Pair Designing Our Relationship

How we applied UX principles for knowing each other better


I spent the last three months in San Francisco, where I took part in Tradecraft, a personal incubator for startup professionals. For 90 days from 9 am till 9 pm I was digging into UX. That meant almost no personal life whatsoever. What is more, for all that time I was 6000 miles away from my girlfriend.

A week ago I finally returned home to Lithuania and saw my girlfriend Guoda. No more skype talks! We took a little vacation and spent some time together. Though, I discovered that I just can’t live without UX and sticky notes anymore. So we decided to run a little workshop.

Write Down All Your Wishes

Earlier, my sister told how she did a one-hundred-wish exercise. The exercise is simple: sit and write down at least 100 wishes. At first, it looks super easy, until you come to 30-40 wishes and think that there is nothing more you desire. That inspired the idea for our workshop.

The first step was to write down all our wishes separately. So we sat down, took a bunch of sticky notes each and kept on writing. It took few hours to write down 50-60 wishes until we ran out of imagination.

Then we took each others sticky notes and read them through. Discovering each other’s wishes and desires was the best part!

Cloud of my wishes
Columns of Guoda’s wishes

Group Your Wishes

The second step was to group all the wishes. We used an approach similar to affinity maps. We sorted sticky notes into groups, named them, then discovered some inconsistencies and renamed and regrouped them. It took several iterations until it looked like this.

Yellow sticky notes are my girlfriend’s wishes, the green ones are mine.

There were some interesting findings:

  • Guoda had more equal distribution among the groups.
  • I dominated in Professional and Physical Self Improvement columns, while my girlfriend had double more in Spiritual Growth and Family columns.
  • Most of my wishes were goal-oriented (such as ‘walk 60 miles in 24 hours), while my girlfriend’s wishes were mostly process-oriented (such as ‘walk more’).

Map Overlapping Wishes

We caught ourselves saying: ‘I want this wish as well!’, so we decided to mark the wishes that were overlapping. We dot-voted the wishes that we wanted to achieve from each others lists. Here are the results:

Full circle — I want to do exactly the same, Empty — I want to do almost the same.

Our findings:

  • The most overlapping areas were Spiritual Growth and Lifestyle. These areas included more general notes such as ‘to be a better person’ or ‘lifetime learning’, capturing our core values. That’s how we clarified the foundation of our relationship.
  • The least similarities were in Skills and Professional Growth, because we work in different fields and have different hobbies. Though, few similarities surprised us both (ex. we both want to run a marathon).

Conclusion

As in UX workshops, the goal of such an exercise is to encourage conversations. For a few days it fuelled meaningful discussions, during which we realised that each of us have different things on our minds at the moment. While I care the most about my career path, Guoda is more concerned about spiritual growth and relationships. Now it is easier to support each other in fulfilling our needs.


The workshop also helped to know each other better and to find out some interesting facts. Now I know that my girlfriend wants to learn dancing, so I’ll share what I’ve learnt during 10 years of sport dancing. And Guoda will teach me drawing, since she has graduated from art school.


Thanks Guoda for helping me write this blog post.
Thank you
Jordan and Norman for helping out with grammar. (By the way they are amazing UX designers!)