaking with had raised one of those classic and apparently insoluble “Is it ethnography…” questions during the presentation, and I started a conversation with her after the talk ended.

I don’t personally care whether the work of design research is or isn’t considered ethnography – “contextual” describes it well enough. But I do think this person’s assertion – that because design researchers are paid by companies to do their work they are somehow change-agent mercenaries of those companies bent on converting  respondents to customers – is worth addressing here.

It’s a commonly accepted tenet that the mere act of paying attention to people creates change. So any contextual exploration, whether academic or corporate, is going to inadvertently create some type of influence on its subjects – let’s just get that out of the way.

I believe what we do as design researchers is to serve as a bridge – connecting parties that are influencing each other anyway, but greatly increasing the fidelity of that influence.

Long ago, people made their own tools and crafted their own environments. The user was the producer, and there was a direct connection between a set of needs and the production of something to address those needs. In many cases, this is no longer true: production systems have become complex, many-headed entities, with people working in them who may not have ever directly experienced some/many/all of the situations for which they are creating solutions.

Silicon Valley map made of company logos, San Jose, CA

Enter the design researcher (a.k.a. corporate ethnographer, user experience professional, consumer insights person, etc.). As a skilled listener and observer – a professional outsider – and a synthetic thinker, the design researcher can map out not only the areas in question but the spaces within and between them. As a creative and collaborative facilitator,  the design researcher helps other producers see and build on a high fidelity picture of the domain for which they are creating offerings.

As providers of a communication bridge between parties that are already involved in mutually influencing relationships, I believe our work is, when done with rigor and integrity, truly positive and in service of a better world.