HOW Live Conference

Earlier this month, I attended the HOW Live Conference in Boston, MA. It was full of interesting talks. Here are some highlights:

Sagi Haviv: Partner & Designer, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

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The old State Farm logo was difficult to read and was in need of a modern take on it. However, when the firm proposed simplifying the pictogram, they received significant pushback from the CEO. Haviv was told that they needed to keep the rounded square border.

In order to convince State Farm to ditch the rounded square border altogether, they put together a number of logos that had been redesigned recently. Then, they showed what the halfway point of those logos would be.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.15.40 AM.pngThis convinced State Farm to go with the simplified three-oval approach.


 

Stephen Gates: Head of Design Transformation, LinkedIn; Creator of The Crazy One Podcast

Stephen talked about the importance of design in large companies and how to build trust and confidence in design.

He asked us:

  1. Can you express the value of your team beyond your work?
  2. What is your team’s identity outside of the company.
  3. Create a scalable ecosystem for design: As a design team, what are your set of beliefs?

He also talked about his framework for thinking about design environments inside a company:Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.18.02 AM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-09 at 9.18.35 AM.png

This helped to visualize an idea that I’d been personally trying to capture for a long time. It’s a handy tool to help you think about where your design team is and where it can go.


 

Daniel Pink: #1 New York Times Bestselling author

Daniel Pink spoke about the science of perfect timing. Using big data, he has developed principles for everyone to use for when to accomplish certain kinds of tasks.

Pink talks about how everyone has a chronotype.

15% are early birds, 20% are night owls and the rest are “third birds.” Most people see a peak, a trough and then a recovery in their day to day work performance.  
= People tend to perform better at the beginning of the day.

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He talked about using timing to work better and smarter. If you know that you have more energy at the beginning of the day, use it to do analytical work. Set time aside in the afternoon when you’re more sluggish to do administrative work.

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Designing Design

My cousin, currently studying product design at Carnegie Mellon University, told me about Designing Design by Kenya Hara. Hara is a design advisor at MUJI, the Japanese product brand. In his book he writes about Japanese design and thoughtful redesigns of everyday objects. The book is available on amazon (#whysoexpensive), and here’s an excerpt:

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Intentions & Execution of Design

“Look at this website,” my coworker said with his eyes rolled. I swivel my chair and peer at his screen. The website features a multi-colored word art title with a textured background that may have been popular twenty years ago. We both groan at the lack of professionalism the site shows.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of seeing bad design. Our gut reaction as designers is “someone ought to fix it.” Sometimes, we take it upon ourselves to fix it.

Several years ago, I saw a popular website that was promoting goods made in the US. The content was great, the navigation worked, but the styling of the website was appalling. There were boxes upon boxes, unnecessary drop shadows and weird illustrations that didn’t really make sense to me. I decided right there and then that I was going to redesign the site and then send the site owner my work.

I spent a weekend coming up with a new design for the site. “This is so much better,” I thought as I stepped back from it.  I emailed it to the owner, happy with the result.

A few days later, I got an email back. It went something like this: “Your designs are lovely, and I really like the ideas you came up with. But I’m really proud of the little drawings I did for this site, and I want to keep them.” I was exasperated. The drawings on the current site were, in my opinion, terrible.

It was then that I realized something. Even though my execution of the website was more modern and professional, the site owner clearly wanted her personal mark on it. I realized that maybe she wanted the website to be funky and unpolished. I was the arrogant designer, coming in and telling her to change something that she clearly did not want to change.

Jared Spool, keynote speaker at the User Experience Professionals’ Association Conference (held yesterday), spoke about this exact topic. In his presentation, a designer named Tyler Thompson saw the boarding pass for Delta Airlines, which can be difficult to comprehend at first glance, and decided to redesign it so that it could be “better.”

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Tyler’s design is beautiful. It uses modern fonts and rich colors. The flight, gate, seat and zone are clear to the customer. But Jared pointed out a few things about this design: the colors bleed out to the edge, it uses white stock, and it uses high-definition fonts that require printing at 300dpi. Delta’s low-resolution, thermal printers can’t do these things.

If Delta were to actually use Tyler’s design, it would have to replace 10,000+ boarding pass printers, change paper size and add cutting for bleeds on top of creating a new supply chain for colored inks.

Which design is better now? It’s easy to create designs without understanding the real constraints, but the best design is the end is one that satisfies real world needs. As Jared said, “to improve design, we must work on both the intention and the skills of rendering.” We can’t only improve the rendering.

Both my own website redesign from years ago and Jared’s talk have taught me that we, designers, need to have a little bit of humility. We can’t just tell someone how to do something “right” if we don’t know the context around which the original design was created. It’s easy to be nit-picky, and there are circumstances where better design is absolutely called for. But it’s time we stop to understand what situation we’re in so that we can do things with the right intention and execution.

6 Things I learned from 3 Talks at UXPA Boston 2014

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Things I learned from UXPA – The TL;DA (Too Long; Didn’t Attend) Version

Designing for Large Touch Interfaces

  1. Make sure people know they can touch the screen.
  2. Orientation affects how users perceive the kiosk
  3. Transitions are important as cues when navigating. Use gestures everyone is familiar with.
  4. Designer is also a performer – make them look good
  5. Height is important. Make sure user can reach the cancel button
  6. Adjust the drag and inertia on objects. Don’t make large objects feel “heavy.”

Designing with Real Data

  1. Fake data = fake design = fake feedback = wrong decisions. Real data will enter the equation eventually.
  2. Understand the data
  3. Organize data into information to enable users to gain knowledge
  4. Real data has a min and max, an average and a distribution. Think about this when designing screens with potentially extremely short or long text. Consider the outliers.
  5. You can do a lot with Indesign Datamerge/Kimono/Chartwell fontface/Sublimetext/Screenscraper chrome extension.
  6. Ben Salinas (@bensalinas) from Involution Studios is a REAL unicorn.

Design Psychology

  1. Self-determination theory levels: amotivated/external/introjected/identified/integrated/intrinsic
  2. Motivation is autonomy, competence, relatedness
  3. If you want people to do something, minimize external pressures and maximize internal ones
  4. Establish shared rules of engagement
  5. Convey belongingness
  6. If you use social media – be responsive to your customers.