2015 in Review: Top 5 UX Developments

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Here’s my shortlist of improvements in user experience design for 2015.

  1. Micro-interactions (Apple Watch) – There have been enough articles criticizing the Apple Watch, but I think the potential that Apple Watch brings to the table is unmatched. In time, Apple Watch will do for wearable technology what iPhone has done for smartphones, and what iPad has done for tablets. I can remember a lot of criticism of both of these products the year they were first released. But they’ve proven to be revolutionary products. Obviously, Apple has had its share of failed products, but the world (and Apple as a company) is very different now. Micro-interactions allow us to interact with our technology much quicker, and therefore less often. And Apple has brought popularity to this category.
  2. Material Design – I don’t know which is better: how clearly the standards are presented or the design of the operating system itself. No longer will Google be seen as tone deaf when it comes to design; this was the perfect follow up to their logo’s redesign. I’ve always found that it is usually a good idea to build on the existing platform that users are already familiar with than to completely start over from scratch. And that’s exactly what Google has done here.
  3. Adobe Project Comet – Finally, Adobe is releasing a program specifically for user experience design. One where we won’t have to render the assets in Photoshop, mock up the screens in Illustrator and try and create the interactions in InDesign (which seems to be the furthest from interactive design of the trinity, but still has the capabilities). Perhaps this shouldn’t be mentioned in this list because it hasn’t been released yet, but I simply couldn’t resist.
  4. Adobe MyPortfolio – there is a school of thought that believes designers should design their own portfolio website, everything from the front end to the back end. And I understand why. I would be willing to bet that a lot of those who subscribe to this philosophy do so because there are so many bad templates out there, whether they’re free or paid. But Adobe managed to create a portfolio builder that takes the difficulty out of creating a portfolio so that a designer can focus his/her time on other, more important things (like getting a job). If you have a Creative Cloud membership, as most designers these days do, it is included with your membership and integrates with your Behance profile. It is a smarter, responsive update to Behance’s Prosite, which will be discontinued in the Spring of 2016.
  5. Windows 10 – I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out…
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    Of course, we all know that the benefit of a hardware upgrade means the company gets more money and the consumer gets that warm and fuzzy feeling of having a new device. But what about those who can’t afford a new device (or those who simply don’t want a new device)? Are they now locked out of all of the latest improvements? Doesn’t this sort of defeat the purpose? Even though, everyone has not (and probably will not) upgrade to Windows 10 (and we can’t blame Microsoft for that), they’re still addressing a major issue and attempting to get all its users on the same page (screen?) once and for all.

So that’s that. Enjoy your New Years celebrations but before you go, let me know what developments I may have missed in the comments.

Is Sharing Really Caring?

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I recently came across an interesting app, Adobe Post, which creates graphics for social media, especially Instagram. This got my attention because I’ve been wanting a company that is knee-deep in design and technology to make something like this. There are plenty of apps out there that make it easy to share bad graphics, here’s one that makes it easy to share good ones.

So along comes Adobe Post and, from what I can see, this looks like everything I hoped for. I rarely share the apps I use, but this one was too good to keep to myself. I felt like it would help improve the overall look of my Instagram feed, if nothing else. When I went to Adobe Post’s website, I found no social sharing buttons. I started to ignore it, but when I saw links to their social media, I thought, ‘why would they make it easy to follow them on social media but not include buttons to share their app on social media?’

Their response included an article that makes some great points:

This article points out that share buttons don’t necessarily mean users will share the page (and can backfire because people are turned off by a low share count) and it may also be distracting from the main goal (which, in this case, would be to purchase the product, not share the page). Sometimes share buttons are included simply because it can be done, even if they add no value or utility to the page.


While the article does provide some great insight, it’s important not to paint the web with a broad brush. Adobe Post’s website is very different from the one mentioned in the article. I do understand the point, but it would still make sense to include share buttons on the homepage, if no where else.

All in all, I hope Adobe Post becomes popular enough to have a positive impact on social graphics, including your Instagram feeds. And, yes, there are sharing buttons on this post.

Design Reflects Life

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Now that some of us have finally gained some respect for the message in NWA’s music, perhaps we can begin to see the parallels between this and what many of us consider horrifying and even offensive displays of art.

Art is meant to change culture, advance our civilization and challenge the constraints that we are all used to. “Comfort zone” is just a fancier, more socially acceptable way to say “prison.” Everyone claims to understand the danger of operating in one but very few of us truly demonstrate it. A lot of what we see in popular culture (from mainstream to local arenas) are not pushing anyone out of their comfort zones, but further building walls around where people feel safe. Hypocrisy.

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Last year around this time, Urban Outfitters shocked us with this controversial Kent State University sweatshirt. The backlash they received ultimately resulted in them pulling the sweatshirt from their website. A lot of people believe it was a media stunt (they’re known for this sort of thing) but personally, I think it was a bitch move. What an awesome opportunity to make a very strong political statement through their work and they chose to backpedal, claiming it was a coincidence and they didn’t realize this would be offensive.

Bullshit. Stick with your guns, UO.

Meanwhile, This Designer Stopped Everyone In Their Tracks With a Fashion Show About Police Brutality

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Not only does this line of clothes make an incredible political statement, it is also beautiful.

“Safe art” has never accomplished much as far as advancing civilization is concerned. Too many creatives are afraid to evolve thus preventing civilization from advancing.

I will definitely be checking for Kerby Jean-Raymond’s brand Pyer Moss on Instagram and Twitter from now on.

Terra Wright-Deloatch’s GIS research is gaining ground.

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"Crowd Sourced Analysis and Social Media" by Terra Wright-Deloatch of Fayetteville State University

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Terra Wright-Deloatch of Fayetteville State University in creating a presentation she gave at the CaGIS/ASPRS Fall Conference in San Antonio on 29 October 2013; her presentation discussed the relevancy of social media to geospatial information. Since then, she’s continued gaining exposure for her research by participating in World Geography Bowl (GeoBowl) in Roanoke where she was selected to represent SEDAAG in the national GeoBowl in Tampa! Great job and keep up the awesome work, Terra!

view the presentation (PDF)

Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite Seminar

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Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend an awesome Adobe seminar which talked about ways to create mobile apps using InDesign. While it was not the most robust, this was probably the most informative seminar I’ve ever attended, to say the least. This is particularly exciting to me because InDesign is my first preference when it comes to Adobe design software; there are times when I go weeks without even opening another program from Creative Suite. Learning about the built-in features that are new to CS6 (but also can be used in CS5, with a software patch) and how incredibly easy they are to manipulate is right up my alley — being that I am an expert at page layout software yet my research emphasis is design for mobile devices.

Thanks to the team at Adobe for giving such a great presentation (and lunch lol)! This has opened so many doors for me. Now to get to work!

The Great Von Glitschka

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Recently, I was fortunate enough to see a person whose work I deeply admire: Von Glitschka (one of the best designer/illustrators I’ve ever seen). Since it was a CSCA event (Columbus Society of Communicating Arts — a local organization of and for graphic designers) much of the lecture reminded us of the importance of drawing, with pencil and paper.

In college, every professor stressed the importance of hand skills — if it wasn’t for the purpose of understanding the fine details of an image, then we should know how to quickly convey an idea to a client in a visual format right on the spot. This essential skill is something I can trace all of my designs back to. Many of these designs, I still have the original sketches. I keep Post-It Notepads at every one of my work areas for thumbnails when I need to quickly jot down an idea that might take 15 minutes on a computer.

As much as I value drawing as a necessary skill, I can’t say that I do it on a regular basis. This is the biggest lesson I took from Von’s lecture: never stop drawing. He also challenged us to draw something every day for the next 21 days (as this will make it a habit). It doesn’t have to be a 3 hour masterpiece, it could be a 3 minute doodle; but draw something.

I accepted this challenge and I will share a few of my drawings here and on my Twitter account.

Thanks to CSCA and, of course, Von Glitschka (whose last name I have to repeatedly check the spelling) for such an inspiring lecture!