Jesse Taggert

communication :: user experience :: design

Posts from the ‘Graphic design’ category

No one ever designed a phone just to turn it off

MicrointeractionsLast Tuesday June 12th, I attended a panel on Microinteractions held at Smart Design. It was also a sort of book launch party for Dan Saffer, Director of Interaction Design at Smart Design and author of the recent book, “Microinteractions.”

Here are some notes, thoughts, and questions I had from the experience.

The Incredible Story of Patron X:

Dan told us about of Patron X: a gentleman sitting front row at a prestigious NYC orchestra performance whose phone alarm went off. And off and off and off, so much so that the conductor stopped the show until it was turned, well, OFF. Patron X, the offending audience member, was named thus to protect his identity, the audience was that incensed.

It’s a key example of the value of effective microinteractios. As Dan said, “No one ever buys a phone because you can turn the ringer off.”

Faves and Failures

Dan asked each panelist to share microinteractions that have delighted and microinteractions that have disappointed:

Karen Kaushansky, Principal Device Interaction Designer at Jawbone/Jambox):

Postive: Recently as Karen was following step by step instructions on her smart phone to install a device in her car, the app offered a button to click to turn her phone into a flashlight—at the exact stage when peering into a dark space of her car.

Negative: “You have one unread messages.” Language that doesn’t cover obvious use cases.

Kristen Culp, VP Operations at Pebble Technology: 

Positive: Nest Thermostat and how “it” “greets you” with a glowing light upon approach and illuminates a leaf icon when changing the temperature. The leaf lets you know the most economic/environmentally friendly setting as you are making the choice of how high or low to turn the thermostat. It effects decision making right at the most effective point.

Negative: the entire self-checkout experience at the grocery store, especially the payment flow that includes two different screens and hardware devices replete with ambiguously competing checkout steps.

Bill DeRouchey, Principal Designer at GE Global Research:

Positive: Mac OSX dialogue box that just shakes if the password is wrong.

Negative: Facebook bobbly chat heads one’s news stream. (I offered up “It makes you throw your friends away to end a conversation.”) Also, the dialogue box with a bank he used to use only offered “Sure” and “No, thanks” as options when doing serious financial transactions. There is a time for casual tone and a time for total clarity.

Dan Saffer (moderator, author, Smart Design)

Positive: Waze asked him if the route he took a few days in a row was his commute and would he like the app to remember that?

Negative: Anything where the tone is off. Trying to be cute but coming off weird or snarky.

What’s micro about micro-interactions? And other thoughts

Some takeaways:

  • Microinteractions are not major features. Done well, they are unexpected ways to ease the experience, delight, and create an emotional connection between brand/product/user
  • Bad interactions result in bad product reviews. It hits a nerve in people.
  • Great interactions often just result in silence because people tend to act on the negative, not the positive. Or, if you are lucky it will generate major positive buzz.
  • Microinteractions sometimes sacrifice precision for ease of concept.(ie labels like “this morning, yesterday, etc” instead of “08:34 am”)
  • When seeking client/product buy in on time needed to develop, speak in terms of business value: they can increase conversions, speed up implementation, etc. Don’t just say “brand value.”
  • As products have the ability to learn more about your behavior, they can become predictive. There’s an opportunity here for microinteractions to draw on that intelligence.
  • There is a value of an interaction anticipating a your need before you even realize it. (I think of G-mail prompting me if I want to send an email that contains the word “attachment” when in fact there is no file attached.)
  • It’s not just about consumer facing products. There are huge opportunities in enterprise products where power uses are in a specific interactive ecosystem all day.
  • Large companies like Google and Apple can dedicate teams to developing these. Smaller groups need to just fit it in however they can. It’s worth it.
  • It often takes complexity to make simple experiences.

Lingering questions

At the end of the discussion the panelist mused on the future of microinteractions. What role will predictive intelligence play in interactions? I wonder about the creepiness factor. Do I want products “knowing” and inviting me to act or not act on behaviors that may or may not be positive or something I would share with people? How do we keep the balance of agency? Who is driving what here?

When using colloquial language for interactive copy, how can we be sure to not alienate those who are not the same socio-economic,racial, or age groups?

How much should one test microinteractions? Usability tests? A/B tests? Analyzing overall metrics? What about the discovery of microinteractive opportunities by talking either directly with the intended audience or those who have already done their design research?

Going back to my past career as a museum exhibit designer, I can’t help but wonder what the equivalent is for experiencing a museum exhibit. What are the small interactions that delight and help a museum goer? Sightlines, copy that acknowledges the viewer standing right there reading it, and possibly shifting light in relation to viewer activity are some that come to mind.

Lots of details to think about and looking forward to my next project.

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Typo SF Sketch notes 2013

It’s been a couple of months but wanted to share my sketch notes from TypoTalks SF.
It’s such an intimate experience to listen so intently and translate these designers’ and artists’ passion, intellect, and generosity into my synthesized drawings. You can also view them all on my Flickr page.


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Understanding Design

FROM THE VAULT > Book Review originally published in 2006 for the Boston AIGA Journal of Design

Understanding Design: 150 Reflections on Being a Designer

by Kees Dorst, BIS Publishers, Amsterdam © 2003, 208 pages; reprinted by Ginko Press, 2004

It’s not a monograph, it’s not a “best of” anthology, its not an annual. There are no images. Few specific examples. The spine is too stiff. The ink is not black enough. The pages are printed on a slick Kinko’s-like paper that certainly makes “grasping the idea” a challenge as your hands slide off every page like baby powder on a plastic table top.

“When you design, you are actually creating two things in parallel: the design itself and the story behind it.”  -p.29

Book coverWhat does grab you are one hundred and fifty thoughtful one-page essays about D/design. Kees Dorst, a Dutch product designer, design researcher, and philosopher presents us with a collection of his observations about design. Dorst contends design is an activity with diverse outlets and outcomes (buildings, objects, posters) that shares certain intentions and processes, regardless of discipline. Rarely citing his own work, every essay is instead constructed as a general thought-inquiry that requires You the Reader to supply your own experiences in order to prove/disprove his statements. This is an engaging device. While reading these essays and assessing their validity, one begins to ask: “Have I experienced this?” “HOW have I experienced this?” “Should I be experiencing this?” “Should I blame myself or can I blame my job if I have/haven’t experienced this?”

Although Dorst claims his primary audience are young designers fresh out of school in need of some practical advice entering the design profession, he also suggests these essays can challenge or reinforce design beliefs for more established professionals.

It should be noted that even though most of what Dorst writes aptly supports or challenges the experience of graphic design, his specific observations when citing graphic design are shaky. He is more successful when he focuses on examples drawn from his own experiences with product design or keeps it general.

“…design options should not just be variations on a single idea. They should be based upon different interpretations of the design problem…”  (p. 53)

Overall, the one pages essay format is successful and approachable. They require little time to read and can be encountered in any order. Dorst’s essays often end juicily with statements like: “Design is highly addictive” or “It is strange to realize we are all sinners, some of the time” or my personal favorite “Designers are basically medieval in the way they think.”

The drawback to the one page format is that some ideas can’t be discussed in depth enough to convince the reader of the validity of the author’s opinion. In addition, some of the essays appear fatigued or just slightly more articulate than a rushed journal entry. That does not, however, take away from the overall affect of being challenged to define and expand what Your Experience with design is, theoretically and practically.

Dorst writes calmly and thoughtfully with a balanced voice between ideas and practice. Despite the slippery pages of the actual book, his words do take a hold and linger long after the one page reading experience passes. This book is a good “pick up anytime” volume to coach, challenge, and illuminate your profession.

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Sketch notes from the first TYPO SF 2012


I’m looking forward to the 2013 TYPO San Francisco this April. I had a blast drawing sketch notes from the 2012 event. It’s a delightful challenge to watch, listen, synthesize, and draw at the same time. Here are the sketch notes from last  year. Often, I would sketch the main shapes and words in black and round out with color and texture right after the talk.


  Sketch notes from 2012, TYPO San Francisco are also on my Flickr page


Connecting ourselves

There are no lack of “connections” these days. Weak or strong, in your face, or trolling Facebook at 1 am, you can connect with family, friends, brands, your bank, your fitness behavior, and at least a hundred tentacles of email newsletters unread in your Inbox that you enthusiastically subscribed to at some point.

Immersed in this connection glut, you try to gain control by defining and refining lists—whom you spend your time with online, whom you see in person—while still placing yourself in situations to have chance connections that might enrich your life. (Have you ever stayed that extra half hour at a boring party just to see what might happen after “giving up”?)

When I think about connecting and I think about design, I am aware of two things. The first is obvious: good design makes connecting with the people and things you already know easier and the people and things youought to know easier. Secondly: experiencing something that is well designed connects you to the people who crafted the experience. The designed object or experience becomes its own conduit—reminding us that whoever designed this interface, book, movie, coffeepot and pair of glasses has offered to us, an artifact of their internal creative connections that created this in the first place. It is a quieter, often faceless connection that is everywhere.

If only we are not too connected to notice.

This is a modified version of an essay I wrote to win a pass to attend TYPO San Francisco 2012 earlier this year.


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Exercise at #sketchcamp: redesign a ballot based on a voter persona. by @danachis


Dana Chisnell who runs Usability Works presented at Sketchcamp. Instead of a lecture, she jumped right in and asked us to break into groups, and start redesigning a sample ballot based on one of about 10 voter personas (first time voter, low visibility, etc.). At first I was hesitant to switching from “audience” mode to designer but then warmed up. People presented some great ideas by the end of this short session.

Learn more about ballot design.


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