Photo of a Black Lives Matter banner on a building
Photo of a Black Lives Matter banner on a building

Whenever a new movement or popular campaign arises, I wonder how it got its name and/or slogan. Was it a democratic decision, where all early members were surveyed? Did the founders land on it after an all-night debate? Did it come to one of them in a dream? Or was it something that came up randomly and stuck — like a childhood nickname?

I would like to think it came as the result of a careful, systematic process. Research and data analysis may not sound sexy or revolutionary, but they should be a major part of any social movement. After…


In order to understand the failures of the police and the righteous anger directed at the institution throughout the country, it’s important to ask: What is the purpose of a police force? Is the problem that police officers are not fulfilling their purpose — or do they have the wrong purpose?

History provides the answer. But it helps to ask an additional question that is both logical and unsettling: If the police are here to “protect and serve,” who are they protecting and serving? And who are they protecting that group from?

I will not cite a long list of…


There is an old adage — sometimes attributed to the great Oscar Wilde — that getting what you want and not getting what you want are similarly (if not equally) tragic. I concur.

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, in typically verbose fashion, posited that the happiest state for a human being is a sense of near-achievement. He made this claim as part of a longer lecture I listened to while on the elliptical — fittingly in the process of achieving some fitness goal. …


Sitemap I helped create for a special project for the United Nations

I may have gotten ahead of myself in previous installments of this series. It’s not necessarily helpful to talk about the design process or the final product without first talking about what UX design is.

However, I find it much easier to begin by talking about what UX design is not. Those far removed from the field — my intended audience — may find that it’s not at all what they thought it would be. Then again, based on current job descriptions and interviews with industry professionals, I can say with confidence that it’s becoming more by the day.

The…


Part of a content-page mockup for a nonprofit client.

What was not immediately clear to me before my UX design immersive program was exactly what a UX designer designs. When you hear the term “fashion designer,” images of luxury handbags, clothing, and shoes come to mind, but few images are triggered by the words “user experience designer” if you’re a newbie.

Part of the problem is that there are countless experiences that could be designed for — everything from getting a massage at the mall to finding your favorite shows on (Smart) TV. …


This image is somewhat provocative and misleading, but it’s a carryover from my undergraduate years, when I questioned everything under the sun (and even above it). The relationship to UX is simple: In order to design you should first conduct research, and open-ended questions are the foundation of research.

“Authority,” in this context, is not limited to corrupt politicians or demanding parents. Authority can manifest in the form of a corporate structure that designs products for users and not with them.

I was recently given a homework assignment by a tech company that I had more than a week to…


This is I turning my back on the uphill battles of 2019.

New Year’s Eve/Day is an interesting holiday for me because it’s arbitrary. Think about it. We could flip the calendar on any given day and call it a “new year” if we chose to. Despite what my computer leads me to believe in the bottom-left corner, it’s not as if there is a universal understanding of when one year ends and another begins. The Chinese celebrate their new year in either late January or February. The Thai New Year is in April, and the Ethiopian New Year is in September. …


iStock illustration ID:615100840

I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan, and anyone paying close attention to the 2019 NFL season knows that Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is the runaway favorite for Most Valuable Player — commonly known as “MVP.” If you are the MVP in football, or any other sport, you are considered the player who has done more to help your team win than any other player in the league. …


The best image I could come up with to illustrate empathy in design.

The first thing I learned about UX design is that it starts with empathy. This got my attention because my previous careers — in education and conflict resolution — began with empathy as well. Try as you might, to teach children or mediate conflict without empathy is a futile endeavor.

I’d like to think that this series also started with empathy: I’m acknowledging there is a substantial chasm between those who are in the know about tech and innovation and those who are still using Internet Explorer. …


A paper prototype for my first UX design project.

When I was an English teacher, it was easy to explain what I did to friends, strangers, and relatives alike. And it didn’t matter how old those relatives were — they all had teachers at some point.

Teaching is not the most sexy occupation, but everyone could picture the classroom, desks, books, and students. They could picture me standing in front of those students, imagine a grammar or vocabulary lesson, speculate on how I might handle unruly behavior, understand why I started getting gray hairs at 30, and so on.

When I decided to become a user experience designer, however…

Matthew Johnson

I’m a meticulous scholar, creative problem-solver, and passionate advocate whose bottom line is unlocking human potential through research, writing, and design.

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