Tag Archives: design

a little discussion about Behavior Modes

Photo provided courtesy of C. Nancy Niu

Once again — I’m fortunate enough to in life to engage with The Boston Area UX, Design and Tech Community by giving talks on topics I am deeply passionate about within the realms of creativity, collaboration, experience and story.

Akshat Pradhan invited me out to UX Boston last week to present Behavior Modes for UX, an important sub-topic to my larger concept of designing with a storyFirst human-centered design approach. And I got to give the presentation as part of an evening of talks called Ideating Mobile, Prototyping w/ Sketch, and Behavior Modes! that included a talk on The Mobile Ecosystem Matrix from The Meme Design’s Carlos Cardenas and a super helpful prototyping walk-through by Aquent Gymnasium’s Jeremy Osborn.

So, here’s a quick, high-level fly by
on what I’m calling Behavior Modes:


Behavior Modes for UX


In a nutshell — as a now near-20-year-spanning, lifelong experience designer in New England, I feel that UX teams embedded in various firms in the area nicely use all the amazing industry-standard tools and tricks, but we sometimes seem to just go through the motions of assembling the toolkit while missing the core point and actual tactical unique benefits of why we’re using some of these tools to begin with, ya know?

My case in point for this particular talk — personas

Companies develop personas. Sometimes they outsource persona development and invest a lot of big money to conduct painstaking research to craft a fantastic batch of 10 or so personas per user type within a company’s anticipated target audience. And this is all wonderful. It shows that firms are really starting to step up and take research and user-centered methodologies seriously because hopefully they understand that serving people is what we need to be all about.

But …

In 2015 most teams seem to almost treat personas as some sort of Fine Art object we put on the wall. We see faces and little blocks of stats and commentary pinned to the wall like strange dossier-like posters to remind us that there’re people on the other side. Its a bit reminiscent of the hunter’s lodge tucked so politely away in a wooded Vermont hillside cabin, nicely decorated with the dead, static remains from that huge invoice —from all that research — like a pristine, captured set of kills strangely stuffed and mounted to the wall like a museum-like reminder of the people that we once knew and talked to and taxidermically preserved. We got ’em. Check! Task done!

IMGP0305 - Copy.JPG_thumb

But I’m not sure that this is how Alan Cooper intended teams to leverage personas in our daily work. And I’m certain they’re not supposed to simply be flowers on the wall. We’re, at the very least, always supposed to keep the faces, names and motivations of our personas in mind as we design — and I’ve noticed at least a dozen occasions over the last 17 or so years where someone does the whole ‘Do you really think that’s the way TechSavvy Simone would want to create a new user profile on ProductX?

That’s not enough though, right? Just a dozen times in nearly 20 years? C’mon!

I mean, besides UX professionals digging into putting together a list of potential user types and maybe referencing one of the personas as a way to advocate for a semi-fictional real person in a design review meeting, not once have I seen anyone fully embrace the entire potential and value of tuning into your personas.

This is why I am talking about putting our personas into a situational context to bring them to life.

As creatives, I feel that its quite sad how flat and dead our design processes can feel. It seems that you get the gig, set up at a desk, start attending the meetings and doing the work ‘n all — but we all tend to hang up the power of our imagination somewhere else entirely. And this is a shame. After all, these powers and skills are forces we were actually hired by a company to use in our daily design work. But somewhere along the line we all tune out of The Imagination Channel and tune into whatever readymade, prescribed policies and processes make the most sense to use at work because we’re used to them.

I want us to tune back into The Imagination Channel.

Personas are the best way for us as designers to get out of our own heads and into the minds, hearts and emotions of our human users. Its literally a way for us to channel the users in that fuzzy kind of New Age way and wonder from somebody else’s perspective. But I think there’s a reason why our personas remain on the wall in their frozen taxidermied state as these cutely named posters on the wall. Personas need context to come back to life. We need to not only understand the statistics we’ve researched around real people that use our products, but in order to best design for real people we also need to understand:

  • when they’re using the experience(s) we’re designing;
  • how often they use it;
  • why they’re using it in a certain temporal context;
  • how often they might get interrupted mid-task;
  • when and how they might re-engage and continue an interrupted experience with your product or service;
  • where they’re using it;
  • what version of a holistic experience design our users are engaging with ( mobile, desktop, tablet, wearable, kiosk );
  • who else is around when they’re using it;
  • how people use it within different levels of criticality ( if that even pertains to the experience );
  • etcetera, so on and so forth

This is what Behavior Modes are all about.

Behavior Modes are bits and pieces of modular context to map to your personas to better dream up and understand an actual person’s story within a temporal situation as they might experience what you’ve design for them.

I think of Behavior Modes as different than a formal use case scenario, although I imagine you could leverage the contextual factors that come together to make up your behavior modes to develop interesting, near-real-life use cases to consider for your design processes and reviews.

I’m working on formalizing my thoughts around Behavior Modes and my storyFirst Approach to Human-Centered Design and will post more to my blog here as my concepts come together.

Stay tuned!

portrait of the artist { @ work }


on Purpose


we all live relatively short lives

with that in mind — there is not all that much time to really make a difference in peoples’ lives over the course of one life

i am a designer

i am actually both an artist and a designer

its taken me 45 years or so to re-find and refine my personal purpose in life

i am an extremely late bloomer, i guess { as if you couldn’t tell }

but that 45 is just on the art side of who i am as a person — and although i tend to purposely blur the lines between Art and Design, after about 20 years of practicing experience design and related areas within the industry i think i’ve also begun to re-find and refine my personal and professional purpose in life as a designer

i believe its vitally important, too, for designers to find a higher purpose for themselves

it took me a while to actually give myself permission to take this more personal, purpose-driven approach to the work i do, but let me tellya, it makes a world of difference when you look at your life and what you do on a daily basis with the right pair of glasses on — know what i’m sayin’?

the goals you set for yourself while under the influence of your higher design purpose can help put your entire career and your entire life in much better perspective

you start to understand not just what you should do and which fights to fight, but you also start to build a far better understanding behind why we design — there’s a far better precedent put to the work and you can just really sell that shit with a brighter, more meaningful confidence in your heart and in your soul

this purpose that i blog about here, for it to truly help you out { and to truly help out the organizations you work for } — your purpose needs to be bigger than any company, perhaps even bigger than the industry you are designing for

most of the time the truly innovative, speculative design ideas you come up with will be ignored, overlooked, undervalued and perhaps even ridiculed or dismissed — and this is okay, its actually what’s to be expected, as unfortunate as that may sound

your purpose goes with you, though, from place to place to place — and the ideas and the experiences you collect as an employee, which is another way of saying an inside primary user of the company brand experience, gives us all new business dynamics to learn from and to ultimately grow as a business person { and as a designer }

my own personal { and professional } experience design practice advocates for a human feel — the technology needs to serve the people that use it as best as humanly possible, otherwise i feel that we’ve missed the mark as a design and development team, and ultimately { at the overarching level } as a company

stories — real, human-told stories — give us all some guidance for the human-centered design process and help us as designers and developers understand what human considerations need to be made for the systems, interactions and flows we build together

because ultimately — at the end of the day — as interaction and experience design professionals we’re pretty much designing this wonderfully strange, dynamic madlib story for people that need to use our software and we’re asking them to be our characters — we give them props, tasks and ways to accomplish what they might need to get done from using our online { or off } experience, we put them up on the stage, write them into the page, and then they step in and live out the stories that hopefully meet and exceed all of their needs and expectations

we then need to re-read the story and devotedly follow the characters to observe where the story feels broken or less than human enough for the world — observe, analyze, refine, repeat

little by little the hope to improve our human experience in life glows

we bring some light

that lightness then hopefully maps back up to our personal higher design purpose


UX, we have a problem { or a few }



there’s the cute little UX eskimo — so innocent and cute, standing in his little Inuit happiness at the tip of the iceberg

the iceberg represents the UX process and our deliverables in this rather well-known and beautifully illustrated depiction of all those things that user experience actually is — and the eskimo is your happy tour guide to the iceberg, our little Virgil just waiting to show us around the wonderful processes and deliverables in our vector-drawn Divine Comedy of UX

go download the poster from PAZ — its something nice to print out and hang on your fridge

now psychoanalyze the poster for a few minutes here with me, because unfortunately i think that the informative nature of the this design piece is equally balanced by an unintended, expressive reflection that a many user-centered design professionals can relate to on myriad levels

here’s my high-level interpretation:

we stand alone at the top of a mountain of ice that’s floating in dangerous, deadly-cold waters

we know what we’re talking about, we can see The Big Picture from the vantage point we’re standing at, and this is a fantastic place to be in 2014 — we can feel like leaders in our profession, we hold a unique vision, a perspective that includes the intersection of design, people, technology, business and this mysterious force called experience, the thing that rules them all, right?

but i wonder as i examine this poster,
where are the other little eskimos?

where are the good people on the business side? where are the cSuite and product and project managers? where are the developers? and where are all the other amazing professionals that we constantly engage with and collaborate with on a daily basis to create an optimal, immersive and delightful experience?

we don’t do it alone

even if it oftentimes feels that way, and even if the setup just happens to put us in this solo spot

we can’t do it alone

but there we are — little eskimos that somehow need to keep the feeling of UX warm and friendly and cute, even amidst the most bitter, freezing elements of this strange wintry environment

but this is the myth — and its actually both the myth and the actual reality of the business on SO many occasions because most businesses still do not understand what we do in UX beyond the buzz of we need some UX to make this better

they’re still expecting a person to wave the magic wizardly wand to sprinkle that glittery UX dust on the original missed opportunities from Phase 1 not quite realizing that its not a person or the people of UX you need to invest in — its both the people and the processes they bring to the business table that need your trust, your empowerment and your investment

i’ve worked in the realm of interaction and UX now for 2 decades and i am flabbergasted at how many times the process falls to shit because the UX Team is not given the power and trust to contribute both at a reasonable pace and at a necessary level of leaderly quality in our daily collaborations

when i bring my automobile to the shop to get it fixed, per esempio, i might have a conversation with the mechanic to understand her/his diagnostic analysis of the situation and to understand the cost and consequences of my repairs, but my own sense of subjectivity never really enters the equation because i have a relationship with the expert professionals that are helping me get back on the road in a safe and reasonable manner

in almost the same scenario in the world of experience design, however, the expertise of the professional is almost always questioned, challenged and compromised — defend the quality and integrity of the design as best as you must, there is rarely the occasion that UX is given even a good enough sense of respect and trust to simply move forward with the plans as envisioned by the designer — there is always something to challenge the design rationale, the feasibility of the development work, the cost and scope of the design recommendations { such a wimpy-ass word, too, if you ask me, these recommendations }, even the usability, research and other current, established methodological practices all seem to get some sense of snarl-lipped scrutiny from the business forces surrounding UX

the odds are still against us

and the challenge and territory of experience design as a professional practice are still a much larger iceberg we’re touring, my friends and colleagues — the challenge for UX in 2014 and moving forward is formidable — formidable but possible — but it entails SO much more than what is so cutely included in this poster toy depiction of User Centred Design { intentional misspelling, i assume? — not that i’m opposed to any concrete poetics inspired by e.e. cummings and others, of course } — and the challenges are far more about: developing our soft skills; improving our abilities to command the other languages we need to speak with the entire milleau of vast and diverse collaborative teams; and optimizing the way we navigate and guide { or a stronger word, the one i prefer, would be lead } the over-politicized, internal { and external } corporate ecosystems that our processes and personas need to function within

we still have a lot to keep working on

we need to flip the diagrammatics, these visuals that both paint the expressive picture of our work while also simultaneously informing ourselves and others about what our industry is all about

firstly, we should always move up, not down, into the process — we need a different metaphor, one where we wouldn’t end up under water in the frigid Arctic Ocean as a consequence of flipping the paradigm — but first and foremost, progress is almost universally expressed through upward movement, unlike what we see with our friendly UX eskimo and iceberg { a very intriguing Freudian Slip, though, to keep in mind when you start to look at the poster by what the industry must feel like to the poster artist }

and secondly, we need more people, eskimos and others, as the leaders and guides to the process

UX is not a solo endeavor — it should not even remotely ever be considered the efforts and fruits for the hands of an individual contributor

and there’s obviously so much more beyond this poster to be worked on, but how we visualize who we are and what we do matters so much — we still have a perception challenge for UX — we need to keep working on it together

A culture of curation


PHOTO TAGLINE: the original cover and title concept as designed, developed and implemented by the Bureau of cyberSurreal investigation

one of the 4 streams of my design and art research and work included in my thesis from back at Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design touched upon my curation &/or co-curation and involvement in several gallery exhibitions — putting together these shows helped forge and fulfill some personal dreams for me as inspired by the inclusive, immersive and collaborative, interdisciplinary spirit of the ArtRages events frequently put on by Mobius Artists Group in Boston as well as other performance and music-oriented, multi-act shows in the area like: rösS Hamlin’s OpeNFauceT Productions; David Wengertzman’s Digital Cabaret series; Burlesque Revival Association; Leah Callahan’s Les Cabaret des Enfants Terribles; Chris Mascara’s Scara’s Night Out; and The Steamy Bohemians’ Jerkus Circus

anyhow — its fun to watch how influence and inspiration flows within and across various communities over time — and its equally interesting to see the evolution of ideas as they branch and grow and move along waves of people and places

after starting grad school at MassArt in 2008 and poking around campus and the community there i soon discovered that grad students could reserve Doran Gallery to curate shows and exhibit work

i took the dream-like inspiration from these past shows and events that i’ve held near and dear to my heart and brought the collaborative and celebratory spirit i found in them to my work and research from ‘stream 3: art shows, a streaming cycle of’ from my thesis, confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy — and in retrospect the shows i am extremely proud of the shows i dreamt up and put on and love the collaborations and event-based shows that blossomed from this fertile garden of amazing Boston show history to pick from as my inspiration

prior to my first curatorial effort at MassArt — American Cheese: an introspectionDMI MassArt colleagues Colin Owens and Dennis Ludvino curated several shows out at Doran that helped pave the way for the series of further student-run design curation that seems to have nicely inspired a long legacy of gallery exhibitions and event curation at Dynamic Media Institute

by starting up the efforts to officially catalog and celebrate DMI’s ASCii, if /then and Inter-Akt exhibitions at Doran Gallery i hope to help document and commemorate some of the early history of our show culture at MassArt’s graduate design program — i know these shows inspired me with an excited sense of the interdisciplinary and immersive experience of interacting with functional, living and working design prototypes in a gallery setting — certain boundaries of High Art exclusivity seemed to instantly break down with the inclusion of various inputs and outputs and the participatory invitation to the gallerygoer to actually touch and interact with the pieces on display in the gallery setting — the vibrant din of sound and conversation filled the room with enthusiastic conjecture about what the artwork ‘does’ in its clever, premeditated ‘playing’ with its audience

the feeling of these shows immediately pulsed in a far more alive way than the standard trip to the MFA ever conveyed to me — the work on display in this student gallery interacted with the gallery participants { no longer mere passive viewers } to meet them halfway in any interpretation of the artists’ intentions behind each piece

i hope to respectfully document these amazing early DMI shows out at MassArt with my efforts to write and composite the book A culture of curation

ifthen_colin ifthen_gunta ifthen_jason ifthen_phono ifthen_record6 ifthen_press

some reflections on the challenge of experience design

a huge part of ux has nothing to actually do with design and processes — ux is about establishing culture and curating the experience of ucd

the theatre of Work, ReVisited


back in 2009 when i still conducted critical design research for Dynamic Media Institute in Boston i decided to start up a presentation series aimed specifically at helping my greener friends coming into the industry with some of the basic challenges they might encounter along the journey of their profesional lives

i’ve encountered more than my fair share of interesting twists and turns in my rather adventurous career as an accomplished experience design professional — and some of the joys and tribulations of navigating the glorious terrain can benefit by simply continuously building a better and better understanding and awareness of the environments in which we need to perform

in delving into the digital archives of my mind i recently rediscovered a few slides appropriately titled the theatre of Work — survival tips for newcomers to the workForce

the theatre of Work

the phrase by itself starts to imply some of my subconscious views and feelings regarding: the social dynamics; the essential personal behaviors we need to exude while performing; and general feel of the landscape set up by the workaday world as a means of reaching toward success for ourselves and for the companies we work for

i am an experience designer and a performance artist

i never studied the theatre, which is an important key differentiator i need to continually remind myself of along the way

its also vitally important to have an unrelenting sense of self-awareness and continuous introspective reflection for the kind of trek we’re all on within ANY industry

just this hybrid mash-up between designer and artist can have extremely important internally conflicting motivations embedded within the very nature of each role

but anyhow, i digress { i just heard someone on blogging across the way stand up and scream, ‘DigreSsioN!’ ala that famous set of passages from A Catcher in the Rye ;] }

after living a little longer and experiencing a few more years of this life of work we all live and breathe, i believe i have even deeper, more profound wisdom to share than i originally intended by designing up a few slides for a future-such talk to be about workerly advice

i am therefore re-opening this thread of thought — copy-pasting the open Keynote file and the PSD folder from my portable harddrive back onto my current active MacBook Pro device to really start digging into what new significance i can bring to the table to help people navigate the choppy waters and hopefully not make all of the same foolish mistakes i’ve made along the way

i know my triathlon could’ve gone a LOT smoother so far had i just had proper mentorship or perhaps better personal self-awareness and more thoughtful empathy to guide me

but i’m an impatient clown, for the most part

i always want the impossible and i design to reach for the bluest of the bluest skies

i would be more of a fool, however, if i continue to noodle and clown without ever learning and growing for the journeys i’ve made — and i feel that if i share some of my story in a thoughtful and meaningful way it might actually make up for my own silly idiocies and hopefully make for a better overall experience for colleagues, friends, acquaintances and frenemies that even care to listen at this point

i need to focus on my storyFirst presentation out at Massachusetts College of Art for the next few weeks, but i also hope to put some time into this theatre of Work concept, too, as it is near and dear to my heart — i want to help people and give them better perspective and hopefully facilitate better and better experiences in the world through my designwork and my design leadership

but, until then — shove off, bitchez! ;]




being a transitional


one of the fun parts about being human is that we are always evolving

like it or not — the only thing we can truly count on actually staying the same is the fact that things always change — and we are a species that is very much under the influence of things — so, following that logic, to some degree, as our things change, we change, almost purely as a means to adapt to our things

this concept, in many ways, is in direct conflict with my very purpose as a human-centered designer — my job and daily activities are focused solely on driving and guiding the design process, mostly aimed at creating technology-based experiences, to hopefully result in interactive and dynamic software and interfaces that: intuitively make sense to users { or people as i prefer to call them }; that are usable and valuable and user-friendly { or ‘easy to use’ and understand with a minimal learning effort }; and that largely serve the actual human goals and business goals of the overall technohumanic experiences being delivered

we now live in a world population increasingly geared toward the digital natives


the other day my son Maceo was taking a bath and, with Maceo being extremely social and fun-loving but also a bit co-dependent, he invited me to come in to the bathroom to talk with him while he relaxed and washed { before settling in to read and eventually fall asleep in his bed on this typical school night }

Maceo is 10 years old

he’s definitely a digital native, meaning, he’s grown up in The Digital Age and for the most part has never been in a world without computing machines, as we used to call them — he understands computers and our mobile devices in a much different way than my wife or i do because he’s grown up with them as a simple and accepted set of objects within his natural living environment — and he’s grown up in an era when, for the most part, the information-based, interactive experiences delivered via the medium of our digital technologies already have a lot of the kinks worked out of ’em — due to Steve Jobs and the iUniverse he’s created through his prosumerization of our computers and devices, through Jobs’ efforts to make these relationships we have with our modernday technologies ‘just work,’ Maceo’s never really had to deal with the first 3 or 4 generations of the rather krudgy software and digital experiences we previously had with our devices in the first few decades on the new digital island

needless to say, he probably doesn’t have the same amount of frustration and associated psychological baggage that i have with these technologies that were invented to somehow serve humanity but also somehow typically don’t ‘just work’ the way we were promised they would in our non-native explorations of the digital island

with Maceo sprawled out, his body submerged under under the warm water of his bath, we discussed his daytime learning activities out at Spofford Pond School in Boxford — i asked him if today’s special { as they call all non-core classes at his school } was gym and he said, ‘No, today was Art’ — i asked him what special he’d have in school tomorrow and he said, Media’

‘Media? What’s Media?’ I asked him — i kind of knew what the term implied, of course, but wanted to know what the school system teaches him about media

i wanted to know what media now means
to a third grade student living in our modern Digital Age

he started laughing and said, ‘they teach us things that we all already know, like how to save a document,‘ and then he really started laughing pretty hard, which of course made me laugh

i could tell the whole idea of teaching media to the new breed of our digital natives seemed totally preposterous to him, almost like they were trying to teach him how to breathe or something so innately embedded in our humanness to feel like futile effort or even farce

we were laughing for quite some time

he went on, ‘its like, go to file and then move the mouse down and click on ‘Save”

he was like a little bathing stand-up comedian, delivering the ultimate punchline to the most hilarious joke i’ve heard in years, and i was both his receptive, laughing audience and an instant co-writer to these new jokes that almost seem to write themselves now

‘what are they gonna teach you next week, Maceo? how to log off of the computer?’ i quipped back — we were both laughing even harder than ever now, he returned the volley with, ‘i know, its like, here’s how we right-click on a mouse’ — he was kind of saying the entire little phrase with an intentionally slow delivery, mocking how remedial and silly this class must feel to him and his fellow student colleagues sitting through each special weekly session of Media at Spofford Pond

i haven’t laughed that hard in about half a year

as a digital native, Maceo just gets it

and, if the technology does live up to its original promise — this high-level promise from Steve Jobs and other pre-Apple visionaries that promised these technologies will ‘just work’ and that they’ll actually be helpful, useful and valuable for us all to use — if the experience isn’t living up to our expectations, well, quite frankly, Maceo’s ready to dive in under the hood and actually make the technology do what he needs it to do for him

i, on the other hand, get immediately hung up on my overall, continual disappointment with the promises that are never quite met from my standpoint as both a user of these technologies and a designer that’s constantly trying to devise ways to improve the human experience of our digital technologies

and i get frustrated rather easily, i might add

i actually want the technology to ‘just work’ the way we were promised it would

but it doesn’t

9 times out of 10, from my own personal lifelong experiences with computers, devices and technologies, these experiences fall extremely short of the expectation

maybe i’m more aware of these discrepancies between the promise and what we really experience from our technologies right now because i remember the promise, whereas Maceo doesn’t have the same context at all — and, unlike a lot of people that will spend a lot of time jerry-rigging these experiences like some sort of delusional Digital MacGyvers that just want so desperately for the technologies to be so cool as to ‘just work’ that they paperclip and chewing gum back together the actual, shitty and broken experience design in an attempt to sort of pretend perfection or merely band-aid a nearly-usable hackensteined-up app or something — unlike those folks that are drinking the digital koolaid with wireless ice, play-acting like everythingz all too cool for school an’ all, i like to tell it like it is and assess these experiences at some sort of reasonably realistic and honest scale



if we can’t evaluate the current-day experiences we have with our technologies with at least a reasonable sense of honesty then we’ll never be able to: level set where we are; identify critical areas for potential improvement; and then iteratively work toward any real sense of improving our overall human experience

now, unlike my son Maceo, who is considered a digital native, i am what’s called a digital immigrant — i don’t particularly like this terminology, but this is what anyone can Google up in a few seconds as a definition of who i am and what it means to be in my demographic in relation to the introduction to our interactive technologies and my particular abilities and views about the technologies and experiences we all use and deal with on a daily basis

i think by including the term digital in the semantics, definition and language so nicely weaved around these digital demographics, we almost immediately begin to think of absolutely everything as needing to be associated with the term digital — which in itself is quite interesting, this power of language to sell a movement

but i would like to think of myself in an entirely different way and perhaps affiliate my personal demographic less around the technologies and more around the actual times we’re talking about — or, better yet, it might even be nice to entirely decouple the term for my demographic from both the technologies and the times

let’s agree on at least one thing up front, though

we live in The Age of Information

we might also consider this to be The Digital Age, too, but for the most part the way that most of humanity views the entire world today is through an almost frighteningly pure informational lens

back to self-identification, though

so, instead of considering myself to be a digital immigrant, i would prefer to be called a transitional person, or just a transtitional

the term hints just a little bit toward our eventual post-humanity, which, like it or not, we’re already embarking on the journey to — i hope that its not an entirely inevitable place we’re heading to, but its pretty much nearly guaranteed just through the economics quite purposely confounded with our innovations through information and inventions — we’ll most likely just keep driving ourselves deeper and deeper into the human-machine-integration that futurists like Ray Kurzweil foretold decades ago in books like The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

i guess, then, i consider myself as transitioning from a mediated yet mostly analog time in the world we live in to one that is heavily dominated by: digital experiences; computing machines and devices; and datasets of information

where there is no transition necessary for Maceo — he was born with computers and smartphones in the household — i’ve needed to learn entirely new ways of doing just about everything i do in life just to fit in, and to perform and survive within our increasingly more and more digitalized culture

i think of the world we live in now
as our technohumanic ecoSystem

we live among the machines

and the machines outnumber us at this point, too, if you think about it

and, i guess one could even say even the culture we live in itself is still mostly transitional by its very nature, too — its not necessarily just a demographic set, but its also a way to categorize life in the modern age as we move to more and more digitally-mediated interactions and experiences

as much as the current trend shows us as a humanity moving closer and closer to merging with machines to evolve to a supposedly higher place, i would like to think the kind of design story we should be more focused on should center a lot more on developing a better sense of human and environmental awareness that really is totally unrelated to our technological inventions altogether

but how do we design for something like greater awareness?

this isn’t one of those ‘there’s an app for that’ results we’re looking for — there’s no real profitable product or service that i’m aiming for as a human experience designer, actually, which probably leaves me in a bit of a bind, right? i personally believe that we can invent a lot of amazing and innovative technologies that will help us survive or make our lives seem somewhat more comfortable or enjoyable, but at the end of the day i would like to do more than merely survive

i would like to see humanity start to grow again

and i don’t mean growing as in growing a user-base or expanding a knowledge set or some other similar information-based endeavor we get distracted by along the real path of where our human evolution should be headed — in this case, its not about the information

we need to start feeling the vibe of the universe again — we need to stop dissecting everything so much and mapping it all to some fictional, self-serving, data-related set of attributes that we as people invent to make sense of our chaotic universe to only feel somewhat in control of our little destinies — we need to start focusing in on our emotionality, our spirituality and our purpose

someone or something else designed these things for us, however, and we can only discover, shape and guide these interesting topic touch points in the story of our lives

we cannot truly control them

i don’t want to leave this planet to the next generation with my contributions merely being the design and delivery of a bunch of apps and experiences — i want to leave the future people of tomorrow with a sense that we helped change the direction of our destiny toward something more meaningful and real, and something far more valuable than the code for an information-based set of experiences, but maybe instead, the code for how to better behave and interact with each other in the world in which we live in together as we all move forward toward a more holistic, harmonious and humanistic civilization

some things i am thankful for this year


a little corny, perhaps, i know — but i just want to take a few moments here on the old WerdpreSs blog to pay respect for some of the things i am truly thankful for

i know its readily apparent lately that i have a bit of angry energy lately — and that kind of energy, as unfortunate and typically unappreciated as it might be to our society, is hopefully, at the end of the day, NOT what i am all about as a person — its at least not the kind of energy i want to be all about, and so here i am in this blogPost making a bigtiMe attempt to show you the softer side of Sears at this time of the year when we all get together with the ones we love { family, old friends, new friends and sometimes even strangers } to traditionally give thanks for another bountiful harvest season in the Autumntime as we move into another Winter Season of earthen death and eventual rebirth with the advent of the new year in the Spring


for those of you that don’t know the latest and greatest goings on in my life, i’ve had what one might call another interesting year 

never a dull moment with me, that’s for sure

but needless to say, i find myself once again in a time of transition

i am between jobs after my departure from Schneider Electric in midSeptember — not something i planned out entirely, but after a rough patch that followed several months of mutual discomfort, the organization deemed that my employment with the dev team wasn’t a good fit, and frankly i can’t say i disagree — i truly wanted to stay for a lot longer period of time but didn’t have the kind of support and guidance from management one would need to successfully introduce and implement a reasonably-vigorous user-centered design methodology to Schneider’s development team and processes, and i personally didn’t have the patience to withstand the strange stunted dysfunctional dynamics embedded in the slow-motion ennui of this kind of cardpunching manufacturing Industrial Era leftover work environment

getting bitter there


but — despite the unintended outcome and the sour aftertaste, i really learned a lot from the experience and the kind of mismatch i encountered between me and Schneider Electric, and that’s pretty important

some BIG lessons learned

and that’s important, this kind of learning from mistakes — but unfortunately this experience of human failure and learning gets a bum wrap in our Success-Driven Type A Society — i’m not gonna worry about it too, too much though — i like to put it all out there and even learn from that sort of naïveté

so i definitely have a lot to be thankful for my experiences this year with both Mobiquity and Schneider Electric — and i say this without the bitterness of the previous paragraphs because despite our philosophical and ethical differences and approaches to the work and business we conducted together, i really truly learned a lot this year and feel like a much better person because of it

strangely enough, too — i think i’m on the right track

this is MY path and i’m proud of it

quite frankly, i NEED to stand up for myself and what i believe in and i actually think that its not only the patriotic thing to do for the betterment of our country, but i also believe its the only way we’re going to ever make a difference in the world we all live in

we need to believe in ourselves — and we need to believe in something — and then we need to stand by our beliefs, sometimes at the risk of a stable sense of employment — and this year i learned all of that about myself — that standing for something like a strong work ethic and a decent pace and sense of urgency should not conflict with the mission of corporations and the kind of work we do on a daily basis — and i’ve learned that, as a designer, trying to iteratively optimize and smooth the processes of an organization is part of the gig and the challenge of what we do if we’re doing it right — removing yourself from the daily politics of the situation is quite literally NOT participating in the active endeavoring to be your best and do the best work you can possibly do for your company, for your country and the world

sounds heavy-handed, i know

but i’m just letting you know what i learned and what i am truly thankful for

and i am thankful for these experiences i had at Mobiquity and Schneider Electric as some form of human-centered experience architect for each firm because they helped me rediscover in a far deeper way who i really am and what i stand for — and they’ve definitely reinforced for me that the idea of leveraging story { i call my latest thinking around leveraging a story-driven ux methodology storyFirst } as the core, critical driver to a human-centered, collaborative design process actually work in an extremely powerful and successful way



but before all of this employment or lack of employment nonsense, though — and as the most important area of life i am most thankful for — are the people in my life, and most of all for the amazing family i have in my life at this point in life — i couldn’t have even gotten through all that experience i just described above without the support, love and daily life with my wife, my children and my grandchildren

my family gives me the inspiration i need to move on

my family, of course, reaches out beyond the immediate family i just described — and everyone in my family is an important component to shaping who i am today and also helping me survive and learn and grow and live — i am thankful for and love each and every one of you and know that i would be a lot more lost in the woods without you { or worse yet, in the streets i bet }

you are my inspiration

i also have an eclectic and very talented and beautiful set of friends in the world, and you are all veryMuch like an extended part of my family — you all inspire me and i appreciate: your encouragement; your guidance; your presence; your existence; and everything you do



i also am very thankful for the week we are about to experience — the people i will undoubtedly see and celebrate our thankfulness with over a meal and children playing and conversations

i am thankful for the opportunities i have ahead of me and this time of re-invention and rebirth

i’ve had about 2 months now to seriously dig into myself and reflect and to re-discover what is truly important to me — the work i’m doing is very active work, work i am also guiding through a core of assessing and rewriting my own story, my life’s story — and its difficult work

i am definitely still in the forest, too

but its a glorious day

and the trees are beautiful

the sky is blue

and even the clouds are beautiful and peaceful and inspiring

and i am thankful for once again being able to see how beautiful life is and can be

but most of all

i am thankful for BitCoins®

i am thankful for BitCoins® and music, laughter and my strange sense of humor

and boy oh boy do i have a strange sense of humor, right?


a new direction for mobile design


for the most part when we think about design for our mobile devices we have an image like the one above in mind — its a bit of a personal relationship we’ve developed with our smartphones, and the interactions are considered ‘micro-interactions,’ quick, task-based little spurts of use to check a little buzz or beep that went off in our pocket — we’ve got a little friend on us at all times now, and that little friend brings us the magic of real-time updates of information and some simulated sense of ‘being social’ through experiences like Twitter, Facebook and the like

a lot of the graphics you’ll find pertaining to using smartphones in particular show the one-to-one — person to machine — sort of relationship — and the person engaged with looking down at the little magic screen in the palm of their hands is either smiling and content, as if staring into a good friend’s or lover’s face directly or somewhat serious if the visual story being told is more about critical business communications


we get the picture though — we all know the experience, the interaction, that’s going on between the facial expression, the position of the hands and fingers and the general body language and position of the neck and gaze

its a rather solitary experience, though, right?

even with the advent and common, everyday use of the supposed social web, the interaction is really between you and the data being displayed on a tiny shiny screen


in her book Alone Together — Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, MIT Psychologist Sherry Turkle takes a deep look at the worlds of sociable robotics and social media in their current state and the general effect these technological advances are having at a societal level — and as amazing as our inventions may be, the overall experience we end up having as human beings engaged with our technologies is unfortunately one largely steeped in isolation, loneliness and a sort of transactional behavior between people as mediated through the interactions we’re afforded to interact through

of course, we can also still participate and interact with each other in the moment, face to face, the old fashioned way, right? the analog means are always there for us to fall back upon, thank goodness — being in the same place at the same time can actually foster a certain vibrant energy and more efficient and active way to communicate, collaborate and get things done — but we can’t always meet face to face, in the current moment in today’s fast-paced society, unless, of course, we make the time and travel happen — at the end of the day, the feeling our device-driven world often leaves us with is a strange jumbled aftertaste of miscommunication, misunderstanding and an awkward, near-real-time, off-kilter distance between the actual people interacting through the devicery invented to facilitate better communication that can happen ‘anytime, anywhere’ according to the hypertechnophilic marketingSpeak we swim through on a daily basis

i would love to take the expertise i’ve built up over the last 20 sum odd years to try and steer the course in an entirely different direction

if our smartphones and other mobile paraphernalia are instruments of communication, might we then compare our iPhones and Androids to something more akin to a musical instrument? like a banjo, for instance?


or maybe the comparison we try to draw is to something more like an orchestral instrument like the french horn


whatever the metaphor might be — i would like to change how our interactions through these technologies feel and hopefully even change the actual way we use them

i’d like to take ’em and shake up the paradigm in a big way, ya know? and why not? i’m a fucking rather accomplished experience design architect and designer after all — i want to change the story of these technologies before we become more isolated and distant from each other

if we think of our smartphones and mobile devices more along the lines of music-making machines, as tools for thinking and collaborating together in real-time and space, we just be able to retell the story a bit and design for more orchestral synergistic ways to use these truly phenomenal technologies


i don’t know what the actual experience or interface for these new interactive paradigms might be quite yet, but shouldn’t our devices and our interactions through them feel more like this beautiful photograph of this string trio as opposed to this business dude getting some off-sync email back in the city office?


i actually think we need to start designing ways to allow our experiences through mobile and other new or evolving technologies actually better work in a together-like fashion, right? so instead of all the clutter and drowning information over-saturation of email and other truly horrendous collaborative cloud environments that only offer up a sandbox of confusion and uncoordinated, often disjointed collaborative team efforts — our new experiences should feel a lot more like what happens within the context of a real team — agility, muscle memory, easy means to pass the ball back and forth

or maybe better yet — maybe, just maybe — we might be able to think even bigger than that and design for interactions as graceful and wonderful-feeling as the coordinated, collaborative music-making of an orchestral ensemble


i know its entirely possible — we just need to aim for that level of collaborative platform design — i don’t know that there’ll even be a Microsoft or Apple to take on this high task, as i’m sure its an enormous effort, but a truly wonderful one at that — i know that i would personally like my interactions and collaborations with all the people i work with to feel that powerful, fun and harmonious — and this is what i’ll be dreaming up through a storyFirst, iterative, human-centered process in my ample free time

i think this is gonna be a fun project to take on — i think its one of many projects that we need to design for in the world, one of many, too, that i personally want to dream up, brainstorm, workshop and design for — i can’t wait to share the progress as my efforts bear even little grapes and cumquats along the way as i’m sure its going to be an interesting journey

won’t you come and join me?