• 25 May 2012

Accepting New Projects

It’s been a hectic first half of the year but I finally have some breathing space to take on new projects.

Specifically I’m looking for something really different to work on - a new challenge that gets me thinking. So if you need a seasoned user experience designer who know his way around content strategy, information architecture and interface design then give me a shout. See my previous work here

Twitter: @mrkevmcg | Email: me@kevmcg.com

  • 6 January 2012

I’ve seen this video pop up a few times on my Twitter stream recently; mostly accompanied by a comment like this:

I lost count of how many times I threw up during this video. Is this a joke? A joke video? - @goodonpaper

At the time of writing the original YouTube post has 177 dislikes and 16 likes. It’s quite unusual for this type of video to provoke such a response that 177 people could be bothered to click the dislike button - that sort of reaction is usually reserved for ladies pushing cats into bins.

So what makes this video so bad? Firstly, the similarities in design between HP’s new product and the well established MacBook range from Apple is enough to get up most people’s noses. But more than that I think it’s the language in which the designers in the video describe their product. Emphasis on ‘their’.

"Once you get past that initial look and feel of the product, which is gorgeous, there is a deeper level of design that is part of the discovery process." - Kevin Massaro - Manager, Industrial Design

"… we integrated a volume wheel that has what I call ‘interaction gravity’. That interaction gravity is what pulls people into the product to interact with it." - Kevin Massaro - Manager, Industrial Design

It’s the sort of over the top descriptive language that has people reaching for the sick bucket. It also exacerbates the public perception of the design industry as a group of elitist, waffling snobs who pluck adjectives from thin air to try and convince us that we need their products in our lives.

In the video the design team refers to the end user on a number of occasions but I can’t help but get the feeling that they themselves were the end user reference point throughout the process.

It’s a familiar trap - you’re so happy with your own work that you lose sight of the bigger picture and you take decisions on behalf of the end user. This is all part of a designer’s job of course but there is a balance to be found. When working in a design bubble it’s almost impossible to take feedback or criticism in any form and the end result is usually a product that you love but no one else does.

From a web design point of view, the way to avoid the design bubble is to involve your end users throughout the process. When you only ask questions of yourself it’s easy to come up with all the right answers. But when you have the real people who are using your product posing difficult questions, then you are really out of your comfort zone. Working with your users in this way also helps you to stay grounded and avoid falling in love with your projects - I’d be surprised to ever hear a UX designer describe their work as gorgeous.

User centred design and UX design are familiar principles in modern web design but I wonder if these practices are as common in other design disciplines. Perhaps the cost of iteration is too high in product design or the design process is more evolutionary based on previous models of the same product.

I would love to hear from some product designers about their approach to projects and how it compares to the web design process that I’m familiar with. Leave a comment?

  • 4 January 2012

Whitney Hess on context

… we have gotten into the habit of presuming that mobile means on-the-go, desktop denotes a desk, and tablet is on the toilet. But increasingly the lines are blurring on where devices are being used and how they’re being used in unison. This year I have learned to see devices as location agnostic and instead associate them with purpose—I want to check (mobile), I want to manage (desktop), I want to immerse (tablet).

Yeesh, I’ve been doing this as a user without even realising it. It makes much more sense to design for context rather than location or device.

Read Whitney’s full article here

  • 4 January 2012

I found this book “How To Cheat At Cooking ” a few years back. Unlike its modern companions this cookbook (published in 1971) has no imagery other than these great hand drawn illustrations at the beginning of each chapter.

Carefully composed photography and typesetting are the hallmarks of modern cookbooks. Designed to entrance casual browsers and make them believe they can easily recreate what they see on the glossy pages, even the modern version of this particular book has a familiar aesthetic to it.

I love how the unassuming design of the original book means that it could almost go un-noticed as a novel. After all, you’re not supposed to advertise the fact that you need to cheat at cooking.

  • 3 January 2012

New Year’s Resolutions 2012

I originally created this blog almost 2 years ago in the hope that a place to showcase some illustrations would force me to actually create some illustrations. While this was true for a while the initial enthusiasm predictably wore off.

Now, in 2012 I hope that this space will help me to achieve a few new year’s resolutions:

  1. Read more
  2. Write more
  3. Finish things
  4. Ask better questions

If your granny had marbles

I used to play marbles with her granny

It’s true, I did.

How’s the Mrs?

Apparently when you see a magpie you’re supposed to say “Hello Mr Magpie, how’s your wife?” and tip your cap at the same time - who knew?

He likes beans

My Dad likes to cook; when he asked my Nephew how the delicately prepared pan-fried salmon on a bed of couscous tasted he got the enthusiastic reply “I LIKE THE BEANS!”. Brilliant.