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Designing with the user, for the user

11 Jan

Today in a meeting, our team was explaining our approach to digital product design for learning.
One of the phrases that came up was:

“We design with the user, for the user.”

That’s what I try to do. It’s one way to make really useful stuff that people want to engage with. Everything we do is in service of providing something useful, timely and relevant that helps to improve performance or improve an experience.

I know user-centred design has been around for ages, but in some organisations the user can often be an afterthought. I wanted to share this in the hope that it might help somebody who’s trying to get folk on board with this approach, in the spirit of one of my favourite ads of all time…


In the meeting, we were asked:

“How do you know what you make will be useful? Why would someone use your product?”
This resulted in a chat about communication, analytics, testing and signposting, which is something for another blog post. It’s worth mentioning though, as my colleague Charlie Kneen made a good point that if a product adds value for the person using it, they will use it (providing they know it’s there & it fits into their life).

If you’ve designed your product in collaboration with the end user and you’re asking the right questions along the way, then chances are, you’re on the right lines.

So, how do you design with the user, for the user? I find one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is to use the Concern Task Resource model, created by Nick Shackleton-Jones. In a nutshell, this asks us to:

  1. Find out what the user’s concern is. What – on an emotional level – is important to them?
  2. Find out which tasks the user has to do. What are they doing every day and in what environment? What tech do they have access to? How are they doing their job at the moment?
  3. Use the findings from these two discovery sessions to plan out what kinds of resources might be useful in addressing these concerns to get tasks done, and improve performance. Develop these resources and keeping checking back with your users to find out if they’re useful. If they’re not; change them.

You can read more about the Concern Task Resource model here, on Nick’s blog.

Digital (physical?) revolution

26 Aug

I recently went to Digital Revolution, an exhibition at the Barbican in London looking back – and forward through digital technology and our relationship with it. I was lucky enough to be invited to a talk by Jim Boulton, the curator of the Digital Archaeology section of the exhibition that explores the hard and software of the last 40 years, and the impact that this has had on culture (or, indeed, the reverse; how did our evolving culture affect the development of consoles, drum machines, art software and games?).

As a self-confessed nerd when it comes to tech and digital, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and see loads of cool stuff. It didn’t disappoint.

Jim talked about how digital wasn’t confined to the last 40 years (even though that’s the timescale that the Digital Archaeology section spanned). Some of the stuff he showed us was from way back in the 1950s – like the Manchester University Computer Love Letter Algorithm that was used to write notes of affection that were then left around campus, always signed M.U.C. (xo <3!)

 Digital Revolution Gemma Critchley MUC love letter algorithym

Going into the Digital Archaeology section was like jumping into a deep, dark pool – the effect of all the video and sound was immersive and almost overwhelming; kind of how I’d imagine it would be to time travel from 50 years ago and end up confronted by a world of tablets, smartphones, video calling, contactless technology and augmented reality.

Two things struck me about Jim’s talk. First, I was surprised to see how far technology has come in those 40 short years. Second, I think most of us get how much this technology had impacted on our lives, but it was eye opening to see how much it had done this and how quickly.

Jim’s talk was limited to the history of digital tech, and the rest of the exhibition branched off to explore immersive and interactive technology, film, music, gaming and wearables.

It’s the first branch that really interested me – immersive and interactive technology. Interactivity was something that flowed through the whole set-up of the event; touching, playing, taking photos and sharing was all encouraged. I won’t share too much as I’d suggest you go and experience it for yourself if you can, but there were some really awesome exhibits.

I had a go at controlling the ‘street folding’ scene from Inception, experienced the 3D graphics of Gravity, called up some birds made out of old mobile phones to make them tweet, controlled a game with my mind (yes, really – this freaked me out a bit but was pretty rad), changed the design of a skirt thanks to interactive LEDs, played some awesome indie games like Thomas Was Alone, went to what I can only describe as a sensory rave in the basement of the Barbican and saw some pretty sweet neon art:

IMG_0427 IMG_0429

One of my favourite exhibits was wwwwwwwww.jodi.org – part of the Digital Archaeology section. This was an art project that was launched in the 1990s, using code as art (there’s also a big section on DevArt in the exhibition itself); but what I loved about this was the subtly subversive nature of it. What looks like pages of broken code are actually very cleverly put-together sites that have a message buried in the source code. Kind of using destruction as a form of creation – I like the idea of pulling everything apart and seeing what emerges…

wwwwwwwwwjodiorg

I’ve always been fascinated by escapism of all kinds – why do people play games, read fiction, watch films, drink alcohol, dress up? I won’t try to answer that now but what I will say is that this exhibition made it clear that the desire to escape – or to enhance – reality is very much alive and well.

You might have seen people sharing photos on Instagram of themselves as ‘digital birds’ or with smoking eyes… (if you follow me on IG you will have, nestled in between snaps of hipster food and nail art). Basically, there were several parts of the exhibition involving cameras that visitors could interact with to create an alternative version of themselves. These seemed to be the parts of the exhibition that people appeared most rapturous about. Does this show narcissism? Maybe. A desire to explore an alternate reality or other self? Perhaps. What I think it does show is that people are actively looking for next level digital tech – where it can transform us in a way we haven’t been able to achieve before, and where the physical and digital converge to elevate our experience.

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There were opportunities to whisper a wish into a flower and watch it emerge as digital text before transforming into a butterfly and visitors had the chance to design their own piece of 3D art, with the potential for it to be selected for 3D printing which would then be added to the exhibition. 

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This convergence of the physical and the digital is not just a futuristic vision that’s confined to a museum, though. Games like Ingress and James Frey’s new novel, Endgame, are real-world location-based experiences that tie story, community, digital and physical worlds together to answer this desire to anchor digital interactions in the physical, but to disconnect from reality. Oculus rift achieves something similar, but perhaps the games/story elements for this piece of hardware aren’t quite there yet to make this stick as well as things like Ingress. Facebook clearly sees its potential and is looking for ways to use it to help people feel more connected, as it recently bought the company behind the virtual reality kit – I can’t wait to see how this pans out. 

There’s been a lot of talk in retail and marketing for the last few years about how to combine social and local elements to drive action (and a few murmurs of it are rippling through the learning community, too), but few seem to have been able to get this right. The advent of games like Ingress, the level of sophistication of today’s mobile devices and the evident appetite for combining physical and digital worlds might mean that the time is right to combine these and open up doors for those looking to exploit the sweet spot between community, location and storytelling. Provided they’re good enough at harnessing the power of all three, of course…

If you’re interested in how the future (or even present) of digital looks set to play out, I’d definitely recommend going along to the exhibition and letting your mind wander. Digital Revolution was part art, part tech and it all made me think.

I reckon that the next frontier in tech/digital/innovation (call it what you will) is the relationship between the physical and the digital. The next digital revolutionaries will be those who are brave enough to explore these connections and who dare to exploit them to make messages stick with users. 

Feathering my nest

11 Nov

I’m looking for some picture frames to put up the already awesome posters that I have, but in the process (and via the wonderful world of Pinterest) I’ve started to put together a wish list of other amazing wall candy.

I stumbled across this Etsy shop, The Entropy Trading Company, who have some amazing posters featuring quotes from books and films. My favourites so far are:

 

Dumb and Dumber poster from The Entropy Trading Company

clueless movie film poster wall art

And this, which is my favourite (despite the American spelling). I love the clean design and the typeface is awesome. The arrow also reminds me of the arrows you see at some old tube stations, like Whitechapel. I found this via Dismount Creative, but unfortunately, the poster is no longer available.

the hunger games poster may the odds be ever in your favor favour katniss art mockingjay poster

I really want some neon/fluoro lettering, although I haven’t come across one that I definitely want yet. I do have a Pinterest board for this wish that I’m collecting ideas on, so if you spot anything good, link me up.

 

Right, time to go get those picture frames!

 

 

 

Tangerine dream

8 Jan

Pantone’s colour of the year for 2012 is 17-1463, or Tangerine Tango.

pantone 17-1463 tangerine tango colour of the year gemma critchley fashion blogger

The Measure in the Guardian remains to be convinced, but I reckon this hue definitely has legs. Not quite subdued enough to be one of spring’s hot pastels yet not bright enough to scream summer holidays, it’s an unassuming, subtle hue that is already finding its way into graphic design, interiors and fashion.

Tangerine Tango reminds me of something that Mailchimp would use on their website (which, for the record, I adore) and a pair of jeans in this colour would be the perfect item to add a bit of lift to my winter wardrobe.

asos orange tangerine tango skinny jeans pantone gemma critchley fashion blogger

ASOS call these jeans ‘peach red’, but they’ll do for now until I find the pair I want. The ones I love are currently available from Dylan George but just not online.

tangerine tango jeans dylan george kiera denim blog gemma critchley fashion blogger pantone

I’m on board.

#oneaday 39: Let’s make a newspaper

8 Feb

Some of the lovely folks I work with in the Creative department are putting together a newspaper. It turns out it’s quite easy to do with a tiny bit of design knowhow and a good idea. There’s a company called Newspaper Club who will print your paper from as little as five copies and they look pretty special.

CMYK design print registration mark tattoo

Which got me thinking. Maybe we should put together a paper for The One A Day project. What d’you reckon?
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#oneaday 25: Dedicated

25 Jan

Saw this today, it struck a chord. Think it’s time for a digital detox! #oneaday excluded, natch.

stare at the monitor all day fuck yeah helvetica

Dedicated to wonderful folk for being wonderful.

#oneaday 18 – Things real people don’t say about advertising

18 Jan

Having worked in or with advertising, marketing and design for the last five years, I’ve come to appreciate (and to laugh at) some of the industry’s little quirks. There are certain phrases that you can guarantee will get said in creative meetings, or little sayings that trip off the tongue without a second thought. Looking at this objectively, I try to make sure I only comment when it can add value, when it’s a valid point and I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s okay to compromise or to simply concede that someone else’s idea of perfect will never be the same as my idea of perfect.

things real people don't say about advertising

A bit like life in general, really.

Anyway, there are clearly a fair few folk who think otherwise and they’ve been captured in this utterly brilliant Tumblr account, Things Real People Don’t Say About Advertising. Click and enjoy. I think Ciaran in particular (who is also doing #oneaday) will like this.

#oneaday 11 – Wycinanki

11 Jan

This week I came across Wycinanki for the first time. For those of you coming across it for the first time today, it’s the art of Polish paper cuts and it has some absolutely beautiful results.

wycinanki polish paper cuts polski

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