Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hel­vetica is not always the answer

Fifty years after the Yves Saint Lau­rent and his part­ner Pierre BergĂ© founded one of the most pres­ti­gious fash­ion houses on the left bank of Paris, and four years after the pass­ing of its founder and name­sake, its ready to wear line is being rebranded. This line will no longer bear the name of its founder, but will bear an updated, mod­ern look, to go with its new, Amer­i­can design stu­dio and its new cre­ative direc­tor, Hedi Silmane.

The his­tory of YSL is an inte­gral part of its brand — its inno­va­tions have helped shape ele­gance and style in ways no other fash­ion house has. YSL was the first fash­ion house to use black mod­els, pop­u­lar­ized sil­hou­ettes inspired by the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and helped glam­or­ize women’s cloth­ing items taken from menswear like pants suits, tuxe­dos, safari style, and leather jack­ets. The French painter Adolph Mouron Cas­san­dre cre­ated the inter­lock­ing “YSL” and word­mark, and it has been the logo for the com­pany since its incep­tion. The cus­tom let­ter­ing is sim­ple, strong, and dis­tinc­tive, veer­ing nei­ther to the fem­i­nine nor mas­cu­line, with an ele­gance that fit its place in fashion’s history.

Hedi Sil­mane has made quite a few waves as the company’s cre­ative direc­tor. For one, he has moved the com­pany away from Paris and to Los Ange­les, a move that shocked the indus­try. The brand’s French roots are part of its her­itage and appeal, so it’s not dif­fi­cult to under­stand why the move elicited such a reac­tion. The new rebrand­ing fur­ther divorces the brand from its French foun­da­tion and story, mov­ing away from both “Yves Saint Lau­rent” and “Saint Lau­rent Rive Gauche” with its new name. The two-​​word, stark, white-​​on-​​black, mod­i­fied Hel­vetica word­mark resem­bles the logos of very Amer­i­can brands such as Alexan­der Wang, Marc Jacobs, or Proenza Schouler. No longer does it evoke the pres­tige of its ground-​​breaking founder, nor does it carry the heft of its sto­ried successes.

Per­haps leav­ing that weighty rep­u­ta­tion behind will allow Sil­mane to cre­ate firsts of his own for the brand, but I’m not sure that this rebrand­ing will be able to reach the same iconic level as the inter­lock­ing YSL. With its easy-​​to-​​read for­mat, inof­fen­sive lines, its busi­nesslike air, its function-​​over-​​form, Hel­vetica was just not the right font for the inno­va­tions and cutting-​​edge fash­ion we hope to see from Sil­mane. It’s also too omnipresent in this time and place, draw­ing more on acces­si­bil­ity (which its fel­low users of Hel­vetica such as Tar­get, Amer­i­can Apparel, and JCPenny have made a part of their brand) than the aspi­ra­tional qual­ity we’ve come to asso­ciate with fash­ion houses like YSL, Dior, Chanel. The full details of the rebrand­ing will be revealed this fall, but I will con­sider it a mis­take if Sil­mane makes so much of this brand­ing new that it loses its ties to YSL’s history.

What do you think of the new logo? In what direc­tion do you think YSL is headed?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wonderland. A short documentary on creative commerce.

“In Spring 2013 we set out for a month to make a short educational piece providing a glimpse of what it is like to work in the creative industry. The idea was born out of our own questions and struggles on how to deal with things that may seem out of your control.”
An insightful look into the minds of creative professionals.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is This The Future of The Airline Website?

I always wanted to recreate the online travel experience. FI did just that with exceptional results. check it out. Exciting stuff!

Read more here

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

97-Year-Old Grandpa Creates Incredible Art Using MS Paint

By Erwan Xiao, 24 Jul 2013

97-year-old Hal Lakso is proof that anyone can create something great, no matter the limitations. Also known as 'Grandpa', Lakso creates incredible art using Microsoft Paint on Windows 95. He was first introduced to the software by his family, long after he retired. Lakso, a former graphic designer, draftsman in the Army and typographer, now suffers from severely impaired vision. However, the ability to magnify on his computer has allowed him to spend up to ten hours a day working on his digital paintings.
His work, described as a “collision of pointillism and 8-Bit art”, has recently been on show in an art exhibition. Prints of his work can also be bought on his website.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I was going through my hard drive and found this pattern I designed a while back. I thought I'd share it. Loving the color scheme - which is part of my branding. Vibrant red yeah!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Art of Guerilla Usability Testing

The post The Art of Guerilla Usability Testing appeared first on UX Booth.

Guerrilla usability testing is a powerful technique. Designer Martin Belam describes it as “the art of pouncing on lone people in cafes and public spaces, [then] quickly filming them whilst they use a website for a couple of minutes.” Let’s skip the pouncing part and instead focus on its subtleties, including how to obtain and share feedback with our team.

I recently worked on a quickstart project in which my team was asked to build a responsive website in a short amount of time. We were given very little time to code (let alone conduct research) for the endeavor, yet by employing guerilla usability testing along the way we collected feedback on the brand position. Eventually, we aligned our designs to both customer expectations and business goals.

Once a week throughout the project, we tested different kinds of prototypes to bring the business’s ideas to life. For example, while mid-development, we sketched a mobile version of the site on index cards and did a quick assessment. This revealed navigational problems (which guided us to rethink a key point in the customer journey) and even ended up shaping a bit of the brand’s media material. What’s more, guerilla usability testing opened our stakeholders’ eyes so that they challenged their own, innate assumptions about “the user.”

We iterated through our design ideas using lo-fi techniques like paper prototyping. Sketch by Chris Cheshire.
The bottom line? Guerilla usability testing presented itself as an easy-to-perform technique for refining the user experience. It helped us validate (and invalidate) critical assumptions at cheap cost and with rapid speed.

Breaking it down

It’s hard to see the magic that guerrilla usability testing affords and not want in on the action, right? Here are some basic questions to consider before getting started:
  1. What shall we test?
  2. Where will we test?
  3. With whom will we test? and, of course,
  4. How will we test?

What shall we test?

One of the best parts about this kind of testing is that it can be done with almost anything, from concepts drawn on the back of napkins to fully functioning prototypes. Steve Krug recommends testing things earlier than we think we should and I agree – get out of the building as soon as possible.

Test what the product could be so as to shape what the product should be. Even loosely defined UI sketches can be a great way to evaluate a future product. In fact, recent research shows that lower-fidelity prototypes can be more valuable concerning both high and low-level user interactions.

Where do we test?

Where we conduct tests affects how we perform and document our work. For instance, if we’re testing a new mobile app for a retail chain, we might go to the store itself and walk the aisles; if we’re working on “general” office software, we might test it with coworkers in a different part of the office; etc. The point is: let context drive the work.

With whom do we test?

When designing for the mass market, it’s easy enough to ask friendly looking strangers if they have a couple minutes to spare. Public spaces and shopping centers present some of the best places to do this on account of the sheer amount of foot traffic they receive (as well the relaxed nature of the environment). With more specific user sets, however, it’s useful to target subjects based on their context (see above): a mixture of location and behavior.
Coffeeshops are great because you’ll often find test subjects from varying cultural backgrounds and different age ranges.

How do we test?

Testing is fairly straightforward: have participants talk aloud as they perform tasks. Use the think-aloud protocol to test overall product comprehension rather than basic task completion. The key is to watch customers fiddle with a product and silently evaluate its usability. As Sarah Harrison explains, “Observing users is like flossing–people know they’re supposed to do it every day, but they don’t. So just do it. It’s not a big deal.”
Always start with open-ended, non-leading questions like:
  1. What do you make of this?
  2. What would you do here?
  3. How would you do [that]?
By answering these kinds of questions, participants tell a loose story in which they explain how they perceive a product. Along the way, we can generate ideas for how to improve things in the next iteration.

Employing the technique

Guerrilla usability testing is very much about adapting to the situation. That said, here are some helpful hints that I find consistently work in different international contexts:
  1. Beware the implicit bias. While coffeeshops are a great place to find test participants, focusing on people who frequent them introduces bias to our work. Simply acknowledging this implicit bias can help designers neutralise subjective experiences and account for individual differences. Remember to target different genders and be fair in who you approach.
  2. Explain what’s going on. Designers should be honest about who we are, why we’re testing, and what sort of feedback we’re looking to receive. Oftentimes, it’s best to do this with a release form, so that people are fully aware of the implications of their participation – like if it’s going to just be used internally versus shared globally at conferences. These sort of release forms, while tedious to carry around, help establish trust.
  3. Be ethical. Of course, being honest doesn’t mean we need to be fully transparent. Sometimes it’s useful to skip certain information, like if we worked on the product they’re testing. Alternatively, we might tell white lies about the purpose of a study. Just make sure to always tell the truth at the end of each session: trust is essential to successful collaboration.
  4. Make it casual. Lighten up tests by offering cups of coffee and/or meals in exchange for people’s time. Standing in line or ordering with a test subject is a great opportunity to ask questions about their lifestyle and get a better feel for how a test might go.
  5. Be participatory. Break down barriers by getting people involved: ask them to draw – on a napkin or piece of notebook paper, for example – what they might expect to see on the third or fourth screen of a UI flow. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown user interface necessarily, just a rough concept of what’s in their head. You never know what you’ll learn by fostering imagination.
  6. Don’t lead participants. When you sense confusion, ask people what’s going through their head. Open them up by prodding, saying “I don’t know. What do you think?”. People in testing situations often can feel as though they are being tested (as opposed to the product itself), and therefore can start to apologise or shut down.
  7. Keep your eyes peeled. It’s important to encapsulate passing thoughts for later analysis. Ethnographic observation is one good way to capture what you were thinking of during tests. Don’t get too hung up about formalised notes though, most of the time your scribbles will work just fine. It’s about triggering memories, not showing it off at an academic conference.
  8. Capture the feedback. A key part of any testing process is capturing what we’ve learned. While the way in which we do this is definitely a personal choice, there are a few preferred tools available: apps like Silverback or UX Recorder collect screen activity along with a test subject’s facial reaction. Other researchers build their own mobile rigs. The important part to remember here is to use tools that fit your future sharing needs.
  9. Be a timecop. Remember, this isn’t a usability lab with paid users. Be mindful of how much time you spend with test subjects and always remind them that they can leave at any point during the test. The last thing you’d want is a grumpy user skewing your feedback.

Sharing the feedback

Conducting the tests is only half the battle, of course. To deliver compelling and relevant results from guerilla usability tests, designers need to strategically decide how we’ll share our findings with our colleagues.

When analysing and preparing captured feedback, always consider your audience. The best feedback is the kind that understands stakeholders and kickstarts important conversations between them. For example, developers who need to evaluate bugs will have different needs than executives who want to prioritise new features.
Next, when delivering feedback, align it with your audience’s expectations. Try editing clips in iMovie or making slides in PowerPoint. Your co-workers are probably as busy as you, so an edited down “trailer” that highlights relevant results or a bullet-point summary along with powerful quotes is always a good method to keep people listening.

Go guerilla

At the end of the day, guerilla usability testing comes in many forms. There’s no perfection to the art. It is unashamedly and unapologetically impromptu. Consider making up your own approach as you go: learn by doing.
Note: Thanks to Andrew for providing lots of feedback on early drafts of this article.

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