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i made a decision this morning — and you can tell i’ve been moving in this direction now for quite some time if you’ve been following this blog in any way, right?

its no longer a big mystery

i want to change the world

and i’m a designer by profession — its what i’ve been doing now for over 20 years and i’ve made a nice and bumpy but decent career out of it — its what i do to make money and help my family survive in this complicated and quite chaotic, modernday world

many people — everyday people — pretty much scrounge and scrap their lives together on a week-by-week, paycheck to paycheck basis, which is distracting to those of us that really want to thrive and live up to our full potentials to make a more meaningful contribution to the world that truly creates impact, innovation and change

i’d like to leave the world in a far better place than it feels it is today

we’ve made a lot of amazing progress as a civilizations — but as we all know, thanks pretty much to H2’s amazing educational television programming, Ancient Astronaut Theory suggests that: civilizations come and go; empires rise and fall; nations and peoples grow and thrive and create new and interesting developments for our humanity and then, as the pattern would have it, they just disappear

as individuals, we really have very little control over many aspects of our lives — and it can be a little overwhelming and frustrating to think of how much of our lives, as individuals, is governed and regulated by our currently-established systems

these systems, for the most part, from an individual’s perspective { at least from my perspective }, are typically dysfunctional, to put it politely { wink, wink }

in fact, these systems are now simply broken

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you don’t need to think too hard about it, right? at least if you’re truly coming at it from your average citizen’s perspective

if our government supposedly represents an active and functional Democratic System that’s created and guided ‘By The People, For The People’ — then either the system itself is a vast illusion and we’ve all been constantly lied to by The Powers that Be or its completely failing us

Consumerism and Capitalism aside — the guiding principles and philosophical concepts behind our Democracy as its practiced today is a total failure for the majority of The People living under its governance

please, someboady … correct me if i’m wrong

show me the data

i am not personally an expert in Big Data analysis or statistics, but i understand our current culture of Science and Information Worship seems to trust and drive a lot of very key decisions by the metrics that are so conveniently 2 or 3 levels removed from any sense of responsibility to The People that these oftentimes quantifiable data derive from

anyhow — i want to actually use my expertise to do more than simply make a living

and i don’t have a lot of free time on hand — most people don’t

but, with the free time that comes up in my life, i am now planning on devoting some positive design energies and activities to making effective change in the dynamics at play between The Systems and The People of this nation { and then eventually, The World }

these are big, bold aspirations, i know

but i believe in pursuing The Impossible

if you don’t aim toward The Big Blue Sky or The MoonShot { as GoogleX refers to that extraStratospheric thinking that might lead to bigger and better Design Thinking } you’ll probably never take the proper risks and efforts involved in real innovation

one system i haven’t yet mentioned in this blogPost is a rather interesting one that’s based totally outside the realms of physical reality and any sense of real accountability to The Government, The People, The World and Our Overall Humanity

and this is our Corporate Systems

as far as i can tell, at least from my more qualitative assessment of our current situation of dysfunctional energies in the world, international corporatization — or what some might refer to as our movement toward Globalism — behaves at the devolved, reptilian level of The Animal Kingdom

and in many ways, our corporations currently run the entire world

our government takes second seat at The Economic Theatre — and unfortunately, The People of The World typically sit in the nosebleeds

the financial dynamics of a predominantly Capitalistic Consumerism merely disguised as a supposed Democracy allows for this sort of Lord of The Flies society completely run wild

its an entirely new case of The Lunatics running The Asylum

so, how can we change this? what real power do we have as average taxpaying citizens in the world we live in today? do we write our Senator? does voting actually help the real cause of leading the world to a safer and more responsible, reasonable place for at least 80% of The People?

i don’t think so

not anymore

and i believe we can no longer afford to simply sit at home as armchair citizens that simply watch The Show and complain from the sidelines about all the wrong moves we’re currently making as a world organism — unless we roll up our sleeves and start really getting our hands dirty through real, active participation, none of this will every change for the better

and because i am a designer, i am going to participate through my Designwork

i want to empower The People again — and i want the dynamics to switch, flip and change to something that makes a lot better sense as a process to leadership

human-centered design processes based in both quantitative and qualitative research, iterative design work, and innovation through collaboration are the only way we can start pushing toward a better tomorrow that actually speaks to the promise of what our technohumanic progress was supposed to be to begin with

we had big dreams — a vision for the future and what technological advancement would mean to the future of our social humanity — but somewhere along the way we forgot to actually Design that vision to function for the benefit of real people

our economics work to financially and functionally benefit Big Government and Big Corporations

the bigger the better, right?

but what about The People

don’t we deserve better than this? well, i hate to break it to you, but

we only deserve better if we work for it

and what better way to work for a better tomorrow than by contributing your individual expertise to the cause?

i am going to Design for a Better Tomorrow

it might not be the way i’ll make my bi-weekly paycheck { although i also aim for my day designwork to benefit the majority of the people my designs aim to serve }, but it will be the way my Bigger Design Thinking will be leveraged to help with The Big Picture to hopefully get it closer and closer to Bluer Skies for The People of The World

uxWTF experience design challenge #1 — CVS receipt reDesign { please }

okay, okay, okay — for those of you that might personally know me in some way from the UX and Design Community, and by know me i mean really know me, you’ve probably heard me rant on about the real reasons why i am a user-centered designer

most people outside of the profession simply assume that all designers have this wonderful and delicate appreciation for elegant design in the world and that their passion and motivations lie somewhere within the logic of thereby wanting to design and bring to life newer designs as inspired by Bauhaus, clean and minimalist typography or by some self-delusional thinking that our contributions as designers in modernday society will somehow make for a greener, more peaceable and liveable planet

sorry if this sounds like a loaded way to re-introduce myself here for you — i don’t mean to sound hostile or pessimistic or negative in any way, believe me — i’m actually quite a lighthearted and humorous person in person, if you know what i mean — but i want you to understand MY reasons for being a designer, which i don’t think are too atypical, but they’re definitely not reasons most designers typically discuss in such a public forum

i design because i am constantly frustrated

yep, there ya go — i said it out loud { or as loud as you can get in blogPost format } — i’m frustrated, constantly frustrated: with the way the world is; with the horrendous design of just about everything we encounter in life; with the ridiculously backwards and twisted way everything seems to be better designed for The System, for information and data, for Machine-to-Machine Communication and Interaction { or M2M if you wanna get all TLA on that shit }, but not nearly even remotely designed for human consumption, use or participation

so, here we go — no real fantastic segue, fade or transition here to help move into this next concept, you now know my personal and professional motivations as a user-centered design professional and performance artist — they’re actually quite political reasons to do what i do, but let’s not get into that now, aight?

right now i want to talk about an idea that came to me recently while taking care of business in a public office restroom { this is where i get my most brilliant ideas, as funny as it sounds, in the handicap stall while sitting on the porcelain throne } — thinking about these frustrating experiences i keep bumping into out there in the world, i tried to figure out a way i could actually make discussions like these more consumable, more relatable and — most importantly — more actionable

i mean, how could i inspire other people to work with me in some collaborative capacity to actually redesign these horrifically poor and annoying experiences even if there might be no actual paying project on the books, even if there is no real financial reason to tackle these vital worldly challenges, even if the ONLY potential motivation to change these experiences is simply embedded in the very human need to show off what real, innovative design thinking can do to improve and better optimize our universal human experience and to hopefully become ubiquitously famous through these public, humorously expressed issues and processes to show people how to actually change the world

i mean, i’m talkin’ Steve Jobs level shit here — just without all the asshole politics and multimillionaire nerdy swagger of ‘The Genius’ bullshit we’re all led to believe about iPod Man

and it all starts with this concept

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let’s take a look, in blog serial format, at a list of these frustrating experiences through user-centered investigation and photodocumentation and see if we can’t put our heads together and fix this shit

its not that difficult people

its really not

and i’m here to help ya

let’s start with this one, this little uxWTF? design challenge:

the CVS receipt reDesign

now, to be completely fair here, this is NOT solely a CVS-related UX offense we’re talking about, right? we’ve all experienced this at NUMEROUS retail consumer establishments — it just so happens, though, that i’ve been picking up my meds a lot lately { thank gawd, right? who knows what this post’d be about without ’em ;] } and this similarly strange feat of cash register magic recurs like fucking clockwork with each and every transaction at the CVS Pharmacy and even at the front counter { not sure on the Photo Lab area, though, let me know if you can verify this same phenomena happening there, too }

let’s take a looksy

here’s what the CVS Pharmacy Technician handed me at the register before wishing me to, ‘Have a nice day’ …

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look familiar? this receipt — and i kid you not — this receipt is almost as tall as i am

that’s ridiculous

its just fucking ridiculous

what a waste of the life of a sapling

and you know what? i never ever use the coupons on these neverending receipts — never

i bet someone takes advantage of the remarkable savings provided by Consumer Value Stores, but i personally think the benefits or value i get from these veritable partystreamers of savings do not in any way outweigh the environmental cost or just the frigging paperwaste nuisance of these amazing little lengthy souvenirs i collect from each trip to the national chain convenience store

i used to actually save these receipts and scotchtape them together to write on the eventually handmade collaged side of my frankenpaper sans ink — but c’mon, seriously? seriously?

so, uhm, i don’t know — i recently downloaded and started using the CVS smartphone app on my android mobile device, and i actually think the app would be a far more appropriate delivery mechanism for these additional CVS membership savings — could be nicer, right?

a LOT nicer

i mean, we know they’re tracking our every purchase via the app or our CVS loyalty card much-like any supermarket, department store or other corporate chain of transactional wonderment, and i think it would be the very least they could do for us — let’s get smart, now, aight? — THIS might actually be one of the best potential implementations for those semi-bizarre and overused / misused QR codes { QR = quick response, in case you weren’t already in the know } — i mean, it might be superCool and magically fantastic if the entire CVS members rewards savings systems { and that of other similarly national chain-like corporate establishments } all somehow leveraged the app or the card, right? but at the very least, bring out the QR codes, print ’em right on the receipt, and then it might be, i don’t know, 6 inches long at the most { mostly now depending on just how many items you purchased from the store, not how much psychosocial data-driven stalker suggestions they can spit back at you } — i mean, we don’t need to memorialize last Tuesday’s purchases from the pharmacy for any real reasons as average American citizens now, do we? in fact, the printed proof is in some ways an actual privacy liability that could potentially break patient confidentiality { but maybe not, i’d need to actually read my receipt to see what’s listed for my recent pharmacy purchase }

on another note — and this is something i am just DYING to see happen in the very-near future — i would also love to see these apps and other store membership systems that track our every micropurchase behavior actually provide our data for US to usethe government sees my data, stores and financial institutions see my data, Hell, even offshore agencies working for credit card and other similarly skanky organizations most likely have more access to my personal transactional behavioral information than i do as the user of these systems, as the actual supposed member of these systems { whatever that means to me at this point, right? }

show me the data!

i think its about time to better empower the people through the access and flow of our data

and its also about time that we start turning the tables a bit and actually get paid for sharing our data with these organizations — why do we so willingly sign up for these services that basically steal our information and use it for the big consumer feedback loop for devious subliminal purchase suggestions from The Man { in a rather loose and corporatey collective sense of definition } — i mean, i know i know, we willingly sign up for these services and give it all away for free, like the utter dopes we all are — but c’mon, let’s get it back, let’s take back what’s rightfully ours and what should be ONLY ours unless we make a little jing in the deal — and i’m not talking about this beautiful, easy ‘giving back’ gesture we receive upon receipt, this paper streaming printed register tape of coupon savings, i’m talkin’ about actually gettin’ paid

pay up bitches!

you want this? you want this data?

pay me

let’s discuss design performance

i recently bumped across this rather incredible article on Co.DESIGN entitled, ‘4 Secrets For Doing Gonzo User Research‘ — and the article helped put some interesting historical context around one of the 4 major project streams i pursued and captured in my MFA Design thesis ‘confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy

so, in the Co.DESIGN article they discuss a form of first-person research as first formalized by the designer Patricia Moore — as a way to study the actual human experience of target demographic, Moore …

‘… dressed as an elderly lady, wearing prosthetics that restricted her movement and eyesight.’

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the insight that Moore gathered by going undercover as an elderly woman with realistically limited visual and physical faculties helped influence her thinking as a designer, bringing a heightened awareness and perspective to her work — one more closely aligned with the actual people that would eventually use the designs resulting from her research and design work

Her experiences transformed the way Raymond Loewe’s team designed for less able users

as a user experience design professional with a secret nighttime, after hours life as a performance artist — my graduate work at Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design quite naturally delved into explorations that combined these 2 areas of practice in ways i had never previously personally explored

my personal heroes — the original inspiration for the kind of performance art i do — came from the work of fantastic innovators that i’ve admired, like: Andy Kaufman; Sasha Baron Cohen; George Carlin; Alan Funt; Chuck Barris; Anaïs Nin; Carolee Schneemann; Rod Serling; and numerous others — but, first and foremost, my brand of performance art follows the interventionist and subversive spirit found throughout Kaufman’s work

from the outside of his ofttimes off-putting and controversial work, the majority of Kaufman’s target audience — apparently the general american public { mostly television watching, suburbanites } — might not even understand the prankish nature of Kaufman’s work — in other words, the audience is not in on the joke, which is very confrontational, very aggressive and unkind in many ways

now — of course — most of us watching the historic footage of Andy Kaufman’s appearances on the first episode of Saturday Night Live, on David Letterman, etcetera — remain part of the other side of these performances, but now that we understand that he’s a comedian delivering from the practice of performance art in the unusual context of mainstream televised media — now that we’re in on the joke — Kaufman’s work seems less threatening and a LOT more humorous, clever, and to some, like me, actually ingenious — the oeuvre of his work becomes a sort of ongoing performative social commentary meant to wake us up and start to question, as the audience, this one-to-many, one way, consumeristic broadcast delivery mechanism — and, much-like the very iterative and experimental way in which a traditional stand-up comedian tries out his or her bits on stage to eventually build, test and refine a set act of material, Kaufman very bravely discover and build his very own vocabulary in mediated performance art for the mainstream to then engage in this dialog of awkward self-awareness

at this point i think of Andy Kaufman’s comedy as something situated between Theatre of the Absurd and Theatre of Cruelty — he’s showing us in the 1970s just how silly television really is, how easily we are consumed by our own consumerist broadcast box but then also showing us, as the audience, just how stuck and defenseless we are as well-trained american citizens

if we watch some of Kaufman’s earlier appearances now, and switch our own perspective to imagine what it must’ve been like from Andy’s perspective to perform in this way — after all, i really think that’s what his work is all about at the end of the day — its more for him than us — he’s getting a total rise out of these subversive experiments with the medium of mainstream television — just looking at his later work of challenging women to wrestling matches alone exposes this aspect of his work, this sort of total provocation of the masses accompanied by a personal rise, even, in this case, quite literally, a sexual rise { as according to Zmuda’s Andy Kaufman Revealed!, Kaufman sexually enjoyed getting sexually excited in the ring, and most likely also got turned on during his rather ridiculous anti-femminist shouting matches with potential future female wrestlers, with his ‘weaker sexed’ adversaries — such a despicable ploy, to play the part of the male chauvinist asshole comedian }

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so, it seems to me there are 2 rather valuable lessons to learn from this conversation about what Co.DESIGN calls gonzo design and what i am calling design performance — and as a design professional i very highly recommend we all start to get more active with our design processes and explore deepening our personal awareness of the experiential aspects of our potential designs using the following 2 activities or experimental approaches:

  • be the user / audience / participant — go ahead, put on a costume and get out there and experience the world with some semblance of a prototypic manifestation of the environment, object or experience you’re exploring in your design research — get all Patricia Moore on that shit, aight? — you’ll be delighted and surprised how much insight you can gather using this amazingly enlightening first person approach { although it can get a little risky at times, too, depending on how far you take it }
  • confront the user / audience / participant — take a well-established medium, like television in the case of Andy Kaufman, and be bad with it — do all the wrong things for a change — break some conventions, hurt people’s feelings, destroy all the typical expectations we all have with a medium we might all now take for granted — i’ll bet there’s some valuable terrain to discover, and things will get crazy sociological real fast in quite a wonderful and fun way — you’ll get a LOT closer to understanding context, delivery, mental and behavioral modes and concepts of distribution, consumption, use, and so on — this is definitely the path less traveled that could lead to areas of innovation, excitement and adventure

nobody said you need to sit on your ass in front of a computer to design, right? that’s just the toolset they keep pushing on us in academic and professional settings — its up to us, its our obligation as designers, to keep the field fresh and active and exciting and to make sure we keep the word DESIGN in the realm of an action verb, not just a noun that describes the final, object-based results of the actual living, breathing, writhing process we all know and love along the way when its done right, when its injected with the proper doses of vigor, vim and real human energy

the decision

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i’m re-reading Luke Wroblewski’s A Book Apart instant UX classic Mobile First while traveling to New York City on an Amtrak train and simultaneously reading Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin — i sort of take a break from one by reading a bit from the other — i’ll admit, its an early ride in to The City and i’m kind of nodding off from time to time, wiping the drool out of the left corner of my mouth from time to time, but its an interesting little ping pong combination of intellectual consumption to start the mind to wonder

i think a lot about mobile experiences

i design for mobile, ubiquitous and cross-domain experiences at Mobiquity, which is like the best job i’ve had so far as a design professional and as someone who is personally interested in influencing the way we think, design and ultimately use our technological advancements and innovations

i mean, for the first time in more than a decade i actually get to DESIGN with a capital D

there’s no time for the typical politics and the dreadful corporate trumpings that come with the terrain of egomaniacal VP opinions and Jobsian self-proclaimed geniusness on the part of this marketing guru or that cSuite idea killer — we’re simply trusted to do our job and amazing shit gets done because of this sort of setup in the workplace

but this isn’t an endorsement for the firm i currently work for { well, i guess its a micro-endorsement of sorts, right? we’re growing, let me know if you’re interested in joining The Mob, aight? }

back to the topic, back to the wondering

i sometimes think that all of this anywhere, anytime connectedness afforded us as modern people has more negatives than pluses — i hate to say it, but i’m not the kind of person that simply drinks the kool-aid and just loves every device, every software, every social web experience, all technology — i hope you don’t mind

having this sort of critical pessimism for our progress via technological innovation, as much as it might seem to conflict with the very core of being an experience designer for mobile technologies, actually helps me scrutinize every aspect of the experiences i design on a day-to-day basis

makes a lot of sense, right?

i don’t ever simply agree with the latest interaction paradigm and stick it into my design work just because its at the bleeding edge — or, if its something that works for the Facebook app, i don’t necessarily think its some experiential interaction we should simply copy-paste and plop over into an entirely different experience

although cookie cutter approaches can sometimes save a client money and cut corners off of the edge of time, i don’t bake like that at all

hope you don’t mind, but i think we should really craft these experiences in very thoughtful and deliberate ways — and we should review and assess each design in an iterative fashion and see how that design work or doesn’t work and adjust it along the way using real human decision-making processes as informed by smart interpretation of the findings we gather from usability, data collection from embedded metric reporting mechanisms, qualitative observation and interviewing, all that amazing stuff that makes us more like cartoonish forensic scientists and crime scene investigators with pockets full of pixels as opposed to little DaVinci’s with a big paint-by-number outlook on how to cobble together the Mona Lisa 2.0

ya know?

so, back to Wroblewski and Martin, now, perhaps?

depending on your outlook, your mood and the people you socially experience along the journey of your day, you might view the new push to mobilize just about damned near everything as either extremely negative or extremely positive — if we translate that to the theatrical equivalents of asking something like:

do our mobile devices result in a future social story of our technohumanic tragedy or comedy?

well, i tend to think of it all from Steve Martin’s perspective

what wonderful opportunity to gather new material for farce and spoof and stand-up hilarity

but then, like the stand-up comedian, we should perhaps learn to see how the audience immediately receives the jokes we live while we’re talkin’ on the phone, texting or accessing the web in highly public situations, right? and then, uhm, we can hopefully all learn to adjust the act a little bit, in a more intentional and consciously aware sort of way

humor that’s been carefully honed, crafted and developed is almost always bound to be far funnier and enjoyable than the potentially risky and tragic alternative of improvised and unthoughtful mayhem

at least that’s my humble opinion as a semi-professional humorist and lifelong late-blooming technologist