I speak and air is pushed through my vocal chords and mouth, vibrating the air around me. A wave of pressure hits your eardrums and is transduced into electrochemical signals that propagate through the neurons of your brain, making you see pictures, have thoughts, and feel emotions.

Reading words has much the same effect as hearing them. Scanning a row of graphical symbols evokes thoughts and feelings. It is impossible to resist. Words slip inside you, like water through the chinks on the sides of an old row boat.

You might try to fend them off, but you cannot fully…


I hate online presentations. I hate giving them and I hate watching them, especially yours. We can be pretty sure that even after the pandemic we will work online more than we used to. We will travel less, we will have more meetings online, and we will give more online presentations. Of course, the meetings suck too, but in this essay I will focus on making your presentations less tortuous to watch.

I will provide you with a bunch of suggestions for what to do. Follow just a handful of these recommendations and you will outperform 95 percent of everyone…


I have hit on a formula for getting creative things done. It consists of two simple ideas and it has done wonders for getting things out of my notebooks and into the world. Most recently I used the formula to write a short book on creativity in about a week. What will you do with it?

In talking with people it seems as if one of the main barriers to getting creative things done is self-censoring: the fear that what we are doing is not good enough or original enough, and concerns about what other people may think of us.


Instrument gauges in a decommissioned power plant in Istanbul. Photo by the author.

Our final participant for the day was struggling to use the device that we were testing. Everyone we had brought in for the test had hit the same conceptual hurdles. This participant, however, was visibly annoyed, more so than those before him. He groaned, he scoffed, and then told us all the ways in which the design was faulty.

This particular participant happened to be a designer. This is, of course, not an ideal subject for a usability test. As a designer he knew too much and was not representative of the intended user group. He had been recruited by…


In creative workshops we are told to build on the ideas of others, but how do you actually do that? How do I take an idea, usually someone else’s, and summon forth a new one?

Note: should you prefer, there is a video version of this piece on you YouTube.

In the book Teach Your Child How to Think, by Edward de Bono, there is a short chapter that shows you just how to do that! The rest of the book is a stinker —or at least, fails to deliver on the promise of the title — but those few…


“Rubed.” It’s an acronym I made up. You’ll learn about it later in the essay.

You are about to give a presentation. Do you know why you are presenting? Are you clear about your desired result? Have you decided what you want people to think and feel during your presentation, and, more importantly, what you want them to say and do afterwards? If your presentation makes no difference to anyone, is there any reason at all to give it?

My personal wish is that my audience goes away changed (at least to a degree). I want them to be ready to act differently in some way. The purpose of my presentation is the first thing…


I love watching competent speakers talk enthusiastically about the things that engage them. But when I give my own talks I sometimes find it hard to find that enthusiasm, especially if it’s a talk I have to give repeatedly. Do you have a similar problem? Then you are going to like an old acting technique that I am about to teach you, something that solved this problem for me.

David de Léon at the Amuse conference in Budapest 2017. Photo credit: Istvan Toth‏

I have a talk about applying the principles of stage magic to user experience design. The talk is a labour of love and combines two of my great passions. But, the…


The key to giving great design feedback, as well as receiving it and putting it to productive use, is your attitude. The right attitude will makes more of a difference than your choice of formal method or process. In this essay I describe ten ways of thinking about feedback that have the potential to significantly and profoundly alter your attitude. These ten perspectives have the power to increase the effectiveness of your feedback tenfold.

The right attitude will makes more of a difference than your choice of formal method or process.

Each perspective can subtly shift your attitude to both…


I am often asked to recommend books on creativity. Even when I’m not asked, I will recommend them. I love reading these kinds of books; they are often inspiring, playful, contain fun and unexpected examples of creative acts, and allow me to indulge in the fantasy of a richer and more fulfilling creative life.

There are copious books on creativity and it can be hard to know where to start. All too many books trade in generalities and regurgitate the same worn anecdotes and techniques. …


What are the fundamental user experience design skills? What are the most important and foundational skills that make the greatest difference to the quality of our design work?

These are questions that I had cause to ponder when I was asked to sit in on the committee for the interaction design programme at Malmö University. In preparation for the meeting I asked myself what I thought they ought to be teaching at the school. I came up with a list of what I personally believe to be ten foundational skills. These are based on my own experience as a UX…

David de Léon

David is the Director of User Experience Design at inUse. He is a published author, with a PhD in Cognitive Science, an inventor and an amateur magician.

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