Creative people aren’t special or different from any of the rest of us. They’re just in a line of work that defies explanation. While every occupation and endeavor has trappings and tangible artifacts, where the real work happens is what people want to hear about. Some jobs rely on data analysis, eminently transparent in revealing the effort of the work. Some jobs rely on physical labor, and the magnamity of the outcome is a testament to the effort. But creative jobs are largely opaque, most especially to those engaged in them.
And yet a chance to interview a creative person…
On August 26, 2020, I gave a keynote talk for UX Australia called “The Art and Science of Asking Questions.” The audience submitted a lot of great questions (about questions) and I didn’t have a chance to answer all of them. Here are the answers I would have given.
Every question below was submitted by a participant at UX Australia. They have not been edited.
My scripts include more than just a list of questions. They also include:
A list of objectives and/or research questions. These are questions for myself, not for the participant. …
(Originally published on the EightShapes blog in 2011)
It’s 5pm and you leave your office, only to step into your living room. Your five-year-old engages you immediately in a philosophical debate about the comparative advantages of hammerhead sharks vs. tiger sharks. Your spouse hands you a toddler with a look that says, “I need a break.” Meanwhile, you can barely process any of it because you’re still thinking about the email you just got from a client at 4:59.
The 10-second commute is an artifact of 21st Century living and the so-called “digital economy”. Workers in this environment need to…
NOTE: This article languished in my drafts for two years waiting for me to complete it. It is still incomplete, but I publish it now for continuity.
Alternate facts. Fake news. Racist tweets. Rampant misogyny and sexual assault. Erosion of civic institutions. Deterioration of mutual respect.
Not to mention all the Nazis.
So, I won’t even try to justify or explain why I love playing board games with friends and family. I’m fortunate that I can afford to sink time and money into this hobby, which largely constituted my self-care in this crazy scary year.
A couple new twists to…
This was a year when it was both hard to justify hobbies and essential to cling to them. Every day, the news brought word of some American atrocity, perpetrated by our government or by those who felt empowered by its actions.
We voted, we marched, we donated, we made our voices heard. But to resist, and to persist, we need to take care of ourselves. Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for the opportunities my family and I have to take a moment for ourselves in my favorite hobby.
I hope you got to enjoy a game…
As a user experience designer or researcher, you’re always listening:
Listening is an essential skill for user experience design. At the risk of contradicting myself, it may be the most important skill.
(Note: I use the terms “listening” and “hearing” to mean any mode of perceiving or acquiring information from a person in real-time or near-real-time. Even when reading messages in Slack or watching body language on a video call, I’m “listening”.)
In a recent stakeholder interview I asked, “What do you think the main risk to this project is?”
He said, “I think the real bottleneck is with our Operations group.”
It was a good response and so it would have been easy for me to move onto the next question. But getting through my script isn’t my job. My job is to learn, surfacing obscure information and applying it to the design problem.
Give me deeper insights and buried connections: they add real value to the design process.
Being great at interviews — whether talking to project stakeholders or product…
Sometimes I say sorry to express genuine regret:
“I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your text sooner. I was caught up in a challenging meeting and it was difficult to get away.”
In this day and age, expressing remorse for a thoughtless act or for inconveniencing someone is the least we can do for each other. Such expressions are the bare minimum empathetic response, but they’re not the only ones.
Sometimes I say sorry to express sympathy:
“That person was being so insensitive. I’m sorry you had to deal with that situation.”
The sympathy is well-intentioned, but executed clumsily: I…
That’s how some people describe the design process. I get it: Running a design project involves answering the question “Now what?” over and over again. Our process isn’t so much a series of well-defined steps as it is knowing how to make an informed decision at each juncture.
It’s not that I don’t plan anything at all. I define activities. I project level of effort. I align tasks and assign team members. I even (gasp) create project plans. But circumstances change. I could do it the exact same way every time, but, if I adhered too closely to a rote…
Here are three conversations you might have in a typical week as a design professional:
And not just these: You probably sit in all kinds of conversations. I propose that all these conversations, even though they seem very different from each other, all follow a similar pattern:
Being aware of where you are in this arc, you can see when and how you’ve become stuck, and you can take steps to move to the next stage.