Each year, designers and developers get a peak at sxsw of all the latest technologies, coding languages, platforms and methodologies for interactive work which is fantastic. However, on the first day (Friday), I found myself attending two design panels back-to-back that reshaped my personal framework for approaching interactive design problems altogether. They turned things upside down for me a bit, and because they were juxtaposed in the same afternoon, I left downtown on the first day with a new sense of what it means to conceptualize a digital solution for our life experience.
The first panel I attended was Designing For Context (see the slides here). Originally, I thought I was going to hear about devices, browsers and platforms, but instead I learned that big picture conceptual thinking about the physical world should be the first way in which we access design thinking. When you have to work out design problems for every foreseeable contextual environment and situation, it’s important to start with the human experience. The panelists laid out 5 main elements that impact interactive projects, which are as follows: Time, Ecosystems, Location, Form & Technology, and Brands & Relationships. These are largely different questions than browser compatibility, page optimization, and click-to-touch cross-device experiences. They are fundamental dynamics that we experience in our daily lives, and should be at the core of what we are trying to create, whether it be a digital solution that compliments, enhances and/or corrects the world. Have a look at the sketchnotes that I took on this panel below.
The second panel I attended was titled Design From The Gut: Dangerous or Differentiator. The panelists discussed the battle between emotional, gut-based design versus design strictly based on research, data, and analytics. Through conversation, both of these dispositions were said to have value based on the project type, scope, timing and “filters” (experience) of those involved. With larger projects (such as designing Facebook or Twitter), research is a much more highly valued asset over the emotional intuition of the design team involved (which also has it’s valid and appropriate role). For smaller business projects, it really comes down to the gut of the creator/designer, who hopefully stays on the same page as the client, has a proven track record of success, and performs a small amount of research (such as A/B testing, surveys, and double-checking their solutions with valued friends and colleagues). Have a look at the sketchnotes for this talk below.
In conclusion, as I move forward in trying to blend a new set of universal human-to-digital experiential questions (Designing For Context) and a balanced application of both research and emotion (Design From The Gut), I’m hoping the outcomes of my future design projects will be more meaningful, purposeful, and effective. I encourage fellow designers and creatives to consider these dynamics in their own work processes too! Let’s build a better world through better design together.