Month: September 2018

Why

Why.

  So you might have noticed an increase in content around here recently. I’ve finally redesigned my portfolio site and also started this blog. I’ve also started applying for design jobs again. (Which may be why you’re reading this). It’s not a coincidence that all this is happening at the same time. It’s because I re-discovered my why.   Fairly recently I was at a job interview for a web design position. And the usual questions that are asked in job interviews were being asked and I recalled my semi-prepared answers to them. But then the interviewer asked “Why are you here today?’ I was a little taken back and paused for a moment. I didn’t quite know how to answer it. I wanted to give an honest answer and so decided to tell the story of me. The first half of this basically consisted of my ‘about me’ page on the website. I told them how I got into web design and how I’d found it magical. And then I got to the section where I worked at a phone shop for 3 years. And I felt the need to justify it.   For a long time I wasn’t able to justify why I’d stayed there. And I would avoid asking myself the question entirely. But now I can justify it. Some of the magic of helping users with technology and exploring new technology myself is at my current job; but not enough.   During the interview I explained how I forgot exactly why I fell in love with design and forgot why I wanted to be a designer in the first place. And now, 3 years later I was waking up and had remembered why I loved it. I’m not entirely sure what changed but my current job wasn’t enough anymore, and I needed to create and design again.   I started with what seemed the only real thing that I should be designing. My website. I redesigned it. Using WordPress as a content management system; Partly for convenience and partly because I wanted to refresh my skills on it. I got to explore some new features of it which will definitely come in handy when I do websites in the future. This still wasn’t enough so I started a blog on the site. I brought over some blog posts that I had done in university at jotted down ideas for what I wanted to talk about in the future. It didn’t matter that no one was (or is probably) reading. I got to use CSS again and got to tinker with minor details that, in all likelihood, only I’ll notice and make banner images and use Photoshop again.   This, it seems, still isn’t enough. I want to do more. I started consuming design information again, and came across Google’s Design Sprint Kit. (https://designsprintkit.withgoogle.com/) Which is a website and methodology for quick prototyping and design. This I think will be my next project.   I’m going to design a solution to a problem purely for the fun of it. Almost a concept UX solution. I’m not sure what I will aim for yet. But I’m going to use their 5-phase methodology to do it. All be it a stripped down version as I won’t have a full team and stakeholders at hand.  
  1. The Understand Phase: ‘During the Understand phase, your team comes together to explore the business problem from all angles.’
  I’m going to gather research from as many different sources as possible and gain an deeper understanding of an issue than I currently do. This will need to be both primary and secondary research as well as qualitative and quantitative.  
  1. The Sketch Phase: During the sketch phase, individual team members are given the time and space to brainstorm solutions on their own.’
  For me this will pretty much be the same. Just brain storming ideas and trying to think outside the box.  
  1. The Decide Phase: ‘The Decide phase is when the team chooses which ideas should be prototyped.’
  Here’s where I’ll narrow down my ideas into one. This is the one I will fully prototype and develop.  
  1. The Prototype Phase: ‘A design sprint prototype is a facade of the experience you have envisioned in the sketch phase.’
  This is where I’ll make my prototype that resembles the experience I am trying to give the user.  
  1. The Validate Phase: ‘The Validate phase is the Design Sprint moment of truth. Your team will finally get to see live users interact with their ideas and hear direct feedback from your target audience.’
  This is the phase where I’ll test my prototype with real users, and most importantly, record the results and feedback.     After I’ve completed this I can see how well I did o each phase based on which of the three outcomes I have made:  
  • An efficient failure : The prototypes didn’t hit the mark, but you learned something (many things) and saved your team 4-6 months of work building the wrong product. You might want to run a follow up Sprint.
  • A flawed success : Some of your ideas met users’ needs but not all of them. You learned something and can now iterate and test again.
  • An epic win: The concept met your users’ needs; they were able to complete tasks easily and engaged with all the features you mapped out. You are ready to implement!
  I’ll then write a follow up blog about how the whole thing went.   So that’s my plan. I’m not sure exactly how long it’ll take but I’m determined to get it done.

Van Gogh and Mrs Wall

Van Gogh and Mrs Wall

Recently I had a weekend away in Cardiff. I love Cardiff as a city it’s full of life and lots of little stories about its past. It’s a city where the architecture and skyline really shows off the juxtaposition between its history and its present/ future. From our apartment window we could see the white steel skeleton structure of the principality stadium and then Just beyond the old stone walls of the castle. It makes for a nice contrast and is something that is lacking in other cities. But the architecture of the city isn’t what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about a painting in the museum and my year 3 art education. In the Cardiff museum is an art gallery. And in that art gallery is a painting by Van Gogh. Specifically this painting. ‘Rain - Auvers - GOGH, Vincent van (1853 - 1890)’      I’ve obviously seen prints and images of Van Gogh‘s work before and am in no way an art expert or critic. But I’ve never seen an original until that point. It was interesting and cool. And made me think a couple things. The first was ‘is this an original or a copy?’ I checked the information plaque and it didn’t say it was a copy and then got close to the painting (which was behind thick glass) and I could see the peaks and troughs of the paint from when it was done. The second was ‘OMG how expensive is this painting?’ I googled it and it’s somewhere between $11million and $66million. I think this somehow adds to the experience of seeing it and makes it more special than just seeing a print. If for no other reason than you stop and properly look at the painting because if it's worth that much money, there has to be something in it. And the third was ‘this is what Mrs Wall was talking about when I was in year 3.' Mrs Wall was my year 3 primary school teacher. One afternoon she taught us art. This is when I first learned about Vincent Van Gogh and his paintings. Mrs Wall explained how he wasn’t just tying to paint a picture he was trying to convey some kind of emotion in his work. And that this was evident in the brush strokes that you could see on the painting. We then had a go at trying this ourselves which was an incredibly brave and messy thing to suggest to a group of 6 year olds. I didn’t really understand it at the time but the idea of conveying emotion through art stuck with me. And so that’s what I thought of when I saw the painting in real life. I’m not that big on art and so this was the first time I’d ever seen this particular painting ever. It was a landscape and fairly colourful but still sad some how. The rain that’s pouring down is a blue grey which adds to the sadness I guess but it’s not like obscuring the landscape really. There’s a single bird in the painting which I guess symbolises loneliness or something. After all this was one of the last paintings Van Gogh did before his suicide in 1890. What I find interesting about Van Gogh's work. Is the idea that he could convey emotion very easily. The fact that he is famous for his tragic life also adds context to his work and makes it a bit easier to ascertain some form of meaning from his painting. Although didn’t know about his suicide back when I was 7 and still was able to see there was something deeper in his paintings than just a pretty picture. Now although this is nice and the reason he is a popular artist you might think it has little to do with design. But conveying emotion through design is exactly what we as designers are trying to do. We are always trying to suggest things to the user and in certain designs trying to generate some kind of emotional response. Usually some kind of happiness. Through design we are trying to convey that a product is high quality, or easy to use, or matches the users personality in some way. But we are trying to convey this without outright saying it. I think this is the same thing that Van Gogh is doing with the rain and lone crow in the painting. I recently read a case study from a designer who worked on an Uber re-design back in 2016. Their whole goal was to recapture the magic of using Uber that had been lost. Through design they needed to convey that Uber was doing all the hard work (finding a car, knowing their location etc) for user. And they needed to make the user trust the app to do that. The redesign was all about communicating an idea to the user. Check out the full run down here - http://simonpan.com/work/uber/ Although I’m still starting out on my User Experience design career I hope to be as good at conveying emotion through design as Van Gogh is, but I’d like to keep both my ears. ​

Playing Around with Javascript

Playing around with Javascript   So I've never considered myself a 'programmer' or really even someone who is good at coding. I know HTML and CSS and have a working knowledge of what can be done with other 'proper' coding languages. And to be honest when I had to do coding in University I disliked it a lot. However, in an effort to keep my web design skills fresh I set out to learn a bit of Javascript and then make something in it. I decided that a kind of 'guess who' style game would be simple enough but also test the boundaries of what i can do in Javascript.   I planned it all out and it took me all day to create. But I have a working version that allows the user to select and un-selected characters once they have been guessed as well as gives the player a random character from an array to play with.   The code itself isn't pretty and I'm sure there is far easier ways to do the things I have done, but its a start. and the most 'coding' I've done since University.  

heres the link if you want to check it out:

  I may end up doing more coding experiments like this.