The torment of unsolvable phone problems are top of the list. Customers are widely baffled not only by device issues but also by the limited powers of store staff, the difficulty in navigating relevant websites and the arduous process of repairs. All of the above can be ascribed to poor user interfaces and disconnected service design, leading to a negative impression of the brand. A similar (but questionably positive) example comes from a friend in her mid-forties. She raves about a particular supermarket chain because she is consistently asked for ID when purchasing wine. Shopping is indeed the highlight of her week to the credit of humorously strict policies obliging staff to perform silly interactions.
Such narrators are often unaware of how deeply engaged they are with issues of UI. With 2015 approaching as the Year of Irish Design, one sees valuable opportunities materialising for designers and users alike. To better understand one’s place in systems of interaction makes those systems easier to navigate, discuss and enjoy. My personal accounts of UI have undergone positive changes recently for this very reason. I am now observing design from behind the lens of Graphic Mint as their newest team member. With an academic background in philosophy, literature and film, I am relatively new to interaction design and have noticed an exciting shift in my perception of what brings real value to UX. Whilst observing the process in a brilliant design studio isn’t an option for everyone, scores of literature are available for even the most basic of introductions.
An early step in the Graphic Mint initiation is a debrief on the studio’s book collection—a vital resource to be enjoyed by every new employee with pages full of excited notes and scribbles. Some circle terms of design theory, others playful sentences on comic book evolution and yet more marvel at behavioural insights. Dan Saffer’s Designing for Interaction (2009) is particularly decorated and from here I have taken a few key points which rebuff common (and indeed my own) misinterpretations of interaction design.
Firstly interaction design spreads far beyond visual talent and calls for everything from researchers to actors depending on the project. Secondly any digital, physical or theoretical design takes more than a single geek and a vigorous night’s work to produce. Weeks of sketching, role playing and paper prototypes bring about the essence of user interfaces. Lastly the penultimate goal of an interaction designer is to innovate upon the emotive context of the user to ensure positive, consistent experiences, not just a product or service. From here I now understand those interactions in which I don’t notice complexity are the ones which boast the best design. If an electronic kiosk can take my order, process a payment and narrate its steps without causing the slightest irritation, it is an experience to be valued. The sensory and physical design of the machine meets my expectations as only a well researched, carefully designed product can.
Because interaction design exists literally everywhere, an attempt to summarise its general impact on our lives would be a trite and limitless post. Instead I am going to relate to our readers the most rewarding re-evaluation of UX I have had since becoming acquainted with Graphic Mint. I ran The Dublin City Marathon 2014 which evidences the role designers play in any great event—advertising, banners, content strategy, jerseys, print collateral, signage, sponsorship, web design—the list goes on. In an hour’s waiting at the start line, 26.6 miles of running and a week of following news coverage afterward, one brand impression stayed with me. Lucozade covered a water point on the course at mile 20, a stage when runners are tired and emotions are high. They constructed a giant blue archway across the track emblazoned with ‘Wall of Support’ in the brand’s yellow typography. Upon running through the wall and accepting a bottle, a fatigued runner naturally hangs their head. Spray painted across the tarmac was the message, ‘You met the wall and beat it.’
The first layer of thought this produced was, “That was great. I’ll keep going.” In examining why the moment stayed with me one sees it comes down to smart interaction design. Lucozade researched the overall context of marathon runners to deliver an emotional gesture which states, ‘We understand you are afraid of hitting the wall. We support you. You can do this.’ This brought about a definitive moment of connection between brand and runner. The essence of the event was captured and a thoughtful, lasting impression was made.
With an insight into design I now appreciate the efforts behind this level of empathy in UX. This is ultimately why Graphic Mint’s primary image is an astronaut. A universe of technology and behaviours is evolving around us with constellations of brands and users inevitably interacting with one another. Understanding and embracing interaction design can bring real value to these daily experiences. Think Journeys, think communications, think technology, think people.
For a look at Graphic Mints’s work in these areas please visit our portfolio.
The Graphic Mint Astronaut