Summer reflections on design

I wonder if I should stop calling things “reflections” when I really mean: “I haven’t written in a while, but here are some thoughts I had over a very long period of time.”

So I had a really tremendous summer as an user experience designer at Google. It was really nice experiencing what it was like to work on a team on a big project. Other designers, other stakeholders…all going through the design process together. I learned so much about business strategy and then, within in my team, UX strategy and refining user experiences. Thinking about the way our small team ran, I think it was nearly the idea working dynamic that most companies strive for. Everyone was active and engaged with each other, designers were intermingled with engineers and both opinions were respected. They touched based frequently on a schedule, but were also never afraid to start a new conversation when one arose–and more importantly, that other person also took the time to help that other person.

The team aside though, what was neat me to look at their problems from academia and see how they fit together.  Mark Choi did a thesis project that went over some of the different learning styles of engineers and designers. One of the main points was that engineers are outcome focused while designers tend to value the process more. I liked that. And I agree. I think the tendency of many people in technology is to automate things and have just the outcome of the activity be present. Think about the progression of coffee makers from having to go through the entire process of making roasting-grinding-brewing coffee to now popping in those super environmentally unfriendly Keurig cups. This is just a simple example, but you get into more important things were maybe the more difficult or planning-focused part of the activity makes the final experience more rewarding. Thinking about your your more rewarding experience, the time you felt most accomplished. Most likely it was about something your worked really hard at. And I worry when we automate things we might be taking away those most rewarding experience.

For example, last semester when we were interviewing parents for our studio project, it was doing the most time-consuming activities with their toddlers that made them feel the most like a parent. For example, bathing or dinner were common points of tension in families where spats might be more likely to break out, but it was also the moments they felt were the most meaningful to them.

In terms of my thesis plan I’ve also been tossing around some things. I became worried (rightfully show) that my thesis topic wasn’t in focused enough on the ‘why’ aspect. Material Design, Google’s new design style, was already exploring movement in many ways in throughout their applications. Someone made the point that, maybe they’re exciting the first couple of times it happens, but that they seemed like features that people would probably turn off after the novelty wore off. What then? Like notifications, where is the line between meaningful interactions and annoying ones? Anyway, I was feeling a little anxious because this idea of meaningful interaction had was already being looked at (obviously) and while I liked my perspective, I was a little more hesitant about exploring something for a year that didn’t feel as relevant.

Besides that, I was learning about designing for accessibility (through a very brief introduction) and part of the material included an interview with a blind person going through her day. A smaller part of that was how she uses a smart phone. It was incredible to watch and it made me think so much about the interactions she has with her smart phone. If i”m remembering correctly, she said that the device was really useful to her, but I thought about how this incredibly power device could do so much more. We focus on doing making things more and more convenient for people who already don’t have any trouble accomplishing tasks. Automating their lives beyond what they asked for, but here’s this opportunity to really help people how who have to live in a world designed for someone else, literally. It was really intriguing to me and something I want to explore but I feel completely unknowledgeable about it.

Anyway, those are the main design thoughts I had over the summer.

Last day of work:

2014-08-15 17.55.19

Thoughts? Discussion? I'd love to hear 'em!

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