By Lucy Bourton

Placing a heavy focus on minimal details such as a varied colour palette and direct typography, United Sodas of America takes a different path to packaging design.

When it comes to packaging, most designers tend to zoom in on the details, looking endlessly for an illustrator to work with, or an inventive approach to its labelling, maybe – or even an extra bold typeface to catch someone’s eye off the shelf. It seems little attention is often paid to the actual vessel, an element thought of as a non-negotiable factor handed over from the manufacturer. Yet the newly launched United Sodas of America pushes against this design approach, surprisingly placing its can’s shape centre stage and in turn making the everyday become iconic.

The result of over two years worth of work by Brooklyn-based brand design company Center, the design approach for United Sodas of America is built around the idea of reinventing soda and an audience’s initial perception of it. Beginning by studying and visually riffing off the name provided – as well as the brief’s leading question: “What if soda was invented in 2020?” – the agency’s founder Alex Center notes that the team (made up of Kevin Batory, Ashleigh Bowring, Pete Freeman, Andrew Galloway and Alex himself from Center, and Marisa Zupan and Kate Reeder from United Sodas) first identified soda as “a classic American beverage”. Therefore in its attempt to reinvent it aesthetically, the agency and brand should purposefully “embrace that, not avoid it,” he tells It’s Nice That. Center’s focused on the idea to add very little to the can visually, creating a minimalistic identity that manages to retain the same nuanced detail of its neighbours in the fridge.

The most obvious design decision when looking at Center’s approach is the colour palette used, again a concept driven from the product’s name. The inclusion of a 12 colour rainbow-like selection is a purposeful step away from the red, white and blue we often associate with the US, developed from the team feeling that “in a world that sees just red and blue, variety unites,” explains Alex. Collectively believing in this concept also led United Sodas of America to launch with 12 available flavours, and include one of each in their flagship variety pack. “That’s not normal for a beverage company,” adds Alex. “So that’s why the brand is so colourful, because the idea is that within the range of flavours, everyone is going to find one that speaks to them. A flavour for every flavour, if you will.”

Despite its simplicity, deciding upon this unified yet wide ranging colour palette took the team’s time. As Alex points out: “With a brand that is as minimal as United Sodas, all of the details needed to be perfect”. Beginning by tracing back the approaches of great American midcentury colour masters and colour field painters, including Ellsworth Kelly, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and Mark Rothko, Center’s team aimed towards utilising colour as “a way of creating deeper meaning” as these artist had, referencing their colour palettes as a starting point.

Above     Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)

More specific shades were then selected when it came to assigning colours to flavour, an approach which suitably “thought beyond just ‘the colour of the fruit’,” says Alex. Referencing not only flavour but wider ingredients, personality and a feeling, each comes together “in a tone that created an entire immersive experience, a flavour world,” he continues. This was also inspired by how the painters mentioned often made their own paints. “Clyfford Still used to mix them in his garage, Frakenthaler added extra oil to get the paints to mix with the canvas, creating a more complex tone,” points out Alex, “so, of course, a simple ‘blue’ wouldn’t do it for sour blueberry!” Each of these careful decisions add nuance to United Sodas of America’s branding, and is an area Center will continue to explore, “with more visuals, copy and sounds that make each a complete sensory experience.”

Aside from colour, the beverage’s branding is then brought to life through typography. The decision to use Klim Type Foundry’s Founders Grotesk as the main brand typeface was driven from a want to “feel unbranded”. Founders Grotesk offers “just the right amount of trustworthiness and directness but also some quirk to it,” says Alex. “It’s matter-of-fact and informative at times, and humorous at others.”

With United Sodas of America now launched in a design style which utilises minimalism “to represent the idea of a new America,” Center’s branding has piqued the interest of many with its unique approach. Reflecting on this, Alex adds: “The reaction has been truly everything we could have hoped for, and more,” he tells us. “We’ve been working on this project since we launched the studio in 2018 and have been itching to get it into people’s hands ever since.” For the founder, it’s been an additionally rewarding experience, given his background of working at Coca-Cola and across the wider beverage industry. “To go out on my own and put together a team of amazing humans that are building this iconic brand, I’m just so insanely proud.”

Above        Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)
Above       Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)
Above        Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)
Above        Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)
Above      Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)
Above      Center: United Sodas of America (Copyright © Center, 2021)

By Lucy Bourton

Sourced from It’s Nice That

Black is, arguably, the queen regnant of all colors. It emanates dominance, mystery, elegance, and reflects a wide spectrum of emotions. Depending on the context, it can be conservative or unconventional, luxurious or minimal. Its usefulness simply knows no bounds.

Thanks to its versatility, black plays an important role in all forms of art. In design, it is often used as a standalone color, mostly in logos, as it can help add a touch of power and sophistication to a brand. Think of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Adidas, or Nike, to name a few. However, black can also serve as a spectacular backdrop for websites. It helps put all other elements in the spotlight and accentuates the brightness and vivaciousness of surrounding colors.

Below you’ll discover 25 stunning examples that prove the potency of black as a background color. While some of them use the simple yet timeless combination of black and white, others combine a variety of colors with their black backgrounds. But they all unquestionably illustrate how dark designs can help brands and individuals differentiate themselves from the crowd and create awe-inspiring projects. The websites we’ll introduce you to are:

Synchronized Studio

Synchronized Studio is a team of creatives and experts in digital art direction, branding, web design, and much more. A word that best describes this website is – powerful. There’s a loading animation that looks like a lightning bolt tearing the dark background as the numbers go from 0 to 100 indicating the loading status. The background is particularly interesting. For one, it’s not static. It resembles black silk wrinkled sheets, and the movement of your mouse causes the “sheets” to stir. The cursor leaves a lime-colored trace behind that adds a touch of color to the homepage. Inner pages are black and white, save for the projects page which is especially fun to explore because of the horizontal drag effect.

Trip in the Dark

Trip in the Dark is an astonishing project created by the Voskhod digital agency that I could wax poetic about ad infinitum. While the website loads, you first see a blinking eye placed on a black background inviting you to be patient while you await for your adventure in the dark to begin. You can then choose the way in which you wish to experience the site – with your ears, eyes, and/or by using your voice to interact with it. Once that’s settled, you’re introduced to Volodya, a not-your-typical tour guide. The background is initially white, but as he begins to narrate his experience and informs you that he’s visually impaired, the light switches off and you’re enveloped in darkness. He tells you his story using his voice as well as through a series of spectacular illustrations that lead you to a crossroads. There you can choose between exploring places or getting to know locals. If you select the former, you’ll be able to make your own map based on the real sounds of the city. You can select a maximum of 5 sounds that you should place in designated slots to then see your route through Yekaterinburg. If you go right and choose to meet locals, you’ll have the opportunity to hear several interesting stories that highlight the importance of listening to sounds, both external and the ones within ourselves.

Andrew Leguay

Andrew Leguay is a designer who specializes in branding, digital products, and lifestyle marketing. His creativity is evident in every single pixel of his commendable portfolio website. As you wait for it to load, the screen becomes more and more chaotic with each passing second. Words such as organizationstrategybrandingmarketingcultureproductframework ambush the screen and are all you can see at one point. It all clears out in an instant and then you get the chance to explore Andrew’s work. The entire website is designed using just three colors – black, white, and dark orange. The background is black, which allows the featured elements to stand out. The font choices are interesting and unusual, especially the typefaces used in headlines. And when it comes to animation effects, the glitching on scroll effect wonderfully complements the cool vibe of the entire site.

Yuto Takahashi

Yuto Takahashi is an art director and a web and graphic designer. His website is mesmerizing from the get-go. The homepage starts off with a somber background image of a woman that appears to be submerged underwater. This composition looks calming and mystical, and it stands as an alluring invitation into Yuto’s creative world. To dive into it, you must first hold down the mouse button for a few seconds. What you’ll discover are his works masterfully displayed on a black background. The color palette he used on the website is not overpowering and it subtly contrasts the dark background. While you scroll and the projects appear on the screen one after the other, you’ll notice how their surface is wavy, resembling turbulent waters. As soon as the scrolling stops, the scroll-triggered animation effect is gone and the images become still. If you click on any of the pictures, you’ll see an in-depth presentation of the featured projects.

Clement Merouani

The website of Clement Merouani, a French art director and photographer, looks like a modern online art exhibition that you can visit and admire from the comfort of your home. You can control the carousel of his colorful works with your mouse. As you scroll or drag from left to right or vice versa, you’ll notice how the edges of displayed images become protuberant. The side towards which they lean depends on the direction in which you scroll. Clement’s website is essentially minimal and well thought out. The background is dark, elegant, and it ensures his works are in the spotlight. There are no distractions, no redundant elements that might draw your attention away. All the while you stay focused solely on his art. If you click on Index at the top left corner of the screen, you’ll see all of Clement’s works displayed in the Pinterest style on a black background.

Sam Phlix

Sam Phlix’s website is minimal to the core and a perfect example of how you don’t have to go overboard with special effects to make an eye-catching online presentation of your work. There’s a black backdrop, big white letters, and monochromatic imagery. Oh, and a carousel, the “wild child” of this site. If you bring the pointer on the wheel and hold the mouse button, the carousel will start to spin, simultaneously inverting the website’s colors – the background becomes white and the letters turn to black.

A Day Out

A Day Out’s works are displayed in large, irregularly-shaped, multi-colored blocks dotted all over the dark background. The masterminds behind this studio have cleverly used colors and the shapes of displayed elements so that you can’t help but feel the strong pull to explore their portfolio. Even as you click on a project of your choice to learn more about it, the black background will still be there with large imagery added on top of it to show you every single aspect of the selected project. Back on the homepage, the studio’s name is written in large typography and is visible at all times. As you scroll, the letters start to move, going from one side of the screen to the next, often swapping places. The fonts these guys used are very simple, colored in white, and placed in stark contrast with the darkness behind them.

Spatzek Studio

Spatzek Studio’s website looks powerful and bold from the first scroll to the last. The riveting visuals and witty textual content form the perfect amalgam that illustrates the studio’s creative genius and their skillset. They say they don’t want to over-complicate things but rather care about emotions and creating projects for humans. It goes without saying that their homepage looks spectacular, but the about page is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before. There are yes / no questions to which you must answer before getting to read the studio’s bio. The text alone is fun to read, but thanks to the hilarious videos they’ve added to the description, things become all the more fun for the visitor. There’s a lot going on no matter what part of the website you go to. Lots of motion, large fonts, video content, etc. but everything looks harmonious because of the neutral black background.

Digital Marketing Conference

The Digital Marketing Conference is organized every year by the famous Russian creative agency Possible. The website they’ve made for the 2019 edition is nothing short of majestic. You feel like you’re suspended in the air, exploring the continuously rotating dark universe of the conference by dragging the mouse cursor in every which direction while eerie sounds play in the background. All you see is black and white, with traces of red here and there. Above you are the starry skies with the DMC 2019 logo shining bright in the middle of it. If you keep looking up, the logo fades away, the stars spin harder and lose their form, and you feel like you’re sucked into some kind of digital vortex. Before you get dizzy, it all clears out after a few seconds, and the sky goes back to being starry again. Interactive links are placed at eye level and they carry info about the event, its program, speakers, etc. If you look down, you’ll see a map of Moscow with a clearly marked conference hall. The creativity of this 360° project doesn’t cease to amaze from one pixel to the next, and you can experience it even in VR.

Design Canada

Design Canada is a documentary film that introduces us to the finest Canadian graphic designs. The website was created by the phenomenal Locomotive agency. They’ve designed it in quite a simple yet compelling way, relying mostly on the colors of the Canadian flag – red and whiteThe background is black, which helped accentuate the iconic logos and other design examples. Animation effects, transitions, and micro-interactions are engaging, and they help make the browsing experience smooth, enjoyable, and entertaining.

Throwbacks Music

The majestic Throwbacks Music takes us back in time and gives us an entertaining, interactive 3D music experience. The black background is omnipresent on the entire website. We can listen to the great old songs that are popular to this day and learn more about musicians who created them. The library of featured artists is displayed in the form of a carousel, and as you move from one artist to the next, you feel as if spinning a record. The pictures of artists are black and white until you stop “spinning”, which is when they gain color. When you find a musician you like, you can hear a preview of whichever of their songs is included in Throwbacks Music’s music catalog. To listen to the song in its entirety, all you need to do is press and hold the spacebar. That action will take you to the page where, besides hearing the song, you can read more about the selected artist. Before you scroll away to the next musician, you can have some more fun and play virtual guitar strings by moving your mouse over them.

Mav Farm

Mav Farm’s website is definitely something else. While it loads, you can see the name of the app written in futuristic-looking blue and purple letters across the screen. Once the content’s ready, an eyeball pops up at the bottom of the page luring you in and inviting you to click on it to enter the website. And then, you step into a surreal universe where WebGL scroll navigation rules everything. There are lots of colors, futuristic elements, complementing typography and terrific animation effects that look breathtaking on a black background while truthfully portraying the description of the company, which is – A new network and an alternate reality.

Black WordPress Themes


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Eclipse SRL

The website of the Italian agency Eclipse SRL is minimal and very fun to explore. Its ambient is very dark, matching the brand’s name. The homepage background is black and its monotony is occasionally disrupted by the passing dark moon. You’re encouraged to hold the mouse button and “draw” on this virtual blackboard. As you drag the mouse pointer across the page in whatever direction you please, you’ll leave a white trace made up of words in different sizes behind. If you click on the crescent moon at the top right corner of the screen, you’ll see a page filled with images depicting different lunar stages. On hover, some of them turn into Super Mario, Michael Jackson, or the iconic Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album cover art. This is also where you can read more information about the agency and explore their projects.


The first thing you see as the Akufen’s website loads are floating 3D cubes that levitate towards the middle of the screen. They form a large unit at the center that follows the movement of your mouse. Everything’s in black and dark grey hues, save for white typefacesExploring their portfolio feels very smooth thanks to the infinite scroll effect. The projects line up one after the other while the background remains dotted with dark cubes. The 404 page is charming and in stark contrast with the rest of the website. Its background is black, but there are occasional colorful, full-screen glitches interrupting the black and white synthesis.

Mysta Electric

Mysta Electric is a phenomenal tattoo artist that creates “dark graphic tattoos with beautiful melancholy” and his website perfectly matches that vibe. It’s entirely monochromatic, oozing coolness from one pixel to the next. The first thing you see is Mysta’s head in the background. Wherever you may move your cursor, the head will follow the movement. As you start to scroll, large typefaces take up the screen telling you Mysta’s story. If you hover over some words, you’ll see pictures of Mysta at work and with some of his clients. There’s also an extensive image gallery containing some of his awe-inspiring and idiosyncratic tattoos, as well as a black and white video that gives us a glimpse into the artist’s creative process.


Maxilla is a visual studio and a digital agency coming from Japan. Besides an interesting name and a cool logo, they also have a website that serves as an example of the striking things you can achieve with a black canvas and a lot of imagination. They start off with a bang – the first thing you see is a majestic radial menu featuring their portfolio. The names of projects are written in large, all-caps, white types, but on hover, your cursor turns into a big, black spot that sucks the white out of letters and leaves them outlined in the dark. Inner pages also reflect the agency’s creative approach to design, in particular, their about page. There’s an illustration of the white deer’s head at the center that follows every movement of your mouse. Next comes some short text informing you about what the agency does, and then – bam! You see a picture of a huge plush deer caught in the headlights, placed in the middle of the street. A few scrolls later, as if nothing happened, the deer is gone and Maxilla’s contact details appear.

Longshot Features

Longshot Features is a production company with a terrific horizontal-scrolling website that introduces us to their wonderous world of film. It’s filled with remarkable animated art of the pointillism master Mattis Dovier. When you click on any of the featured cinematic illustrations, you’ll reveal the story of the studio, the films they’ve made, etc. The stunning pixel art and the whole website are made relying on the black and white hues, proving once more the undisputed creative power of this timeless color pairing.


Cultish is a South African creative studio with a beautiful website that fuses seemingly unmatchable elements. The first thing you see is Penitent Saint Peter, a Jusepe De Ribera’s painting from the 17th century. As you move your mouse over it, the parts of the image where the cursor is placed twirl leftwards, giving this classic composition a modern twist. Again, there aren’t that many colors on the homepage – the background is black and the letters are white or blue. But somehow the website doesn’t ever look dull. Aside from the large painting taking up the upper part of the page, you’ll also discover images of the studio’s projects while moving your mouse through the darkness. Inner pages are predominantly monochromatic as well, adorned with sporadic splashes of blue.

Juraj Molnár

Juraj Molnár’s website proves, once again, that black is possibly the best choice for portfolio websites, and that less is certainly more. The transitions from one section of the site to the next are smooth and subdued, with the progress bar displayed at the left-hand side of the screen. This is a mainly typographic site with a mix of bold and outlined letters. When you hover over the names of Juraj’s projects, a few images show up on the screen, inviting you to explore in greater depth the selected work. I especially liked the animated outlined illustration of a beating heart. It’s placed right next to the list of awards Juraj has won so far, indicating that he probably holds all those accolades close to his heart.

Gucci Marmont

The creativity of the people behind Gucci is inspiring, and not just on the runway. The websites their team has created for their big campaigns are all picturesque and mesmerizing. The one they made for the Gucci Marmont collection is no different. The website shows the Marmont bags as parts of still life paintings reminiscing the Renaissance era. The paintings are hung on a wall, and as you study them, you almost forget that the purses are the charming intruders that don’t naturally belong to any of these artworks. Given the colorfulness of the images, the choice of the black background is ideal.

Intro to Coding for Designers

Intro to Coding for Designers is a beginner’s class that teaches designers the fundamentals of coding. The color choice for this website is not surprising. The black background along with white, orange, blue, and green elements are all typical of coding in Javascript, CSS, and HTML, which are the programming languages this course teaches you about. This website is quite simple, but it’s amusing to explore. There’s a playful feel to it, as the authors have added a bunch of geometric shapes that run away from your mouse pointer as soon as you hover over them.


Kontrapunkt is one of the leading Scandinavian design agencies and they’ve created a stunning online exhibition celebrating the Kontrapunkt typeface. They’ve singled out eight projects in which this font is used, demonstrating its versatility. The agency has opted for the predominantly dark color palette on the homepage, with lots of black and grey elements that are contrasted with white and yellow textual content. The typeface overview is informative and comes with lots of beautiful cursor animations. You can explore each project further by clicking on it. The exciting project pages shine more light on the typeface and demonstrate how it looks in action.

Masters 1987

Masters 1987 is an event production company from Los Angeles whose client list includes Oscar, Netflix, HBO, among many others. The use of a black background allowed them to promote their services in a striking way by opting for vivid imagery, all-caps typefaces, and snazzy interactions that ensure a cool browsing experience. The cursor looks especially charming. It’s like a comet that turns into a spotlight when you move it across letters. When placed on images, it puts them in commotion. The pictured objects zoom in and out, the photograph surface seemingly becomes undulating, and the color of the area where the mouse pointer is inverts.


Wiseslang is a platform that gathers creatives from various fields. Their website looks subtle and impressive at the same time. The darkness throughout is filled with floating white dots or particles that assemble into all kinds of shapes. To navigate the website, you should use the arrows placed on the left and right sides of the screen. You can learn more about Wiseslang and the projects they’ve worked on, and regardless of the section you decide to explore, the playful white particles stay on the screen all the time.

Skyline Films

Skyline Films come with a website that all cinephiles will appreciate. The movies are displayed on what looks like an infinite cinematic canvas that you can explore by holding & dragging your mouse in any direction you wish. When you stumble upon a movie you like and stop moving the cursor around, a trailer for that specific feature will start to play. And if you click on the movie’s name, you’ll discover more information about it, its storyline, etc. The featured movies are all bursting with color, so the choice of a black background is not surprising in the slightest.

Final Words

Black is an exceptional, visually appealing backdrop color that gives a sense of depth to any project and highlights featured contrasting items. It helps brands tell their story in an attractive and unusual way that sets them apart from competitors and makes them more memorable.

As the websites from our roundup depict, black looks best when paired with lighter hues. When you use brightly-colored typography on a dark background, you don’t have to worry about readability, which is a common issue in dark design. And to create arresting projects, you don’t need to go wild with special effects. As you could see, sometimes all it takes are two colors, a couple of cool animation effects, and simple graphic content to make a memorable and astounding website.

Sourced from Qode Magazine

By Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang

Design Thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. So, why call it Design Thinking? What’s special about Design Thinking is that designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply these human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way – in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, in our lives.

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung and GE, have rapidly adopted the Design Thinking approach, and Design Thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including d.school, Stanford, Harvard and MIT. But do you know what Design Thinking is? And why it’s so popular? Here, we’ll cut to the chase and tell you what it is and why it’s so in demand.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At the same time, Design Thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods.

Design Thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services. It helps us observe and develop empathy with the target user. Design Thinking helps us in the process of questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications. Design Thinking is extremely useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. Design Thinking also involves ongoing experimentation: sketching, prototyping, testing, and trying out concepts and ideas.

Design Thinking’s Phases

There are many variants of the Design Thinking process in use today, and they have from three to seven phases, stages, or modes. However, all variants of Design Thinking are very similar. All variants of Design Thinking embody the same principles, which were first described by Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon in The Sciences of the Artificial in 1969. Here, we will focus on the five-phase model proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, which is also known as d.school. We’ve chosen d.school’s approach because they’re at the forefront of applying and teaching Design Thinking. The five phases of Design Thinking, according to d.school, are as follows:

  • Empathise – with your users
  • Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
  • Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
  • Prototype – to start creating solutions
  • Test – solutions

It is important to note that the five phases, stages, or modes are not always sequential. They do not have to follow any specific order and can often occur in parallel and repeat iteratively. Given that, you should not understand the phases as a hierarchical or step-by-step process. Instead, you should look at it as an overview of the modes or phases that contribute to an innovative project, rather than sequential steps.

Author/Copyright holder: Pixabay. Copyright terms and licence: Free to Use

To help you understand Design Thinking, we have broken the process into five phases or modes, which are: 1. Empathise, 2. Define, 3. Ideate, 4. Prototype, and 5. Test. What’s special about Design Thinking is that designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way – in our designs, in our businesses, in our nations (and eventually, if things go really well, beyond), in our lives. Nevertheless, a great artist like Auguste Rodin, who created this famous sculpture called “The Thinker” and originally “Le Penseur”, would most likely have used the very same innovative processes in his artwork. In the same way, all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering and business have practiced it and still practice it.

The Problem with Ingrained Patterns of Thinking

Sometimes, the easiest way to understand something intangible, such as Design Thinking, is by understanding what it is not.

Humans naturally develop patterns of thinking modeled on repetitive activities and commonly accessed knowledge. These assist us in quickly applying the same actions and knowledge in similar or familiar situations, but they also have the potential to prevent us from quickly and easily accessing or developing new ways of seeing, understanding and solving problems. These patterns of thinking are often referred to as schemas, which are organized sets of information and relationships between things, actions and thoughts that are stimulated and initiated in the human mind when we encounter some environmental stimuli. A single schema can contain a vast amount of information. For example, we have a schema for dogs which encompasses the presence of four legs, fur, sharp teeth, a tail, paws, and a number of other perceptible characteristics. When the environmental stimuli match this schema — even when there is a tenuous link or only a few of the characteristics are present — the same pattern of thought is brought into the mind. As these schemas are stimulated automatically, this can obstruct a more fitting impression of the situation or prevent us from seeing a problem in a way that will enable a new problem-solving strategy. Innovative problem solving is also known as “thinking outside of the box”.

An Example of Problem solving: The Encumbered Vs. The Fresh Mind

Thinking outside of the box can provide an innovative solution to a sticky problem. However, thinking outside of the box can be a real challenge as we naturally develop patterns of thinking that are modeled on the repetitive activities and commonly accessed knowledge we surround ourselves with.

Some years ago, an incident occurred where a truck driver tried to pass under a low bridge. But he failed, and the truck was lodged firmly under the bridge. The driver was unable to continue driving through or reverse out.

The story goes that as the truck became stuck, it caused massive traffic problems, which resulted in emergency personnel, engineers, firefighters and truck drivers gathering to devise and negotiate various solutions for dislodging the trapped vehicle.

Emergency workers were debating whether to dismantle parts of the truck or chip away at parts of the bridge. Each spoke of a solution which fitted within his or her respective level of expertise.

A boy walking by and witnessing the intense debate looked at the truck, at the bridge, then looked at the road and said nonchalantly, “Why not just let the air out of the tires?” to the absolute amazement of all the specialists and experts trying to unpick the problem.

When the solution was tested, the truck was able to drive free with ease, having suffered only the damage caused by its initial attempt to pass underneath the bridge. The story symbolizes the struggles we face where oftentimes the most obvious solutions are the ones hardest to come by because of the self-imposed constraints we work within.

Copyright holder: Wystan, Flickr. Copyright terms and license: CC BY 2.0

It’s often difficult for us humans to challenge our assumptions and everyday knowledge, because we rely on building patterns of thinking in order to not have to learn everything from scratch every time. We rely on doing everyday processes more or less unconsciously — for example, when we get up in the morning, eat, walk, and read — but also when we assess challenges at work and in our private lives. In particular, experts and specialists rely on their solid thought patterns, and it can be very challenging and difficult for experts to start questioning their knowledge.

The Power of Storytelling

Why did we tell you this story? Telling stories can help us inspire opportunities, ideas and solutions. Stories are framed around real people and their lives. Stories are important because they are accounts of specific events, not general statements. They provide us with concrete details that help us imagine solutions to particular problems. While we’re at it, please watch this 1-minute video to help you get started understanding what Design Thinking is about.

Design Thinking is often referred to as ‘outside the box’ thinking. This child shows us why it’s important to challenge our assumptions and find new ways to solve our problems.

Design Thinking or ‘Outside the Box’ Thinking

Design Thinking is often referred to as ‘outside the box’ thinking, as designers are attempting to develop new ways of thinking that do not abide by the dominant or more common problem-solving methods.

At the heart of Design Thinking is the intention to improve products by analyzing and understanding how users interact with products and investigating the conditions in which they operate. At the heart of Design Thinking lies also the interest and ability to ask significant questions and challenging assumptions. One element of outside the box thinking is to falsify previous assumptions – i.e., to make it possible to prove whether they are valid or not. Once we have questioned and investigated the conditions of a problem, the solution-generation process will help us produce ideas that reflect the genuine constraints and facets of that particular problem. Design Thinking offers us a means of digging that bit deeper; it helps us to do the right kind of research and to prototype and test our products and services so as to uncover new ways of improving the product, service or design.

Grand Old Man of User Experience, Don Norman, who also coined the very term User Experience, explains what Design Thinking is and what’s so special about it:

“…the more I pondered the nature of design and reflected on my recent encounters with engineers, business people and others who blindly solved the problems they thought they were facing without question or further study, I realized that these people could benefit from a good dose of design thinking. Designers have developed a number of techniques to avoid being captured by too facile a solution. They take the original problem as a suggestion, not as a final statement, then think broadly about what the real issues underlying this problem statement might really be (for example by using the “Five Whys” approach to get at root causes). Most important of all, is that the process is iterative and expansive. Designers resist the temptation to jump immediately to a solution to the stated problem. Instead, they first spend time determining what the basic, fundamental (root) issue is that needs to be addressed. They don’t try to search for a solution until they have determined the real problem, and even then, instead of solving that problem, they stop to consider a wide range of potential solutions. Only then will they finally converge upon their proposal. This process is called “Design Thinking.”

– Don Norman, Rethinking Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an Essential Tool – and A Third Way

The design process often involves a number of different groups of people in different departments; for this reason, developing, categorizing, and organizing ideas and problem solutions can be difficult. One way of keeping a design project on track and organizing the core ideas is using a Design Thinking approach.

Tim Brown, CEO of the celebrated innovation and design firm IDEO, shows in his successful book Change by Design that Design Thinking is firmly based on generating a holistic and empathic understanding of the problems that people face, and that it involves ambiguous or inherently subjective concepts such as emotions, needs, motivations, and drivers of behaviors. This contrasts with a solely scientific approach, where there’s more of a distance in the process of understanding and testing the user’s needs and emotions — e.g., via quantitative research. Tim Brown sums up that Design Thinking is a third way: Design Thinking is essentially a problem-solving approach, crystalized in the field of design, which combines a holistic user-centered perspective with rational and analytical research with the goal of creating innovative solutions.

“Design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols. Nobody wants to run a business based on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an overreliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as dangerous. The integrated approach at the core of the design process suggests a ‘third way.’ “

– Tim Brown, Change by Design, Introduction

Science and Rationality in Design Thinking

Some of the scientific activities will include analyzing how users interact with products and investigating the conditions in which they operate: researching user needs, pooling experience from previous projects, considering present and future conditions specific to the product, testing the parameters of the problem, and testing the practical application of alternative problem solutions. Unlike a solely scientific approach, where the majority of known qualities, characteristics, etc. of the problem are tested so as to arrive at a problem solution, Design Thinking investigations include ambiguous elements of the problem to reveal previously unknown parameters and uncover alternative strategies.

After arriving at a number of potential problem solutions, the selection process is underpinned by rationality. Designers are encouraged to analyze and falsify these problem solutions so that they can arrive at the best available option for each problem or obstacle identified during each phase of the design process.

With this in mind, it may be more correct to say that Design Thinking is not about thinking outside of the box, but on its edge, its corner, its flap, and under its bar code, as Clint Runge put it.

Copyright holder: Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Clint Runge is Founder and Managing Director of Archrival, a distinguished youth marketing agency, and adjunct Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Generating Creative Ideas and Solutions by Holistically Understanding Humans

With a solid foundation in science and rationality, Design Thinking seeks to generate a holistic and empathetic understanding of the problems that people face. Design thinking tries to empathize with human beings. That involves ambiguous or inherently subjective concepts such as emotions, needs, motivations, and drivers of behaviors. The nature of generating ideas and solutions in Design Thinking means this approach is typically more sensitive to and interested in the context in which users operate and the problems and obstacles they might face when interacting with a product. The creative element of Design Thinking is found in the methods used to generate problem solutions and insights into the practices, actions, and thoughts of real users.

Design Thinking is an Iterative and Non-linear Process

Copyright holder: Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Design Thinking is an iterative and non-linear process. This simply means that the design team continuously use their results to review, question and improve their initial assumptions, understandings and results. Results from the final stage of the initial work process inform our understanding of the problem, help us determine the parameters of the problem, enable us to redefine the problem, and, perhaps most importantly, provide us with new insights so we can see any alternative solutions that might not have been available with our previous level of understanding.

Design Thinking is for Everybody

Tim Brown also emphasizes that Design Thinking techniques and strategies of design belong at every level of a business. Design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and leaders who seek to infuse design thinking into every level of an organization, product or service in order to drive new alternatives for business and society.

“Design thinking begins with skills designers have learned over many decades in their quest to match human needs with available technical resources within the practical constraints of business. By integrating what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable, designers have been able to create the products we enjoy today. Design thinking takes the next step, which is to put these tools into the hands of people who may have never thought of themselves as designers and apply them to a vastly greater range of problems.”

– Tim Brown, Change by Design, Introduction

Copyright holder: Daniel Lobo, Flickr. Copyright terms and license: CC BY 2.0

Design Thinking is essentially a problem-solving approach, crystalized in the field of design, which combines a user-centered perspective with rational and analytical research with the goal of creating innovative solutions.

The Take Away

Design Thinking is essentially a problem-solving approach specific to design, which involves assessing known aspects of a problem and identifying the more ambiguous or peripheral factors that contribute to the conditions of a problem. This contrasts with a more scientific approach where the concrete and known aspects are tested in order to arrive at a solution. Design Thinking is an iterative process in which knowledge is constantly being questioned and acquired so it can help us redefine a problem in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. Design Thinking is often referred to as ‘outside the box thinking’, as designers are attempting to develop new ways of thinking that do not abide by the dominant or more common problem-solving methods – just like artists do. At the heart of Design Thinking is the intention to improve products by analyzing how users interact with them and investigating the conditions in which they operate. Design Thinking offers us a means of digging that bit deeper to uncover ways of improving user experiences.

“The ‘Design Thinking’ label is not a myth. It is a description of the application of well-tried design process to new challenges and opportunities, used by people from both design and non-design backgrounds. I welcome the recognition of the term and hope that its use continues to expand and be more universally understood, so that eventually every leader knows how to use design and design thinking for innovation and better results.”

– Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEO, in Design Thinking: Dear Don

References & Where to Learn More

Hero Image: Copyright holder: Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and license: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Course: Design Thinking – The Beginner’s Guide:

Don Norman. “Rethinking Design Thinking”, 2013:

Tim Brown, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation Introduction, 2009

Bill Moggridge, “Design Thinking: Dear Don”, 2010:

By Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang

Sourced from International Design Foundation

By Luciana Paulise

Covid-19 has caused an economic crisis. According to a Mckinsey study, more than 20.5 million jobs have been lost in the United States since the start of the pandemic. In some cases, however, a crisis can present new opportunities. Design thinking can help you develop a disruption mindset.

Design thinking is a method of creative problem-solving that focuses on customer empathy. While it is usually applied to develop new products and services or make current products more appealing, the ideation process can be used to solve any problem. In the current unpredictable climate, design thinking can help companies address the financial crisis in a more empathetic and collaborative way.

There are many tools to create solutions, but the keys of design thinking are the focus on:

1) People: design thinking prioritizes empathy and the human aspect of the solution; it is a human-centered approach.

2) Processes: Making sure the idea is technically feasible

3) Business: financially viable.

Through a continuous trial-and-error process, ideas are tested quickly to ensure these three aspects are covered.

There are different ways to approach design thinking. The most simple is to divide the process into three stages: exploration, ideation, and implementation.

Exploration phase: observe and listen

A multidisciplinary team made up of people from varied backgrounds, such as designers, accountants, engineers or psychologists, observes human behaviour, considers a problem they have, and mulls a solution.

The team should have no more than ten members; the more diverse, the better: different backgrounds, ages, cultures, and seniority. Define together the major challenge facing the company; from high costs to employee engagement or a product that is now obsolete in the post-pandemic world. Then investigate what’s behind the problem. Explore the suppliers, the customers, the processes. Look at the details. For example, look into how the customer has changed their behaviour. Are they buying another product? Are they buying it differently? Ask questions. Take pictures, record answers and meet with the team to analyse the findings.

Ideation Phase: brainstorm multiple ideas

In the second phase, ideation or creation, think of how the team could solve the problem. Here is where the tool SCAMPER is very useful. As per The Innovation Answer Book by Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, SCAMPER is an acronym used to trigger alternate associations of existing solutions in addressing a problem. Use it to find different approaches to the problem. It can be like a virtual brainstorming.

Substitute: can you substitute or exchange parts, material or components of the existing solution? Many companies, for example, are replacing permanent human resources and employee development departments with consultants to reduce fixed costs and improve training quality. Other companies are taking the opposite approach and using current employees to do jobs that would otherwise go to a contractor in order to reduce project costs.

Combine: can you combine different steps or processes? Telehealth is a solution that is combining experts, new technologies like Zoom or Facetime and apps to make health checks more affordable and accessible. Another combination in manufacturing is TPM (total productive maintenance), which combines the skills of the maintenance department and operators to prevent problems and reduce idle hours.

Adapt: can you adjust a specific task or product for better output? Many ideas in a company were ideated during informal conversations. Working remotely that kind of interaction is less frequent or not possible. Many companies have created virtual spaces where employees can meet. From an informal breakfast on Zoom to Slack channels, or specific tools like StarMeUP, these intimate connections can still be promoted only by making small adjustments to the current communication process.

Modify, minimize, or magnify: how can you adjust the whole process? Two-hour meetings online are more disengaging than face-to-face gatherings. Can you minimize them to a 30-minutes meeting? Or can you turn 4-hour learning modules to 15-minutes smaller pieces that can be delivered online?

Put to another use: use products for another purpose, recycle waste or choose a different target market. Let’s take Airbnb. It has a booking system that is now almost obsolete because nobody can travel. Can Airbnb pivot their system to provide home-office spaces for parents that need to focus? Can single people rent rooms or desks during the day through the same app?

Eliminate: this is my favourite, so simple and still so hard to accept. Can you remove parts or eliminate unneeded resources to improve a process? How many things were you keeping that now seem irrelevant? Have you found yourself noting you didn’t need broken tools, old-fashion clothes or duplicated steps? Use the 5S method to sort needed from unneeded. Now not only booking rentals but also a doctor or coaching appointments have gone online, eliminating the process of waiting or various emails back and forth discussing the best time for a meeting.

Reverse: rearrange parts or reverse the process. The command and control process would require the C-suite to come up with solutions for problems. Now, agile teams require that solutions come from the bottom-up. The ones that know the processes better are the employees, why not let them figure it out? It is the first change to a successful design thinking.

Implementation: iterate until you solve the problem

And the last stage is implementation. At this point, you should have tons of ideas. Ten team members by 7 Scampers, that’s around 70 ideas minimum! Prioritize and test these ideas quickly. Use pilot teams or focus groups to try them out and see what works best. Contact a coach to help you facilitate meetings to make them more effective if needed. Iteration is part of the process, so implement them right away and make adjustments as needed.

In Japanese, to write the word crisis they use two signs: danger and opportunity. Maybe, this is the time for your company to fight the threat and find creative ways to unleash this opportunity.


By Luciana Paulise

I am Lu Paulise, culture coach, speaker and author. I am an MBA, Quality Engineer and Certified Scrum Master. As a passionate book writer, I regularly contribute to Forbes as well as other multiple international media outlets such as ThriveGlobal.com, Medium and Infobae in Latin America. As the founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting LLC and TheWeCulture.com, I have helped a wide range of companies, from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies, to transform their culture to become more agile, engaged and innovative. I also enjoy giving back to the community participating in non-profits. I am currently Regional Deputy Director for the ASQ and VP of Innovation for the Argentina-Texas Chamber of Commerce. I live in Texas, and I also speak and write in Spanish.

Sourced from Forbes


With both legacy and new media titles strained, we discover how indie magazine Delayed Gratification has been adapting to changed circumstances under lockdown.

With the collapse of advertising and marketing spend in recent months, media titles and especially magazine publishers have had a rough time of it, with lay-offs and pay cuts reported across the sector. Just this week, Dennis Publishing, the owner of brands such as Viz and The Week, announced that it was putting a quarter of its staff into a redundancy consultation.

However, for some publishers, a significant increase in magazine subscriptions has offset market woes. A study from Jellyfish found that demand for magazine subs has skyrocketed under lockdown, with verticals such as tech and gaming seeing a 268% year-on-year increase.

With less reliance on physical office space and smaller staffs, independent magazines have found themselves better positioned to cater to that increase in subscription demand.

Delayed Gratification is a quarterly indie title that champions ‘slow journalism’, covering current affairs with a three-month lag. Founded in 2010 with the tag ’Last to breaking news’, it’s considered a darling of the indie scene for its infographics and longform reporting.

According to co-founder and editorial director Rob Orchard, it’s also seen record-breaking subscription sales during the lockdown period.

“We’ve seen subscription sales that at times look more like Christmas sales,” he says. “We’ve seen a major rise in subscriptions, which has been the silver lining for us. We’ve had record-breaking sales, at times double what we would expect for this time of year.”

However, distribution networks and the newsstand have been significantly impaired.

According to Orchard, Delayed Gratification’s latest issue, which covered the final quarter of 2019, was sent to the United States the day before the country locked down incoming air mail deliveries. While US subscribers got their copies on time, thousands meant for the newsstand have been held up at distribution houses, as the bookshops and magazine stores that stock the magazine closed their doors.

“They’ve just been sitting there in warehouses. That’s tens of thousands of pounds worth of stock that is usable, but only if we sell insane numbers of back issues over the next 20 years.”

Digital edition

Distribution headaches, and the fear that the title’s printers would cease operations, led to the magazine unveiling its first-ever digital edition. ”People have asked us for years for a digital version of the magazine… but we’ve always shied away from it because we didn’t think that it was as special,” says Orchard. Since launching “with zero fanfare”, the title has gained its first seven digital-only subscribers. Orchard says the title will build on that base going forward to capture those readers uninterested in printed matter or in territories that make shipping prohibitive.

“That prospect of not being able to print the magazine gave us a real kick up the bottom to get that sorted,” he adds.

The magazine has also taken its events business virtual, albeit reluctantly. “We’ve always said it won’t be the same. You wouldn’t have that kind of intimacy that you get from being in the same room as other people.

“If anything, it’s kind of been better and more intimate, in a weird way. We’ve had smaller groups of readers, but from all over the world. It’s amazing – you’re talking to somebody in Brazil, and somebody who’s in Las Vegas, and somebody who’s in Dublin, all on the same call in a way that would never be possible before.”

Changing reader habits

To cope with changed circumstances in the streets, the title plans to clip back the print run – usually around 10,000 copies – of its next issue, due out later this month. “We’ll be bringing it down significantly,” Orchard explains. And while high streets and newsstands are beginning to re-open, he suggests consumer habits will not return to normal as quickly, if at all.

“Independent magazines cost quite a lot – it’s much less of an impulse purchase. And if people are not going to be browsing in the same way, then I think there’s every chance that sales of indie mags will be much, much lower.”

“It may just be that all people want to do is go to the pub and just drink solidly, as much as they possibly can,” he suggests.

On the other hand, recent events could spur the adoption of new habit-forming behaviours for magazine readers. “More people are going to need things that make them feel part of something. I think there is going to be real engagement with the world and a desire to know about it.

“People need to know what’s going on, more than ever before.”

Feature Image Credit: Delayed Gratification has, like many other indie titles, been boosted and hit by the coronavirus lockdown. / Delayed Gratification


Sourced from The Drum

Sourced from Linelcons

The world of designing has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. This has resulted in a massive increase in digital freebies that you can find online. These free design resources can be used by designers and developers to create aesthetically pleasing and attractive interfaces. Moreover, beginners can even study these free design resources to understand how they are built.

Every month, there are countless freebies released on the internet. In this post, we share with you the top noteworthy websites to explore and download free design resources. Let us begin!

SketchApp Resources

Sketch App Sources is a great free design resource to explore for free design options. You can download your favorite sources for free and choose from a whopping 4370 sketch resources. This website is a powerhouse of UI Kits, wireframes, icons, wearables, mockups, forms, and a host of other data. This website offers an unparalleled collection of fantastic tools that you can use for all kinds of design needs.

Muzli Extension

Muzli Inspiration is the secret source for designers that can be used to create amazing web projects. It offers the best design inspiration that you have been looking for, and it has been expertly curated just for you. It comes as an extension for Safari as well as Chrome to deliver inspiration and relevant design stories.


UI Deck is one of the best websites to explore to download free website templates, ui kits and landing pages. It offers landing page templates, UI Kits, and bootstrap themes in order to bring all kinds of web projects closer to being launched. All the HTML templates offered by this website are handcrafted with love and help in easing the design process substantially.


Freepik offers free vectors, icons, PSD as well as stock photos for free. It has a vast collection of graphic resources for all kinds of designing and developing needs. If you like the free versions offered by this popular website, you can also choose to invest in the paid version as it offers an elite collection of design resources.


GraphicBurger is one of the most popular options on the list. It offers tasty design resources for all your designing and developing needs. Each pixel has been cared for like a newborn baby on this website, which is an added point of attraction for web designers and developers. It is absolutely free to be used for both commercial and personal purposes.

Invision Design Resources

InVision is another website you could go for when looking for free design resources. It offers a full library of icon packs, high-quality UI kits, and mockups for absolutely free. These design resources are a great inspiration, and you can choose from a wide range of photos, videos, and designs. Also, the resources offered by this website come through third-party providers.


Prototypr is a hand curated design platform with thousands of design resources such as – tools, stories, and news. Its kinda app store for design tools and resources.


Freebies Bug offers the latest design resources for free. These resources have been handpicked by experts for web developers and designers. Moreover, the list present on this website is updated often to ensure that you can avail of the best freebies at any time you want. You can choose from a vast range of icons, mockups, website templates, and UI kits with ease.


GraphicsFuel offers resources from a staggering collection of more than 25 million graphics. It allows you to choose from a vast range of categories such as Background, Fonts, Icons, Graphics, Textures, Sketch App files, and much more. You can even subscribe to the website to get a free design bundle of 20 files.


Designresourc.es is great source of free design resources such as – Icons, Tools, Design System and almost anything related to design. Really a noteworthy site for curated list of design resources in one place.

Free Illustrations

We have created an amazing blog post dedicated to free SVG illustrations, where you can get all the available sites that offer free professional-quality SVG illustrations. This is regularly updated, curated and so popular. If you are looking for free illustrations for commercial use, don’t forget to check this out.

Design Resources for Developers

This is one of the most underrated lists of design resource specially for developers. This curated list is updated daily basis and listed almost anything you need such as – Icons, Templates, CSS Frameworks, UI Kits, and much more. This list is maintained by Brad Traversy on GitHub.


Interfacer is a fantastic option, with over 300 free design resources. You get access to these high-quality resources for free. These design resources offered by Interfacer have been created by the most talented people on the internet. All these design resources can easily be used for all kinds of commercial web projects.

Colors and Fonts

Colors and Fonts is the perfect way to supercharge your workflow and streamline your web projects. This curated library of typography and color tools is the ultimate gift for web developers as well as digital designers. This website is again 100% free to use and offers a wide range of markups, variable fonts, and font pairings. Moreover, you get several color options such as color palettes, gradients, contrast, gradient patterns, color converter, and much more.

Illustrations Tools

Illustration Tools is a directory of resources and tools for illustrators. It offers a number of free tools and resources for all kinds of web projects. This website has an easy user interface and offers a lot of variety to the customers. Therefore, you can say goodbye to hurdles and create a seamlessly and effortlessly attractive web project.

UI Goodies

UI Goodies offers all the best possible resources and tools for designers in one particular place. With this website in your corner, you need not look elsewhere for free design resources. You can choose from a plethora of resources such as color, accessibility, mockups, illustrations, icons, design inspiration, content generators, and much more. Simply put, this website is a one-stop solution for all your free design resources and tools needs.


Undesign provides users with a collection of design resources and tools for free. This website is gold for developers, designers, and makers. You can find tools and resources in a number of categories such as colors, inspiration, gradients, logos, typography, generators, templates, and much more. Using this website and the tools it offers, you can create fantastic web apps effortlessly.

Design Resources for Software Devs.

These tiny yet carefully picked design resources are mainly listed for software developers to ease their design journey, curated by sunny Singh.

And there you have it! This is a curated list of the best websites you can consider for downloading free design resources on the internet today. So, what are you waiting for? Get cracking right now! or if you know similar site which is regularly updated feel free to comment. We will add to the list.

Sourced from Linelcons

By Esther Pomerantz

The idea of a product that is aesthetically pleasing being one that has a good user experience is a common misconception.

When you hear the term “UX Design”, you might conjure up mental images of well designed websites, apps or interfaces. You might picture their beautiful color palettes, engaging animations, or fresh layouts. While these aspects certainly can contribute to a great user experience, the idea of a product that is aesthetically pleasing being one that has a good user experience is a common misconception.

An interface that is well designed from a visual point of view will not necessarily be one that will provide a good user experience. In fact, often times a product will be designed a certain way in order for it to be visually appealing, yet this design will actively hinder the user’s experience.

Take the Apple Magic Mouse.

Just-complex-enough concept

While it certainly is designed well from a visual point of view, with its sleek, minimalistic design, it is not designed well from a user experience point of view. This is due to the fact that the re-chargeable mouse features a lighting port on its underside, making it a real challenge for the user to charge the mouse while using it. The lightening port was likely placed where it was in effort to compliment the design, yet this placement makes the experience of charging it frustrating.

Another example of this phenomenon is this air fryer.

Just-complex-enough concept

Although its modern look does look nice from an aesthetic point of view, if we take the user experience into account, it becomes evident that it is not designed well. Since the icons on the screen are not labeled, it can be difficult for the user to determine the actual functions of each option. While the icons were likely unlabeled to improve the look of the product, this lack of labeling can interfere with the experience of using it.

Yet another product that is not designed well from a user experience point of view is this cat mug.

Just-complex-enough concept

While the mug is certainly cute and creatively designed, its ears are positioned in a way that can poke the person drinking from it in the eyes, making it a user experience failure. Although the ears were added to the mug in order to make it look better, their positioning actually hinders the experience of drinking from it.

These examples illustrate that while a product may be designed well in that it is aesthetically pleasing, it can, in fact, be designed quite badly from a user experience perspective. Additionally, while a design decision may have been made in effort to make a product more visually appealing, this decision can ultimately render the product a user experience bust.

In essence, the purpose of UX design is to design products in a way that helps users be more successful at carrying out the things they are trying to accomplish. A product’s beautiful design will not be valued by its users if there is something getting in the way of them using it the way they want to. When designing products, we therefore want to ensure that the users are able to accomplish their goals in the optimal way, even if that way might not be the most aesthetically pleasing option.

By Esther Pomerantz

Sourced from UX MAGAZINE

By Enrique

Picture this situation. A Product owner/manager/lead …. comes to you with a new request in the middle of the sprint, typically out of nowhere:

“We are building this new functionality and we need you to add some colour, logos and make it look pretty.”

How you, as a designer, respond to this request in the next 30 seconds will impact the way you and your Design team is perceived in the organization, the value you are capable to produce and your personal self/steem. So do not take it lightly and be ready.

How to answer to these kind of requests?

Do not say Yes… right away.

If you are a bit like me, you would be inclined to think that this person knows better. He knows the product and most of all, he knows who is going to use it and what is best for the user. He is in charge of the product right? So you just have to be helpful here and do what he asks.

This is not always the case. Before reacting, take a deep breath and follow the Design process you are familiar with in your projects.

1/ Start by asking questions.

You need to know more. These questions will help you get a better context of the task, frame its scope and help you make better design decisions. Some questions you need to ask are:

  • Can you tell me more about this Functionality?
  • How was originated?
  • Who asked for it?
  • What is the main purpose?
  • Who does it benefit?
  • Is there any documentation I can have a look at?
  • Is there anyone else I should talk to?

At this point, you do not want to feel like you are avoiding a simple task by asking a bunch of information so you may want to stop and explain why you need this. I recommend being humble but firm, and make clear that the more you know about the problem, the better you can provide a solution ( it could be just colouring, adding some branding, refocusing the entire functionality itself or even questioning its value).

2/ Draft a plan.

Once you have the information you need, the typical question you will face is:

When can you have it done?

Again, take your time here and do not try to give a deadline in a rush. You need to take a deep look at the information, sit on it for some time (depending on the magnitud of the task) and draft a plan. So the best way to answer could be something like:

“let me review the information and come back to you with a plan in the next X (hours, days..).”

Your plan does not have to be fancy or super detailed, but make sure it contains at least the following:

  1. Name and brief description of each tasks.
  2. Estimated date of start and completion of each task.
  3. Team members working on each task.

My sketchy plan

3/ Share the plan.

This is where you communicate what it would take to accomplish the job without compromising experience nor functionality: the ideal scenario.

The hardest part here is making sure you communicate effectively what you need and why you need it in order to deliver your best work. Be ready to engage in difficult conversations and if you do, be honest and understanding. Think that the person who first approached you with a simple task in mind may find himself now with an unexpected project or an out of timeline or budget situation. State clear that you are on the same side and you want to help, be flexible if needed but set the limits you consider best to produce your work. You want to deliver quality. Then, adjust the plan if necessary and reach an agreement in which everyone feels comfortable.

4/ Do your magic.

Execute the tasks the way you do it normally and keep the owner in the loop. Give him frequent updates by showing your work in progress, prototypes or any material that you think appropriate. Ask for feedback to verify you are in the right track. Iterate and improve.

In the end, it all comes down to having a work process and stick to it no matter who requests a new task or when he does it.

This will help keep you organised, give visibility of the work you do and raise awareness about the fact that Design is much more than colouring screens.

By Enrique

Sourced from Medium

By Joe McKendrick

It takes design thinking to do digital transformation right. That’s the word from Teonna Akinsete and Kenton Hankins, both with Pega. In an insightful post, they describe the essence of design thinking as “co-production” with end-users of software and related products, to “encourage empathy and collaboration.”

However, they add, this is easier said than done, even in enterprises that seem to have robust design thinking initiatives. “In most digital transformation projects, the goal is to design a product or service that users or customers will love,” they observe. “Traditionally the design team will employ user-centered methods, such as conducting user research and usability testing. These methods are still essential to the design process, but when it comes to impactful collaboration, they only really scratch the surface.” The best way to approach productive design thinking “is to make users and stakeholders part of the entire design process; not just at certain touch points.”

Surveys out of McKinsey put a sharp point to this challenge, noting that many enterprises are still struggling with the right approach to design thinking. Companies that excel at design grow revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry peers, the survey finds. However, design thinking is not something that pops up overnight. “What we found was striking,” the McKinsey survey team, led by Melissa Dalrymple, points out. “Some 90 percent of companies weren’t reaching the full potential of design, even as, in the past five years, double the number of companies have added senior design roles to their organization.”

Overall, McKinsey finds, organizations with the most robust design initiatives increased their revenues and total returns to shareholders substantially faster than their industry counterparts did over a five-year period—32 percentage points higher revenue growth and 56 percentage points higher growth for the period as a whole.

Dalrymple and her co-authors make the following recommendations to deepen design thinking into every enterprise activity:

Create bold, user-centric strategies. “Embrace user-centric strategies, improving not only products and services but also the full user experience and, in some cases, the organization itself.”

Embed the design leader into the C-suite. As part of its study, McKinsey interviewed 200 design leaders, and they focus on three key players: customers, employees, and designers themselves. The key is to “embed your senior designer into the C-suite while cultivating a collaborative top-team environment in which your design leader will thrive,” Dalrymple and her co-authors state.

Get the metrics right. Only 14 percent of the companies in the McKinsey survey se are currently setting quantified targets for their design leaders. “Make the most of user data through a balance of quantitative and qualitative design metrics and incentives that enhance user satisfaction and business performance.”

The bottom line is everyone should engage in design thinking. “Gone are the days when the design department receives instructions via email and creates a fully fleshed-out design before aligning with the product owner,” say Pega’s Akinsete and Hankins. “In a design thinking scenario, everyone works together using all available tools, and the team selects winning ideas to go into the final product brief.”

Feature Image Credit: Getty

By Joe McKendrick

I am an author, independent researcher and speaker exploring innovation, information technology trends and markets. I am also a co-author of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation in business and IT. I served on the organizing committee for the recent IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing, and was active on the program committee of the International SOA and Cloud Symposium series. Much of my research work is in conjunction with Forbes Insights and Unisphere Research/ Information Today, Inc., covering topics such as cloud computing, digital transformation, enterprise mobility, and big data analytics. I am also a contributor to CBS interactive, authoring the ZDNet “Service Oriented” site. In a previous life, I served as communications and research manager of the Administrative Management Society (AMS), an international professional association dedicated to advancing knowledge within the IT and business management fields. I am a graduate of Temple University.

Sourced from Forbes


The expertise designers should develop to boost their careers in the new decade.

We know the design industry is always evolving. Changing technologies and trends mean that the skill set sought by potential employers is always in flux. Staying ahead of the game requires keeping up with trends, but also keeping up with the skills that are going to be most in demand.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to think about how your skills fit the direction that the industry is heading. As we enter a new decade, here we look at 6 skills that could help you stay ahead of the game in 2020, from technical expertise to add to your CV and design portfolio to the soft skills that will make clients want to work with you.

01. Illustration

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Icon illustrations for Butterlust by Chelsea Carlson

Icon illustrations for Butterlust by Chelsea Carlson (Image credit: Chelsea Carlson)

Blinguage landing page by Cuberto

Blinguage landing page by Cuberto (Image credit: Cuberto)

Assuming you haven’t had your eyes closed over the past year, you’ll probably have noticed that illustration has become rather popular. Brands big and small are favouring illustration to add personality to web and UI design. This includes line drawings and other hand-drawn elements that feature natural imperfections, almost as a rebellious turn against perfection in digital design.

Brands are seeking illustration for everything from attention-grabbing main images on landing pages to personalised icons that reflect the brand’s character and custom hand-lettering to create unique type that can blend with imagery.

Cuberto’s concept landing page for a Japanese language school uses illustration where in the past photographic imagery may have been the obvious choice. Colorado-based designer Chelsea Carlson’s unique, stylised hand-drawn icons for cookery site Butterlust follow the rough brush edge style of the brand’s logo to create an emotional and human feel. Drawing doesn’t come naturally to everyone but the skill can be developed by practising on drawing from life, and focusing on the process rather than on aiming for realism in the results.

02. Motion design

Design skills for 2020

Brands are looking for movement for everything from social media to email campaigns (Image credit: LOFT)

The year 2020 is all about movement. Brands have realised that adding motion can captivate and engage customers. And in a digital world with faster internet connections and device performance, it can be applied almost everywhere. This means that animation and motion design are no longer niche skills practised by a small group of specialists, but something all designers should at least have an awareness of, and upskilling in this area is an immediate way to stand out in the talent pool.

From GIFs to CSS animation and full-blown video, it can be an intimidating world to enter if you’re getting started, but there is plenty of good software for the job. Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects, and Cinema 4D are the major tools. A knowledge of colour grading for video will also get you ahead.

There are no end of applications that brands are looking for, including email marketing campaigns such as the campaign for women’s clothing company LOFT above, animated logos, video tutorials, product walk-throughs and social media content. It’s predicted that 80% of internet traffic will be video by 2021, but even offline there’s demand for motion design in advertising for digital billboards and in-store digital ordering screens. It’s no wonder it’s the skill that most designers want to learn in the coming years.

03. Image editing

Design skills for 2020

Image editing skills remain a must for designers in 2020 (Image credit: Getty Images)

The growing demand for illustration and motion does not mean that designers can forget about photography and image editing. Photographic images remain the main medium of visual communication in social media and the majority of websites. A growing trend to combine text and illustration with realistic photography to create collages means that image editing skills are still in high demand and that editing needs to be as precise as ever.

Graphic designers at all levels will want to make sure they are at least sufficiently skilled up in the basics of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to be able to make the little tweaks that can make an image usable. This can include tasks as small as cleaning up dust or flare on an image, or adjusting colour to fit a composition, but the more you know about image enhancement and manipulation the better, the more you can do yourself without having to go to someone else.

Courses will get you so far, but image editing is often best mastered by rolling up your sleeves and getting in there. Many designers who don’t find they need to edit images in their usual work develop side projects in order to work on the skills.

04. Coding and UI design

Design skills for 2020

 A designer who can code will find their skills in demand (Image credit: Getty Images)

Drag and drop tools for web and UI design mean that most designers don’t need to know the finer details of code, but a working knowledge can set you way ahead of the competition. With web design and UI evolving from flat pages to become more immersive, designers who can code and design user experiences are in high demand and are often rewarded with higher pay. Even basic coding skills will allow you to avoid being limited to what your software is capable of and allow you to offer something that little bit more personalised than what competitors can deliver.

Most designers will want to start with HTML/XHTML, and PHP if you’re going to be working with WordPress, then CSS to be able to add code to a theme to change the look of a site. JavaScript, which allows the creation of interactive elements like images that change in size or colour when a user interacts with it, is more complex and a steep learning curve, but an understanding can help designers work with functionality in mind, and allow better communication with coders on a project.

05. Communication

Design skills for 2020

Designers at all levels increasingly need to know how to communicate their ideas (Image credit: Getty Images)

That brings us to communication itself. This is a soft skill that is becoming just as essential as many technical skills in the designer’s toolbox and a vital part of getting ahead in design. Potential employers now look for designers who are able to communicate their ideas and processes well. For freelancers, a great portfolio can make an impression, but it’s your ability to explain your work and your approach that will earn the trust of potential clients.

Every day communication skills during a project include reminding people of the project goals, what the plan is, when they can expect delivery, what the fallback plan is, and following up after delivery. Explaining where you are and what you are working on helps others to trust you. Larger corporate work will often demand formal presentations to decision makers. Designers need to know not only how to make a visual presentation, but also how to talk an audience through it in an engaging way.

06. Collaboration

Design skills for 2020

Designers need to collaborate with people across many other disciplines (Image credit: Getty Images)

Another essential soft skill for designers in the new decade is collaboration. Designers no longer work in a vacuum generating fantastic ideas. They increasingly have to work with complex teams. Not only with other designers, but also with programmers, copywriters, engineers, sales and marketing teams, manufacturing, and management. This means a lot of discussion, and a lot of compromise.

In his last Design in Tech report, John Maeda argued that designers sometimes alienate other disciplines and can be guilty of trying to force their own tastes on clients. There can also be conflicts when designers work with their own portfolio in mind. Clients with complex projects are wary of this and now look for designers who show they can collaborate with other disciplines.

A good way to improve skills in collaboration is to think more broadly and to develop a greater awareness of other disciplines, from business models to marketing and sales techniques, and manufacturing processes. It can also help to share unfinished work more often and to ask more questions. There’s a general trend in many different industries towards a ‘blurring of swim lanes’ with people in different roles expected to have a greater awareness of the overall goal and every stage of a project.


Sourced from Creative Bloq

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