Posts tagged “adobe”

How to Grow and Thrive as A User Researcher

Check out an interview with me in How to Grow and Thrive as A User Researcher on the Adobe blog. An excerpt is below

What are the benefits of sharing career failures and mishaps rather than just successes?

We need to share both! Thinking about the field of user research, it’s important for practitioners to continue our development. Examining what went wrong (or what was different from what we expected) can highlight practices that might have avoided any particular mishap. But user research is so much about people and all their quirks, personalities, strengths, flaws, emotions, and so on — it’s what the work is about! There are inevitably surprises, and failures, and so another way to think about improving our skills is in accepting the lack of control, and even embracing it.

Researchers are often ‘selling’ the benefits of the practice to colleagues and stakeholders, and while I’m probably not going to lead with failure stories, it’s helpful to have a framework for considering them. ‘Failures’ are inevitable and while we work hard to prevent them, they are still coming for us, and reframing them as part of the messy people experience that we’re out there to embrace can help us discuss more realistically with our collaborators. There’s no reason any of us should feel alone with these experiences; as Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries illustrates, they are part of this work.

Some well-known and very successful designers don’t do any user research. What do you think about that approach?

Let’s assume that’s true. It’s foolish to declare that the only way to innovate is through research. Even when we do research, there are many other factors at play that determine success. What does concern me is that approaches championed by ‘well-known and very successful’ individuals won’t succeed for everyone. It’s real swell that Steve Jobs (or substitute your favorite successful innovator) did it this way. But you’re not Steve Jobs!

Special thanks to Oliver Lindberg for the interview!

ChittahChattah Quickies

Debbie Millman and Alan Dye


Alan Dye, originally uploaded by debbie millman.


Originally uploaded by debbie millman.

Last night I went to the AIGA’sDesign Matters Live featuring Alan Dye interviewed by Debbie Millman (who I did a fun podcast with a few months ago).

I was fairly out of my element; the first presenter gave a tutorial on how to use Illustrator and Photoshop (and InDesign) to do things like Layer Comps. He explained it very well, but there were moments when a nifty way of doing something would evoke yelps of delight from the audience, many of whom who were using the same applications to solve some of the same problems. I’m definitely not one of those people, however.

I didn’t know anything about Alan Dye, either. He’s a creative director at Apple; I’m not entirely sure what that job title refers to. He’s worked at Kate Spade, I would think they make purses, but that’s probably all I knew.

But what Debbie does is get great people in, and have great conversations with them. She and Alan had a great dialog as they walked through his career, with lots of anecdotes that provided insight into one person’s creative process, layered against different work processes and company cultures. This was not any sort of ethnography, but the frisson from hearing someone share their stories was similar.

Two particularly cool points in the interview:

  • The Adobe demo used a bunch of Alan’s files (designs for a book cover, and a magazine cover) and when Alan came on stage he expressed some distress over the fact that “all the type was defaulting.” He was referring (I think) to the fact that the his machine and the demo machine were configured differently and the fonts in the demo were not the fonts that he was using in his designs, and so were not appearing correctly. I mostly just liked the phrase; such an insider’s way of putting it.
  • Alan related a story about a focus group gone typically wrong, when they showed some Molson labels to some 20-year old guys in Philadelphia. One participant cast himself as the alpha male and declared that it looked like a “gay beer” and of course, no one else in the group was willing to say “Well, I kinda like it…” Alan described his preference to really talk with people and observe them. That comment isn’t so radical, but the fact that it comes from a leader in the graphic design community (not historically the most user-centered of design practices) is awesome.

You can check out archived Design Matters broadcasts here (and these feature one of the best parts: Debbie’s articulate state-of-the-world rants that lead off each episode). No link to Alan’s site because he doesn’t have one (yet, as he told me afterwards).

Update: a short film based on this event has just been posted

Five-minutes-ago Nostalgia

pikeo-orange-small.jpg
Last night was a launch party for Pikeo, a new photo sharing application. The product comes from France Telecom-Orange R&D (here in the Bay Area) but the party was at Adobe (since they provided Flex, an ingredient technology), where we had to sign a ridiculous NDA in order to gain access to the party. Food was pretty bad, conversation was pretty good, but seeing a demo wasn’t so easy. However, they had (as the FT-Orange people often do) lots of photography going on, and a few huge screens showing the Pikeo interface. One of them was regularly being updated with images from party, in some slideshow mode. The event was being archived as it was happening, with the archive being fed back into the event itself. You could see who was in the room just by standing in one spot and watching the screen. It wasn’t earthshaking but it was at least provocative to see the normal mode (go to an event, take pictures, go home and upload them, then review other’s pictures) subverted with a bit of technology and effort.

Here’s the setup (on flickr, ironically) before many people showed up.


ZoneTag Photo Tuesday 6:35 pm 12/5/06 San Francisco, California

Originally uploaded by Marc Davis.


A Visit to Adobe

A Visit to Adobe is an interesting cultural artifact. From a site focused on Photoshop, a journalist/fanboy/blogger/enthusiast/insider strolls around Adobe and takes pictures of the people behind the product and their offices. There’s little practical information here, but that’s not the point. It puts a face on a corporation and highlights the individuals that make the products that we use (and in this case, that the writer and his readers love).

I paged through it rapidly, and actually came across some mentions/images of my friend Lynn Shade. She and I spoke together at DUX2003 about ethnographic research in other cultures (PDF link here).

And later this week I’ll be speaking at Adobe, to Lynn and her group, in a presentation entitled Buttoned-Down Creativity, about being a creative inside a corporate environment.

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