Tools & Skills: More than Just a Process


Tools & Skills

I am purposeful with each design decision that I make. I can work quickly without quickly turning into hastily. I make sure the tools I use and methods I apply are efficient and appropriate for the circumstance.

Take a look at some of the skills and tools I use in my work.

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Discovery: research and synthesis

*Look at some examples of my work in discovery, don't just take my word for it.

Discovery always starts with a question or set of questions. The question is one of the most powerful tools I use. I approach the discovery phase in two ways: generative or evaluative, sometimes both. The problem dictates the direction.

Data without application or context is useless, so after research, I analyze, taking the data apart, and synthesize, putting it together and drawing insights to find the valuable information.

Information Architecture

*Look at some examples of my work in IA, don't just take my word for it.

I love to fix "this doesn't make sense." Research helps find users' mental models, and IA puts that information to practice and good use. Making sure everything flows and is navigable is vital to any project.

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User Interface & Interaction Design

*Look at some examples of my work in UI and IxD, don't just take my word for it.

Differentiating between UX, UI, and IxD is a debate for the ages. I say, whatever, because the work I do and the tools I use include all of them. However, I've found the 5 dimensions of interaction design, introduced by academic Gillian Crampton Smith and amended by designer Kevin Silver, to be a helpful model to explain.

  • 1D: Words—meaningful, simple, digestible

  • 2D: Visuals—graphical elements complementary to words for effective communication

  • 3D: Physical objects/space—understanding users' spatial relations and environments to find the right devices and appropriate interactions with them

  • 4D: Time—media, e.g., animation, video, sound, that changes with time. I have always loved pairing visual and motion with audio. I wanted to work in music supervision and film music for a long time

  • 5D: Behavior—users' actual behaviors, actions, emotions, responses, and feedback during the experience and interaction

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communication: Writing, speaking, UX Copy, Documentation, and More

*Look at some examples of my communication skills, don't just take my word for it (unless it's writing, then you literally have to).

Writer and product designer Yazin Akkawi made a bold statement, "Forget coding. The best designers are writers." Coding is important, and I practice/learn front-end code when I can, but in UX, narrative, empathy, and storytelling are powerful tools for a multitude of reasons. I bring my writing experience with me and use it as a tool in my design process. I strongly believe that my writing helps me verbally communicate and present myself and my work, too.

I have been a writer all my life for almost every type of genre: journalism, opinion, editorials, essays, academic, poetry, screenwriting, etc. When I was a kid, I used to make up stories and recite them in front of a mirror, pretending to be a narrator (I was an only child for 10 years, ok?) When I was in high school, I started a side hustle for my friends helping them write and edit their papers. I did that all throughout college and my little side hustle grew, all on word of mouth. I graduated in 2016, but to this day, I still edit or write copy for people who need help. I have been published in literary magazines, news publications, and on creative websites.


My "Process"

I don't like to let problems stay problems. Each project and each problem is unique. I cater my process to that project and problem, because applying a "one-size-fits-all" mindset hinders efficiency and creativity. I let the problem dictate my strategy. However, there are some parts of the process I don't change, such as my guiding principles:

Keep empathy in the forefront. Empathy for the user, empathy for the whole team, empathy for stakeholders. Empathy, empathy, empathy.

Be analytical. Analyzing data and extracting information is one of the most important steps in my process of understanding a problem and a user.

Balance. Balance aesthetic with function, balance essentials with nice-to-haves, balance constraints and scope with creativity.

Communicate. Put simply, communication saves the day (and time), every time.