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June 19 2012


Designing the Team Experience

A few years ago, the company I was working for ran recruitment for an entry-level position in which they asked applicants to email over samples of their work as attachments. Aside from the work itself, I was fascinated to see the different filenames applicants had chosen for their attachments. Most of them were named according to the project they had come from or were just called something like sample_for_companyname. Some, though, used names like theirname_jobrole_application. I had a good feeling about those ones.

Whether you’re sending a file to a friend, colleague, or potential employer, context is important. The project title might have been a useful file name to applicants on their own computers, but to us – stored in a folder full of resumes and samples – it was meaningless. The people who’d told us who they were and what the sample was for in their filename had given consideration to the recipient of their application.

“That’s the spirit,” I’d say to myself. They were thinking like UX designers.

The point of this story is that we spend a lot of time thinking about people in the experiences we create professionally, but not enough time applying these insights personally. Doing so can help us create with less friction as we function within our teams.

A powerful mental model

When we’re designing, we often consider our audience’s mental model – how do they perceive the world? Mental models are created from a mixture of past experiences and assumptions. Computer filing systems offer a classic example. Files can be grouped together and stored in folders. People get that concept pretty easily because – just like real life filing – it fits their mental model.

Icons help interaction designers communicate abstract concepts; how can we do the same?

Consider mental models when talking to your colleagues and clients, too. If we talk about ideas in a way that draws on what they already know, it’ll be easier for them to slot new information in alongside it. We can use analogies to show how what we’re doing relates to something they’re already familiar with. I was once working with a client who wasn’t following the difference between client-side and server-side code, so we started using a shop window/shop storeroom analogy, with reloads being like a trip to store room. It made the conversation easier for both of us.

It works it the other way around too. Elements of our clients’ business that we’re not familiar with can be baffling, so we can try to make sense of abstract or complex concepts by suggesting comparisons. We might get the comparison wrong at first, but that doesn’t matter – it’ll still get them thinking about alternative analogies that do work.

Plain language

Clarity is essential to good design. There’s not much point in something if people don’t understand what it’s for or what it’s trying to say. This applies to any communication with our clients and colleagues, written or verbal.

Keep conversations, emails and documents straightforward. Professionally, we’d never fill a website with long text, written in the passive voice and packed with jargon, so we can’t let that kind of language creep into our emails either.

Other people might do it sometimes – people often get a bit strange and formal when they’re writing – but their job probably isn’t focused on how the person on the other end will react, so they’ve got an excuse. We haven’t.

Add helpful headings

Another simple way we can make ourselves clearer is by making good use of subject lines in emails, section headings in documents and slide headings in presentations. In her book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, Susan Weinschenk provides the following paragraph without a header:

First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from the sorting separately. Place one category in the machine at a time.

It seems almost meaningless – abstract sentences about sorting things into categories. Then she shows it again with the header “Using your new washing machine,” and it makes perfect sense. As Dr Weinschenk says, “Provide a meaningful title or headline. It’s one of the most important things you can do.”

Keep everyone interested

We often think about how we can grab users’ attention, so we know it’s not easily done. Keeping it is even harder.

One of the best ways to stir emotion and grab attention is to employ a story. Think about how often we see case studies on websites explaining how something worked. Think about how charities don’t just give us statistics about the number of people in need of our help, they tell us the story of one person’s individual struggle. Stories, especially with characters we can relate to, make things more real, more memorable. The need for a story is the whole reason we use personas to help the team focus on who we’re designing for.

We need to keep stories in mind when we’re making a case for a particular design option. We can use a character – usually one of the project personas or a research participant – and tell the story of how the character would use the product and how they would react to it. Using a story like this to make a case will be interesting and memorable, which means it’ll be a far more persuasive than relying on statistical findings alone.

Cater to wandering minds

No matter how driven and committed the team is, people’s minds are going to wander. Research by Jonathan Schooler has shown people’s mind wander even when they don’t notice it happening, so almost no one is going to have caught one hundred per cent of what went on a meeting or a phone call.

We need to make sure that we allow for wandering attention by always doing thorough recaps at the end of any conversation. We can send summary emails around the whole team and ask everyone else to chip in and add a note if anything’s missing. This takes the pressure off any one person, and stops vital pieces of information slipping through the net.

Recaps are useful for both informal chats as well as organised meetings. If you came up with a great way to deal with that navigation problem with your developers while you were waiting for the kettle to boil, send a quick round-up email afterwards outlining what you agreed upon.

Give people control

The self-determination theory says that people find autonomy and competence most motivating. We all like to feel that we are in control of our own lives, and that we’re developing our skills and capabilities. These things motivate us far more than any external influences like earning more money or fear of the rules. We also like to feel like we’re getting somewhere so we’re constantly on the look-out for signs of progress.

Increasingly popular websites such as Treehouse make great use of this theory. Not only are they giving users an opportunity to take charge and develop on their own, but they’ve grouped tutorials into badges, giving people something tangible to collect in order to track their progress. It’s not the badges themselves that people are interested in; it’s the sense of achievement.

Applying this theory to our team has obvious implications for anyone who manages or mentors others – give them plenty of opportunities to develop their skills and give them freedom and independence in their work – but we can apply it to our clients too. They might have come to us for a service but that doesn’t mean they want to lose control of their project, and anyway, it’s likely that they know their business better than we do. We can’t confuse providing a service with taking over. We need to find ways to work collaboratively and help our clients feel as much ownership of the project as us.

Be careful to keep them in the loop, with frequent, informal catch-up calls. You don’t have to wait for scheduled deliveries to get their feedback. Even if they don’t want to actively contribute at every stage (or if you can find reasons why their suggestion isn’t the best) they’ll feel like they’re valued if you’ve take the time to ask their opinions. Sometimes it can be tempting to save things up for a big reveal, but this rarely has the effect we were hoping for. Clients will automatically feel more strongly towards an idea that they feel they had a hand in, even if none of their ideas made it into the final design.

Put yourself in their shoes

This one’s last for a reason – it’s what all the others boil down to.
UX design is all about empathy. We spend all day trying to imagine what’s it like to be the user – what they would want to read here, which button would they press there – so it shouldn’t be too much of stretch get into the habit of imaging what it’s like to be in our colleagues’ and clients’ positions, and thinking about what will make the design process easier for them.

We know that good design isn’t about us – the designers – at all. It’s not about showcasing our skills, or trying to impress anyone. It’s about giving users what they need and want. This mindset can be applied to whoever you’re dealing with. Don’t focus on making yourself look good, focus on making the team feel good.

Turning design principles inwards

This article considers just a handful of the psychological principles that we use every day. There are plenty more that I could’ve included – just think of all the lists of heuristics and design guidelines you’ve ever read!

Those design principles aren’t based on what computers can do or how code works – they’re about people. Our colleagues and clients are people too, so we need to keep the principles in mind all the time – not just when we’re thinking about our end product.

Each time you make a design decision, think about the principles that guided that decision. Then think about how that same principle can be applied to your team to consciously create great team experiences. The better we can make the process of designing user experiences, the more people are going to want get involved and embark on their own UX design projects. And that means better user experiences for everyone.

The post Designing the Team Experience appeared first on UX Booth.

March 09 2012


CreateMixedMedia Contest: Numbers Challenge & Weekly Survey

This week we are re-featuring the pattern template contest we initially posted last Friday. The challenge is to create a numbered pattern using any number one through seven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7) with the month of April in mind (see more on the theme, below). Also, each number must be its own pattern template. features an artist each week on their homepage in "THE WEEK AS ART" as visualized by the artist who creates that weeks days as art. This week on there is a wonderful display of numbered art four through ten (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) each very rich in color by artist, Denise Brown (

source: homepage, week of march 4th through 10th (THE WEEK AS ART)

Create Mixed Media will place each winning COLOURlovers template as a colored version by the creator, on their site the first week of April in THE WEEK AS ART. The image on the site will link back over to the winners pattern on

Seven Winners - You win exposure and a great prize!

This fun opportunity offers you as a creator, exposure on your design skill and a prize of $25 to spend in the North Light Shop which has tons of books on mixed media, color, anything art, craft, hobby and technique.

The challenge rules:

Template must be created using any single number one through seven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7).

You can submit as many versions and numbered templates as you like.

Please submit a colored version along with your original grayscale template.

A loose theme of "April Fools" and/or "April Showers" will give you more weight in winning, but you are not limited to this directly (i.e. in the current weeks artist on, her work is simply colorful and organic which will work too).

You can use any extra design elements (shapes, lines, etc) you would like within the template, but the number does need to be noticeable.

This is a template contest. That means you will need to use either Seamless Studio or Seamless Lite to make your initial submission.

Remember, you must only put one number in to one template as the template is referring to a day of the week.

CONTEST ENDS: Wednesday, March 21st, 2012. Submit designs in the comments of this post.

Numbered Pattern Inspirations

Here are some great patterns that incorporate numbers for some design inspiration!

Inspiration from, sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

And some inspiration from COLOURlovers Templates with numbers:


Current submissions include (feel free to create more!):




Weekly Survey

First, a big thanks to everyone who participated in last weeks Community Survey! The results were helpful in gauging what you as active, participating members are mostly interested in for the site and in Community Engagement blogposts.

Last weeks survey results

Fill out the survey here.


As promised, the random COLOURlovers T-Shirt winner for participating in last weeks survey is COLOURlover member, frugaldivadesignz. She's been COLOURlovin since January 2012 so say hello and check out her profile, website and make her feel welcome! Congrats I'll contact winners via Love Notes as well.

Great responses and extra notes I'll take in to consideration for future surveys, possible blog post and How-To's. Getting active in the survey's will shape what we are able to provide for you so please spread the word and make sure you get involved! We will randomly pick another T-Shirt winner for submitting to this survey too.

Don't forget to play in the CreateMixedMedia template challenge, a themed design challenge!


Tags: Culture
Sponsored post

January 26 2012


November 25 2011


Where the "Black" in Black Friday Came From

It’s here! Some consider it a plague, some consider it a shopaholics dream, and some people just want a new pair of socks at rock-bottom prices. That’s right, the full contact sport of Black Friday has returned for another year. Which brings me to wonder, why do they call this day of awesome deals and big crowds black? Here are a few interesting theories I've pulled together…

Original credit for the phrase is given to the plunging gold prices way back in 1864 that started a panic in the stock market, thus a very black Friday indeed.

(photos: source | source)

Then, in the late 1960s, Philadelphia newspapers borrowed the phrase to describe the dark masses of shoppers crowding the stores. Sounds kind of creepy I know, but let’s imagine them wearing festive holiday colors and the picture isn’t so bleak.

Later on, this idea was clarified to mean that the crowds increased profits, thus the black ink on the accounting balance sheets is why it is called Black Friday.


Tweak this theory again and black now represents the day retailers make a profit or break the bank. Ominous, I know.


Whatever the origin, by the time the 1990s rolled around, Black Friday had turned into a nationwide retail holiday (albeit unofficial). Since then its fame has grown, and now it is the season’s biggest shopping day of the year (says market research firm ShopperTrak).


Whether you brave the crowds, hide at home, or enjoy a regular day at work (with a  little crowd control), be safe and have a happy Black Friday from all of us at COLOURlovers!


November 17 2011


November 09 2011


November 01 2011


October 31 2011


Halloween Colors: Where Did They Come From?

Pumpkin orange and midnight black—the predominant colors of Halloween combine the Autumn season with darkness and scary entities.


But how did these colors really come to dominate this most unusual holiday? The truth is, when it comes to the question of the origin of the Halloween colors, it can be hard to separate the opinions from the facts.

Unbleached beeswax candles (source | source)

The most common opinion about where the colors originated is steeped in the rich history of the Celtics and the Druids, with the burning of unbleached beeswax candles (orange) and ceremonial caskets draped in a black cloth.

Feng Shui candles are said to help create peace in the center of your house (source)

Now, let’s step into the world of Feng Shui, where a balance of energy reigns supreme. Believers of Feng Shui feel that the colors of orange and black were chosen because they are on opposite sides of the energy spectrum: orange is warm, happy, lively, and brings to mind the bounty of the fall harvest, while black represents mystery, void, power and protection (source).

(leaves source)

The most obvious answer to this question is that the classic color of Autumn is orange, while black can be equated with the approaching darkness of winter.

spider glasses | felted toysnapkinsBunting 

And, if you want to get really extreme, some people claim that black and orange were the only colors left after Christmas took red and green, and Easter took all of the pastels.

Of course, Halloween colors are not just limited to orange and black, you will also see a lot of blood red, eerie green, ghostly white and deep purples. So, where do these colors come into play? Here is a plausible explanation.

Celtic wheel of the year (source)

Going back to the Celtic festival of Samhain in 700 B.C., it signified the end of the harvest and the approaching of winter, or the end of one year and the start of another. The Celts believed that ancestral spirits joined them on this day when the past and the present are about to cross paths, which is why it was also considered a “day of the dead.”(source)

goblin | bat necklace | brooch | Boo

All of the Halloween colors seem to implicate some kind of connection to death and dying. Red is a classic implication of blood, fire and demons, while green represents goblins, monsters, and zombies. Purple draws in a bit of the supernatural and mysticism, while white reflects ghosts, mummies and a full moon.

Stepping away from color for a moment, Halloween is also dominated by an abundance of Jack-o-lanterns and children out trick-or-treating. These traditions also have an interesting origin.

Stingy Jack (source)

Jack-o-lanterns trace back to the Irish myth of Stingy Jack who died and, finding himself rejected by both heaven and hell, was forced to roam the darkness seeking a resting place for his soul. Legend has it that he hollowed out a turnip and used it to carry a coal to light his way. This said, the first Jack-o-lanterns were carved in turnips, and only changed to pumpkins when the tradition was brought to America.

jack-o-lanterns (source)

Trick-or-treating came about during the Great Irish Potato Famine. On Halloween, peasants would beg for food from the wealthy. They played practical jokes on those that refused to give them something. So, to avoid being tricked, the wealthy gave out cookies, candies, and fruit. It is easy to see how this turned into modern-day trick-or-treating. (source)

bracelet | plastic mustaches / lips | zombie clips | toy

No matter what history tells us, the Halloween color palette we see today is warm, bright, fun, and sometimes a little spooky. Each color has a place in the holiday and can find a place in your life as well, whether you are wearing it, eating it, decorating with it, or simply reading about it. So, have a happy, safe and colorful Halloween!

header credit: purple bats

Halloween Colors


Reposted byacupuncturenyc acupuncturenyc

October 24 2011


October 19 2011


Signs: A Century of Fantastic Neon

Neon signs first came to the United States in 1923 when a Los Angeles car dealer bought two signs for his Packard dealership. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, neon tubes were used for signage as well as decorative displays. By 1947, several casinos in Las Vegas began to draw attention with their elaborate neon lights.


Many of these signs can be seen at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas, sometimes referred to as the "Neon Graveyard" or "Boneyard Park". There are more than 100 signs that date back as far as the 1930's!



Several active signs throughout Las Vegas have been pledged to the museum once they’re retired. This “Living Museum” project ensures these irreplaceable artifacts will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.


Of course neon lights aren't only popular in Vegas. In the 1950's Coca-Cola built their first neon sign. In total there were 3,515 feet of tube! The sign was 44'X44' which gives an area of approximately 2,000 square feet! The sign weighted approximately 5,000 pounds and was built in 432 sections.


The Coca Cola sign hung in Westminster. In a popular area known as Piccadilly Circus.

(source photographed in 1949, 1962, 1992, and 2006)

I love that you can see the changes through the years, not only in the city, but also in the signs.


A trick of the eye is used to produce visually distinct neon display segments by blocking out parts of the tube with an opaque coating. One complete assembly may be composed of contiguous tube elements joined by glass welding to one another so that the same current passes through, for example, several letters joined end to end from cathode to cathode. To the untrained eye, this looks like separate tubes, but the electrical splice is the plasma inside the crossover glass itself. The entire tube lights up, but the segments that the viewer is not supposed to see are covered with highly opaque special black or gray glass paint. This heat-resistant coating is either painted on or dipped. Without blockout paint, the unintended visual connections would make the display appear confusing. (source)


If you live in more of a rural, low-key area, your idea of a neon sign might be those every day simple signs of functionality. These types of signs almost put the art of neon to shame, but serve a function to certain businesses nonetheless.

(source | source | source)




MONA, the Museum Of Neon Art also carry's a selection of preserved, refurbished and present neon design work. In fact, they even do Neon Tours - showing how neon can add to architectural elements as well.


Dive in to WeHo's Art on the Outside (source)

Museum of Neon Art, Pep Boys sign (source)

Neon sculpture at MONA (source)

Neon artists, such as Lakich Studio present exhibits as well as commission residential artwork.

Lakich Studio collage from homepage (source)

Large scale use of neon and other colorful lighting tricks to create an amazing nighttime atmosphere!


Neon signs have without doubt proven to grab attention in any shape or artistic form- although one can't help appreciate the talent involved in the more impressive pieces past and present.

The next time you see a neon sign maybe you'll look at it a little differently. Quite possibly you'll look at it more closely to see the opaque coating. Perhaps you'll have more appreciation for neon and its different art forms and the way it has evolved through the last century.

Header credit: EightHourDay.

October 13 2011


October 11 2011


October 01 2011


September 29 2011


September 27 2011


The Sketchbook Project: Transforming a Library into a Successful Business

For the past decade, the libraries we knew as children with the Dewy Decimal System and the Card Catalogue have been approaching the brink of extinction. We live in an era where the Kindle and the iPad challenge the need for physical books, and libraries and bookstores face the daunting task of attracting the readers’ attention just to stay in business.

From the sketchbook of, Kelcey Beardsley Portland, OR, United States | "Things found on restaurant napkins"

Granted, those who are surviving have found some sort of niche to keep the interest going. For example, the bookstore Barnes & Noble has always had a sort of coffee-house atmosphere where people actually go to enjoy an experience., already online and a threat to physical bookstores, quickly became a source for digital media along with its physical media. So, how about the local library? What has changed to keep it in the running?

From the sketchbook of, Kelcey Beardsley Portland, OR, United States | "Things found on restaurant napkins"

The Brooklyn Art Library is not exactly a traditional library, but more of a co-op gallery. It does provide a library-type experience, but with so much more. The library acts as a physical extension of Art House Co-op, a library featuring artistic talent from around the globe encompassed in sketchbooks.

Folding Sketchbooks - source

Art House opened its doors in December of 2006 initially as a pay-to-play gallery, but it didn’t do so hot. Scrounging for ideas to keep the business going, the co-op started the first ever, “A Million Little Pictures,” meaning a million photographs and one cross-country exhibition.

“A Million Little Pictures is a community-supported exhibition of snapshots captured around the world. By joining together thousands of specific moments to create a single immersive environment, A Million Little Pictures imagines a communal story from the images of our lives.” - (A Million Little Pictures)

The exhibition did okay, but it didn’t help fully support Art House’s gallery. The one thing it did do was give birth to idea of “The Sketchbook Project”—a traveling library of artists’ journals that is open to anyone around the world. The Art House gallery has had three locations and finally resides in Brooklyn, NY, as the Brooklyn Art Gallery—the home of many sketchbooks from around the World.

Art House Co-op & The Library

The library acts as the physical extension of Art House and is home to the Sketchbook Project. The walls are lined with shelves of sketchbooks from The Sketchbook Project. Visitors can check out a pile of books or simply peruse sketchbooks from around the globe. How amazing it must be to sift through so many varied mediums and talent.

The Brooklyn Art Library

Sketchbooks are individually catalogued and bar-coded so that they can easily be found (by artist name, location and theme). Authors can also choose to have their books digitalized, which means they are scanned and become available online at the Art House Co-Op online in their Digital Library.

The physical library is also a storefront for, you guessed it, sketchbooks, notebooks, art supplies, stationary and vintage trinkets.

From the sketchbook of, Jackie Mangione Williston, VT, United States | Storybook

The library’s purpose is to connect artists from all over the world and encourage the Art House community to interact with one another face-to-face, while showcasing members’ artwork to the local Brooklyn audience. The library hosts readings, discussions, workshops and performances. (source)

A West Coast US location may be opening up in the San Francisco area. Participants in the 2012 exhibition would be included in the launch of the West Coast hub.

The Sketchbook Project

When you sign up for participation in The Sketchbook Project you will get to pick from 40 themes. Themes are there to give you a little boost in the creative direction of your sketchbook and are not restricted to any specific rules. Basic participation costs $25 (USD). This gets you a sketchbook and helps in the expense of the entire project overall. Other optional expenses include requesting that your book be scanned for online viewing ($20 USD) and/or a Sketchbook Project t-shirt ($20).

From the sketchbook of, Gení§ay Aytekin Istanbul, Fatih, Turkey | 

From the sketchbook of, Jackie Mangione Williston, VT, United States | Storybook

I signed up for the Category, Monochromatic and plan to either stick with a single color in many different mediums to create my sketchbook artwork as a whole or use a different hue in single color creations for each page. I am considering a way to incorporate COLOURlovers color swatches.

From the sketchbook of, Jane Kim Los Angeles, CA, United States | Coffee & Cigarettes

Unique Folded Sketchbook - source

Take note that these sketchbooks are not restricted to the format of a regular book either. Creative foldouts, popouts and any type of mixed media is acceptable with a warning to adhere things strongly since these will be handled and viewed from people all over the world. Your book will be well traveled.


What a great outlet to work on your creative style and promote your name as a creative individual be it Graphic Design, Illustrative Design, Mixed Media Artist and any type of singular art such as drawing, sketching, painting, inking, stamping and so on. I am looking forward to participating and experimenting in varied mediums.


Apparently themes fill up fast with over 10,000 people in participation. You must sign up no later than October 31st, 2011 in order to participate for the 2012 exhibition. Deadline to turn in your finished sketchbook is January 31st, 2012 (postmarked by) and the Tour starts in April 2012.

September 23 2011


September 22 2011


September 20 2011

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