visual design

projekt202's Thought Leaders Provide Direction on UX, Strategy and More

Some of projekt202's Thought Leaders -- representing key areas such as User Experience (UX) Design, Technology, and Experience Strategy, among many others -- broadcast their expertise in solving complex challenges facing today's businesses. Their presentations were recorded this week as part of projekt202's new Thought Leadership series. The videos showcase the experts behind projekt202's methodology and holistic approach to experience-driven application development.

Solutions Architect Ben Bays hits his mark for his recording session, as Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson looks on.
Solutions Architect Ben Bays hits his mark for his recording session, as Vice President of Customer Experience Jeremy Johnson looks on.
Senior Experience Strategist Shannon Graf is one of the Thought Leaders in projekt202's new video series.
Senior Experience Strategist Shannon Graf is one of the Thought Leaders in projekt202's new video series.
Bringing focus to the ways projekt202 leads in experience-driven application development.
Bringing focus to the ways projekt202 leads in experience-driven application development.
Assembling a great design isn't child's play. Senior UX Designer Josh Christopher, UX Designer Anne Grundhoefer and Solutions Architect Drew Loomer share their creativity in helping companies deliver better solutions for customers.
Assembling a great design isn't child's play. Senior UX Designer Josh Christopher, UX Designer Anne Grundhoefer and Solutions Architect Drew Loomer share their creativity in helping companies deliver better solutions for customers.

Learn more about what we do at projekt202.

Career Growth: Design Your Opportunities at projekt202

 

"I fully believe leaders aren't chosen -- they're made. projekt202 presents a lot of opportunities and you just have to be willing and persistent enough to go get them."

One of the many perks of working at projekt202 is the ongoing opportunity for advancement. Employees aren't boxed into specific roles; in fact, team members are encouraged to embrace their professional passions and think outside the box when it comes to their career paths and roles.

Senior UX Designer Lan Nguyen shared the career development opportunities she's found at projekt202:

When I started, I was told that I would be given a lot of autonomy, which still holds true today. I've been encouraged to take on more responsibility outside my job title.

projekt202 has been very encouraging for me. I am in two mentorship programs: one with projekt202 leadership and one with (Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer) Peter Eckert, who works specifically with the UX team.

I've been able to grow very fast and far in the 15 months that I've been with the company. It's really all about what you want to do and the impact you'd like to make.

Do you have designs on a new career? See our current opportunities in Seattle, Austin and Dallas.

Success Story: Applying an Enterprising Solution for Suite Consistency

Challenge: Applications are running into language barriers

One of the world’s top technology and hardware development companies needed consistency across its enterprise suite of over 80 applications. A streamlined enterprise design language, uniform navigation and standard product guidelines were essential.

Recommendation: Create language and workflow consistency

With its experience-driven design research methodology, projekt202 was asked to improve key workflows for high-revenue products and establish a design-thinking approach within the enterprise organization.

To gain insights into core users, projekt202’s team observed IT administrators, revealing that more than half of the applications were controlled by third-party development teams. In addition, many products had overlaps in functionality.

projekt202 also conducted a visual design exploration that would become the foundation for the company’s enterprise design language. This created a new look and feel to apply to an initial set of core products, showcasing their scalability and flexibility.

Results: Uniform language delivers pronounced revenue increases and brand reception

Applying its synthesized data from direct user observations, projekt202 built a new navigation across large portions of the application suite. The team also created an online repository to facilitate the new enterprise design language and its patterns. With these guidelines, the client established requirements for all third-party teams, which formed a more streamlined, cohesive and integrated suite of applications.

As a result of projekt202’s work:

  • The client’s software as a service (SaaS) revenue has grown dramatically, along with its Net Promoter Score (NPS), a valuable indicator of business performance and brand experience
  • The company bulked up its internal user experience (UX) team from three members to more than 30
  • Employees have access to continuing education on experience-driven design and UX classes, taught by projekt202

Success Story: Superior UX Delivers Over $1 Billion in Sales

Challenge: An unreliable workforce design needs to be terminated

A global workforce management company was laboring under outdated, convoluted technology. Its primary management resource had grown inconsistent, unreliable and difficult to use. The organization needed to improve customer interactions, keep competitors at bay, and create a new user-centered design and development process internally.

Recommendations: A redesign, UX support and a demo that silences the competition

projekt202 identified pressures from key competitors, documented users’ frustrations and perceptions, and interviewed stakeholders to capture the vision of the organization. Based on its analysis, the projekt202 team recommended a user-friendly redesign of the client’s 900-screen legacy application; hiring dedicated user experience (UX) staff; and unveiling an impressive demo at industry trade shows to spark word-of-mouth and sales.

Results: Superior user experience delivers over $1 billion in sales

When presented at an industry conference, a new dashboard solution based on projekt202’s design research caused an immediate sensation. Sales demand doubled as customers eagerly anticipated its release to market. Development strategy and priorities reflected the huge interest generated by the prototype’s unveiling.

In addition, persona-specific roadmaps for the legacy application were produced and validated, and mobile tools supporting key workflows across all personas were established and released. A consistent new visual design language was built across all applications and products. Design guidelines, principles and themes were created, along with interactive design and pattern libraries. To reinforce the company’s tech foundation, projekt202 helped grow the client’s UX team to more than 20 employees.

As a result of this collaboration, the workforce management company saw sales skyrocket from $240 million to over $1 billion.

The sales and marketing divisions continue to rely on projekt202-constructed resources. Providing this superior user experience has led to a sustained design and development partnership between the client and projekt202.

How To Design for Thumbs In the Era of Huge Screens

Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez via Quartz
Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez via Quartz

Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez via Quartz

Now that Apple’s finally jumped into the larger screen camp, how does ergonomic design for human hands change? As this article explores, properly positioning elements for thumbs is becoming even more critical.

—Thanks to Mike Townson and Daniel Barbour

Universal Icons

Netherlands-based design group Lava, for Beijing design week, designed iconography for the Hutong neighborhoods around Beijing which are rapidly becoming very diverse. By using traditional Chinese pictograms as a base, Lava created a system they feel could seriously cut down on large, ugly signage around neighborhoods (currently everything is repeated in Traditional Chinese, English, and pinyin—Mandarin written in Romanized characters)

—Thanks to William Yarbrough

What Every App Dev Should Know About Android

Really great infographics on recent trends in the Android space that everyone should be aware of!

—Thanks to William Yarbrough

The Missing Scarf

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Narrated by George Takei, this whimsical story takes a dark, dark turn.

Want more on nihilism and despair? Hear this fantastic Radiolab story about this book.

—Thanks to Kijana Knight-Torres

The Top Color Trends of 2014

Shutterstock’s cool infographic illustrates the color trends of the past year, slicing the data by world region.

—Thanks to Stori Walker

Analyzing the New Apple Watch Typeface

Image by FastCo.Design
Image by FastCo.Design

Image by FastCo.Design

With the unveiling of the Apple Watch, Apples also introduces its first system font designed in over twenty years. We don’t even know for sure the typeface’s name. But why create a custom typeface for the Apple Watch at all? Why not just use Helvetica Neue? Legibility.

—Thanks to Oscar Tellez

Buy My Volvo

I grew up in a family with 4 Volvos, so this is very close to my heart. (The Swedish version is here.)

The car was sold. According to the small text on the start of this video, “Microsoft purchased this car and provided compensation for this video.”

Brilliant.

—Thanks to Kijana Knight-Torres

Get Ready for Generation Z

Photo by Chad Hipolito

Generation Z—the post-Millennials generation—may be shaping up to be smarter, more ambitious, and better connected than those who came before them.

—Thanks to Jeff Steinberg

Startup Marketing and How Emotion Drives Customer Action

“It is easier to build marketing around the [what], but storytelling originates in the [why]. The why enables startups to tap into its product/brand’s intrinsic emotional advantages – like excitement, happiness, or contentment.” Rather than relying on metrics, Kobie Fuller argues that startups should be creating an emotionally resonant story to bring to market.

—Thanks to Chip Wilson

Scribble’s Color-Matching Pen

Photo by Scribble

This pen uses an integrated scanner and CMYK paint mixer to create ink that is true to scanned color. It also comes with a stylus to match that color against the sample and create the color on mobile and tablet. Kickstarter coming this week.

—Thanks to William Yarbrough

Patatap: Visual Music-Making in Your Browser

Make musical bloops and bleeps, accompanied by beautiful algorithmically-generated visuals, from the comfort of your keyboard and browser.

—Thanks to Alan Koda

X to Close

Image by Lauren Archer

Ever wonder where the basic visual language of our Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) originated? This very thorough and entertaining essay by Lauren Archer traces the origins of the [x] symbol that is now a standard in UI design. Prepare yourself for a journey into the GUIs of the past.

—Thanks to Amber Lindholm

How Giant Websites Design for You (and a Billion Others, too)

Photo by TED

In this TED talk, Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s director of product design, discusses the challenges of designing at a massive scale—where small details cascade into huge consumer ripple effects.

—Thanks to Jessica Dolson

Calculate Your Typographic System with Gridlover

Image from Gridlover

Gridlover helps designers create a typographic system and quickly see how different variations look. You can play around with vertical rhythm, scale for body and heading text, preview different fonts in the content area, and view the content with or without a grid. Once you’re done, you can get the output for CSS/Sass/Less in pixels, ems or rems. It makes doing the math for a typographic system much easier—which you’ll love if you aren’t a mathlete.

—Thanks to Lindsey Norman

A Designer’s Guide to DPI

Image by Sebastien Gabriel

Taking dozens of devices, screen sizes, and resolutions into account can be a difficult ordeal. Sebastien Gabriel lays down a short and sweet refresher on how to take consideration of screen resolutions in your designs, covering the basics on DPI, PPI, HD, 4K, PT, Hz, and any other acronyms I’ve left out. A great guide for thinking about mobile resolutions on a variety of devices.

—Thanks to Dennis van Huffel

Designing Rehabilitation into the Prison System

Responding to the ethical dilemma posed by designing spaces to purposely isolate and punish inhabitants, some prison-design architects look toward participatory design methodology to discover how the prison experience can encourage rehabilitation over punishment. Following the movement started by Scandinavian architects, Deanna VanBuren designs “restorative environments” for prisoners. In a workshop conducted with California inmates, 18 participants shared their thoughts on designing prisons in a way to lead toward rehabilitation and decrease likelihood of re-offending.

—Thanks to Rae Gibbs

Want the Best User Experience? Make it Harder to Add Features

Photo by UX Magazine via Shutterstock

Building software with scalability in mind seems like a logical choice for most companies. I would argue however, that software should be built for its current purpose, without scalability in mind. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s the right thing to do. It means that adding features down the line will need to be a careful process of consideration rather than just something that’s tacked on.

—Thanks to Jared Christensen

The Importance of Prototyping Your Designs

As a designer it’s imperative that, before you simply dive into a project and start creating, you must start from the beginning of the process and test your ideas to ensure they’re the most effective way of accomplishing what you’re working towards. Prototyping offers a way to test what looks great and is fit for purpose, whether it’s for a website or a piece of software.

—Thanks to Jared Christensen

User Interface: The Next Five Years

By Peter Eckert CXO projekt202

By Peter Eckert
CXO
projekt202

Originally published in Innovation Journal, Spring 2011

Looking back, user-interface design has undergone a rapid evolution. It first emerged in the 1950s as engineers began to evaluate data on monitors. For decades, user-interface design was simplistic and focused on basic information display or sets of data for engineers to interpret. With the Internet revolution, however, user-interface interaction moved from the backstage to the forefront as designers sought to create an engaging experience for end users. Social media, smart phones, an increasing proliferation of embedded environments and the convergence of the Internet and television require usability for diverse populations.

Like never before, user-interface design is now poised to transform how global populations interact and leverage technology. As companies strive to appeal to a broader array of demographics worldwide, technology must become increasingly easier to use and understand. Leading companies are recognizing that the user experience is essential to gaining market share and consumer loyalty. In the next five years, engaging user interfaces will rapidly become an increasing priority for companies as people—from consumers to business users—seek out solutions that offer as much intuitiveness and simplicity as they do function.

Convergence Remains Distant
The dust from the information and technology explosion of recent decades will not settle in a matter of years; we are overwhelmed with functionality and underwhelmed with the ability to intuitively access it. The role of interface design will only increase in importance as companies compete. This trend is not limited to the consumer market; simultaneously, leading business-to-business software companies are seeking to bring the ease and functionality of consumer products to their business customers.

Many business-to-business players may take a giant leap forward in coming years, but a gulf between what’s available to consumers and what’s available in the business world will continue to exist. Presently, the gap is vast between the usability available to consumers and business-to-business applications.

For example, take the iPhone and iPad, which are elegant, intuitive and easy-to-use consumer products. Contrast these consumer technologies with the kinds of software leveraged by many leading corporations, like an ERP software platform. ERP systems deal with many complex aspects of an enterprise, thus, processes can be lengthy and difficult to understand. Traditionally, these platforms have had user interfaces that are very difficult to understand. However, business users who regularly track data via ERPs have grown accustomed to their particular computing conventions. Many enterprise software companies understand that a more intuitive user interface would cut the learning curve for new users. Despite the inherent complexity of the software, access to information and input of information can be designed for greater simplicity.

In the consumer market, ease of use is essential to winning hearts, minds and market share. In the business market, an intuitive product is a differentiator that enables organizations to be more productive. As a result of these benefits, a surge of redesign and new design will come from companies serving both businesses and consumers.

What’s worse are industries that remain totally burdened with paper processes and antiquated software—such as subsets of the public sector, education and health care. These professionals are going to feel an even greater chasm than ever before. It may require decades before they catch up and reap the benefits of greater usability.

If you look at the software that social services organizations use to track, for example, child abuse, those user interfaces are way behind the private marketplace. These more customized, highly time-intensive implementations, to a large extent, are literally 10 years or more behind the overall usability trends in the private sector. The end-user base in the social services sector, in many cases, struggles daily with very rudimentary and archaic user-interface design that are far more complex to use than traditional enterprise software.

Consumers and business users alike are going to see rapid advances in user-interface design, but the transformation will be uneven and chaotic. More and more, companies are working autonomously to build out suites and interrelated products with new user interfaces. With all this innovative design happening in silos, users will continue to bounce from device to appliance without a universal norm of any kind. Each interaction, while simpler, will have to be learned and individuals will find they are learning the quirks and standards of more and more technologies just to get the functionality they seek.

As a result, we are only going to see more diversity and incongruence in design overall. For global companies, this is the time to put their best solutions forward and integrate the user interfaces and functionalities of their own product sets—spanning consumer appliances and televisions to enterprise software suites.

In short, convergence of technologies is becoming more of a priority, but it stops within companies. In the near term, devices, Web applications, software and appliances developed across separate companies will not interact any better than they do today. Many companies will continue to work autonomously to develop their own concepts related to user experience; they perceive it as an extension of their marketing and brand identity. It is reminiscent of the advent of the Web and its impact on extending the brand and offering a meaningful virtual experience. This is not surprising to most people because that lack of integration and the individuality of interfaces are so ingrained into our daily lives.

Because we are in the middle of an evolution, we are barely cognizant that it is possible to have greater uniformity. However, looking toward the future—perhaps several decades from now—this lack of congruence will likely fade entirely. One day our technologies will be able to interact and respond far more seamlessly, but that will require another evolution or revolution altogether.

Worldwide Rush
Increasing the usability of a wide range of technologies is more than a trend; it’s a gold rush. While much advancement in user-interface design is happening in the US, it is a global challenge. Over the next several decades the growing middle classes across China and India and beyond will surge. Companies are asking themselves how can they support the technology needs of these populations. With many pockets of fast-growing populations having little exposure to technology as a part of their daily lives, and companies looking to market consumer technologies to this new group, it’s critical that the solutions be highly intuitive in order to successfully navigate this abrupt transition.

Without the iterative layers, some populations will skip many of the steps those of us in the US and Western Europe have experienced in the computing age. As some countries have gone directly from no phones to cell phones, no television to satellite television and Internet and no computers to powerful portable computers, they will also skip ahead a few steps with user-interface design.

Those facts are highlighted by such rapidly growing countries as China, India, Russia and Brazil. These countries have enormous populations beginning to leverage computing, many of whom did not grow up exposed to computers outside of cell phones and are unfamiliar with even basic computing conventions. However, these markets have a potential 400 to 600 million new users—an incredible opportunity for leading consumer electronics companies.

In making these new technology products, leading consumer technology companies will be delving into a new pocket of user-interface design and will need to think through language and cultural cues to create meaningful solutions. The cultural meanings behind colors and symbols play an important role in creating a user-centric product or application. It is also imperative to recognize how specific cultures truly interact with technology.

For example, in India a large majority of businesspeople have servants with little education who are frequently charged with setting up the computers. The users of the computer will not know anything about what an OS is or how to install applications; therefore, new user interfaces and conventions need to be established before those users can actually do computing.

Or think about China operating under communist leadership with political and social norms that are very different than in the West. For example, in China people read from top to bottom, not left to right, demonstrating that each new user demographic will bring a new set of requirements in regard to user interfaces.

Racing to market with greater levels of functionality is not the only answer: the technologies must offer users an intuitive and tailored user interface to fully enjoy and access those features within the context of their cultural experience. This is a new challenge that is rapidly unfolding as more solutions are offered to emerging populations around the globe.

A Seamless Future
Technology is destined to become increasingly seamless, and the line between activity, life and our interaction with it will fade. New, improved user interfaces are a stepping stone to a transformation where technology and the physical environment blend more intuitively.So, while today every device must be handled and manipulated separately with disconnected protocols to garner the desired functionality, the lack of interoperability will slowly shift.

The seeds of this transformation are being sowed now, and many leading companies are turning to user-interface design experts to create real solutions for more convergent experiences. The next generation of technology will seek to dazzle users with its simplicity and power while reducing boundaries between products and functionality.

For emerging populations around the world, leading consumer companies will seek to capture market share. We may find in five years that millions or billions more people have access to technology that exposes them to more information than ever before. We may find that user-interface design allows for even greater global communication and builds a connection to populations that have yet to experience the vast technology revolution of the last two decades.

You Got Bebop in My Norgie

By Peter Oshima
projekt202

Our Music Fridays came to a halt after a bit too much Endless Love flowed from the speakers. With peace restored for a while now, a fellow p202er sent an office-wide email recently, raising the question: “What music do you find yourself listening to the most while you work in the office?”

A few people chimed in, sharing what they felt helped them while performing different activities: writing, wireframing, and designing, while others wrote to recommend what they listen to when needing concentration or energy. While trying to think of something to contribute, I wondered if music was necessary at all, and if so, what would really be the best for visual designers? Occasionally, the mere act of putting something into or around my ears was enough to help me concentrate, and I would often forget to hit “Play”. It got me into the zone in the same way I would imagine helmets would work for football players on the bench, or goggles and a scarves would work for pilots on the ground: necessary just in case, but not impossible to do without. With the portability of music, and the abundance of streaming media available online as well, it’s not a question of should or should you not listen to music…but what kind should you listen to?

Researchers at the University of Wales in Cardiff have recently found that listening to music while performing some tasks actually hurts concentration. Their recommendation was to listen to music that we like separately from performing tasks that require concentration. Now, if we were performing solely cognitive tasks such as information recall, perhaps this may apply, but for designers everywhere, headphones and speakers would fall silent if we were forced to listen to music we didn’t like – much like our Music Fridays. The researches added that the study doesn’t necessarily negate the popular Mozart Effect studies that come out in the 90s, since those studies focused more on “therapeutic interventions, rather than performing tasks while background music is being played.” So could it be that the benefits of listening to music all depend on individual mental tasks and personal tastes? Sure it can. But what if there was something more to the music we listen to in what inspires us and fosters creativity?

For me as a designer, I can usually point to any one of my comps and remember what I was listening to at the time. For example, country western and enka music helped inspire early Georgetown Rail and Charles Schwab designs, and disco (no lie!) was used very often when doing visuals for projekt202. For inspiration in the office (as well as learning and entertainment), I listened to everything from old time radio plays and yé-yé to classical music and synthpop. But out of all the things that I’ve listened to while designing visuals, only one genre has constantly worked the best for almost every task from rendering concepts to posting specifications: jazz!

I didn’t always listen to jazz music while doing creative work, and so this recommendation doesn’t come from a fan’s perspective, but from a designer’s perspective. Modern, modal jazz music encompasses three major themes that I found essential in visual design: 1) the pursuit of new style through improvisation 2) embracing and respecting structure and standards and 3) communicating and sharing “solo time” between individuals. As Dizzy Gillespie put it, “Jazz is supposed to be the most unselfish of art forms. In jazz, you give yourself completely to make somebody else play their best. You try to do something to make them, inspire them to do something.” While these themes have always been good to keep in mind, and can be dissected out of almost every typical performance, practically speaking, I’ve found switching between a state of actually listening and paying close attention to the music (and keeping those themes in mind), to zoning it all out into the background and concentrating only on the design itself or the task at hand is easy with jazz.

The relationship of listening to jazz and creative work has been established from a scientific point of view as well. Sr VP of the MITABrain Based Center, Robyn McMaster, PhD writes, “listening to jazz, chock full of improvisation, can enhance creativity as you work on most any project.” She refers to Dee Joy Coulter, Ed.D. of the Kindling Touch Institute, who says that listening to jazz can “lift the listener into theta consciousness.” According to them, the slower theta brain waves are “considered the most highly creative brain waves, and give birth to artistic and spiritual insight.”

Creating jazz music also has its perks. Charles Limb, M.D. and Allen R. Braun, M.D. at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine published a recent study on jazz music and creativity, in which they found that artists enter a different state of mind when improvising jazz music. You can see Limb’s TED talk here. Their research found that parts of the prefrontal cortex linked to self-expression and activities that convey individuality, such as communicating and language, light up when improvising.

While you can listen to a number of things while working, listening to the right music at the right time can really do wonders for your concentration and creativity. Give modern jazz a try! Even if you dislike it, it’s got to be better than Endless Love, right?