The screenshot graveyard collection of inspirational material on my computer desktop has gotten so large that I thought it’d be fun to start a series highlighting my favorite finds.

Recently I stumbled across Let’s Travel Somewhere. I love the large, immersive images of exotic places and the interesting slideshow-style interaction of using the arrow keys to scroll. (Although I admit that I was a bit thrown off when my scrollbar didn’t work.) The large “choose a destination” drop down is fun, the iconography is spot-on, and if you hover over the logo, a charming bit of color animation happens.

Let's Travel Somewhere homepage

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 7.45.03 PM

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Brooklyn Beta Attendees

Booklet of Brooklyn Beta Attendees

I love reading interviews with designers and artists.  They’re a fun insight into how people think, and I often end up feeling good about something I have in common with the other person. One thing that comes up frequently in these interviews is that the designer or artist didn’t have any specific mentors, but wished they did. I came across this article on design self-education, with some great advice on finding virtual mentors:

“Choose a couple of designers, developers, marketers, etc and follow them a little more closely than you follow everyone else. Listen to what they say and more importantly what they do. Study the portfolios of your favorite designers. Dig through the code of your favorite developers. Watch how your favorite marketers promote themselves.Actions speak louder than words so pay close attention to what your mentors do over time. If you can make connections with these people and get their ear so much the better. However you don’t have to make the connection as long as you continue to observe what they do.”

I think one of the more intriguing aspects of this idea is that it’s also a self-discovery process. By curating a list of the people you admire specifically, you come to understand what’s important to you, what is your unique point-of-view. I want to spend some more time (in an ongoing way) thinking about this. In the meantime, I went through some of the inspiration I’ve saved recently and pulled out a few virtual mentors and noted what I admire.

Jessica Hische
Her work is gorgeous, but anytime I hear her speak, I’m left struck by HOW HARD this woman works. It’s quite inspiring when you realize there is no magical talent fairy that going to sprinkle you with awesome dust one day. You just show up, get to work, and practice until your skills catch up with your vision.

Chris Risdon
There’s something about the topics he chooses and the way he describes his process that really appeals to me. I might have a secret Service Designer inside of me, and I find his work in Experience Mapping, and talks on Persuasive Design inspire to get out there and try new stuff.

Rachel Hinman
Mobile is cool, sure. But after attending a workshop lead by Rachel on mobile design, my biggest takeaway and inspiration was the process she used to solve customer problems. I love her simple, visual storyboards that make customer problems speak loud and simply.

Alexa Andrzejewski
Alexa used her skills as a User Experience Designer to launch a successful, design-driven startup. (Foodspotting.) It reminds me that a designer’s passion for making stuff doesn’t have to stop with mockups.

These are the folks that come to mind now, but I know that there are heaps more. I hope to do this again soon, and I’d love to hear who others consider to be their virtual mentors.

Some favorite interview sites:

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Beautiful Web Type

Beautiful Web Type

 

Codepen

I can’t tell you how much I am loving Codepen right now. In the “Should Designers Learn to Code?” debate, I definitely fall on the side of why the hell not. (But I’m a DIY addict who thinks it’s totally reasonable to make your own cheese.)

Anyway, this app is perfect for the sorts of tinkering and code experiments I enjoy. I have very little interest in planning and executing production-level sites, but I love trying out new ideas and seeing how they work. Codepen is awesome because it handles all the boring bits of getting started, and the results of your experiments appear right next to your code.

Need some inspiration to get started? The CSS experiments on Codrops are interesting to try to reproduce. I like to try them out, then brainstorm creative ways I could use the concepts in my own projects.

Beautiful Web Type 
It’s easy to use Google Fonts inside of Codepen and experiment until your heart’s content. But, digging through to find a reliable typeface in the hundreds of choices can take all day. (Aren’t you supposed to be coding?) Thankfully,  Chad Mazzola put together this rad site to display the beautiful possibilities of a few choice fonts.

Framer
Framer is another little tool whose brilliance lies in automating the boring work so you can focus on the fun stuff. (Amazing UX, right?) Framer integrates with Photoshop or Sketch, and exports layered mockups into an HTML prototype you can manipulate. It’s a nice way for  designers to tinker with bits of animation without committing to a full-scale code prototype.

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IMG_2666

Two weeks ago, I attended Brooklyn Beta for the first time. The energy and enthusiasm of attendees was awesome and inspiring. It was clearly evident that the organizers put a lot of time and attention to detail into the conference experience itself (the photo above shows just a tiny bit of the super fun decorations) and it was a great time. I’m still trying to find a way to process what I took away and move it into action, so I’m starting with a blog post on what I learned.

Connect to what you love

“Make something you love” seemed to be the slogan of the conference – printed on t-shirts, cups and banners. The speaker set were all actively doing something they fully loved, and many had clearly come to that through a process of trial and error. We learned from a non-profit startup founder that you may not automatically know what the “right” thing is – and your first project may not succeed. Experiment to find what you love. Other speakers, like Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, have connected to the passion of others (Etsy sellers) to support and encourage it. And Tim O’Reilly calls on us to find a way to create more value for society within what you already do. (Here’s a great article that I think clearly explains his philosophy.) I want to better prioritize time for personal projects, take better advantage of “20% time” offered at work, and just be more thoughtful about opportunities to infuse meaning into my work.

Accept your mistakes with grace

One of the parts of BB I really appreciated was a pre-conference discussion with the Facebook design team that worked on Facebook Home. It was a frank reflection about how projects don’t always work the way you think they might, and it’s rare that design teams are given the space to look back and evaluate the outcome of a design. “Fail faster” is a huge buzz phrase now, but the unspoken culture of many companies is that failure is not an option. It renews my commitment to try more ambitious things at work — not necessarily bigger things, but things that don’t automatically default to the lowest common denominator.

Get inspired by others

A lot of energy gets created by having a group of passionate individuals in the same room. And I don’t mean passionate in a special way (the speaker set was amazing and  intensely passionate) – I mean the every day passion that drives web workers to get out there and do their best each day. I work from home, and this event was a huge wake-up call to get back to in-person interactions with my design community.

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I’ve always been a frustrating dinner partner. I refuse to make a suggestion where to eat, because I love the surprise of finding new restaurants or discovering foods I didn’t know I wanted. I don’t want to be trapped by the limits of my creativity at the moment of low blood sugar. There isn’t much difference in my shopping – I’ll be most excited if there’s a surprise involved. I joined a CSA for this same reason – the bag of unknown vegetables is a weekly present I love opening.

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Birchbox, but you can instantly see how the beauty product subscription service is innovating in the online commerce space. For $10/mo, you get a curated box of samples (surprises) that they hope you’ll love enough to start buying from their online store. (You bet I signed up right away, and it’s FUN.)

Thinking about innovating an e-commerce user experience is a challenging task. When words like “user delight” are thrown around, you have to wonder if it hasn’t all been done before. In doing some background research for a recent project, I went looking for delight in e-commerce experiences. Here’s some elements I found: Continue reading…

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I wrote an article that appeared in UX Magazine last week as call for designers to consider how their designs can create more meaningful experiences for their users.  Good design is persuasive, and an important part of UX practice is thinking about the behaviors, habits, and environments we are creating or encouraging as part of our designs. I seriously geek out on psychology and I was inspired by lots of reading. For my fellow geeks, I wanted to share some resources here. Continue reading…

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Amid the work of experience maps, improvement matrices, and innovation concepts, MicroInteractions: Designing with Details by Dan Saffer was a satisfying reminder to always come back to the details.

I often find myself juggling projects of varied scope. That means I am balancing big picture thinking with focus on the small details. It can often feel like the big picture work has more of an impact. It takes more time to think through, and consumes more of my attention. As I grow in my career and tackle projects of greater complexity, having a firm grasp of the big picture is indispensable, but the details can’t slide in quality.  Continue reading…

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It’s cold and gloomy and snowy here in New York, and I always feel like I need an extra boost this time of year. Here are a few videos I’ve collected (and love) for a short course on inspiration.

 

Where Good Ideas Come From

This video reminds me that some ideas take a long time to incubate and motivates me to go back and try to evolve old ideas (and never throw out notebooks!)

 
Steal Like an Artist

When I’m feeling uninspired, I like to try to “remix” my ideas – to take them and combine them with someone else’s ideas and see what happens. “Expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and see what you can take in” is fantastic advice. As is “be boring – it’s the only way to get work done.”

 

Without Doing the Dreaming is Useless

The reason all your other ideas seem better than the one you’re working on? Because you’re not working on them. Instead of focusing on the self-doubt that occurs while working on an idea, focus on just working through the idea and following it to the finish. Finishing feels great – better than procrastinating. Bonus: Rilla is charming and enthralling, so you’ll want to jump off the couch after and get cracking on your ideas.

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“How wonderful! They’ve stolen my idea! It’s become their idea!”

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath use this quote to illustrate the successful outcome of a sticky idea. This quote struck me as a great distillation of my goal as a user experience designer – to craft and sell a user experience strategy in such a way that it’s internalized by stakeholders and teams as their very own idea.

User experience designers need to communicate an experience vision to diverse audiences in a way that the audiences can use it to make guiding decisions about a product. This means that both executives and people on the front lines are using the same language of user experience in their day-to-day conversations. Continue reading…

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Yesterday, I stumbled across this older but information-packed video of Janice Frasier speaking in Los Angeles. Check it out, I watched it twice. (Not only because of the giant bunny.)

Kill your darlings: User experience and lean startup

Some teaser tidbits from the video:

Do a wireframe check with your developers on a regular basis.
Once you have your sketch, take it to your developer and ask these same 4 questions every time:

  1. Is this an accurate reflection of the system?
  2. What here is hard?
  3. What are the alternatives?
  4. Is this worth it?

Extra design inventory is waste.
Design one page and test it to figure out you’re on the right track before you design a whole system.

Put stuff on the walls.
Nothing gets a conversation started better. In fact – don’t have meetings, have working sessions.

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