Hierarchy of needs is the premise that any design needs to meet users basic needs before it can attempt to satisfy higher level needs – that is, it must function before it can help users to be creative. Good designs follow the principle and get the basics right first, whereas poor designs attempt to meet needs from higher levels before delivering on basic functionality and reliability. This hierarchy is based on the work of Abraham Maslow in the 1950s. Read more »
Storyboards help build a visual narrative to generate empathy and communicate context to help understand or inform the use of design. It is a great way to help capture the different factors that influence behaviour – environment, social context and technology and their influence on how, when and why designs are used. The technique was first developed by Walt Disney in the 1930s
They are also a great tool for planning any kind of communication, including presentations and workshops. Read more »
Story is about eternal, universal forms” - Robert McKee
What can brands and marketers learn from myths and fairy tales?
Many writers have described the role of archetypes in storytelling. Aristotle, arguably the first literary critic, described the structure of comedy and tragedy, and remains a great source for understanding how story works. In Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker described seven templates for telling great (brand) stories. Read more »
Sensory branding has come a long way in a very short time, and there is still much room to make an even greater impact. To date, sensory branding literature has focused on the classic five senses, with potential to move beyond these to a more integrated view of how the senses inform our experience of the world, and how they link to our emotional goals.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellency, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
A basic principle of design is that usability is increased when similar parts of the system are designed in similar ways, making them more learnable and transferrable across contexts and helping users focus their attention on the task itself. Consistency is an important consideration in branding too – using the same typefaces, logos, colours, features, uniforms and architecture improves brand recognition, reduces costs and establishes a stronger relationship with customers. Designers consider four types of consistency: aesthetic, functional, internal and external. Read more »
A/B testing is used to compare two versions of a design to see which performs better against a specific outcome (return coupon, sales, click through, etc). The methodology is that of a randomised experiment with two variants, A and B (control and test). Such testing is common in website optimisation and experience design in order to maximise desired outcomes and identify changes that can increase sales (where thousands of users can mean that even marginal increases in specific behaviours can have a significant impact on success). A/B testing is also called split testing. When there are multiple versions of a design, such testing is called multivariate or bucket testing. Read more »
Douglas Hofsatdter’s first book, Godel, Escher, Bach, had a profound influence on me while I was at university. First published in 1979, I don’t remember when I first read the book. but have since re-read more than once (and it’s not a short book!).
In the book, Hofstadter explores common themes in the lives and works of Kurt Godel (logician), M.C.Escher (artist) and Johann Sebastian Bach (musician), drawing out concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, intelligence and philosophy of mind. Specifically, Hofstadter discusses how self-reference and formal rules allow systems to develop meanings which ‘emerge’ from the system however meaningless the individual elements of that system. That is, the book describes how thinking emerges from the mechanics of neurons firing, creating a unified sense of self, in the same way that a colony of ants self-organises to produce social behaviours which ‘emerge’ from the acts of individual ants. Read more »
Affordance is a term used in design to describe how the characteristics of an object or environment influence (and communicate) the way its function, or as Wikipedia defines it, “A quality of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, while a cord affords pulling”. Read more »
If you want to understand the realities of everyday life in 17th century London, there is no better starting point than Samuel Pepys’ diary. Researchers and designers know the power of diary studies, which is why they are a valuable tool to allow people to to conveniently express the events and details of their personal lives. Read more »
I have just reread The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman, a recommended read for anyone interested in design. As Donald Norman points out, the book was originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things (from POET to DOET) and the book is full of insights into the psychology behind user experiences, and the failings of many designs to accommodate the experience and learned practices of users (Norman was himself a cognitive psychologist). The book is a great argument for user-centred design. Read more »