Brainstorming with Mash-Up Ideation

One of the obstacles to good ideation is that people often practice it in a haphazard or chaotic way. Everyone today likes to talk about the value of brainstorming, but they often think of it as unstructured imagination that magically and randomly produces ideas. Effective ideation requires that you stop thinking in terms of these amorphous activities and instead apply a rigorous and purposeful set of rules to your efforts. One technique to help guide you in brainstorming is mash-up ideation.

Defining the Right Problem with POV Statements

Being a UX designer is, of course, about designing a solution to a problem that users of a product or service have. It can be really fun and exciting to brainstorm, come up with new ideas, and maybe even change the world. But if you base all your work on the wrong problem, you won’t change anyone’s world with your designs. This is why you use a tool like point of view (POV) statements to add rigor and structure to your problem definition.

Finding Your Problem with Problem Statements

You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about. Seems like an obvious concept, right? But too often we don’t follow this advice. We assume we know what the problem is going into a project and just jump straight to coming up with solutions. To find out what users need, you spend the first stage of the design thinking process conducting research - often in the form of interviews, observations, and surveys – in order to empathize and better understand the needs of all users in a product’s ecosystem. Your research findings then inform the second stage of the design thinking process, define, and help you craft your project’s problem statement.

Building Empathy and Guiding Design with Personas

No one website, app, or piece of software can cater to the infinite number of differences its users may have. You simply can't design everything for everybody. You can, though, look for the common denominators in people and solve for those problems. While a website may have a million users, each with a unique experience on the granular level, you may create just 3 or 4 personas into which most of them would relate in some way. You would do this in order to keep your project user-centered, but out of the weeds and focused on attainable goals.

Building Bears and Building Empathy in Undercover Boss

By using empathy, a UX designer can recognize people’s needs and design products, services, or experiences that work for them. The reality show Undercover Boss is an example of how someone can gain empathy for users. I watched an episode featuring the CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop to show just how much user information you can gain in a relatively short amount of time. My empathy maps of the company's CEO and an employee demonstrate how multiple people can have different experiences, even within the same company, and why UX designers must gain insight into every type of user in the ecosystem of a product or service.

Connecting with Users Through Empathy Maps

Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and trying to understand their feelings, even if you haven’t had the same experiences as them. It's an important part of the design thinking process. In order to gain empathy for users, UX designers conduct extensive user research. Empathy maps are a great visual tool for organizing, communicating, and synthesizing this research into helpful user insights.

UX/UI Design and the Streaming Wars

When Disney Plus, the company’s streaming service, launched last November, I was intrigued by the possibility of adding some Disney magic to my life again, if only through the TV and movie content I’d loved as a kid. That content has proven as satisfying as I remember, but the Disney Plus experience has left a bad taste in my mouth. Learn how I used a feelings and needs website analyzation of UX and UI elements on Disney Plus and Netflix to find out if Disney's design is the root of my negative opinion.

Why Emotions Matter in Design Thinking

Feelings are the most powerful force in the decision-making process. In fact, research has found that people with injuries in the area of the brain responsible for emotion are incapable of making decisions. So, if you want to successfully use design thinking—a human-centered approach to problem-solving—then you must understand humans’ biggest motivator: emotion.

The Gift of Design Thinking

Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to just jump in head-first. The Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford—also known as the d.school—offers those interested in learning design thinking an opportunity to do just that with their aptly named Design Thinking Crash Course. Through a video, you and a partner join instructors from the d.school and a room of students for a wild, hands-on ride through the steps of the design thinking process in just under 90 minutes. Your assignment? To redesign the gift-giving process for your partner. I took the crash course challenge and it was one of the most unique, memorable learning experiences of my life.

Design Thinking is for Everyone

Design thinking puts the topics of emotion, intuition, and human behavior at the core of the problem-solving process. It has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years and is now used by businesses and organization worldwide to solve some of the most complex problems. For anyone possessing the right mindset, or willing to learn it, design thinking is a valuable skill to have in our future economy where people's experiences will matter more than ever.

On the Pecha Kucha Clock

Sometimes the best way to learn something is to hear it, but not everyone is talented at speaking. Enter the Pecha Kucha. This presentation style limits you to 20 slides and just 20 seconds per slide to convey your message. Thus, encouraging a swift pace and simplified delivery.

Alexa, are you my role model?

Is Alexa your child’s role model? As voice assistants become ubiquitous in our children’s lives, they are beginning to act as pseudo-parents in a way that has some doctors and researchers concerned. Children’s inability to distinguish computers from people has AI teaching developmental lessons in manners, patience, perseverance, and gender.

Brand Yourself

When you think of branding, you may assume it’s something only businesses should be concerned with. But everyone can benefit from doing the work of defining who you are and how you want to be perceived professionally. It can help you stand out from others and give you an edge in your career.

A Menu of Promotions

Reading can be much like eating, sometimes you want the whole meal and sometimes you just want a snack, sometimes you want to sit for the 5-course dining experience and sometimes you just want to hit the drive-thru. I’ll be posting an in-depth piece soon and I thought I’d provide a menu of promotions for it to show how you can use shorter forms to grab readers’ attention and persuade them to invest time in your longer-form writing.

No One Hates Effective Writing

The podcast 99% Invisible showcases the design elements that we never notice. Host Roman Mars argues that thoughtful design means we don’t recognize individual parts as they are so well integrated. The same is true of effective writing. As a result, it’s often easier to critique only what is wrong. To be a better writer you need to learn to examine writing for what it does right as well.

The Relationship with the Reader

Every actor wants to play Hamlet—Carl Sandburg even wrote a poem about it. A lauded portrayal of the great Dane can be career-defining. Actors and writers are similar in this manner as both practice a craft in which success depends on audience approval. How important, though, should the audience be to the writer?

In Search of Readable Content

Working in social media, there seems to be a new feature to research and explore every week. Despite Google searches providing pages of links claiming they can help me, not every click is a revelation. It’s not that I find a lot of incorrect content, rather that many writers don’t present their writing in an easily readable way. Let me help you learn what makes the difference difference between good and bad readable online content.

Deep Work as a Solution to Millennial Burnout

When Anne Helen Petersen published her seminal Buzzfeed News article on millennial burnout, 2 voices rose up in response: one of joyous relief that someone had finally validated their life experiences and one of critical judgment about the inferiority of the aforementioned generation By indulging in this second common narrative, we are ignoring the reality of who this generation is today. They now make up a majority of the American workforce and are overworked, always on and suffering from rampant burnout. 7 in 10 millennials report feeling its effects some of the time, more than any other generation of workers. However, by promoting the practice of deep work amongst their employees, companies can help heal and prevent this problem. Solving burnout in this generation of workers creates economic opportunity and gives employers who lead the way in championing solutions a competitive edge.

Never Too Much

We’ve entered an age in which our ultimate longings center around the elusive sense of balance in our lives. Technology now leaves us fatigued from constant communication. In reaction we worry about its harmful effects and put ourselves on crash diets from social media and our smartphones. Just as crash dieting is not the way to lose weight healthily and maintain it, neither is it the road to productivity.

Shower Thoughts

I get some of my best ideas in the shower. Even after some of the roughest days, when my brain feels like it’s been put in a blender, somehow I emerge from the steam of that tiled cave with the best copy or the clearest approach to a project I’ve been fighting with for hours in my head. Cal Newport calls this use of time productive meditation. Not only is this strategy offer efficiency for those of us with full schedules and lives, but it’s also a great technique to help increase your concentration to aid in deep work.

Do the Wrike Thing

There are knights in shining armor out there ready to help you slay that dragon of overwhelming work. They're called project management systems. You may have used or heard of one or more of these systems: Asana, Trello, Podio, monday.com, Basecamp, there are pretty much endless possibilities. When speaking about choosing a strategy for accomplishing deep work, Cal Newport says he believes you must choose a style that fits you and your reality. Since a project management system is a tool made to help you be productive and do your best work, I believe your choice should be made using similar parameters. Not every system will spell success for every user. I'm going to share about the system I currently use at work, Wrike, and reasons why it works well for my personal needs as a social media professional.

Breaks Are the Food of Life

We underestimate the importance of taking breaks from our hamster wheels to do nothing. I shouldn't describe this use of time as being for nothing, because that's only the perception of our productivity focused culture. We are taught to view activities that are not directly in service to progress as useless. This judgement couldn’t be farther from the truth. Activities such as dancing, self-pampering or just general hermiting serve an important purpose.

In My Data’s Eye

I enjoy using social media personally, but I’ve never thought of myself as being addicted to it. I’m not naïve, though, to the widely discussed debate over its risks and side effects. I’d like to think I’ve focused on having a healthy relationship with this technology, one in which I’m benefiting more from the positives than the negatives. My self-assurance that I’m doing the right thing, though, isn’t enough. The time came last week for me to try to put my data where my mouth is. The challenge: no personal social media use for 5 days.

My Kingdom for a Door

I'm a millennial and I work in social media. What image pops in your head when you visualize the type of office space I have at work? If you saw a hyper-modern, open room with bright white walls and glass doors where dozens of workers type away on long countertops, then you wouldn't be too far off. This image of the cool looking open office has become the default prescription for today's knowledge workers. Those of us in creative and tech-forward jobs are told we want and enjoy these types of spaces because they offer increased opportunity for collaboration and help us increase buzzword behaviors such as synergy. But are these spaces really supporting the kind of work we need to do, or are they just aesthetically trendy?

To Skim or Not to Skim?

Once upon a time I was Rory Gilmore, able to sit in a crowded cafeteria or a bumpy bus and loose myself in the pages of a book. Now I’m more like Dug, that dog from "Up" whose focus switches on a dime at the sight of a squirrel. What happened to me? Apparently, the same thing that’s happened to many of us. Our increasing habit of reading on digital devices is altering our reading styles. Even when I’m enthusiastically interested in a piece of writing, I now fight my eyes’ physical compulsion to skim over the lines rather than digest the beauty of each word. The idea of getting lost in a piece of writing now feels more anxiety-inducing than comforting.