Designer, Design Thyself

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This was a completely different post when I started writing a week ago. I wanted to critique the Design and Exclusion conference that I attended. Talking about inclusion, exclusion, diversity etc is tough because the attempt to include every single point of view in every single space is futile. However a discussion was started which should be commended. Even though I felt excluded in some areas of the conversation, I trust that design doesn’t give up, (I discovered someone also!), so I look forward to a better conference next time.

As the ideas and words for the critique percolated in my head, I came across Ayse Birsel’s book, Design the Life You Love and it was exactly what I’d been thinking, but now on an individual level. We have with us a powerful tool, design, that can bring about positive change even in our own lives and that’s what this book seeks to help us to do.

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Basically, while we attempt to design the world around us, we should not neglect ourselves and our lives. Being able to stop and assess what is, ‘deconstruction’, as Ayse calls it, is the important first phase of the process. This also fits well with the Appraisal theory and to an extent, mindfulness, but it also provides the tools to help in the ‘reconstruction’ process.

“Deconstructing and breaking current reality is necessary to enable us to shift our perspective to see the same things differently in order to reconstruct a new reality that is more than the sum of it’s parts “

I got my copy a few days ago, and I’m excited about going over it. I need it so much in my life right now as I deal with so many moving parts, and I don’t want to lose the ability to see myself in relation with others (partly why I decided not to go ahead with the critique, I needed to take care of the plank in my own eyes).

This is not just for professional designers, it’s for anyone ready to take a step to becoming a better person and having a life where you love and love.

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Enjoy.

 

Emotional Sensitivity is a business asset

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Every business wants to achieve flow. A state of high quality productivity that is effective and efficient. However, every business is made up of people, who get things done, this is where emotional sensitivity comes in. Continue reading

Clients From Hell: Stop Creating Them

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It’s all in memories now, but the lessons linger. Luckily only 5% or less of my projects have been hellish. However, too many of us designers moan about clients we say were born and brought up in hell.The truth is, we create a number of these issues ourselves, or the enabling environment for Frankenstein-like situations to flourish. Continue reading

A Design Conversation with John Maeda

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John Maeda is a design partner at KPCB, a VC firm in Silicon Valley with Google and Amazon in their portfolio. It was an honor to hear him speak live about design and hybrids. Big thanks to Poptech for organizing for free and Patrizia of Legoviews for sharing the event.

Continue reading

How to increase empathy for users

In User Experience we are fond of talking about empathy, but what does it really mean?

“Empathy is an important aspect of user-centered design (UCD) as it allows people being seen and understood from where they stand, not as test subjects but as persons with feelings” 

Vanhuysse, S & Hall, L. (2004) 

No one asks you to have empathy for your son or lover, we seem to do it anyway. Empathy doesn’t just come out of no where, it is founded on love and requires action, here are some that may help you increase your empathy.

Participate in User research as a User

While I was in University I took part in User research as a user (still do). The most memorable one was a Diary Study for a Scottish University. I had to sign into my specially created online diary and log my sleep habits daily. This ran for a couple of weeks, the incentive was £50 and a copy of the research findings. After the initial week, I got weary and bored. There wasn’t any update from the researchers (until the end ) and I frequently felt neglected, but still got to complete it because I like to finish what someone asks me to do.

As I began to conduct the interviews, research and studies on the job this experience became very useful. Knowing how I felt when I was a user helped me take better care with the people I meet for research, making sure they are comfortable if running an interview or usability study. I have made mistakes, made someone cry once but hopefully never again.

“We must remember that people live beyond our research and approach them with that in mind” 

Antonia A.

With this experience you’d know what it’s like to be interviewed, recorded, prodded, you know where it hurts and where it makes you sing. This is standing in the user’s shoes.

Put up Personas on your wall

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I’ve seen a number of articles which question the need for personas. I have questioned it myself because no one seemed to really ever use it, except as a deliverable. But it struck me one day how necessary it was to have them, empathy. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself as well because I don’t do enough of it.

We invest time in our relationships, we do things daily that affirm to the people we love that we love them, why do we think it will be any different to the one’s we design for?. What if you never had a note, a picture, the reality, of the person you are starting a relationship with, what kind of relationship will that be?

Personas help us connect to those we are designing for. Personas tell us the user’s story and stories engender empathy. Personas should be present when we have our daily or weekly catch up project meetings because like we do in Nigerian weddings sometimes, if the persons getting married cannot be present, they will be there in picture and spirit because the party must go on.

“Absence blots people out. We really have no absent friends ” 

Ambrose Bierce

Some Useful Links on Personas

The Use of Comic Strips to Encourage Empathy in Design

Five approaches to creating lightweight personas

Persona Empathy Mapping

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I’m keen to know what actions you take to help increase and strengthen empathy.
Stay Bright.

You are INFJ, So what?

One of the most popular posts on this site is An INFJ Designer and I’ve had people tell me they are INFJ just from reading it, I haven’t been convinced. Getting that kind of feedback and the increasing tweets and posts about wanting to ‘debunk MBTI’ I thought it is important to get back to basics.

What is MBTI and all these letters?

The MBTI assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions

I got introduced to MBTI 5 yrs ago and I’m still learning a lot. MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It was developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs based on Carl Jung’s work  A mini-research on the foundations of the MBTI led me to the Yoruba’s divination system Ifá! but that’s a topic for another day though this might make an interesting read.

The MBTI is not astrology, it won’t predict your future or character neither does it tell you everything about your personality. The main focus areas are the absorption of information and the communication of it especially in decision making.

Robert Kaplan and Dennis Saccuzzo state that “the underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.”

MBTI Letters

The letters that make up the types stand for various things, belong to four scales and form 16 personality types. We all have bits of everything, but the MBTI instrument identifies what your favorite, preferred functions are.

  1. First scale  I – Introversion ——— E – Extroversion deals with where you love to focus and gain energy from. As someone on the introversion side, I gain energy from being by myself, thinking inwardly and doing work alone, but I have friends who are energized by speaking or being around other people. Learn More

  2. Second scale  S – Sensing ———- N – Intuition focuses on the kind of information you prefer to gather. For INFJs like me, our dominant function is Introverted Intuition which means I love to see more in everything, reading between the lines. Small talk is usually a bit of an annoyance because I want to get to the root of the matter as fast as possible. Learn More

  3. Third scale F- Feeling ———– T – Thinking deals with what one prefers to make judgements or decisions on, do you go for hard facts or does the way people feel move you more? Learn More

  4. Fourth scale J – Judging ———— P- Perception This pair describes whether you extravert (act in the outer world) when you are making decisions or when you are taking in information. Learn More

The Different Types

Click on the graphic to find out what the 16 combinations are and maybe, your type.

What is the benefit of knowing Type?

The goal of knowing about personality type is to understand and appreciate differences between people. As all types are equal, there is no best type.

For me, the first thing is self-awareness which starts with being honest with your own self. You gain a clearer perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, motivation, and emotions. It will help you understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.

Going beyond Types

Above all this, we are to love our neighbour i.e people who are not us. It doesn’t matter if you know types or not, remember to always act in love and grace towards everyone.


Do more 

Find Your Type

Take the MBTI assessment instrument

For the Skeptics

For all still skeptical, this might be helpful MBTI for Skeptics

INFJs

I connect highly with this tumblr by Arissa Scott, INFJ Doodles

Websites

Center for Applications of Pyschological type

The Myers-Briggs Foundation

God-Type

Recommended Books

Building Blocks of Personality Type

Was That Really me?


“I dream that long after I’m gone, my work will go on helping people.” -Isabel Myers, 1979

Stay Awesome.

Learn by Prototyping

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For the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work on a number of prototypes. Each time has introduced something new to my knowledge bank. I also did up a portfolio recently which is live. I decided to create it in Axure, a protoyping tool so there will be no question if I can use the application amongst other things. It was something that was quite quick, after sketching out what I wanted to do, i went straight into prototyping. I also went responsive with it, which was quite the challenge. I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did while doing this.

It is important to test assumptions. I thought I understood responsive layouts, but this showed me how much was lacking in my knowledge, and I’m going back to the drawing board now.

It’s in the details. Again and again, you’ll find your mind straying. The ability to bring it all back together, whether by talking to people, meditating or reading something is a necessary skill to have in design. This comes easy to me but we all forget things.

Skills depreciate or appreciate, work on them. As much as we have talent to do something, it is skill that makes it productive and takes it to the next level. Always find the time to work on your skills.

A world of opportunity. While working on this, I realized there was hardly a thing I couldn’t prototype in Axure, and as for content, it challenged me to start working on new things, which I will be uploading as I go along.

Is this perfect? no, but  I am committed to lifelong learning.

A successful prototype is not one that works flawlessly; it is one that teaches us something

– Tim Brown

Stay positive. Have hope.

Coping with Misophonia at Work

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What is Misophonia?

Ever since I was a child, I found certain sounds absolutely life-threatening. Hearing them made me very angry (up to murderous rage) and anxious. I recently realized that there is a name for it, misophonia and it was such a relief knowing I wasn’t alone.

It is described by American Neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff as

A neurological disorder, in which a person feels anxiety, and even rage in response to certain sounds, which may be loud or soft

It  puts you in a fight or flight mode instantaneously. One of such times was the day my sister asked me to go shopping with her. She had come to London for the first time and we were on the tube heading to Oxford street. Along the way, a man chewing gum loudly and noisily came into our carriage. I was immediately angered and also at myself for leaving my headphones at home. I looked around the carriage and no one seemed bothered, this even enraged me more. I really wanted to hit the guy but as the train came to a stop at the next station I jumped out, thinking my sister was going to follow me, but she didn’t…

The Work Place

Open Plan offices might be straight from the devil. As someone who is largely introverted and with misophonia, it can be hellish. The continuous stimulation for over 7 hours is a massive drain on all my faculty.

Daily triggers at work include; loud voices and sibilation, furious keyboard typing (surprised the keyboard hasn’t broken), slurping and chewing noises.

One particular day I was in a rage and thinking seriously of quitting my job. Thankfully, it was a Friday, so after work, I got some comfort food and watched a movie. As I lay on my bed, coping ideas began to materialize in my brain. I told my friend I was so glad that depression hasn’t been added to my anxiety and misophonia!

Coping Strategies

Noise Cancelling Headphones – These work a treat, I use them all the time and because I love music, it’s an amazing solution. Now, I need to rest my ears every now and then so to fill the gaps the next solutions come in.

Ear Plugs – I am currently testing a few I got from Amazon, 3M makes some called earfit, which I am using right now. It is ok, but the level of comfort could be better. It tones down all the sounds, which is good enough. Only issue is having to take them out often because you have to talk to people.

Regular Breaks –  I try to take a 5 min break in a quiet place every hour, or 10 mins every 2 hours. This not only helps my misophonia but all the other stimulation which gets overwhelming fast like movements, lights, sounds etc. Definitely helps to stretch your leg so you can avoid deep vein thrombosis.

These are the things that help me cope at the moment. It’s hard talking to people about this because for the most part they can’t change ( voice for example ) and they can’t understand.

If you have some other ways which you use to cope, please let me know! all the best.

oh..I did not lose my sister forever, thankfully, she was at the next station.

Support for People With Misophonia

Misophonia UK

Misophonia.Com

Misophonia Treatment

To learn more about Misophonia, here are some related articles

Enraged by Everyday Sounds – Psychology Today

When a Chomp or Slurp is a Trigger For Outrage – NY Times

The Chewing Sound and The Fury – New Republic

Boyfriend Chewing Makes Me Want to Strangle Him – Daily Mail

How Sounds Trigger Rage and Anxiety – Daily Record

Living With Misophonia – Tribune

Developing Your Core Competencies

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It’s that time of the year again, you have to set performance goals. There’s a tendency to go along with what is popular at the time but it’s way more beneficial to question and listen to your self and sometimes, people who work with you. You should be thinking about your core competencies.

Core competency is defined by Search CIO as

 Fundamental knowledge, ability, or expertise in a specific subject area or skill set. The core part of the term indicates that the individual has a strong basis from which to gain the additional competence to do a specific job

Ever since I’ve known myself, I’ve known how to draw and tell stories. I remember vividly when I found out not everyone could draw like I could. This opened my eyes in seeing the unique aspects of people. While working in the UK, the 5 UX managers I’ve worked with have had 5 different core competencies (From my first at 1. to current manager at 5.)

1. User Research

2. Visual Design

3. Information Architecture

4. Strategy

5. Technical (Code development)

I thought this was quite interesting, because they seem to cover all the important aspects of UX design, I am one lucky person. They have all been good at what they do, but these were the competencies they built their practice upon.

A Unicorn is still a horse at it’s core.

While we strive to acquire many skills, these core competencies are what differentiate us. In addition to the personal stamp we put on them, they give strength to the other skills.

Some Steps to Development

1. Take on personal projects – Especially if you aren’t able to use these skills at work

2. Teach people This is a tried and tested method of solidifying and expanding a skillset, do more of this.

3. Find people with similar core –  Look at what they have done to excel, they should give you a good example of what you can do as well.

4. Find a way to work it at work You should bring yourself to work, it’s that simple.

If you feel like you don’t have a core competency, even after heavy soul searching, find one. Find something that interests you and that you will be committed to. Build on that. Like that tree in the picture, that’s how you want to flourish. You want a strong trunk and root that will support all that you branch into. If that root is shallow or trunk thin, the whole edifice will come down soon enough. Those who have excelled do not have seven heads, you can too.

Best x.

Hiring UX people

I remember his face; dark hair and round brown eyes, Greek. He had applied for a junior UX designer role. I asked him why he wanted to leave his current job, and he launched into a super story of politics at his work. I felt sorry but work is political, no getting away from that but the extent to which politics affect you and how is another thing. It was clear I wasn’t going to hire him over the other candidate who showed a lot of creativity and…spirit, the desire to just get on with things. Ultimately we want a worker in our cabal not a whiner.

If I were to hire a UX intern now as someone recently asked me, the two questions I would ask would be;

Why UX? You’ve got to have a story, even if you are drifting, looking to just try it out, honesty makes for very compelling stories. They are important because we remember them and there’s so much you can get from the unsaid. It also lets one into how you value people, value your experiences and how they have shaped you thus far.

The second question is What Skills they have. Life skills and useful competencies for the job can’t be stressed, foundational elements that cut across company fields. In UX you cannot afford to be a specialist, everyone has to step up and take the reins at one point or the other. One has had to take on graphic design, front end development, project management, story management, just to get a product out. The idea of ‘this is not my job’ has to go. As a UX professional it is your responsibility. If you don’t have the capacity to stretch yourself in this way, you will struggle.

As someone who will also be interviewed in future, I hope I will, along with other things like humility and passion, take my own advice.

Becoming Copy Cats

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I don’t know whether content is King or Queen anymore, but copy is VIP. A few weeks back, I was going to fly. I had booked my flight and everything except that the website refused to mention a little clause about a little matter of my visa. I had called the airline, I got to speak with a man 4,500 miles away, who didn’t help, and then to customer service agents in their office on ground. They told me it was what it was. Anyways, £400 was at stake here, and I could only hope and pray.

You really don’t want people coming to your site, to hope and pray, besides, not everyone believes in any type of god. Most of the issue with content comes from un-definition. Who owns it? Who writes it? Who strategizes around it? Who is responsible for it? It’s too easy for UX professionals to pass the ball, I’ve seen it happen, many times, usually it is not their fault. Business wants to own the content but sometimes they forget to do what they need to do and somehow down the line,  a site is released to the wild with your service being described as ipsum.

Here are some things you should be doing with copy;

GET IT

Lorem Ipsum is only popular because you can easily get it. As early as possible in your project, make content as important as the frameworks you build. People are not coming to your application to play with buttons and click on things. If the roadsigns are wrong or unclear no matter how beautiful, they will do wrong as well, have an accident or something. Don’t downplay the importance of great copy, if there is no one to give it you, as a UX professional you should know the folk you are designing for. So, you should be able to write meaningful things. If  all fails, cry and beg someone or something, by all means get your copy in early.

DESIGN IT

No doubt, changes happen. Copy might be affected as the project undergoes the flux. You should design to accommodate whatever will go in, and you must have had a good idea of what it would be or written something in place that makes sense. It also makes what you design, a little more realistic. It feeds into the general perception of the project as it passes under the eyes of stakeholders.

OWN IT

One of the first questions I asked on a project at my current gig was, Who owns content? Depends on the project I was told. If you land on a project where there seems to be no copy writing resource, or you can’t get hold of the persons(s) take responsibility for the copy. When project stakeholders start asking about things, don’t point your fingers, be responsible for what you have designed for goodness sakes, give them the rationale behind the things you’ve written. Even when the copy writer has put something together, if it doesn’t go with the whole vision of what is being created, speak up, make recommendations.

Let’s be clear.  People read on the web. They just do not continue to read things that make no sense to them. When you write, be specific, be direct. One of my favorite-st quotes is “When in Doubt, Take responsibility” I think that is something that we UX folk have signed up for, so let’s be a bit more thoughtful in getting copy, designing it and owning it. Oh yes, I didn’t lose my £400, thank God!

How to Work with Developers

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As a UX professional, it is inevitable that you will work closely with software developers in your career. You might also have coding skills, but this is about how you relate with developers while in a UX role. A talented developer I have worked with before called me up some days ago and told me how he was applying UX skills and practices that he had learnt from me at his new job and role as a development manager. Highlight of my week.

I have come across three main types of developers in my experience and the way I’ve learnt to relate/work with them differs.

1. Code-Alone

The ‘code-alone’ type of  developer is one who just wants to get on with their work. Sometimes they say things like “I am not sketching anything, it’s not my job” or “Just tell me what to do” At first when I encountered this, I was taken aback, all they wanted to see was wireframes and didn’t care about the ideas or concepts behind the wireframes.

I learnt that it is best to leave them be, respect the work they do. It is likely that by the work you do, they will come on their own to ask questions. Don’t count on it though, supply them with as much information as possible (Annotate wireframes properly and in detail!) and let them get on with their work.

2. Code-it-All

These ones never forget to tell you how great they are at what they do, and what they can do. Usually, they can back up their claims, but it can be grating where a person attempts to tell you what your job should be. I appreciate them, because they add to the collaborative effort, however it gets to a point where you have to put your foot down. They might understand UX principles, but they tend to see it only from one point of view, theirs. This is where a UX professional shines because you should be able to bring together multiple viewpoints, ‘connecting the dots’

A good rule is to, Listen to what they have to say, but always do what is right. It is easy to be driven by technology where two or more of these are gathered, but being the UX professional you are, never forget that your users come first.

3. Code-Open

Some of the best developers fall into this category and it is not because they write the best code. They are open and curious about what UX is and how it benefits their own process. They contribute constructively and spark ideas in others around them. They genuinely want to solve problems creatively.

Never forget to tell them how much their efforts are appreciated, teach them more about UX and how best you can work together.

Work well anyway

Now, none of these categories are rigid, I have had a good friend switch from a Code-It-All to  Code-Open recently. Neither do they cover every single type of developer out there. In my experience these are the ones I’ve come across and how I have learnt to work with them.

It’s always rewarding when people attempt to understand each other, how else are we going to work productively and delightfully together?

Looking Back

When the project was wrapped up, I felt relieved. It really is tasking, especially for someone like me, working on a team, and on such a project that draws so much on my emotions.

But in all, I was glad I had learned so much, Especially on areas I would love to take on to future clients and as a career. I am also glad that we were able to give back to the client something tangible that would be useful now and in future. It would be great to work with the Foundation again at some point.

Looking back at the objectives I had set for myself at the start, I can say that I managed to get to some, If not all of them.

Communication skills : I wanted to get better at Presenting and Writing Documents, So most times I presented strategies and processes to my teammates and I also decided to be the one who begins the final presentation for the Client. I wrote and contributed to some of the following documents.

  • Project Initiation Document
  • Meeting Reports
  • Strategy Document for Equipments and Environment (User Space)
  • Outcome and Future Development document for design of equipments and environment
  • Project Report and Log
  • Final Presentation

Teaching others and nurturing creativity in my team mates:

I helped in some areas to critically analyze the design of some of the things my teammates did, the Design of Plinths by Bogdan, Leaflets design by Victoria, I was genuinely concerned for the safety of users. In my first degree we were taught ‘Safety first’ and I tried to put that across. I also gave some little thoughts on Interviewing techniques, Gave presentations on process maps to help with a better understanding of the big picture.

Honing of Interpersonal skills:

This is not the easiest area for me, but I tried to show as much enthusiasm possible about other people’s live and how the project has affected them, and what they would like to take on to the future. In doing this, it made me ask, Is it necessary for team mates to be friends for a good working relationship? I realised that no, while friendship may not be necessary it is important that every team member has mutual respect for every other person as a Human and as people with something to give (skills and abilities).

Analytical abilities: I have worked well at analyzing the present situation and creating Illustrations which showed processes before and after. I believe this could be one of my biggest strengths

Commitment to projects: I realised that across the year, when I start a project, there is an initial burst of energy, which I start with, depending on the type of project or people I work with, it begins to dwindle and at the end of the project, I hardly have an interest in it.  But now, I have learnt that this shouldn’t be dependent on anyone. It is OK to lose steam sometimes, but it would be up to me to breathe life in to myself and the project. This thought made me stay from the beginning of this project to the end without almost the same energy levels.

Leadership skills: While the team mates where equal on every level. I took leadership in some areas. I got to understand that the leadership style I prefer or that I am more comfortable in, is that of a guide. I tried to guide my team mates and help them in the understanding of some areas. I believe there is still a lot to be done here, especially as I go on in my future career. But it has definitely taken off.

Problem-solving skills: There are certain areas I have felt really drawn to, User experience, Strategy and Service Design. these are areas I believe would help me solve problems better. I have employed quite a bit on this project and would be taking them on to future ‘problems’, clients and projects.

Genuine interest in job context: I formed a genuine interest in the project from the very start, which I believe helped me. I wouldn’t really be able to work on a project if this is lacking. One thing I learned is that, every project has gold. Whilst some people on the course talked about how the projects were ‘nothing to write home about’ It only made me understand more that there is something in everything. Nothing should be pushed aside because it is not funky or cool enough. The lesson should be to find something valuable in every project. If not for yourself but for someone else. This should be the mindset of Design-Thinkers.

Finally, I am so glad to have been on this course and the P.H Project. I have worked with people who have really shown their strengths and enthusiasm. I would be using all I have learnt here with future projects and clients. It has been great!