Have you incorporated PANTONE Living Coral into your workspace? If you haven’t, you’re not ready for 2019. It’s that simple. Why, might you ask? Well, Living Coral is more than just PANTONE’S color of the year;it’s the product of in-depth research collected by color (and psychology) professionals who searched the world (both physically and metaphorically) for relevant feedback and inspiration, even exploring distant cultures for use cases.
Much like Blue Planet 2 –BBC’s unprecedented documentary on the world’s oceans — PANTONE Living Coral is to be experienced, and the team at Designing North is excited to inject this energy into our own studio. This year especially, we could all use the positivity and warmth this color provides. Good vibes only.
Yes, even you can benefit from “an infusion of modern life,” whether you work from home, a coffee shop, agency, or traditional office. Because keeping up with the times is best done by integrating a social-media-friendly color into the work environment.
Fortunately for you, this color will adjust your mood in the best way possible. Bring on the smile! And feeling of ‘I’m in a good place’ — yup, that’s how you should feel about your workspace.
We’ve laid out the reasons why PANTONE Living Coral exists and is so well liked, but that doesn’t help you incorporate the color into your workspace. For this task we turn to the studio team and Executive Creative Director Lisa Peacock.
We live by the mindset ‘there’s no detail too small,’ and nowhere is this more apparent than in our design studio. Naturally, this served as the team’s source of truth for bringing Living Coral indoors; we think it will inspire you to do the same. Here are some ideas you might not have considered previously, for incorporating PANTONE Living Coral into the workspace:
Living Coral in the Workspace
First, decide how Living Coral can accent your current workspace and provide just the right balance of color. Will it be on the desk? The wall? Or both?
Whichever you choose, why not start with a simple Living Coral notebook— printed with the appearance of a paint chip, of course. Or, there’s this weekly planneroption as well. Both place a splash of Living Coral on your desk at all times and fit within your current workflow.
Now for the wall… Have you seen this Paint Chip Calendarfrom Paper Source? It pleasantly displays hues of Living Coral as well as other complimentary pantones, and makes the workspace pop. You can also create your own calendar using Canva (it’s free!). Choose a calendar template and add Living Coral anywhere on the page, or overlay a tint on your favorite images. We promise it’s quick and easy and allows for personalization.
It’s no secret that plants belong on every desk, in every office — including yours. Much like Pantone Living Coral, plants inject life and add a contextual element — why not mix the two. Incorporate this vibrant color into the workspace by adding this coral plant pot to your space. (Just our two cents: it looks best with a green succulent or small cactus.) We can’t help but think of the iconic pink stucco and aloe verde you find in the American Southwest. Pure harmony.
If planting isn’t your thing, substitute the pot for a vase. This Bright Ceramicist Vase from west elmin coral is a great option. Or this glass option from World Market. These also looks great with a touch of soft green; eucalyptus or fern stems are all you need. Another option would be to purchase flowers in Living Coral, suitable for the desk or any corner of the office. There are so many florals to choose from, including roses, peonies and snapdragons. In fact, Blooms by the Boxhas an entire page of flowers (for Living Coral) to order from. It’s almost too easy!
Incorporating Living Coral into the workspace doesn’t have to be a long-term project; it can be a day-to-day decision. You have enough commitments in life, right?
Simply arrange the bottle with the planner, notebook and plant — Done. You have yourself a well-curated desktop arrangement. Go ahead, do it for the gram! These “Mocktail” bottles are another creative option for infusing Living Coral into the deskspace. And they represent the light-hearted, is-it-Five O’Clock mindset. And for those who prefer a CBD variety, these sweetgrass sparkling water dropsfrom Dram are a must.
You know where else Living Coral looks great? On white walls. This accounts for the majority of workspaces across the globe. The combination balances the warmth of coral with the cool of white, providing balance for the eyes and mind. But wait.
This isn’t just creative banter; it’s us encouraging you to put some art on the walls of your workspace. A quick search online for Living Coral art turned up results, but few compelled a purchase. So we turned to Etsy and found this pleasant piece of geometric Living Coral art. We see the sun surrounded by rolling red rocks (maybe Arizona or Utah), what about you?
Color psychology is real. Very real. It’s a communication tool and so much more: moods and feelings can be conjured up based on a certain color, where it’s seen and how it fits — or doesn’t — with the surrounding environment.
In fact, Pantone’s researchers travel the world just to see color in its natural environment. Some, such as Living Coral, are so special that it’s shared with the public for consumption. And it’s safe to say this year’s choice is welcomed by many. Most importantly, Living Coral is a perfect addition to the workspace. With just the right dosage, it will brighten your day — from the walls to the desk.
If you have ideas on how to incorporate Living Coral in the workspace, we’d love to hear them.
The take-away feeling an end user records from an experience in a digital environment reigns supreme. With almost any product or service accessible via wifi and a connected device, user behavior is most accurately analyzed with patterns of interaction between people and technology devices. In fact, many people spend a significant portion of their day “glued” to mobile screens (for the average consumer, that’s 5 hours per day), scanning social accounts, browsing trends, visualizing their ideal self and inevitably measuring digital self-worth.
Equally important, people search for answers to difficult life-questions using digital experiences as validation. And they are convinced by their findings, certain their devices (and someone else’s experience) confirm reality. Whether this is good or bad, it supports the idea that people can arrive at sensible conclusions upon interacting with well-designed digital touchpoints — websites, web apps, and mobile apps.
With this understanding of the digital world, we believe the described experiences increasingly influence the way a person thinks about the following four questions:
Who do you want to be in life?
What do you want to do?
What makes you happy?
What is your passion?
Referring to younger generations (ahem… millennials and gen z), people commonly learn about their “authentic” desires through research conducted on a smartphone, often dreaming vicariously over project photos or videos shared by someone with a “purposeful” occupation/existence. Ultimately, these experiences influence the discovery phase for both students and young working adults:
What do you want to study?
What school do you want to attend?
What career path do you want to pursue?
What company do you want to work for?
John Richardson, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and head of English at Ashbury College reiterates that “Technology is less intentional and more intuitive for 32% of the population, and their social skills are morphing into a hybrid of technology and face-to-face contact” — therefore, solutions must be designed to reflect these nuances.
Most importantly, if digital thresholds have become the gateway for self-discovery, we (as journey crafters) want to further examine this same process in order to support young people in making better (well-informed) choices about their education and career. We repeatedly talk about the rising costs of attending universities and how difficult it is to correlate a degree with success — or passion with career prosperity — in the real world. And it’s time we further examine the many options already being touted as the future of learning, the ones that have been available for years and may simply be in need of experienced and strategic UX designers to better craft their purpose and impact for developing generations.
Believe in the User and Their Experience
It’s time we embrace the inherent superficial value of digital and social media as a life-advice tool — our pixel reality — that empowers people to believe in themselves, explore new opportunities, and provide constant reinforcement through it’s craftily designed feedback loop: claps, likes, shares, comments, or “You have to see this!”
While watching the ‘Astrology’ episode of the Netflix series, Explained, scientists and current astrologists presented data supporting the idea that something doesn’t need to be real in order to have real effects — sorta like social media. It’s called the placebo effect, and it states: “The belief in something can be enough for it to work.”
In fact, further research proves that many people admittedly know they are taking “the fake pill” (or accepting an absence of the real thing) yet still record a positive effect.
Feel better faster with the reassuring words from the doc; a bit of wishful thinking, don’t you think? Not quite. A new study conducted by Stanford University revealed the true power of believing in a positive outcome: healing. The study, published by Alia Crum, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University’s School of Humanities and Sciences, hints at the use of the placebo effect beyond pills. Healthcare providers, in this case, significantly reduced healing times of allergic reaction patients using encouraging words about recovery times.
As you can see, if the effect (and affect) is in our minds, and belief is enough to inspire realness, companies should be more willing to support UX designers and more importantly, the UX process. UX practitioners craft journeys that empower people to be moved: students to personalize their education, workers to develop their professional path. All according to what people want, feel, and most importantly, believe.
Academics, careers and finances; these are key factors every student should consider before making one of the most important decisions of their lives: what college to attend and what career to pursue. But how does a developing adult gather the key information required to make sound choices on such weighted subjects? e believe personalized digital experiences can have a profound impact on a person’s choices, leading to greater feelings of success and ultimately happiness.
‘Money’s Build Your Own Rankings’ tool is a great example: it enables prospective students — and parents — to quickly adjust their needs (the input) and receive a research-supported list of schools and programs best suited for their life (the output). Not only does this provide simplicity, it reduces the frustration felt by those who truly don’t have the time and resources to independently identify their best options.
Good Design and Passion for the Problem
Considering the obstacles students and institutions currently face (affordability, location, academic preparedness, program choices, etc.), Designing North Studios recognizes that addressing these challenges with good design solutions is also really good business.
As the previous Director of Web Communications & Branding at Stanford Law School, Lisa Peacock (Designing North Studios’ Executive Creative Director) has been thinking about this for years, and was asked to develop a tool for law students while at Stanford: SLS Navigator. This web app enables students to not only find courses offered at the law school based on their area of law interest, but across the entire university as well. It also suggests journals to reference, blogs to read, influencers to follow, and in some instances connects them with alumni who work day-to-day in those areas. The real stand-out feature, is that it also helps the students to ‘cover their bases’ – if they can’t decide between criminal law and corporate law, the app shows them courses they can take that work for both (just in case). That saves students from not heading down one wrong path, or delaying graduation because they didn’t take the right courses. What a concept, right? When asked about the project, Lisa had this to share:
“I think that every school should have something like this. I started with the following premise: what do I want to be when I grow up? Then you can take courses, read things, follow people, etc. that might cover various paths — so when you finally decide on a specific path, you’ve at least made some initial broad decisions that still count towards graduation and your focus.”
Simple, user friendly, and results oriented, SLS Navigator is still relevant ten years after its inception, and remains a testament to the positivity felt from good, inclusive design. Additionally, as it pertains to the student experience, let’s acknowledge that the process involved in choosing an education and career path must always account for the evolving needs of a digital-savvy (not dependent) generation.
The amount of data at our fingertips today is unprecedented, and what better way to use this information then design solutions to reduce uncertainty for students burdened with life choices: what school to attend, what career to pursue, where to live, and how much to spend. In a way, this approach embraces the art of paying it forward — helping the people who society will eventually rely on to create positive change in the future.
At this very moment, designers, scientists, and educators are looking for new ways to collaborate, with the vision that all students will eventually feel empowered to personalize their campus — or virtual — experience. As a design studio, it’s our goal to simplify the digital matrix of tools, processes, and lingo which serve as a means to this vision, while crafting thoughtful experiences for everyone involved. It’s what we love to do.
As a boy growing up in the 60’s, the vision of leather-clad bikers whose only nod to safety was an apparent paper machè helmet, pushing their bikes to seemingly interstellar limits filled me with intrigue and abject terror. I never found the grease and dirt of the ‘Rockers’ to be that appealing. In fact, I was more attracted to the clean-cut ‘Mods,’ but motorcycles in all of their stripped bare glory were the things of wonder. I marveled at the riders’ willingness to take a perfectly fine Triumph Trophy and pull bits off of it in a quest to drop weight. I was in awe of their nonchalant chopping, welding, and improvising to achieve that ‘ton-up’ machine.
However, I was too young, too broke, and too scared that I’d indelibly change the motorcycle to get beyond a dream.
The term “Ton-Up Boy” may have been lost to the ages. It defined a rank assigned to young men who straddled stripped down, borderline Burlesque British bikes and hurtled themselves towards (and often beyond) the magic 100 mph through the streets of London. Blurred streaks of black leather, dripping grease and belching smoke in a race from the Ace Cafe to the to Hanger Lane roundabout and back–to a plate of egg and chips.
Skip forward many years of owning and riding motorcycles, acquiring mechanical and technical knowledge that could at least get me started from the side of the road (pending inevitable failure), and my thoughts returned to the ‘Ton-Up’ dream. Obviously achieving the magical “ton” nowadays is less of an accomplishment than putting your underwear on correctly, but locating a motorcycle that resembled the “ton up” machines of my youth provided a happy challenge. And building one was, to me at least, the final act after years spent gluing plastic model kits together.
I spent some months scouring the internet for information on building a Cafe Racer. There’s a lot of info, I mean shit loads, and determining the best advice whether it was written by Jethro the hammer wielding yokel or Slick Jimmy’s Custom Foot Peg Emporium was a significant task. Companies like Ryca Motors sell awesome kits for you to quickly create your dream Cafe Racer but I wasn’t ready for anything remotely as professional just yet. I eventually pulled enough information together to create a vision of my project bike and how I might achieve it.
Fortune came my way via my good friend Rey Sotelo of Hollister Power Sports. I purchased an Indian Chief Vintage from Rey a few years back and never regretted the decision. Rey knew I was in the market for a donor bike and offered me a deal on older Triumph Legend TT, which had been received on a trade-in. A sit-up-and-beg cruiser wasn’t the most obvious donor choice for my cafe racer project but it was cheap so it meant that I didn’t care if my hammering, slashing and slobbering screwed the bike into oblivion. At a minimum I would gain some experience and most importantly, confidence.
So without a blueprint, clear project plan, or 50% of the tools I needed, I set about transforming a 1999 Triumph Cruiser into a rat-stripped Cafe Racer for my own sheer indulgence and pleasure.
Not only did the internet (kudos to Jethro) provide great project information, but without it I would never have been able to find the parts and equipment I needed for the build (what the hell did we do before Tim Berners Lee?). I am still blown away that I can lounge on the sofa and surf a catalog of parts from2WheelPros.com or find assembly diagrams at Pandoras, hit a button and a friendly delivery service drops the bits at my door. Without companies like Texavina who not only hand made my new saddle but most importantly had the originally seat pan models to ensure a ‘true’ fit, I would have been screwed.
Skip forward again a few months and while I don’t think the bike will ever truly be finished, I do have a working manifestation of the vision I set out to achieve. It’s never going to be a concours d’elegance entry (even for my pre-industrial revolution eye it’s a bit rough around the edges), but it’s a rideable accomplishment that I would sooner massage my nether regions with a cheese grater than wind it up to the magic ton, but it runs and looks good enough and I did it on my own. Now what?
The Purpose: Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. And The Movember Foundation is the largest funder of prostate cancer programs in the world. Additionally, prostate cancer only affects men, as women do not have a prostate gland. Risk factors in developing the disease include:
Age: The older a man, the more likely he is to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. If you’re 50 or over, chat with your doctor about PSA testing.
Family History : A man with a father or brother who developed prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. If you’re 45 or over and prostate cancer is in your family, you should strike up the conversation about PSA testing with your doctor.
Ethnicity: Prostate cancer has an increased occurrence in men of African and Afro-Caribbean descent.
For more information on prostate cancer including symptoms, testing, treatment options, and support resources, head over to the ‘men’s health’ section on Movember.com.
The Purpose: Suicide Prevention
3 out of 4 suicides are men. And 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year — That’s one every minute. This has to change.
The causes of suicide are complex. There’s no single reason why men take their own lives, but we do know that by improving overall mental health we can reduce the risk of suicide. We need to address untreated mental health conditions among men.
Too many men are toughing it out and struggling alone. There’s no shame in checking in your own mental wellbeing, and those close to around you. Our friends over at Movember have produced some handy guides that might help take the sting out of broaching the subject.
The Goal: Ride my Bike and Make a Difference
Early in 2018 I read about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. A group of “…distinguished gentlefolk in over 650 cities worldwide will don their cravats, tustle their ties, press their tweed, and sit astride their classic and vintage styled motorcycles to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and men’s mental health.” To date, the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride has raised $4.85 million to support these causes while looking good at the same time.
Now I’ll admit that I’ve been a Mumford & Sons fan since first seeing them appear with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers at the 2011 Grammy’s, so the perhaps tenuous tie-in between the well-heeled motorcyclists of DGR, the Mumford-esque feel of the event and Marcus Mumford’s own passion for bikes prompted me to actually do something with my new creation (the Cafe Racer). I have almost convinced myself that I built the bike for such an event. It looks like it was made for it. This shabby, half-arsed project might just complete its life by actually doing some good. This wasn’t something I set out to do. Shit, my only intention was to build a rad bike. But in realizing a worthy end to the project it both closes the build and opens a door to give hope for someone, somewhere, to live longer. And I feel damn good about that. I know it’s not the intention, but it feels a little like I’ll be supporting this great cause and simultaneously fulfilling my Cafe-Racer dream while dressed up as Don Draper.
As one of the NFL’s most prolific leaders, Aaron Rogers said it best, “Surround yourself with really good people. Because the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you.”
The application of this message for your life may be slightly different than Aaron’s, but the end result remains the same: the people you pick will largely influence your success in life, including the levels of happiness you experience — so pick’em wisely.
From Aaron’s football field in Green Bay (with ten other teammates) to our design studio in the San Francisco Bay Area (with an ensemble of creatives), we believe the most influential factor in determining success is choosing the right people: the people you work with, partner with, and associate with.
It’s a mindset we carry into every client project, using it to make “game-time” decisions: do we go for it — or not? Do we submit the proposal — or direct our attention elsewhere?
Rarely does it fail us.
Because (in the words of legendary NFL coach Don Shula) “The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.”
So, using our mindset as guidance, let’s take a look at what it means to pick your people.
Who You Work With
Success doesn’t occur in a closed work environment. Remote or on-site, cultivating a functional team that jives is dependent on laying the initial foundation: choosing the right people.
And more often than not, this choice aligns with a specific mission statement. That is, you choose to work with individuals who align with the company purpose — and/or — business culture.
For example, Patagonia employees are hyper-involved with the recruitment of new team members, often inquiring about one’s interest in the environment and sustainability, even asking prospective team members to consider the footprint of their application materials — the potential waste involved.
If you read Patagonia’s mission statement (“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’), you can see why they have been successful over the years: pick good people and let those people choose who they want to work with.
As the Executive Creative Director for Designing North Studios, Lisa Peacock is viewed as the architect for the current team of designers, strategists, and creatives that all work together today. But we must reiterate, this didn’t happen in a vacuum.
When selecting her starting team, Lisa relied on the designing north mindset to guide her through the growth process:
“It takes dedication, commitment, and most importantly, really good people to make a design studio tick” she says.
“I always knew that the people I was looking for to work at Designing North Studios would be my Designing North Stars.”
Finding these people, attracting them, and creating a studio environment wouldn’t have been possible without a shared purpose: really good people coming together and displaying their talents, and delighting clients in the process.
To this day, our studio members add a little extra to everything they do — it’s who they are. Their career, how they live, the relationships they nurture — it’s all influenced by delivering results just north of expectation, embracing the small details throughout any process.
This approach, believe it or not, really does add happiness, success, peace, and love to the global experience — which for us, is the biggest UX of all.
Who you Work for
Whether choosing who you work with — or for — the premise remains constant: it’s important to pick your people. Remember, your success depends on it.
Speaking to the strength of today’s most successful companies, the ability to inspire employees around a mission is a powerful tool. In fact, this messaging helps influence a person’s choice with regard to employment or collaboration.
Similarly, this inspiration often permeates throughout an industry, reaching potential partners, clients, and firms who are out there searching for ideal work — and people.
In essence, they’ve learned to choose who they complete work for, connecting the dots between happiness and success by way of affiliation, fulfillment and satisfaction — a result of associating with like-minded, purpose-driven people.
Hipcamp showcases this mindset flawlessly: Reviewing their checklist for prospective talent, the first — and most crucial — bullet point reads:
“As a team, we’re committed to striving toward and evolving these shared values in ourselves and in other team members.”
Through this lens, working for an employer versus client may share more similarities than previously thought.
In both scenarios, a conscious choice is made to spend significant time working; choosing people, teams or companies that strongly align with your values offer the reward of time well spent, elevating the human experience.
Your human experience.
Using our studio example, choosing a project (who we do work for) is an extension of who we choose to work with as individuals — those who relish in the small details and strive to deliver effort that’s a hover above expectation. Values, mindset, and even subject matter all deserve attention when making this decision.
We know from experience: Alignment with a client’s mission equates to optimal engagement and communication, the pinnacle of choosing who we do work for, especially in the journey-crafting business. Essentially, we look for that mindset in all directions, be it freelance talent or the ideal client.
Our best partners, for example, understand world challenges; are dedicated to the future of education; and are passionate about heading in the right direction — their projects reflect this ideology.
Others have been voted the most ethical companies by industry and peers.
Some even challenge traditional business norms in order to lift entire communities from poverty. It’s all really good work that deserves to be supported with passion and commitment from fellow believers. That’s us!
Ultimately, choosing who receives your time and energy can significantly impact your feelings of success. Money aside, it’s an opportunity to enrich the human experience with a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and belonging.
If you are like us, you want more of this. Not just for yourself, but for others as well.
Who is in Your Network
Interconnectedness. Support. Opportunity. Exposure. Everyone wants it, but few know where to find it. And crafting the right network is a crucial step towards experiencing personal and professional success.
Fortunately, personal and professional networks function to serve the people who maintain their existence — you! Of course, networks require cultivation — and grow best when crafted with care and intention, with a greater-good value proposition.
Even with a plethora of technology tools, the human component remains most valuable. However, if you expect your network to have your back, there’s one factor you should pay extra attention to: the people!
That’s right, a network is only of value if you can build it with the right people.
But how do you decide who is right for your network? Well, why not start by looking to the people you choose to work with — and for. Chances are good they know exactly where you need to be networking.
As creatives living with the mindset, many of us share ties to the same networks embedded within the digital design industry.
Past jobs, current friends, old co-workers, etc., they all shape who we are in the present and influence who we will become in the future.
That’s the beauty of cultivating a network reflective of your true values and interests: It’s always working for you — much like smart investing.
However, pursuing interests by way of networking will present person challenges. Always keep your eyes peeled, there are limitless temptations of money, greed, and fame within various industries these days.
Take the tech startup community, for example. From hidden agendas to a plethora of funding channels, it’s not uncommon to witness the suppression of values in the name of making investors smile.
It’s OK to be stubborn.
It’s OK to be picky.
It’s OK to vet before welcoming new members — it’s your network! And it’s “health” depends on you. So be patient. Cultivate and curate on a regular basis.
Collaboratively, we branch out to meet new people, learn of new opportunities, and even cross digital borders, accessing other communities of interest; let’s say from a design community to a primarily tech community, for example.
If your visualizing an imaginary “jump” from one social channel to another — let’s say, instagram to LinkedIn or Twitter to Vimeo — you are spot-on.
Each community brings new introductions and opportunities for connecting with good people. People chosen by you.
Designers of various disciplines (UX, UI, XD, IxD), Illustrators, graphic artists, writers, videographers, creative directors, etc., all form the design “arm” of our individual networks.
Similarly, each person may have complimentary network extensions created with connections from previous employers and friendships.
Using the studio for reference, part of Lisa’s network may offer consistent resources in the form of design projects for the team to work on, while that of a team member may uncover new freelancers to join the team, further growing the studio’s presence.
Their titles may only identify their outer layer (what we see on paper) but their work and communication symbolizes what lies beneath. A mindset for success.
Picking your people is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you will make in life. Viewed as an opportunity to control destiny, this responsibility is ongoing, surfacing every time new relationships are made.
Who you work with, who you work for — or complete work for — and who you form a network with all play an active role in shaping what success looks like for your life. If you haven’t figured it out yet, people are the second most influential component of your life.
Have you ever thought about designing your life? Essentially crafting a “tomorrow” that gets you excited, feeling ready for what’s next. If you have, good for you — you’re one step ahead of most. Our tips will keep you moving forward. And if not, we can help you get started. Echoing the words of every parent, “You aren’t getting any younger!”
The most common question we encounter is where do I begin? And from our many experiences in the design studio, working with others to develop the ‘designing north mindset,’ we can confidently say that artistic creation is a great place to start.
As American writer, filmmaker, philosopher and activist Susan Sontag once said,
Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.
She was talking to you. Yes, you! And like Susan, we believe in you because you are artistic.
Whether you just smiled in acceptance of this warm complement or smirked and replied, “yeah… right — that’s me,” the truth is that artistic ability resides within you, and with a little bit of time and practice you can experience the many benefits associated with it. One of which is the ability to design your life, creatively building out a plan and executing specific steps to reach your goals outlined in that plan.
So how exactly can this be done?
Well, unlike most aspects of life, art is entirely subjective; it is not confined by boundaries nor does it adhere to strict qualifications. In fact, if you were to paint, draw, build, or design something (using your creative brain, of course), you have the freedom (and right) to call it art. That’s the beauty of it! Art empowers our minds to think beyond what we know and reach for our curiosities.
Pursuing art is a really great analogy for the rest of life, some days you make that beautiful painting or the sun is out perfectly, and other days you are really in the throws of life.
It’s subjective nature is best understood by the way architecture or fine art can elicit completely different responses from people. We once stumbled upon a quote that read, “architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully.” Our perspective on creativity changed from this day forward. Now we help others craft their ideal life, putting their artistic skills to work.
Artistic Creation Organizes Emotions and Feelings
During her TED Talk “Powerful Art Activist,” artist, Zaria Forman related human actions to behavioral psychology, explaining why humans take action and make decisions based on emotions, above all else. Zaria also shared her belief that art is one of the most effective methods for reaching our emotions. In other words, art can be a tool for accessing feelings you never knew existed, or that you have been trying to reach for years. Hint: you will need these to begin designing your path forward.
But how does the act of creating something (anything) through artistic ability impact your emotions and allow you to uncover feelings?
The answer can be experienced when you first clear your mind and dedicate yourself to the act of creating. You see, artistic creation is free of rules; the only limitations are the ones you impose on yourself (so, stop it already!) — this is a refreshing change from most of life’s responsibilities. Whether you pick up that pencil, pen, brush, tool, mouse or instrument, in that very moment you are actively making sense of whatever thoughts or ideas you have stored away. And often, these ideas are the result of things you have felt, heard or seen at one point in time.
So, when you tap into your creative brain, to physically create, you allow yourself the time and mental capacity needed for reflection, adding context to life…your life. It’s this self-reflection that gives way to reasoning which leads to understanding, which results in a feeling and finally translates into emotion. We need this process as humans. If we don’t get it, tension and frustration slowly creeps in. Hint: some tension and frustration is natural; however, if it’s constant you likely need to design a new plan.
As you will see, artistic creation is a powerful tool that you have access to — you just need to learn to use it. When you do, it can offer clarity on what “living” truly means to you.
Artistic Creation Cultivates Empathy
Have you listened to those prescription medicine commercials for stress or depression that usually end with a lengthy curated list of terrifying side effects? And somehow they play it off as though it’s no big deal.
Well, you might be surprised to learn that using artistic creation is also synonymous with a long list of side effects, but not the type you should cringe at. In fact, they will probably bring a smile to your face. The cultivation of empathy is a prime example; being creative in an artistic manner allows you to learn to be empathetic, and if you already have a high level of empathy it increases your ability to reason and adapt to other people. Hint: working well with other people is a sure way to get to where you want to be much quicker. In essence, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This idea is also linked to self reflection, as turning experiences into a tangible, creative form (art) forces you to remove yourself from the problem (not so fun) and inspires an openness or mindfulness towards others. As you create and accept the subjective nature of art, reactions towards others become more sensible, and the concept of understanding becomes less confined to strict rules or the reliance on what we know versus what we have to learn. And yes, there is in fact an undiscovered world out there for you to explore, and having empathy will make it much more enjoyable. Remember, just because it’s unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s not for you.
When you begin sharing your creativity with others or allow others to share theirs with you, skills such as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving will become second nature thanks to empathy.
As you work on your artistic craft, try creating work from a different perspective, maybe one that challenges your routine or go–to process. Think about people you look up to; someone you are intrigued by; or a piece of work that can reach many different people who may interpret it in different ways. Can you adjust your perspective to meet their preferences? This certainly isn’t easy, nor is it intended to be. Creating for others draws you out from your comfort zone to look at a world that is filled with unfamiliar ideas, values, and behavior. This builds empathy. This builds character. This makes you a more effective designer. And you can’t design your life until you think like a designer.
Artistic Creation is a Process for Fun
That’s right, FUN! For so many activities in life, especially daily routines, the word fun rarely creeps its way into the equation. This is why, when you finally discover the fun of creating, especially using processes you share with others, it feels really good (all tingly inside) and nothing like work. And… It feels easy; it’s accessible; it doesn’t cost very much apart from a few tools or supplies, and you can fit it into your schedule. So when you learn to make time to create you are actually learning to have fun. See, doesn’t that sound fun?
We recommend making time for artistic creation for the same reasons we recommend drawing at work or taking pictures on the weekend: these activities offer stimulation and pressure you to respond with feeling and emotion without fear of being wrong or the criticism of screwing up. Remember, art is subjective. If you say it’s art, well guess what, it’s most definitely art. Others like you will embrace this mindset.
Artistic creation also alleviates too much exposure to “the process.” Think about your job or school, they are defined by some sort of process that gets you from here to there, or from this beginning to that result. And that’s fine for some things in life but doesn’t it seem like we have created a process for everything? Sure it may increase efficiency, but usually at the expense of fun. This is why artistic creation is such a valuable activity to explore. The process of creation and using artistic abilities to express the meaning behind your thoughts and perspectives can be wildly rewarding, especially when those around you recognize and appreciate what you’ve created. Once you share this excitement you will want to experience more of it. Although being creative can still a process, it’s acceptable to omit the parts that don’t suit you and just do the ones that are enjoyable… don’t try that in the office!
A critical step in designing your life, sometimes you have to re-learn how to have fun, a mindset you were told to “grow out of.” With the help of societal pressure (yeah, it’s society’s fault!) we over-fixate on hard work and production and fun never has an opportunity to surface. But with a small mindset shift you can adjust your habits to make room for that feeling we all seek in our lives: fun.
Artistic Creation Transcends Reality
This doesn’t happen often, but we are in fact encouraging you to be unrealistic. Because why not! Through learning to make time for artistic creation to expressing yourself and developing empathy to accepting that it’s good to have fun more often than not, leaving reality behind becomes perfectly acceptable behavior. In fact, it makes you a more desirable person to be around and therefore a more desirable person to work with. It doesn’t matter if you have been an artist for years or are just getting started, it’s OK to “go rogue” or “get wild” using your artistic abilities — the result will likely be more interesting to others.
Artistic creation is an invitation to think way outside the box. Think about how you live your life today and compare that to how you would like to live your life tomorrow. Best of all, think about what you do to earn a living compared to what you wish you could do to earn a living. These are the thoughts that make artistic creation so much fun, and they serve a valuable purpose in fostering all of those “unrealistic” ideas that most people don’t want to hear about.
For example, about two years ago I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to build a small container home where my wife and I (and at least one dog, maybe four) could work/live in a modern studio that perfectly fit our needs. You know what he said to me? “Get real.” So I decided to create a Pinterest board solely focused on this vision, and continue to complement this by writing about what this life will look like when it’s actualized. Fast forward one year and I now have all the urban planning and building information required to find out perfect plot. Not to mention detailed boards of what I want every square foot of the home to look like. I even have a list of companies willing to get started on the project — thanks Pinterest!
Case in point: artistic creation lets your mind trespass on ideas we train ourselves to think of as “off limits.” The farther into your dreams you dive the more reward you are likely to experience. So, whether you are a realist or surrealist, practicing artistic creation lets you freely transcend the two worlds without criticism. Simply put, it trains you to embrace the unexpected, a concept best described by an inspirational young man (Sef Scott) from Plano, Texas. “Remember, if you are following in someone’s footsteps, you will only get where they want to go.”
High school senior with autism, who is usually nonverbal, delivers an 'unexpected' speech that steals the show at his graduation ceremony."Do the unexpected. It is your life that you are living, not anyone else’s, so do what fulfills you." https://abcn.ws/2LQIfj4
Artistic creation will set you on the journey of designing the life you want. It’s an intangible tool that nobody can take from you. It has the power to uplift suppressed emotions and bring feeling to a mind that was left for numbness. By simply practicing with art you can learn to be empathetic and collaboratively share your ideas with others.
No matter the form of artistic creation you seek, the process is unlike most others — it’s fun! And possibly the most important benefit of all, actively using your creativity will provide a valid reason to be unrealistic and, just for a moment, see things the way you dream them to be. It may be just the tool you need to turn a dream into reality. Now, get designing.
Life creates many problems for humans; some, you may be familiar with. Fortunately, designers create many solutions for life’s problems. Using the principles of Life Design and a human-centered approach, there are many creatives, technologists, and educators in this world who dedicate their time to thinking differently and creating a “better path forward” — usually for the benefit of others. They are designing north.
As it stands, there are many talented designers and thinkers in this world all working diligently to help us understand how good design can change the world. We recognize them; we thank them; we support them. Now, let’s celebrate them. The following TED Talks discuss the transformative power of good design, leading with examples we can all understand and relate to:
When we Design for Disability, we all Benefit
“I believe that losing my hearing was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received,” says Elise Roy. As a disability rights lawyer and design thinker, she knows that being Deaf gives her a unique way of experiencing and reframing the world — a perspective that could solve some of our largest problems. As she says: “When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm.”
We are all Designers
Journalist John Hockenberry tells a personal story inspired by a pair of flashy wheels in a wheelchair-parts catalogue — and how they showed him the value of designing a life of intent. (From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.)
The Art of Designing New Perspectives
Before Daniel Disselkoen studied at the Royal Academy of Art in the Netherlands, he read through his share of textbooks while studying law and philosophy. One day, he realized he didn’t want his own ideas to be tucked away in journals. Today, Daniel is one of the leading interactive artists of his generation. Daniel runs Headmade: a concept studio where he and his team turn thoughts into tangibles. His ongoing fascination in social behaviour and interaction results in playful interventions in the everyday life. Daniel believes curiosity trumps routine.
Simple Hacks for Life With Parkinson’s
Simple solutions are often best, even when dealing with something as complicated as Parkinson’s. In this inspiring talk, Mileha Soneji shares accessible designs that make the everyday tasks of those living with Parkinson’s a bit easier. “Technology is not always it,” she says. “What we need are human-centered solutions.”
Shape-Shifting Tech will Change Work as we Know it
What will the world look like when we move beyond the keyboard and mouse? Interaction designer Sean Follmer is building a future with machines that bring information to life under your fingers as you work with it. In this talk, check out prototypes for a 3D shape-shifting table, a phone that turns into a wristband, a deformable game controller and more that may change the way we live and work.
Design with the Blind in Mind
What would a city designed for the blind be like? Chris Downey is an architect who went suddenly blind in 2008; he contrasts life in his beloved San Francisco before and after — and shows how the thoughtful designs that enhance his life now might actually make everyone’s life better, sighted or not.
Brilliant Designs to Fit More People in Every City
How can we fit more people into cities without overcrowding? Kent Larson shows off folding cars, quick-change apartments and other innovations that could make the city of the future work a lot like a small village of the past.
A Robot That Eats Pollution
Meet the “Row-bot,” a robot that cleans up pollution and generates the electricity needed to power itself by swallowing dirty water. Roboticist Jonathan Rossiter explains how this special swimming machine, which uses a microbial fuel cell to neutralize algal blooms and oil slicks, could be a precursor to biodegradable, autonomous pollution-fighting robots.
When Art Collides with Data
Charts and graphs are the default for data analysis, but some data sets require a little more humanity. What do you call a hairpiece worn by a man? How southern was William Faulkner? Carrie Roy answers these questions and more though sculpture, woodwork, fiber arts, photography, and even virtual reality.
The Beauty of Human Skin in Every Color
Angélica Dass’s photography challenges how we think about skin color and ethnic identity. In this personal talk, hear about the inspiration behind her portrait project, Humanæ, and her pursuit to document humanity’s true colors rather than the untrue white, red, black and yellow associated with race.
As Tim Allen of Microsoft sums up our approach to design, “We should all … understand how each of us is an individual and is unique, but also focus on what is universally important to all of us. That way, we can increase access, reduce friction, create a more emotional connection — in literally whatever you design.” This is inclusive design. Good design.
The events of 2017 have positioned 2018 to be a year for recovery, growth, and healing from recent events: political chaos, global humanitarian crises and environmental injustice to name a few. Feeling humanity’s readiness, Designing North Studios is on a mission to find and highlight the small details making a difference in society, starting with the collective effort witnessed from the creation of murals as a form of communication.
Cities across America are in desperate need of more public art — something thought provoking; emotional; relatable or just plain fun. Something to communicate positive vibes and inclusivity rather than negativity and fear. Could murals be the solution? A refreshing user experience for us all? We think so.
You see, murals are to the public as paintings are to gallery attendees: a visceral experience that requires little more than attention and interest, with the offering of pure enjoyment.
Deceivingly stationary, murals hold the power to larger movements, creating change and cultivating togetherness. Murals are the answer to designing more liveable communities for many important reasons: they are conducive to a person’s and group’s user experience (UX) within public spaces, they motivate positive change without name calling, and build community bonds through peaceful, artistic communication.
Murals Enhance User Experience
As a member of your own community, you might ask yourself, “what is there to do/see around here.” As a UX designer however, the question might sound more like this: How can I interact with my community in a way that’s enjoyable?
And through the lens of a UX designer (using design thinking), answering this question with a solution that provides equitable impact for both a business and the surrounding public will generate the most impactful outcome. Murals are proving to be the ideal conduit, straddling the border between tangible satisfaction and intangible fulfillment.
Whether it’s measured by local foot traffic, tourism or social media insights, the impact murals have on the user experience (UX) recorded by a person in a public setting is felt throughout many large cities. From San Francisco to Manhattan, urban murals have become an embedded attraction, a reason for people to visit a specific area within a city to see with their own eyes what the hype is about — searching for a genuinely unique experience. From interviewing people on the streets of our local community, the most common reason for visiting a mural is to personally see what the artist has created, digest the artistic message being communicated and somehow capture the moment to share with others — both friends and family.
Most often, discussions around UX are directed towards a digital product, however, the physical world also benefits from good UX design — especially urban environments where many people are interacting with complex systems. Los Angeles is a proof of concept: from Venice to West Hollywood, the city is plastered with influential murals created by amature artists and historical muralists alike. If your asking why, you are thinking like a designer! A two-pronged answer, many of the murals were first painted in the mid 90s for various political, social and humanitarian causes — a way of communicating change at the time. But now, the city is again home to a “mural boom,” a strategic tactic to improve the experience visitors have within evolving neighborhoods.
The city of Los Angeles, along with small business owners along Venice’s iconic Abbot Kinney Blvd have made mural viewing a visually rewarding activity, one that is user friendly to visitors on foot exploring the outdoor shopping hub. From corner to corner, local business owners have allowed their exterior walls to be used for large-scale murals, fueling the efficacy of this outdoor retail marketplace. At a time when the greater retail industry is synonymous with “retail-apocalypse,” components of user-centered design (UX in this case) are naturally adding value and reinventing the shopping experience — a concept we believe will define ‘modern retail.”
A recent visit to Abbot Kinney revealed a flow to it all. Almost all of the murals were on walls primed for photography — especially portraits, a.k.a., selfies. And they also ran perpendicular to the main street, giving visitors adequate opportunity to interact and hangout for a few minutes before their next stop. We also noticed that most murals seemed to be strategically located on the exterior walls of highly desirable restaurants, coffee cafes, and shops, a brilliant solution to reduce discomfort over wait times or purchase decisions (customers leave with a positive view of their overall experience). You may disagree, believing these factors to be too small and explained by coincidence, but we simply refer to that as good UX. (If it feels natural and compliments the overall environment, designers did their job.) And as Lisa Peacock, our Executive Creative Director, would say, “Small doesn’t even need to be recognizable to make an impact. That’s its beauty.” When all of the subtle, small details work together, like the murals within a vibrant community, a form of capital is created for that specific region; experiential capital as we call it. And it’s inclusive.
Murals Facilitate Positive Change
An extension of a good artist, a mural has the power to speak without ever saying a word–the popular “Isabelle Gorilla” murals found throughout Venice, CA, are a great example–one look and you’d swear the Gorilla was telling you to change your lifestyle, maybe even “slow down and chill.” Although they may speak differently to each individual, the unique interpretations often lead to inclusive discussions rather than divisive belief.
Of course, change can come from many sources, but very few of those create desired change purely from spoken words. Often, expression, action, or in the case of murals–artistry is needed. An important detail, murals speak to all humans; race, age and ethnicity are not a factor. This is something Stanford Medicine has been sharing with its community since 2015 when Fair Oaks Health Center (Redwood, CA) revealed a mural in the pediatrics waiting room. A volunteer for the project, Stanford art practice lecturer, Lauren Toomer, MFA, strategically incorporated letters, numbers, shapes, and images of the Redwood City community, as well as three interactive learning panels into the artwork. With the goal of supporting pre-kindergarten-aged children, this mural serves as a tool to educate young children during their visits to the pediatrician–often the only contact they have with professionals of any sort. Part of a larger effort, this mural now aids many children from low-income families who simply don’t have the means to pre-school, setting them up for greater economic potential from a very young age. Now, you don’t need us to remind you of the cumulative benefits on society when all members have access to more schooling and therefore professional development later on in life (higher education and job opportunities, to name a couple). And to think, all of this positive change from the use of a mural…
Just three years later, MayView community Health Center in Mountain View, CA, is also using a mural for positive change within its pediatric care division. Replacing a TV, clinic workers have identified the value murals bring to both the children and the community, addressing knowledge gaps in relationship to other children their age from families with greater means to education and learning. A key component of Stanford’s Pediatric Advocacy Program, murals are creating measurable change for many families in the community.
Similar to the walls of a pediatrician’s office, the urban landscape serves as an artist’s canvas, prime real estate for displaying visual art to convey important messages and change the status quo. A project accomplishing just this, Sea Walls by Pangeaseed Foundation uses public art to spread the message of ocean conservation into the streets. Since 2014, the group has created nearly 300 murals throughout 12 countries, including multiple pieces in San Diego, CA. And with over 200 artists on board, this community isn’t painting in the streets simply to display their talent, they are collaborating to change the way people see the ocean environment; murals are their medium. As Pangeaseed explains, these murals have a dedicated purpose:
While our oceans are the Earth’s life support system, providing 70% of the oxygen we breathe, a sixth of the animal protein people eat, medicines that keep us alive and healthy, and so much more, human impact in the form of overfishing, climate change, development, plastics, and other forms of pollution are taking a toll on the health of our seas. Unfortunately, these critical issues are often complex, multi-faceted and hard to understand for the average citizen. Through public art, Sea Walls has the opportunity to translate facts into visual stories that engage the public in a non-confrontational manner, and increase awareness.
A lesson for all of humanity, why not let murals be our muse and allow them to communicate sensitive topics to a large audience without the anger-filled media battles? No matter what side of the fence you are on, art is always subjective–an effective method for communicating without insult or attack.
Murals Create Community Bonds
From Harlem to Portland, murals are much more than artwork, actively driving collaboration and cultivating a narrative for the communities in which they are created. From facilitating coordination among the public, media, local leaders and the artists themselves, a simple creative idea can quickly transform into an organized public event, a process Forest For the Trees does exceptionally well. Curating both local and international artists, this nonprofit puts creators on the center stage. From sketch to unveiling, the entire project displays each artist as an individual but remains cohesive as a city-wide event. That’s the objective according to organizer, Gage Hamilton, “All the artists have their own themes and styles that they work within, and it was really up to each individual and pairing what direction they wanted to take. I just matched them up with property owners that liked their work, and all the property owners were cool enough to keep an open mind.”
Murals have significance in the Portland area, largely due to the bonding influence they provide. As this project displays, the local government doesn’t need to be relied upon for funding; by rallying local businesses and public supporters, community-wide mural events create more inclusiveness than a 4th of July block party. As the organizers had planned, Forest For the Trees wouldn’t have been possible without the help of many locals; because they had a hand in the facilitation, a sense of ownership was felt resulting in accessibility for everyone who wished to join the fun. For humanity, this is a rewarding experience, one that can be replicated from one community to another.
Designed around a theme, The Audubon Mural Project is the perfect example of how murals can facilitate bonding within a community.
A city not often identified for wildlife viewing, Harlem, NY, now has some of the state’s best “bird watching,” with around 80 completed murals out of the 314 that the National Audubon Society and local gallery, Gitler &_____ Gallery, wish to complete. Unique significance now resides on Harlem’s urban walls, covering the 314 species of birds labeled as threatened by climate change. You might ask, why Harlem of all places? Well, it happens to be the home of and final resting place of Mr. Audubon himself; a historical fact not recognized by many residents, that was until their home began receiving public art that made headlines across the country.
From Allen’s Hummingbird to a Swallow-Tailed Kite, avian masterpieces are splashed across Harlem neighborhoods, covering everything from aged brick high rises to the security gates of dental and vision offices. And this is all part of the design — when businesses close up, residents and passer-byers have something colorful and awe-inspiring to look at: birds!
Complementary to anyone wishing to view all eighty murals, a project map has been created for self-guided tours around Harlem neighborhoods. Communicating global challenges, this project is attracting accomplished artists from all over, further adding value to the experience of being a local resident, community leader or business owner. When people exit their apartments or visit the gas station they are greeted with lively artforms. It’s something different, something unexpected, yet so rewarding. This is the power of a mural.
From feelings of unity and togetherness to cultivating thoughts for change, murals hold the power of influence. An answer to designing healthy communities, murals are conducive to a person’s and group’s user experience (UX) within public spaces, they motivate positive change without name calling, and build community bonds through peaceful, artistic communication. We say, let’s create more murals in 2018.
If you haven’t already heard, 2018 is the year of humanity: a year of inclusivity, togetherness, and kindness. In fact, it’s a chance for ordinary people to be celebrated for the small details and a reminder to everyone that we don’t need to be extraordinary to feel humanity. The fact remains, we all have a little extra to give society and one another, rallying together using action for the greater good — we can’t help it, it is our human nature. To demonstrate this mindset, we have curated the following five examples, which speak to the heart of humanity and reinforce our belief that humanity will validate the power of good in 2018. So, as we say, go humanity! We encourage you to say the same using #gohumanity2018 in your social-media conversations and visit gohumanity2018 for more feel-good stories and inspiring acts of humanity.
A feeling of “we are all in this together” for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team in Pyeongchang.
This may not have been his first experience on center stage, but Shaun White’s reaction to seeing his fellow Americans’ cheer for him during a historic gold-medal run was a priceless — a reminder of how connected we really are, especially during events as symbolic as the Olympics:
Lifting women and children out of poverty with help from four-legged friends and a dedicated mentor: that’sThe Grooming Project.
Natasha Kirsch’s pursuit to create change for the homeless women she worked with reminds us that as humans — we all have the power to make a difference in another person’s life. With a focus on the small details, her ingenious solution has led to employment and personal development for those who never had a chance. Although dogs weren’t part of the initial plan, they now serve as the means to a sustainable future for these women and their families.
A collective for creatives seeking big change for a small island using small efforts: FUERTE by Focus Lab — humanity rests in the people of Puerto Rico.
Six months later and many Puerto Ricans continue to live without food, water, and electricity as a result of hurricane Maria. At a time when confusion and political agendas have overshadowed the regions call for help, a small group of creative professionals are reminding the public that their small contribution can make a big difference. Their individual efforts may be small and seemingly ordinary, but their collective energy is anything but:
“‘Daddy, I love that you’re kind,’ he said to me.” “And if when I’m gone, that’s what my son says of me, I’ll rest in peace.” A professor’s extra effort and kindness comes full circle:
Dr. Henry Musoma of Texas A&M University is known for always adding a little extra to every one of the classes he teaches — extra engaged, extra supportive, and extra caring. As a student in one of his classes he makes one thing very clear: he cares about you.
The garment industry is showing a commitment to people in 2018, and it’s good business:
Over 100 companies sign to renew the transition accord, covering over 1,200 factories and over two million Bangladeshi workers from workplace dangers including: fire, structural and electricity dangers. In May of 2018, this legally-binding document will go into effect, supported by some of the largest garment brands in North America and beyond. Not only is this a significant leap forward for the industry, it’s a reminded that every business must put people first if it wishes to truly succeed.
Only a small sample of the positivity experienced throughout society this very moment, these five stories have us feeling pretty good about humanity in 2018. From kindness and togetherness to celebrating the small details, there are many people in this world contributing to the vision for a better tomorrow for all. Whether it’s a friend, family member, random person or yourself, if you have a story to share we’d love to celebrate it using #gohumanity2018 visiting our good-news feed.
User experience (UX) and and retail are getting together, again. But this time, it’s going to be different.
This time, retail strategy and UX are going to get things right; brick-and-mortar and digital will finally accept their marriage as a lifelong union with their sum being greater than their parts, and relationship goals will soon refer to the comfortable, personalized attention that a “store” experience should provide customers.
Wait a minute… did we say customers? We meant people! That’s right, these renewed vows between design and retail will make life easier and more enjoyable for people — they have feelings after all.
These two fields of practice (retail and design) will finally share the responsibility of changing retail for good; they are poised for a new beginning, and ready to commit. And through strategic senior leadership, retail professionals and creative pros will commence thinking around experience design and more specifically, getting the right people on board to craft the ultimate user experience for people and the communities they associate with. People aren’t satisfied with simply living anymore, they want to design their lives. So… as we like to say, it’s time for a redesign.
A UX Perspective on Retailing
We were once students of retailing sciences in the Retailing and Consumer Sciences program at the University of Arizona. And to be honest, after learning to analyze people and their purchasing behavior we never really stopped being a retail student. In class we (myself, peers and professors) would discuss a controversial question that served as a “hot-button” for many students: “Is retail dead?” Of course, we all had unwavering beliefs as college seniors, but still, a handful of us — including myself — felt a bit of uncertainty and perhaps, fear towards this question. Could we really be investing so much time and money into a dying practice?
It wasn’t until we gained exposure to UX design that we finally had the answer: Retail is not dead. In fact, retail was never close to dying, nor did it need to. Sure, it may be going through a prolonged midlife crisis… but then again, maybe it just needed to find a partner to guide it in a more promising direction.
From attending conferences and listening to the many podcasts and webinars that discussed the world of retail, it’s no secret that even the most prominent retail giants are constantly searching for a ‘better way’ to grow their physical presence, or change it up completely. But in a time when technology literally brings the world to our fingertips, what is left for retail, and even more importantly, what can retailers do to provide this field a new “lease” on life?
The answer lives in the “UX of it all” — how does a user experience translate into a feeling or emotion that people want to relive and can recognize time and time again with satisfaction?
Companies such as Nordstrom, Apple, Goop, and even Nike are embracinguser-centered design to provide class-leading UX for brick-and-mortar; they are no longer designing solutions ‘for’ people (there we go with people before customer), but rather, ‘with’ people. The people they are designing for never leave the center of the equation, everything revolves around them. And as we have learned from the many digital projects we worked on in our studio, this is the way it should be. It has potential to breath new life into the paradigm around retailing. So, although many of these names have been around for many moons, they are what we consider the new retail — a stark contrast to the legacy retailers we are so familiar with.
The New Nordstrom (User) Experience
“John W. Nordstrom believed success would come only by offering customers the very best service, selection, quality, and value.” Although the world has changed significantly since 1901 (Nordstrom’s start), Nordstrom’s ideal customer hasn’t; and both the in-store and online journeys are still crafted with these values in mind. Only now, the company has more advanced capabilities beyond just the omni-channel mindset. In fact, it’s expected that the Nordstrom guest will have a personalized, unique experience that is convenient for their life. The company’s latest store innovation reinforces this point: although people have time (to shop), they don’t have time to waste.
As Nordstrom explains their latest concept, “We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs. Finding new ways to engage with customers on their terms is more important to us now than ever.”
Nordstrom’s latest store concept (3,000 square feet, instead of a typical Nordstrom box size of 140,000 square feet), aims at offering an experience that reinforces the positive interaction among people based on wants and needs, while matching those to the brand’s personality (in this case, Nordstrom). From stylists to beauty service providers and consultants, guests will have access to the ‘full fashion treatment.” But calling this an enriched experience would be an understatement. With “bars” in the stores, where thirsty shoppers can order juices or wine; visitors can completely “let go” and relax as though they are at a special event. The company noted that skilled retail professionals will still be an integral part of the redesigned UX, and stylists will be doing what they do best: curating outfits for shoppers while reducing, if not completely removing the stress they feel when searching for that perfect outfit.
The retail atmosphere has much to learn from the digital space, and Nordstrom is proving that they can enhance the UX of a store by following digital trends. We know that websites have at most 15 seconds to win the attention of a visitor, and that’s on a very, very good day. So, as technology further integrates the on and offline channels, should companies expect different behavior for store visitors? We think not. But companies such as Nordstrom are learning how to quickly gain the attention of visitors by creating and therefore offering ‘WOW’ moments in stores.
Today at Apple
Soon, a typical conversation with friends and family will begin with, “Today, at Apple…” That’s how good the Apple experience is expected to be with their ongoing store-experience redesign.
When I think of Apple (the brand), the first visual that comes to mind is that of an Apple store. You know, the one with the perfect lighting, modern-display furniture and big glass windows that often showcase a clever merchandise arrangement.
It’s because we can recognize the in-store experience of Apple. Purposeful UX practitioners have made it instinctual.
As our Executive Creative Director & Managing Director at Designing NorthStudios, Lisa Peacock explains the reasoning for my recognition:
“Well-constructed experience design (backed by well-understood psychology) presents people with things that are recognizable. And it doesn’t even have to be exact. By providing people with familiar visual, auditory, even tactile cues, they are able to tap into associative memory much faster with less cognitive load; decision making becomes instinctual and follows a pattern of flow, and recognizable experiences provide a sense of calm and enjoyment — the pinnacle of user experience.”
The user experience (UX) associated with these retail locations is engaging, friendly and interactive. You don’t forget it, even if you only visit a couple of times. Plus it transcends into Apple products; once you use an iPhone or iMac you recognize the experience across device interfaces (UI), and after visiting their store once you quickly learn where you need to be to find the assistance or information you need.
The process is also repeatable and usually very satisfying. This is the foundation for Apple’s continued success with brick-and-mortar, and with the success of their brand in general. It’s the driver for continued innovation in a discipline (retail) that hasn’t been kind to most large companies. From the digital-device solutions to the shopping and technical support, everything Apple designs is reinforced by user feedback. Apple’s senior Vice President of Retail, Angela Ahrendts, says it best in an interview with CBS This Morning,
“Our soul is our people. And our job is to enrich their lives, change the world.”
Wouldn’t you support this mindset?
These are the words you want to hear from a retail leader, especially when they speak to the importance of user-centered design. They aren’t enriching their lives with a product, they are doing so by providing a curated opportunity for people to have life-changing experiences using technology (the product is simply a tool). In other words, the store, “it’s the largest product that Apple produces.” If this statement caught you by surprise, you’re not alone. But isn’t it refreshing to hear that retail is in fact, not dead?
All 500 of Apple’s retail locations will soon offer a redesigned experience (beginning in April) through the implementation of new hardware, further transforming the retail experience (or “Town Square” as Apple calls it) to embrace community gathering, education, and engagement.
Lined with trees, The Genius Bar matures to The Genius Grove (in a few locations) and the expertise of its support offering evolves as well: staffers called “Creative Pros” will specialize in music and photography to educate and assist, and even more importantly, further develop the bond that Apple has formed with its loyal community. This is the face of a “new retail,” one that is determined to connect people rather than sell products. This is “Today at Apple.”
This is the paradigm shift we will all come to embrace as the brands we already love, continue to learn more about us and the lives we ‘want’ to live. The way I see it, if brands such as Apple successfully create the ideal store environment, the term ‘shopping’ will no longer be a worthy descriptor of the dynamic relationship between person and store.
The Goop Lab
From the sound of it, it might not be what you expect. But what if the “new retail” had very little resemblance of the old version. What if transparency of a seller’s intentions wasn’t an issue because the customer was in complete control of how they record their experience?
Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand, is rewriting the script for how a retail store should look, feel and function, and the latest rendition involves a journey into brick and mortar as an experience (and mindset), not just a location — hey… I’ve heard this before. But don’t for a second think GP is doing things the old fashioned way. If anyone has a modern mindset for what the word retail means, it’s GP and her team of design thinkers.
Titled Goop Lab, this space is less of a store and more of a state of mind. Designed by the creative visionaries (Standefer and Alesch ) who also crafted her personal residences, Goop Lab is an extension of GP’s life (including her childhood) and all of the experiences that have made it so memorable. In other words, the physical location is an exploratory experience of what home should feel like. Goop Lab is a narrative of the brand, and it was created to be a permanent location for people to bask in this story and share the vision.
Situated in Los Angeles’s Brentwood Country Mart (a dreamy neighborhood for many Hollywood stars), Goop Lab includes a fully functioning kitchen, greenhouse, porch, and living room, allowing visitors to feel at home. Their dream home.
This unique experience is also interactive in a way that will remain with visitors long after they leave and return back to their own homes. It’s also educational by design and offers hands-on learning from the kitchen to the garden and beauty room. Rather than design a store, GP and her team crafted journeys, and ultimately these journeys were conceptualized into a user experience. This is the saving grace for retail as we know it.
As Standefer says most eloquently, “This idea that retail is dead . . . it’s nowhere near it. But it’s about doing it in a way that’s really soulful, and thoughtful and truthful.”
Nike and Coach 2.0
If what we are hearing is true, size doesn’t matter for the future of retail.
As the physical and digital worlds converge in a ceremonial “joining of hands” for what we hope is a lifelong honeymoon, many upscale retail brands are scaling down rather than beefing up the UX associated with their store experience. And it’s quite possibly the answer that humans need to once again make lasting memories with the products about which they are passionate.
Rather than scaling back the number of stores, these innovative brands are opening new doors and embracing a mindset of quality over quantity. But don’t let size fool you, these smaller environments are bespoke in nature and educational by design. The following brands are both physically and psychologically designing a future where UX design and retail strategy are partners in innovation.
The New Nike
With an already impressive digital and physical store presence, Nike is turning to the people who know them best (their customers) to design a new store experience. Certain flagship locations, like the one recently opened in SoHo, are encouraging people to lead their own experiences with a much more personal setting.
With more resemblance to a training center than a store, these locations put visitors in the driver seat. Whatever the sport may be, Nike has outfitted these locations with loads of software and interactive technology, offering animmersive learning environment. Their adjustable basketball hoops and virtual courts provide a user experience that’s truly unforgettable and undoubtedly fun. And there’s a “kicker,” the digital experience doesn’t end with the virtual touch points; guests can order their gear on-the-spot and have it shipped to their homes with the confidence that it will fit and perform as expected.
Sh. Can you hear that?
That’s the sound of retail professionals around the globe clapping for a (what could be) permanent decrease in online-return rates. Also, and it’s a big also, guests can save data collected from their Nike+ App and use it later for purchasing gear online; it’s the ultimate user experience. There’s no pressure! And yet, the entire experience is still very simple: guests participate in a clinic, workout and purchase, all wrapped up in one engaging package. Oh yeah, that’s what really good UX looks like.
A Design-it-Yourself Experience
Unlike other brands that are speeding forward with technology, Coach is welcoming guests to their New York flagship store to slow down and enjoy the moment through learning and interaction. Made to order isn’t a new term for the retail industry, but it is one that breaths new life into the store experience. For this iconic handbag brand, it’s being reinvented as Coach Create: a design-it-yourself experience.
Coach’s newest flagship store embraces the values associated with craftsmanship and learning. Not only can guests watch artisans physically make new bags, but they can do so after ordering the exact design that they like best. From this offering, we can again learn how good UX puts the customer in charge of the solution-forming process. As guests choose their dream bag, craftsmen consult and build the item piece by piece for onlookers to watch. In doing so they form a bond and naturally learn about the goods they are purchasing (or planning to purchase). Although it doesn’t get much more authentic than this, Coach is actually strengthening their digital personalization program as well. It’s yet another testament to UX design and a bright future in retailing.
The Retail Experience Then Versus Now
The companies we’ve highlighted are investing in a ‘new’ brick and mortar concept. And although their physical stores will be smaller in size, the experiences associated with them are larger than life. They are transforming the stigma people have regarding traditional retailers (the ones who have focused on product and sales formulas for so long have fallen behind, their values no longer aligned with the modern human. Although criticism is easy to give, we understand change isn’t always easy; it takes time. So as new leaders emerge, others will follow.
There is a new and emerging importance for values such as enrichment, education, community, and purpose. Legacy retailers must design a reason for people to visit them, and they must do it with greater detail. A new shipment of merchandise, end of season sale, or sporadic discounts on select goods that may or may not be in stock when a person arrives is no longer a measurement for satisfaction. People want clean, design-oriented stores, friendly and engaging staff (REI and Nordstrom), targeted, well balanced product selection and most important, an environment that puts the visitor in the driver’s seat, guiding them through their journey; a mapped out experience for every step. This may sound complex but it really isn’t.
We design this online experience every single day. With the right investment in technology, even legacy retailers can change in a big way and design their own path forward. For the sake of discussion, let’s place Best Buy in the hot seat. Their stores used to be synonymous with immersive experiences and highly passionate employees. Now, you’re more likely to find generic accessories rather than devices themselves, and oh yeah, how about you come back for a Geek Squad service plan when you eventually find what you’re looking for.
With the continuous surge from Amazon on the digital front (their purchase of Whole Foods, their introduction of Amazon lockers), and encroachment from off-price retailers who specifically target the merchandise mix of legacy retailers, every current and new retail store must serve a purpose. Or better yet: create a new one. As we see it, that purpose must be to provide a new and rewarding experience, one that will require the skills of UX designers and knowledge from interaction design (IxD) to get right. An active example, PUMA city is a ‘mobile’ store that encourages visitors to hang out enjoy the scenery and show off their new kicks.
UX design and retail strategy are “getting together” for good. And we will all benefit from it. Our lives enriched, our experiences enhanced and our time-well spent. Said eloquently by Rachel Shechtman, founder of Story, “If time is the ultimate luxury and people want a higher return on investment of their time, you need to give them a reason to be in a physical space.”
The first steps will be simple — discover what people need and design new solutions to exceed them. And for once, the product doesn’t need to be the center of attention. Instead, the people using the product get to drive their own experiences seamlessly across a digital and physical landscape. So the next time someone asks you if retail is dead, you can look them in the eye and provide them the ‘no’ they are looking for.
Blue Planet II is expected to be a thrilling journey, and David Attenborough will once again be our tour guide across the ocean.
With over 43 million views on its trailer video in under a month, Planet Blue II is poised to make an impact across the globe, starting with Europe on October 29th.
Us unfortunate ‘blokes’ in the states will have to wait until early 2018 for such pleasure. And the timing couldn’t be better. You see, the world’s oceans are under siege, battling the constant barrage of plastic waste, overfishing, illegal dumping, poaching and dare we say it: climate change. No. It’s not political. (And somewhere in this mix of obstacles we forgot to give a shout-out to climate deniers; or those who simply can’t fathom a world where man’s impact on the planet is influential enough to cause great harm and destruction.) We are confident that this ground-breaking series will extend a welcoming hand to those who are still shying away from fact: ocean plastic will soon outnumber fish populations.
Why is Blue planet II an important documentary for everyone to watch? Because the impact that climate change is having on the ocean environment is staggering; its importance as a discussion point among the human race deserves attention. And most importantly, the health of the ocean is a direct correlation to the health of our human population, and therefore our ability to thrive on the face of this Earth. It’s time to think about your children and your children’s children.
Who better to pioneer this discussion than the unmistakable voice behind the Blue Planet (and Planet Earth) series, David Attenborough. With David’s voice, Blue Planet II will highlight the threats to our magnificent ocean as much as it will showcase the marine life that makes it so unique and awe-inspiring. David Attenborough is far more than just an interesting voice; he is an influencer for ocean activism and conservation, and has been from a young age. But with the ocean environment in a state of emergency, it’s his research and experiences that can have a positive impact on how others can learn and adjust their mindset to create change. Fiona Harvey points out in her article with The Guardian, Attenborough feels more free to speak out about controversial issues surrounding the challenges we face as a booming population. In other words, Blue Planet II won’t shy away from tough conversations; it will tell the world what’s really going on, not what the media feels is “safe” to talk about.
Additionally, we look forward to listening to a man who hasn’t just talked-the-talk, but one who has walked-the-walk. An integral part of Cambridge University, he is leading an effort to integrate many academic disciplines in the name of collaboration and cross-pollination of thoughts and ideas. It’s an attempt to break down barriers, be a catalyst for rapid change and as we at Designing North Studios like to see it, an effort to design a community that’s willing to do a little extra in the name of the ocean. Or rather, our ocean. As Fiona Harvey writes, “Viewing conservation as part of the whole future of humanity, rather than a thing apart, is one of Attenborough’s great legacies.”
Blue Planet II is not a show, it’s an immersive experience. And it’s all new.
The original Blue Planet (aired on September 12, 2001) was a memorable experience for many that introduced the world to the ocean landscape. Not just a show or series for quick entertainment, Blue Planet was a different experience that transcended the coziness of a living room to the bow of a research vessel, and dared people to think beyond their existence with a curiosity towards ‘what else is out there’ in this great big blue ocean-world of ours. Centric to an ocean that plays an integral role in every humans’ life (70% of the Earth’s surface), Blue Planet was addicting to learn from. It was adventurous. It was fun. It was the ultimate opportunity to “explore” places where most humans can’t go. In a rare occasion for television, this documentary considered more than the crew or script, it put you at the center of its storyline, and guided us through a journey on the seas — it offered the ultimate viewer experience for the time. And because of this, we recognize those feelings and emotions of excitement felt many years ago, ready to do it all over again. With our tanks prepped and full of oxygen, we are eager to dive back in with Blue Planet II.
Many of us still own the complete DVD-set, which we keep as a reminder of just how mesmerizing this ocean journey was to watch. One that influenced viewers of all ages to care more about the ocean after watching than they did prior to tuning in. At the time (2001), Blue Planet revolutionized the way humans experienced a nature documentary. Not only was it filmed with cutting edge technology, but it also crafted a story from the wild places that exist in the world’s oceans and the plethora of creatures that call it home. By simply following along with the now infamous David Attenborough (the curious yet confident voice narrating what seemed like a personal expedition across the ocean), we as viewers learned more about the ocean than we could have imagined. But even more important to this learning experience, we were able to see it all with our own eyes. And now, in 2017, Blue Planet II will “enter new worlds and shine a light on behaviours in ways that were impossible just a generation ago” as Mr. Attenborough puts it.
It’s one thing to hear or read about the changes taking place in the ocean environment, it’s another to see it: the many islands, archipelagos, coastlines, trenches etc., all captured with stunning detail thanks to modern science and technology, and delivered to our devices in seven episodes. For many people, a documentary such as Blue Planet II is the bay-window into a world they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. And during this current time period, we all need to try and see things a little more clearly; understand what’s ‘really’ going on out there in the “great big blue.” After all, you don’t have to believe in science to accept the fact that this planet is in fact primarily ocean. Good enough reason to refer to it as the ‘Blue Planet,’ and understand the importance this series has for both educational and entertainment purposes.
Of course, similar to the work of UX designers, creating Blue Planet II required hours upon hours of strategy, journey crafting, and production. In fact, the experience that each viewer will have at some point in time while watching is partially influenced by the people who were behind the camera. As BBC News reports, “Blue Planet II involved ‘125 shoots, 6,000 hours filming underwater and 1,000 hours filming in submersibles’, explains production manager Katie Hall.” We must also not forget how advanced the filming techniques are in order to allow viewers to have a truly transformational experience with the footage. The team even built new technology allowing viewers to see the ocean in a way that’s not possible on their own (unless they happen to have their own megadome lens or tow-cam). This is special. And we feel strongly that people will value the design and creativity of the final product. Where else can we see above and below the ocean’s surface at the same time? Where else can we swim full speed with wild tuna or a pod of dolphins? Thanks to Blue Planet II, our brains will be hard at work, saving information, painting pictures and recording an experience that will likely serve as the basis for which we “see” the world’s oceans.
It’s true. We can’t wait to tune in. Will you join us?