Scope. Sprint. Design. Deploy…Impact?

We take a lot of time honing our craft. We journey-map ourselves into wireframes that naturally flow, eventually ending up as beautifully designed screens that “hook” our target audience into using our product or service. Like a user. Like a drug. The Holy Grail of design.

I recently had lunch with a friend in Laduree SoHo, a beautiful, busy place. Lots of tourists with heavy shopping bags. Locals having an afternoon wine break. There’s an outdoor back-garden that transports you to Paris maybe, or in the very least makes for a very Parisian NY. This is what it looked like:

Beautiful, right?

This is what the people looked like.

In fact, they weren’t looking at all. At anyone, or each other. They were clicking, swiping, tapping away on the phones or tablets.

My friend Lis, a fellow UX/IA professional and my lunch date in Laduree that day, turned to me and said,

“Look around. We created this. One wireframe at a time.”

Lis has been creating great designs since before you could “learn UX design in 10 weeks!” Starting in a bunker at USAA, all the way through to clients like MLB Advanced Media, ESPN Mobile, espnW, Viacom Media Networks, and NewsCorp as an independent consultant. She is really, really good at what she does. Looking around the cafe that day, her observation rung true.

The business world has the idea of “conscious capitalism,” where the strategy is to create a profitable business that benefits both humans and their environment. So we started to wonder, is there such a thing as “conscious design?” And further, is conscious design, “great design?”

This is the gist of our conversation.

What is “great design?”

This is a really good question. When I think about great design in regards to its larger impact, I think about it as designs that meet all business goals, while providing a really great interface and flow (what same may call experience, but I hate to label it that) for users. Great designs helps users meet or exceed their goals, while helping businesses to do the same.

How do you think our creations have impacted our analog lives so far?

Well, the sheer fact that we think we have analog and digital lives is a good place to look :-). I think the things we have created can be both positive and negative, and their impacts follow that same range. Some positive impacts of our creations include, better and more frequent communication with loved ones, while some negative ones include higher anxiety and lesser attention spans.

How do we balance our impact as designers on people with the goals of businesses or clients we are working with?

And further, do we? I think this is one of the ultimate questions I want to surface with my talk, Weighing the Impact of Great Design, at the Digital Product Design meetup on June 28th. This is something we should explore together as a community. I have some ideas, but to be honest I get stuck on this one myself and would love to hear what others think.

As a long-time designer and creator of systems, what does the framework for thinking about the impact of our designs look like?

Hmmm that’s interesting. My own framework is really around (1)looking at the world around me, and observing the impact of the things I create, (2)deciding if I like or dislike that impact and, (3)if I like it, try to do it more of that; If I don’t, try to change it.

How are you — personally — changing the future?

Oh boy. I’m not sure I can change the future (any Outlander fans out there?). But if I am, I hope that I am helping others to be aware of their work, so that they can consider that work more, and make better decisions based off of their considerations, as well as their own moral code and values.


If you’re curious or are thinking about how your designs today help shape our collective future, Lis will be chatting about Weighing the Impact of Great Design on Tuesday, June 28th in New York.

Hope to see you there.