Designing Like a ‘Human’ In A Metrics-Based World: Jeff Smith Takes Us Behind The Scenes At Facebook


Creative Cloud

For Jeff Smith, working at Facebook was the dream. He looked up to the designers there for years and aspired to be one himself ‘one day.’ That ‘one day’ came two years ago, when Facebook asked him to become a product designer on its ‘Timeline.’ We asked Jeff about his journey to Facebook, and how he’s tackling the challenges of tomorrow at the social media giant.

How did you get to Facebook?

I went to school for fine art and philosophy, never really anticipating getting into design full time. When I graduated I had no real clear idea where I was going to end up, and so I moved to California and started working for a startup in a non-technical capacity. I learned really quickly to have impact, you needed to have some sort of technical capacity.

I learned how to code and started doing freelance work, and through that I landed at an agency that was acquired by GoPro. I then landed at Facebook, after one of my design idols approached me to work for them.

What’s really neat for me, is this circle I’ve taken from philosophy and business, to a technical role, then back towards design. It has given me a really rich background to think about product design, and all the fixtures that play into that.

Was it intimidating to first start there?

Before joining Facebook, it was THE company I wanted to to work for for a number of reasons. To interview and then join their team and get to work with them at a very familiar level has been immensely rewarding, but also intimidating.

Even in the time I’ve been there, the scale has grown so much. When I started, there were about 100 designers, and now I think we’re at 300 or 400. It’s a tremendous shift in the quality of work I’m doing, but also the scale of the company and how big the teams are. I like it.

What’s Facebook like behind the scenes?

Designers at Facebook are product designers. We are peers with product management and engineering managers in thinking about, and shaping, the product at its core level. Our job responsibility isn’t just to make things look good, but to make sure the product is something that people want.

Designers at Facebook are really empowered to find problems and fix them. It’s not a top-down structure, it’s very flat, so I think people are able to be the change they want to see in the organization and to create products they think are compelling.

What kind of challenges have you faced at Facebook?

The biggest challenge, especially with newsfeed, is it’s such a metrics-constrained service. Newsfeed has existed for a long time and it’s hyper-optimized, there’s almost every feature you can imagine crammed into this app. We’re constantly making incremental improvements, and it’s a different way of thinking. I think that’s pretty challenging.

Also, things shift on a country to country basis. People in Korea use Facebook dramatically differently than people in the U.S. for instance. Understanding and appreciating those localized differences is both fascinating and really challenging.

What advice would you give to designers just starting out?

Really look and find those people who are willing to invest in you and take a chance. Find a mentor and put yourself out there: apply for that job, go to that event. Those small risks are integral to growing in this field, and you’ll find that people are really receptive and welcoming. Ping that person you want to take out for coffee because they probably will give you that chance.

Never give up or stop striving for what you want to become, or the kind of work you want to be doing.

Tell us about some of the ways you’re helping new designers at Facebook?

A big part of my growth as a designer was using a lot of the tools others had built and get some sort of baseline when I was designing and building things out. A great example of that was the iOS GUIs: those were fundamental to doing my freelance projects, being able to open up a kit and learn the basics of app design.

That’s what we’re doing with Facebook Design. The tools and advice there is our way of giving back to designers who are just starting out, and essentially giving the younger ‘me’ the chance to establish themselves in the field.

We’re really interested in learning more about what kind of tools or resources are meaningful and important to designers too. What will make a younger designers life better and easier and we want to start thinking about how we can shift the resources we build towards those needs.

What does the future look like for digital product designers?

Our field is so young. We’re just a fledgling industry compared to architecture and engineering. What we’re going to begin to see is an increase in fracturing into different silos and verticals.

I don’t think UI design is ever going to end. I think we’re always going to have UI designers out there. But we’re already seeing VR design and AR design taking off, and they require very different skillsets from interaction design and UI design. There aren’t even design patterns at this point (in VR and AR); they’re always shifting and changing and we’ll see an increasing amount of that as we go.

I think embedded devices, in 20 to 30 years from now, will be significant. The interface may not be something we see or touch, but it’s just embedded in us as people. What do those interfaces look like? It’ll be very interesting.

Have an idea or design tool you’d like to see from Facebook? Get in touch with Jeff on his website jeffmatthewsmith.com.

The Power of The Palette: Why Color is Key in Data Visualization and How to Use It


Creative Cloud

When it comes to making charts, scales, and explaining data visually, using color is a very effective tool. Use it right, and you can not only draw your readers in, but you can help them better understand the underlying data.

So how can you use color in your data visualization and win? Here’s what to do, and what to avoid.

Sequential Color Scales

When you use color to represent a number, you need to create a scale. This is important—don’t use a scale for mapping categorical data (more on why later). Think of your scale as a gradient with a larger number on one end and a small number at the other. We can take advantage of some visual psychological here: We associate darker colors with density and density with greater numbers. Because of this, dark colors are perceived as being higher in value than lighter ones. So make sure you map the large end of you scale to a dark color and the smaller end to a light color. The bigger the difference between these two extremes, the more effective your use of color.

We can start with a simple black to white scale. By swapping black for another dark color we make things a bit easier to look at. Now instead of white, make the other end of the scale yellow. As you shift towards dark blue, your scale slowly changes and becomes a sea green in the middle. This is an example of a multi-hue scale, and is actually easier to read, understand because you’ve encoded you colors with changes in both hue and lightness.

If your chart is on a light background, it’s best to start with a cool, high-contrast color like blue or purple and use a warm, low-contrast on the other end. This will accentuate the dark-to-light transition. Moving in the opposite direction fights against this natural trend—it will be more difficult to read and it won’t look very good.

Diverging Color Scales

Diverging scales are also used to represent numbers, but in this case there is a meaningful mid-point to our scale. You probably saw lots of examples of these scales during the U.S. election—scales showing how democratic or how republican each state is. To be effective in creating this type of scale we need to think of our scale as two sequential scales that share a low value. This will be our mid-point. Be sure the hues of each scale don’t get too close to one-another—we want to accentuate the distance from our midpoint, not hide it.

Categorical Color

When we’re mapping data without numerical meaning (categories—usually text) we want readers to be able to tell data-objects apart (slices on a pie chart, lines, bars, etc.).

As designers, we want these colors to look good next to each other. We often choose adjacent hues. These look nice. And with my young, hipster eyes and fancy laptop I can easily tell the states apart. But if you look at these colors on a projector, or an older computer, or if you have impaired vision… these colors will look very similar. This is a big problem because the entire reason for using color here is to help readers understand that objects are different from one another.

To combat this you could choose colors designed to maximize differences by bouncing to and from opposite ends of the color wheel. This approach is popular in academia—my colleagues and I call them ‘cosby sweaters’ because they’re incredibly noisy and (to most eyes) ugly.So, which approach is best? Form or function? Now, some people will tell you to alter the first approach by adjusting the lightness in these charts to create more visual separation between colors. Readability is improved—but only a little—and now we’ve introduced a new problem. Remember the psychological phenomena where we associate darker colors larger numbers? Well, now we’re unwittingly telling our readers that our darker colors are higher in value than our lighter ones.

There’s no silver bullet here. My best advice is to compromise: relinquish some beauty and some readability. Choose adjacent hues, but take larger steps (at least 35° of hue change) and maintain a consistent lightness. This will limit your color palette to 5-6 colors, but readers will have a hard time remembering the meaning behind more than that anyway.

A Little Help?

When I’m working with color, I like to start by eyeballing things. I pick values that look good and reflect the data I’m explaining. But before I get too far, I enlist the help of a few handy tools. These will take the heavy-lifting (and math) out of the optimization of your color choices.

  • Color Scale Helper – Built by Gregor Aisch on top of Chroma JS, it generates diverging and sequential scales for you. It’s very easy to make mistakes when selecting new hues, but with this tool you can generate perfectly even color scales.
  • i want hue – This is a great tool from Mathieu Jacomy to enforce best practices when creating and refining charts with optimally distinct colors. (Careful with that color-blind toggle—it like to crash your browser)
  • ColorBrewer – Originally developed by Cynthia Brewer and Mark Harrower for cartographers creating maps, this is a great library of pre-built colors you can use.
  • Adobe Color CC – Adobe’s own tool makes it easy to pick a set of 3-5 colors for your categorical data.

We all know that color can make data more engaging, but by leveraging these techniques you can also make it more meaningful and useful! Your readers will thank-you for treating data with the respect and attention it deserves. And hey—it’s pretty fun too. Happy charting!

How Creativity Can Help Reinvigorate Your Resolutions


Creative Cloud

Being two months into the new year, it’s the time to revisit the resolutions you set for yourself in the beginning of the year. While some people are hitting their goals, others are struggling to keep the resolutions they set for themselves January 1st. Lifestyle changes and improvements are still top of mind for everyone, but are hard for people to stick with. We’re here to help you reinvent your resolutions. We took five of the most common resolutions and gave them a creative spin to reinvigorate your commitment.

Exercise 

The most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Whether it’s through better eating habits or spending more time exercising, people want to be healthier in the new year. Combining creative passions with physical well-being is a great way to make your 2017 mentally rewarding and healthy. An open air fitness session can also be an opportunity to exercise your photography skills or draw inspiration from a beautiful landscape.

Take a hike with your phone to take pictures or a small notebook for quick sketches and you’ll be able to capture some of nature’s unexpected moments. Italian photographer Lukas Furlan photographed Iceland’s different ecosystems while hiking across the country.

Travel

2017 can be your year to travel and explore the world. Whether you’re exploring the next town over or traveling to a distant land, new environments and places can supply the inspiration you need for your next project. The variety of sights and sounds in architecture, museums, and eclectic people can provide a new canvas for your work. Challenge yourself to find inspiration in these new locations. Freelance filmmaker and photographer Aaron Grimes spent 10 days driving a red VW camper van around New Zealand, capturing video footage and photos.

Keep track of your adventures this year with a travel journal. Adobe Creative Resident Christine Herrin put a spin on the traditional travel journal by creating her own Everyday Explorers Journal. Inspired by her love of travel, Christine wanted to create a place where people could capture moments that make you smile and jot down the little details you may have overlooked in the past. Christine even created a free zine for people to start using on their adventures.

 

Spend More Time with Family and Friends

At times we get lost in the art and don’t spend enough time with those that we love. Family and friends can provide the biggest form of inspiration and support. Art can be a tool to help foster compassion and families can foster that sense of connection and inspiration.

Adobe Creative Resident Syd Weiler decided to use her platform and artistic ability to benefit the causes she believed in. She asked family, friends, and audience to donate money to an institution and, in return, she would draw them a small portrait. She was able to connect with her community through giving back to the community. She also raised $1,800 for charity.

Save Money

Making art doesn’t have to be an expensive process. From a used tire to a dirty puddle, artists have found inspiration in anything. Often the right tools happen to be in your own home already. Instead of purchasing a professional camera, which can cost you thousands, many people have found themselves taking high-quality images and videos from the phone in their pocket. Check out some of the year’s best photos that were taken using only an iPhone.

Photos aren’t the only things you can do with your phone; you can create videos to capture those random everyday moments. Adobe Creative Resident Sara Deitchy is an advocate of filming with your phone. Sara uses interesting angles, varying perspectives, and multiple functions (like slow-motion) to create a stunning video blog. Watch as Sara documents New York City with her iPhone 7.

Learn Something New

“New Year, new me” as they say. Challenge yourself in 2017 to try something different. This can be the year where you push your creative limits and learn how to make hand lettering graphics, learn to code, become a Stock contributor, sell your work at a craft show, or be featured on Creative Cloud’s Instagram. There are so many things we can do to keep learning and become better creators.

From Visual Designer to UX Leader: Leslie Yang on Her Big Career Shift


Creative Cloud

Leslie Yang is a senior product designer at Pivotal Labs and a leader in UX design, but it wasn’t always this way. Just a few years ago she was a visual designer looking for a change. She was seeking a different approach to product design and soon feel in love with the idea of UX. So, what to do next…

We asked Leslie Yang to share her story and any advice she has for others looking to break into UX design.

Why did you decide to leave behind a career in visual design?

I began to feel burnt out. I noticed the majority of the design feedback I received was based on aesthetic preference. When I first learned about user-centered design, something clicked for me. I could see the potential of having a more objective discussion on what we should built and for what kinds of users.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to practice UX where I worked so I began to work on my portfolio. I hustled my friends for work. I emailed every friend who worked in tech or owned a business and said that I wanted to work in UX and asked if they needed any design work. I slowly filled up my portfolio.

What was it like making the move? Were you scared?

Goodness, yes. I remember feeling scared, but I was also really determined to move on. I knew I couldn’t do the same work or work in the same ways anymore.

One night, at a friend’s potluck, I was talking to friends and I said that I wanted to do more UX work. The person standing next to me introduced himself as the head of a UX agency and offered to have lunch with me.

We got lunch later that week and I showed him my portfolio. At the end of the conversation, I asked, “Do you need an intern?” He said, “Actually, yeah I do,” and we ironed out the internship details later that week.

What happened after your internship ended?

I wound up getting hired on as a full-time associate experience designer pretty soon after I started working at the agency. I learned so much from my fellow designers, and then moved onto product design at Pivotal Labs, a software consultancy that enables startups to Fortune 50 companies design and build software using lean and agile practices. I’ve been leading design for client engagements for the past two years.

My job hunt was helped by referrals from friends, and friends of friends, working in tech. I haven’t found meetups to be that helpful in getting to know fellow designers, but I have found getting coffee and meeting new people at friends’ homes to be a more casual and lightweight way of meeting people and having thoughtful conversations.

What matters most to me is that I’m constantly learning and I can collaborate with smart people to create the best possible user experience. I think my best work comes out of smart collaborations and that’s how I decide which opportunities are worth my time and energy.

What is it like working in UX now?

Working in UX depends on the type of company you work for and who is on your team. Are you a UX designer at a startup? You’ll do everything, from user research to visual design and branding. You’ll have more experience across different design disciplines, but little mentorship.

Are you a designer working at a large company? Your work will be more specialized, you’ll have less opportunities to experiment with different disciplines, and your influence on the product will be less than if you worked at a startup.

Or are you working for a UX agency? You’ll work on a wide range of projects, have influence over the product direction, but you won’t see much of the product lifecycle.

What advice do you have for anyone considering a big career shift?

For anyone wanting to switch careers, I’d first ask ‘what are your goals and why do you want to make this shift?’ Get clear on what you want and then tell people what you want to do. The more people know your goals, the more people there are listening for opportunities for you.

Also, be prepared to eat a little crow. It doesn’t matter what job title you held before, what matters is what you need to learn to get the experience you want. Be creative and proactive about how to get that experience.

And when in doubt, invest in yourself. Does a coding or UX class make sense if you know you’ll learn faster in a structured environment? Then find ways to pay for it.

If you want to move into UX, if possible, find opportunities to join teams with representation from product, design, and engineering. Your design work will be much better with a balance of these people providing product guidance.

Follow Leslie on Twitter @feistyelle.

Save

Lemon Enjoys Sweet 2017 Sundance Film Festival Debut

Creative Cloud

Joi McMillon can now add Academy Award nominee to her list of accomplishments. The talented editor and her colleague Nat Sanders received a nomination for their work editing Moonlight, which is also nominated for Best Picture. This news came while McMillon was attending the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for Lemon, a film she edited with Director Janicza Bravo. Lemon, which premiered in the NEXT category, is a dark comedy in which the main character, Isaac, experiences what can only be described as a perpetual bad day.

Adobe: Tell us about your background.

McMillon: I attended film school at Florida State University before moving to Los Angeles in 2004 to intern for the American Cinema Editors. After I completed my 100 days for the Motion Picture Editors Guild by editing reality television, I segued into scripted TV and feature films.

Adobe: How did you get involved in Lemon?

McMillon: Janicza was looking for someone to edit a short film she was working on called Man Rots from the Head. Her producer previously worked with a friend of mine who recommended me for the project. After speaking with Janicza I ended up working with her on the short film starring Michael Cera. When funding for her first feature, Lemon, came through later that year, she asked me to edit it.

Adobe: What is the premise of Lemon?

McMillon: It’s a dark comedy starring Brett Gelman as the main character Isaac. The film follows the life of Isaac and his constant struggle to survive. Isaac has one bad day after another, and while you hold out hope that maybe he’ll have a good day, for the most part you’re just experiencing his hardships with him. Brett does an amazing job playing this unlucky character. Janicza writes the most interesting characters. Whether they are having good days or bad days, the audience wants to know more about them.

Adobe: How did you and Janicza decide to edit the film with Adobe Premiere Pro CC?

McMillon: Janicza previously cut her own shorts using Final Cut Pro 7. When she was trying to figure out what to use for Lemon, a producer suggested Premiere Pro because she could easily use her Final Cut keyboard shortcuts. It was also my first time working with Premiere Pro. I primarily use Avid, so I did the same thing as Janicza and remapped the keyboard to match my settings from Avid. The learning curve wasn’t too difficult and it took about a week or so for me to get used to it.

Adobe: Were there any features that were particularly useful to your editing process? McMillon: I found it very helpful to be able to stretch a clip out on the timeline to enable viewing thumbnails of each clip. We didn’t rename footage, so I couldn’t see scene or take number, just raw file names. It was great to be able to see a frame of a shot and jump right to it.

I was also impressed with how quickly  I could export something from Premiere Pro. We were exporting an entire sequence and were prepared for it to take an hour and a half, but it took about 20 to 40 minutes, which was really fast. That’s a pretty awesome feature in an editing software.

Adobe: Do you anticipate working with Premiere Pro in the future?

McMillon: I recently attended a mixer with the American Cinema Editors and was talking with a colleague about how fast Premiere Pro is. He said it is inevitable that I’ll come across another project where I’ll have to know Premiere Pro. It can be a daunting task to take on a project using software that you don’t know, so I’m glad that I’ve worked with Premiere Pro and will be able to use it in the future.

Adobe: How long did the film take to produce?

McMillon: The shooting schedule was 18 days plus 2 days of pickups. We started editing full time on the project on August 4, 2016 and picture locked January 4, 2017. It was a quick, five-month turnaround and the post-production schedule often gets accelerated when you get accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a sprint to the finish and the speed of Premiere Pro really helped us get there.

Adobe: How did you find out about the film being selected for the Sundance Film Festival?

McMillon: Janicza told me on my birthday that Lemon was selected, which was really exciting! I’ve been to Sundance before with a short film, so I was thrilled to go back with a feature film.

Learn more about Adobe at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud.

The Top 5 User Testing Methods

Creative Cloud

In an industry devoted to the people who use our products, services, and apps, user testing is paramount. The main goal of user testing is to inform the design process from the perspective of the end user. User-centered design is focused on designing for real users, and user testing tells us who that person is, in what context they’ll use a product, and what goal they are looking to achieve.

UX researchers have developed many techniques over the years for testing and validating their ideas, ranging from well-known lab-based usability studies to those that have been more recently developed, such as unmoderated online UX assessments and guerilla testing.

Some of the most popular forms of testing are usability testing, focus groups, beta testing, A/B testing, and surveys:

1. Usability Testing

Usability testing is the process of watching/tracking an actual user use your product to see if it’s usable. Usability testing is the best way to understand how real users experience your website or app, and it’s perfect for evaluating the designs we create. It’s also flexible for collecting a range of information about users and easy to combine with other techniques. This makes usability testing a cornerstone of UX practice.

When it comes to usability testing, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether someone should moderate the session:

Moderated Usability Testing

This fundamental technique is used by usability professionals for obtaining feedback from live users. During a moderated test, test-moderators are live with test participants (either in person or remotely), facilitating them through tasks, answering their questions, and replying to their feedback in real time. Live communication with test participants is a strength of this type of testing, because nothing beats watching participants in real time and being able to ask probing questions about what they are doing.

Tip: If you want to use moderated testing, make sure you follow these 20 tips for moderated usability testing.

Moderated usability testing is usually held inside usability labs. Credits: usabilitygeek

When To Use

Moderated tests are recommended during the design phase – when a team has a design that hasn’t yet been fully developed. You can run a moderated test to find the potential issues of your working prototype. By watching participants reactions on your prototype, you can gather baseline data that can save you from spending a lot of design and development time on a product that are difficult to use.

Things To Remember

A moderator can help probe the participant to delve deeper, keep them on track, and clarify any confusion. However, a very common mistake for moderators to make is to tell a participant what to do through the tasks. There is a very fine line between guiding the user and helping the user. Thus, you need to find a balance to keep the participant on task, while not messing with their natural experience. When this balance is struck properly, even the most convoluted of tasks can provide rewarding feedback.

Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (URUT)

Unmoderated remote usability testing, as the name implies, occurs remotely without a moderator. It offers quick, robust and inexpensive user testing results.

Unmoderated tests can be done virtually anywhere at any time, by anyone who meets your criteria. Credits: UserZoom

This method is usually based on the use of usability testing tools that automatically gather the participants’ feedback and record their behavior.

URUT tools conduct usability testing by asking participants to complete a series of tasks using your product and answering questions about their experience.

URUT has following benefits:

  • Participants complete tasks in their own environment without a moderator present, this leads to more natural product usage.
  • URUT is conducted online much like a survey with pre-determined tasks, so it can be completed in the participant’s’ own time without requiring the hassle of coordinating schedules.
  • Unmoderated tests can also be run concurrently, allowing for a much greater volume. Because of this, the turn-around time for unmoderated tests is often significantly faster than that of moderated tests. Data can be collected in as a little as a few hours depending on the sample size and testing criteria.
  • Costs are usually quite low since you don’t need to pay for moderators or equipment setup. You can get maximum value for minimum cost when the tasks are written as clearly as possible.

When To Use

  • When you need to obtain a large sample in order to prove key findings from your initial moderated research.
  • When you have very specific questions about how people use a user interface for relatively simple and straightforward tasks.

Things To Remember

  • URUT should not be used as a replacement for moderated usability testing. Instead, it’s best when you use it in conjunction with moderated testing.
  • The lack of a moderator means less control, less personal observation, and a higher risk of confusion. Thus, to run test successfully you need to set clear expectations for participants—it’s crucial to ensure that tasks are clear and user-friendly.
  • Be mindful of how much time participants spend with test. Kyle Soucy suggests an unmoderated test should be 15–30 minutes in duration—comprised of approximately 3–5 tasks—because the dropout rate tends to increase if a test takes longer.

2. Focus Groups

Focus groups are a tried and true method of communication between a researcher and users. In a focus group, you bring together from 6 to 12 users to discuss issues and concerns about the features of a user interface. The group typically lasts about 2 hours and is run by a moderator who maintains the group’s focus.

Tip: Check out the article The Use and Misuse of Focus Groups on how to effectively utilize focus groups for user testing.

Focus groups provide a top-of-mind view of what people think about a product.

When To Use

Focus groups can be a powerful tool in system development: this technique can help you assess user needs and feelings both before product design and long after product release. In website or mobile app development, the proper role of focus groups isn’t to assess design usability, but to discover what users want from the product—their personal thoughts and preferences.

Things to remember:

  • Focus groups shouldn’t be used as your only source of user testing data. They are a rather poor method for evaluating interface usability: individuals rarely get the chance to explore the product on their own; instead, the moderator usually provides a product demo as the basis for discussion. However, watching a demo is fundamentally different from actually using the product.
  • It’s recommended to run more than one focus group, because the outcome of any single session may not be representative.

3. Beta Testing

Beta testing allows you to roll out a near-complete product to individuals who are happy to try it and provide critical feedback. This testing method allows you to ask users questions after they have the new product, track their usage and have them file bug reports.

When To Use

You should use this testing when your product is near complete and you want to i put it in the hands of the end users to gather feedback. Beta testing a good way to market your product and get constructive feedback in order to refine the design to improve the product.

Things To Remember

It is obviously assumed that sufficient testing should be carried out to test the product functionality, before releasing the product to the customers. Naturally, you do not want your users to find and report bugs, you simply want their feedback on the product features and usability.

4. A/B Testing

An A/B test is typically chosen as the appropriate testing method when designers are struggling to choose between two competing elements. This testing consists of randomly showing each version to an equal number of users, and then reviewing analytics on which version better accomplished a specific goal.

Using A/B testing you have the opportunity to study the behavior of users, how they act in different scenarios.

Tip: You can define stronger A/B test variations through UX research

When To Use

A/B testing is good when trying to detect smaller differences in designs. This testing is particularly valuable when comparing a revised screen to an older version. Amazon and many other large e-commerce websites are known to “always be testing” — with multiple A/B tests running at any given time. For such websites even a small difference of 1 percentage point on checkout page can translate into millions of dollars of profit or loss over the course of a year.

Things To Remember

With A/B testing you only find the best option from among the available variations. This variations should be selected very carefully. If the variations are only based on internal experience and opinion, the testing won’t find the optimal design.

5. Surveys

Questionnaires and surveys are an easy way to gather a large amount of information about users, with minimal time invested. A researcher can create a survey using tools like Wufoo, SurveyMonkey or Google Forms, send it out, and receive hundreds of responses in just minutes.The right questions can uncover your customer’s needs, desires, and pains.

Tip: Here is a great step-by-step guide of creating a survey.

When To Use

Surveys can help you accumulate quantitative data about overall user satisfaction or collect quantitative data to support a qualitative research findings.

Hundreds of responses can be seen at once. Credits: SurveyMonkey

Surveys also good when you need to gather a feedback about a brand new feature.

Things To Remember

  • You can’t study user behaviors with surveys. If you want to study how your visitors behave or what usability problems they face during interaction with your product, consider other research methods.
  • Creating a survey looks like a quick and easy task, but in reality it is the opposite. A significant amount of time should be dedicated to preparing surveys. It’s important to get the questions right and direct them at the right audience.

Conclusion

User testing is an essential part of the design process – it’s a fantastic way to understand how your user base interacts with your product. As you just saw, different types of user testing suit different types of goals. Ultimately, the best format of user testing depends entirely on what your product is, what you’re looking to learn about it, and how much time you have available. So it’s up to you to consider which method will best suit your needs in order to gather the most valuable feedback on the user experience of your product.

Save

Save

Save

Inside the Designer’s Cart: Alex Palazzi Corella

Creative Cloud

This month, we peeked into designer Alex Palazzi Corella’s shopping cart to see how he used assets from Adobe Stock to create his dramatic piece. When he first started pondering how he’d tackle the February’s selected theme of drones , Alex thought of birds, and he soon began to focus on crows — he admires them because of their keen intellect. Then he decided to create a metaphorical expression of a recent personal event, conveying the value of loyalty through tragedy, and the power of family and friendship, even in a negative place.

Here are the Adobe Stock assets Alex licensed, and a little bit about why he selected each one.

1. Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park

“I came across this lake and I really liked the ‘V’ form it has. I knew that the main bird with the sticky substance would be a kind of ‘A’ form, so I chose this because I thought it would be a good combination for matching the elements later on.”

ANDREI / ADOBE STOCK

2. Storm Clouds

“In the lake image that I picked for my background, the clouds did not work properly for what I wanted. I needed some variation on the form and something with movement. After searching, I picked this cloud image because it has a really awesome circular twist form in the middle, so it empowers a lot in the final composition.”

SONDEM / ADOBE STOCK

3. Common raven (Corvus Corax)

“The main crow with opened wings had his head looking down. I had to change it for a more tragic face pose. This crow has his beak opened, as if someone is screaming, or asking for help.”

BOBYCICI / ADOBE STOCK

4. The Bird

“After picking the final face for the main crow character, it was the time to make it more tragic. I wanted to add red details to the beak because red is always a good color choice to emphasize pain.”

AZALIYA (ELYA VATEL) / ADOBE STOCK

5. Abstract Fog or Smoke

JENOV JENOVALLEN / ADOBE STOCK

You can discover more of Alex’s work on Behance and Instagram.

Logos: Learn What Separates the Great from the Good

Creative Cloud

Skim the pages of any fitness magazine and you’re likely to see a Nike Swoosh. Glance up at a billboard and you might see Mastercard’s dual circles staring down at you. Do you recognize these brands? Of course. What makes their logos work?

First, recognize a logo on its own is not a brand identity, but just one part of it. Think of all the pieces of your identity together and how they can be aligned visually with your logo to make up a cohesive and effective brand identity.

Whether you’re trying to establish a new brand or get creative with one that’s already well-known, an effective logo is key. Context and style may vary from year-to-year, but the principles and best practices that guide logo design remain unchanged.

When we think about the elements of effective logos, here are some things to keep in mind.

Design principles for creating a logo you’ll love.
Create a visual strategy for your brand.
The modern approach to logo design is to create an entire system — a primary mark, a secondary mark, typography, and a color scheme — that aligns with your overall brand. Will your logo be a wordmark — a stylized typographic logo without a separate icon, such as FedEx, 3M, or Coca-Cola? Or perhaps you will simply use a pictorial or abstract mark, like Apple, Nike, or Target. A logo system includes all these elements along with guidelines for when to use them individually or when to use a lockup (a grouping of several brand elements like an icon, wordmark, and tagline). Logos are often surrounded by and gain meaning from context, so the key is to think about how much or little your visual brand system needs to communicate.

Horizontal and vertical logo lockup.

Ensure the logo works in multiple environments. The best logos are memorable, but they also have to function and work in a variety of modern environments and across digital platforms, communication channels, and physical objects. Great logos resize easily and can be reproduced across a variety of different contexts — they should be scalable, responsive (for mobile-first design), and identifiable across a variety of sizes, shapes, dimensions, and applications.

Find the sweet spot of complexity. Color or black and white? Detailed or simplistic? Abstract or literal? The best logos can be reduced to one or two colors and resized easily. If it can’t, chances are it’s too complicated and not likely to be legible or memorable. While it’s not a rule that logos should be produced in one color, it can be indicative of whether or not it is at the right level of visual complexity. One way to test the utility of a logo is to envision how it would reproduce stitched on a ball cap. If it would work well there, it is probably simple enough for most any application.

Watch trends, but aim for timeless. The “flat” design and minimalist approach may be hot now, but in a decade, logos in multiple colors with extra detail may be on trend. Design trends are seen through a moving window — timeless logos stand out visually by differentiating themselves from what has already been done in the past. Use sites such as Behance.net to get a handle on current design trends, but also pay attention to the great timeless logos to visualize how designs can adjust to the flavor of the day and stand the test of time.

Minimalist Logo / Martin Servantes

Flat Design / Daniel Triendl

Caption: Great logos evolve over time

Make it unique. When you’ve gone to the trouble to develop a brand and create its visual identity, you’ll want it to have real staying power even as it evolves over time. Make sure the design you have is unique enough to be trademarked, and then do it. This is also important to prevent other brands from adopting a similar look and confusing — or stealing — your customers.

Best practices for meeting your client’s visual identity needs.
Creative Brief.
Most good design starts with asking the right questions. In the case of designing a logo, developing a complete, concise creative brief is a great place to start. A creative brief should help you discover things like:

  • The company’s personality that you will visually communicate. Is it playful or serious? Dynamic and energetic or secure and stable?
  • Define the target audience and understand that audience’s visual preferences. Who are the customers and what are their tastes?
  • Review competitors’ logos and designs and determine how your brand can stand apart.
  • Understand the various applications the logo will be adapted for. Will the logo need to be turned into building signage? Embroidered on a shirt? Have an app icon?
  • Interview key stakeholders to understand not only their vision for the brand, but also to give them a sense of ownership in what will become the “face” of their company.

Concept Development. Once you understand the target you are aiming for, a “mood board” can help you define a visual direction for your brand. A mood board is a collage of visual examples you find in the world that represent the look and feel you want to create. When you start sketching ideas, don’t fall in love with the first decent concept you have. Start with a large volume of varied designs and be sure that you’ve done your diligence in complete exploration before you start narrowing in and refining the best ones.

Refining. Once you establish your three or four top ideas, spend time refining and iterating on your original design. Don’t rush this process — many designers find it helpful to take time away from an intensive design project to see it more objectively and with “fresh eyes.” Get inspiration from good design in unrelated places.

Test your design. Send your logo to a variety of people in your target demographic and ask for their candid reactions. It can be difficult to break through people’s natural desire to be “nice” and artificially positive when reviewing your creation, but it’s essential to success. You might consider an anonymous web-based survey. You should also distinguish between helpful and unhelpful feedback. Helpful feedback will critique how well your logo communicates your brand identity and how it makes your audience feel about your brand. Try to make a distinction between people’s personal tastes and the objective effectiveness of a design. Feedback questions that focus on the effect of the design (for example, “Which of these companies would you buy from based on the logo alone?”) are better than questions that focus on personal taste (“Which of these colors do you prefer?”).

User-friendly tools to simplify logo creation.
Click, capture, create.
With the free mobile app Adobe Capture CC, you can take photos of inspiration anywhere you find it and convert them into shapes used to create your logo. The shapes can be saved to Creative Cloud so they are instantly made available in Adobe Illustrator CC.

Use reference images. Even complex art design is easy to create using basic shapes — rectangles, triangles, and circles — to build your artwork. With Adobe Stock you can download vector art files to use as building blocks for your original design and modify them in Adobe Illustrator CC to suit your needs. Add color, fine tune your project and round out your logo by adding text with easy-to-use features in Adobe Illustrator CC.

Share your files. Save your final logo files and guidelines in the file formats you’ll regularly use and in a place that’s easily accessible for your team, such as CC Libraries.

Designing a brand logo that excites your audience doesn’t need to be complicated. With a few good tips, the right tools, and some creative inspiration, building a one-of-a-kind logo is easier than ever.

Visit the Creative Cloud HelpX page for easy-to-follow tutorial videos that will help you start your next project using simple-to-use tools and these best practices.

Contributor Spotlight: Ryan Longnecker

Creative Cloud

Ryan Longnecker is an LA-based photographer, Creative Director, and Adobe Stock Premium Contributor known for his painterly travel and aerial photography. We spoke with Ryan about his career in photography, involvement with Adobe Stock, and in line with February’s Visual Trend, his fascination with drones.

AS: Can you tell about your background and how you got started in photography?

Ryan Longnecker: I grew up in the mountains, so I always had an appreciation for art and beauty. In high school joined an after school photography club and learned about the darkroom process, but to be honest, I never really took to it after that. I was more interested in the outdoors. I got my undergraduate degree in music. I picked up the camera again in my senior year, as the yearbook photographer.

AS: How did you go from a degree in music to a professional photographer?

RL: After graduation, my friend (another music grad) and I started a wedding photography business. A lot of our friends were getting married at that time, so it was a good fit for us. I did that for seven years, but decided that field of photography wasn’t what I was passionate about. After some reflection and listening to other creative colleagues suggest I pursue the things I was passionate about, I started focusing on landscape and travel photography.

Former clients who knew that I was switching gears to do landscape work gave me a few of my first assignments, but it was slow at first. 2016 was a year of learning, and now I’m more confident and excited to work with brands and companies who’s passions fit well with mine.

RYAN LONGNECKER / ADOBE STOCK

AS: Is there an overall theme that ties all of your images together?  

RL: My overall narrative is that this world and the people in it are beautiful, and the more you look for beauty, the more you will see it. I try not to manufacture stories, but instead I try to look for what story is unfolding in front of me and tell that as genuinely as possible.

AS: What sets your images apart from other landscape photographers?

RL: Hmm… maybe my work is more punchy or vibrant than the other outdoor editing styles I see a lot of. Outdoor photography definitely has a popular and widely successful look right now – it’s moody, grainy and faded. I’ve been tempted to go with that style because I see how consistently successful it is, but there are some who are passionate about and good at that style, I am neither. The kind of responses that I get to my images is that they have a unique and interesting tonality. I try to see a frame from a more painterly palette, which I attribute to my art background.

AS: Where do you look for inspiration?

RL: Whenever I get into a creative rut, I look to entirely other forms of art. I look at the work of calligraphers, artists and illustrators – things that my brain doesn’t understand or know how to create – and try to pull new ideas from that fascination and confusion.

RYAN LONGNECKER / ADOBE STOCK

AS: Why did you decide to contribute to Adobe Stock’s Premium collection?

RL: Adobe Stock reached out to my friend Ben Sasso, and he was cool enough to recommended me. I wanted to find a reputable and valuable platform for my work and there’s no more reputable name in the creative field than Adobe. When I was at Adobe MAX last year, I saw how central Adobe Stock is to the company, and I’m excited to be a part of that.

AS: How does contributing to Adobe Stock complement your portfolio?

RL: Other than Instagram, I didn’t have a place to share and catalog my images. I didn’t want to just throw them out there because I attach value to my work, and I want to have in a place where people will appreciate it. In the Premium collection, my work sits next to some of the best photographers in the world, so I’m in very good company.

RYAN LONGNECKER / ADOBE STOCK

AS: How did you get into drone photography?

A couple of the most respected landscape photographers were posting aerial images taken from helicopters. As drones became more readily available, they started posting drone images. When I saw how affordable they were, and the types of amazing imagery they produced and needed to participate so I picked one up. I spent a week playing around with it in the mountains and I knew immediately I’d be doing a lot more with drones.

AS: How do drones allow you to be creative or experiment in ways you weren’t able to before?

It opened up a part of my creative process that had faded a little. Because it was totally new to me, I was more experimental and playful. It felt like the initial fascination I had with cameras and learning something every time I went out to shoot.

Of course the ability to see from above adds a whole new dimension to perspective. It amazes me to see how drones are being used now for composition. A 3D image becomes 2D, so you have to think carefully about lines, color, shapes, and composition. So it allows me to look at it from a more canvas point of view.AS: Have you ever crashed your drone?

RL: A couple of times, actually! Once over a frozen lake in the middle of winter, and another time into the side of a hill in the middle of an event. But luckily I’ve never crashed one to it’s death… so that’s good.

RYAN LONGNECKER / ADOBE STOCK

AS: What was the biggest challenge of getting into drone photography?

RL: The flying part was actually not that hard to get the hang of. For me the challenge was figuring out how to tell a story through this new medium.

AS: What advice would you like to part on photographers who are just getting started?

RL: : There are a lot of competitive and cynical attitudes towards newcomers or amateurs that deter people from wanting to make or share art. We need to be encouraging each other, and understand that everyone is entering this world for various reasons and at different times. Try everything out and give everyone a shot to figure out their creative process.

RYAN LONGNECKER / ADOBE STOCK

See more of Ryan’s aerial photography in Adobe Stock’s Premium collection and find out his top tips for getting started with drones here.

Hip Hippos Do it With Others: Three Handy Acronyms for Creating Effective Design Critiques

Creative Cloud

Feedback, critique, review… these words can send shivers down a designer’s spine, conjuring up painful meetings with stakeholders expressing their personal preferences or team members trampling all over your glorious vision. We’ve all had difficult experience with critique that was untimely, uninvited, ill-informed or otherwise unhelpful.

Here’s the thing, though. You might just be doing it wrong. While receiving critique of their work may never be 100% comfortable for some people, there are a few things to keep in mind which will definitely improve things and could even make it an enjoyable process!

What Critique Is and Isn’t

As Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry make a strong case for in their excellent book, Discussing Design, part of the challenge is that we are often mixing up feedback and critique. Feedback can take the form of a reaction (‘I hate blue!’), or a directive (‘You should change those to check boxes.’). In contrast, critique is the process of identifying a specific aspect of a design and assessing it against the desired objective (‘If we are trying to get more new sign ups, let’s make the sign up link more visually prominent in the page hierarchy.’)

Critique is:

  • Thinking critically about whether a design choice meets a specific objective
  • Thoughtful rather than reactive

Critique is not:

  • A gut reaction or response, especially in terms of a personal preference
  • Personally directed or about a person

The even better news is that critique is a skill that can be developed and evolved with practice. Critique is a form of communication, and there are ways to frame, structure and support this communication with the people you work with.

HHIPP – Humble, Helpful, Immediate, in Person, doesn’t Personalize

At a high level, we want to ensure that the critique and feedback we offer to our teammates is coming from the right place. Kim Scott has created a tool called radical candour. Radical candour is often referred to as a management or guidance tool rather than one for design critique, but is a very useful way to frame the attitude that we are trying to cultivate when we build a culture of critique.

Radical candour means that we care personally about our teammates and their work, as well as being able to challenge them directly. HHIPP is an acronym that captures the spirit of radical candour in practice – it is humble, helpful, immediate, in person, and doesn’t personalize.

In design critique, it is crucial to give and receive critique for the right reasons. The table below outlines how HHIPP applies to both the critique giver and receiver.

Critique Giver

Critique Receiver

Humble

  • Identifies the designer as the ultimate decision maker
  • Open to other perspectives

Helpful

  • Focuses on the design objectives
  • Understanding that others are offering their support

Immediate

  • Provides timely critique when requested, or informally if appropriate
  • Asks for critique at the right times, open to informal critique

In person

  • The best critique is an exploratory dialogue – this can be in person, over the phone, or video call
  • The best critique is an exploratory dialogue – this can be in person, over the phone, or video call

Doesn’t personalize

  • Focused on the design work and is never personal
  • Doesn’t take critique personally

 

DIWO – Do It With Others

Design is a team sport, and critique is no different. Critique is an opportunity to open ourselves to multiple perspectives and ideas. The team is collectively shepherding the design closer to the objectives. With good ground rules and a culture of critique, there is room to bring diverse perspectives to the table for a critique session; for example, this could include the project manager, developer, visual designer and a marketing expert. Smaller sessions often work better for teams getting used to delivering critique that is focused on design objectives. A good rule of thumb for the maximum session size is the ‘two-pizza’ rule (credited to Jeff Bezos). You should be able to feed your critique session team with two pizzas, so between five to eight people.

Regardless of the size of the critique session, be sure to designate a facilitator whose job is it to run the meeting – keeping people focused on critique rather than reactions or directive problem solving. The facilitator can also play a note taking role in order to capture the critique for the design owner who is receiving critique of the work.

Interestingly, people who are very adept at critique can switch ‘modes’ and step back to critique their own work. This takes a lot of maturity, critical thinking and analysis skills, but it can be done! For our purposes as designers, DIWO is still a great principle to bear in mind – you build buy-in, team trust and gain access to new modes of thinking that you cannot replicate solo!

HiPPO – Highest Paid Person’s Opinion

In a design critique session, it is crucial that all perspectives are equal, and that all participants come from a place of thinking critically while exploring the design and its objective. Hopefully, the culture in your organization is already conducive to this, regardless of title, role or pay grade. However, this is not always the case, and it is important to bear in mind the potential effect of HiPPOs – the highest paid person’s opinions.

Depending on organizational culture, and individual relationships, sometimes even just the presence of very senior stakeholders in a room changes the dynamic and can cause others to stay quiet. One potential risk is that people wait for the senior person to speak first and simply affirm or follow suit, rather than bringing a diversity of exploration.

One approach is to host separate sessions for very senior stakeholders if needed. Another is to be very clear on the difference between a design review (a checkpoint for approval or sign off) and a design critique (a session to help further the design objective through critical thinking and questions.) Including senior people in critique sessions can be a great way to build buy in, but be thoughtful about who you invite and the potential dynamics. Make sure that the rules of engagement are clear, even with senior people in the room.

Critique is a Gift

Consider author Ken Follet’s words on critique, “One of the hardest things for me, now that I’m famous, is finding people who can read my stuff and give me an honest critique.” Though it may not always feel like it, design critique is a gift that can move you and your team to new heights. Through some good ground rules, practice and embracing the process, critique can become a central and much loved part of the design process. Just remember, hip hippos do it with others!