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Stag. Image Credit: Morguefile

When working on teams with multiple designers (or any other profession, really) it can often be confusing to understand why some are considered senior and some are junior. Those who are just starting out in their careers want to look up to their seniors. However, when you’ve already had a few years under your belt, you might start having questions.

Why am I still here? How can I move up?
What makes others senior?
Is the grass really greener if I climb that ladder?

After your first 5 years of professional experience, it becomes much harder to discriminate based the number of years under your belt. Everyone learns at a different pace, and takes different roads in life. When it comes to seniority, part of it really all comes down to how much responsibility you choose to take on and how accountable you are willing to be for your errors. …

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Aerial view of Toronto, Image Credit: Morguefile

Holy crap, a lot of people actually give a shit about improving our community.

That is what I walked away with on Tuesday when attending the 2017 Accessibility Innovation Showcase (part of the Invictus Games event) as well as the CivicTech meetup group back to back. I was amazed by the level of thought and compassion for people just to help out their fellow neighbour.

Firstly, the Accessibility Showcase was an inspiring look at how local healthcare startups are engineering ideas to help improve the quality of life for those who need the most help. …

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The actual dock from my friend’s cottage. Image Credit: Janis Yee

Design has deep roots in the development of solutions that improve the human standard of living. In order to do that, we need to periodically unplug and remember what it is to be human.

As a designer, and therefore somewhat of a tech addict, being forced to unplug at the cottage last weekend was at first unsettling. My friends and I were somewhere near Sault Ste Marie and happened to be in the shadow of a mountain that blocked the only cell tower in the area. Ambient thoughts raced through my head:

What could I be missing out on?
How can I share this experience?
What’s happening on Slack?

There was no way I was getting any signal for an entire week. …

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Accessible Icon from

Accessibility (or a11y for short) is slowly becoming a new standard for design but fraught with so many challenges that it took a legal maneuver to elevate awareness and make it a movement. Having worked with digital product teams on many large projects, it was always an exploration on how far to go to make the product compliant.

It’s almost a guarantee that this isn’t just a challenge specifically tied to digital either. Last June, I attended a Service Design presentation by Mohsen Mahjoobnia, a real estate agent specializing in accessibility for homes in the GTA. He mentioned that in Germany, they accept it as something that is part of the architecture. …

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Knight on Chessboard in the lead. Image Credit: Morguefile

Professionalism is not about how you look, it’s about how you act that matters the most. How well you work with other people in the world strongly determines how far you go. It takes courage, empathy, and a strong set of values to mark you as a professional.

This is important, especially for those of you starting out on your journey, startup, or career. Working with others who are paying you for your unique set of skills requires a specific type of professional character that benefits you in the following ways:

  • It’s a competitive advantage. Everyone will want to work with you rather than others who may be better skilled than you.

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Image Credit: Morguefile

There are many reasons a business might not invest in user research. I’ve heard it all. This is unfortunate as it’s the one major differentiator that separates real User Experience Design from Visual Design.

Here’s to breaking some common misconceptions.

Communication is our only ally to giving others an understanding of our reasoning. It’s what connects us to each other’s hearts and minds. If you don’t say anything, you’ll never know if you align with others.

There’s a saying in Canada about the US election that if you didn’t vote, you automatically voted for Trump. There may be reasons that will come up after some qualitative research, but until we hear them, we can only speculate.

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Image Credit: Morguefile

Likewise, in this common scene in the product design world, a sprint retrospective happens at regular intervals. This offers an open forum for every member of the cross-functional team to provide feedback about the latest iteration of work in the pursuit of process improvement. When asked for thoughts or post-it notes about what to discuss, some sit in silence, despite having a contrasting opinion. …

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Image Credit: Morguefile

The world is not often the way that we imagine it to be. Things might not work the way you expect. Our time is precious. If things aren’t designed clearly or efficiently, it can impact our lives profoundly and we express our frustrations to others in the form of complaints. Who wants to listen to that?

You might recognize some of these statements:

This thing doesn’t work.

Transit is broken.

Why haven’t we cured cancer already?

Why is there a lineup?

This is so boring.

I hate my job.

These are all statements that come from your inner child. They encapsulate the ability in all of us to recognize when things just aren’t quite right. …

Most tech startups generally begin with a strong engineering-focus to get off the ground. They decide they want to create an app so they hire developers to start building things and then add an Agile project manager to organize it all.

“Let’s start off lean, because it doesn’t have to be pretty now.”

A common problem arises when a shiny new UX Designer joins midway through the project because your developers don’t have the time nor expertise to make your product user-centric. By then you could be too far along to take action on the research that uncovered a boatload of required changes. Your scope will creep and you don’t have the budget to adjust. Everyone is overworked but your new hire will stand in the corner pondering his / her job security. …

A woman fell unconscious at the bottom of the escalator at Finch station this Tuesday morning. They stopped the escalators so she wouldn’t get trampled. There were half a dozen concerned bystanders surrounding her. Two of them crouched down to make sure she was comfortable. She had all the help she needed until the ambulance arrived. This was not the first time I’ve witnessed acts of public kindness in Toronto.
The first thing they teach in First Aid is to act instead of react. If someone collapses in front of you, it’s ok. As long as you stopped to check and ask about their well-being, that’s the best anyone can hope for. It means you decided not to walk by or stand there with gawker syndrome. Instead, you decided to give a shit today. Stopping to help someone could mean waiting until the ambulance arrives, or after the paramedics leave. That moment of time you spent just saved someone’s life.
If you collapsed in the street, wouldn’t you want someone to at least ask if you’re okay?
“Love and Compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” …


Janis Yee

Teaching and inspiring others about holistic experience design in digital and beyond

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