Reflection: The Pause That Gives Insight, Part One

Diagram hypnosis and analysis paralysis

Hannah du Plessis and Marc Rettig, Fit Associates


“Always make room for the unexpected in yourself.”

- Steve Martin


The fear of the blank whiteboard

We’re standing in a project room. Every inch of wall is covered with photographs from the field. Fat black arrows point to portrayals of key moments. Quotes on sticky notes form colorful clusters. Diagrams of space, ritual, and process complement the persona-faces looking back at us from the wall. And now it’s idea time. After the intensity of research and analysis comes the challenge of conceiving the right thing. How do we create concepts that are both good for business and responsible to the lives we have glimpsed through all this data?

We have all experienced that moment when the true complexity of life challenges the powers of our imagination. We are asked to translate complexity into concepts, but the complexity can be overwhelming and its patterns elusive. Together we turn to a blank whiteboard, we crack open a fresh pad of Post-Its, and feel the pressure to find The Answer.

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We have all experienced that moment when the true complexity of life challenges the powers of our imagination. We are asked to translate complexity into concepts, but the complexity can be overwhelming and its patterns elusive. Together we turn to a blank whiteboard, we crack open a fresh pad of Post-Its, and feel the pressure to find The Answer.

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12 Tips from Cooper Managing Director & Drummer Jon Mysel

If you haven’t met him, Jon is a charming man. Watch this video where he offers advice to new designers.

Way back in September 2015, Cooper expanded to New York. Through this expansion, we gained some pretty excellent colleagues. One of these colleagues is Managing Director, New York, Jon Mysel. Jon is the senior-most designer at Cooper’s New York office, and a stand up guy. On top of being an interaction design guru, he’s a proud father, a patent holder, a talented drummer (his band performed at CBGB), and lived in Australia for many years. I had the great opportunity to interview Jon a few months ago and learned much from our conversation.

Here are 12 sage insights from our friend Jon:

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Way back in September 2015, Cooper expanded to New York. Through this expansion, we gained some pretty excellent colleagues. Here are 12 sage insights from our friend Jon. 

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A Public Display of Interface

Graphic Design from the Collection, May 14–October 23, 2016, SFMOMA, Floor 6

The last time I visited SFMOMA was 3 years ago, just before they closed for a major expansion of the museum. I worked on an interface that had just won an interaction design award several months prior to my visit and was on a designer’s high, daydreaming as I walked through the museum, wondering, would a modern art museum, like SFMOMA ever feature the design of something like an interface? Maybe I could be part of that history, contributing to an innovative interface or at least one little icon. 


Amused by the idea that one day there could be an exhibition detailing the mode of interface style throughout the years, I imagined the possible exhibits celebrating a functional, digital aesthetic.

Consenting Affordances: Web vs. Desktop and their Lovechild, Mobile

Wistful Analog: Skeuomorphism and the Rise of Flatland

Extravagant Limitations: Evolution of the Application Icon

Window Shopping: The Armors of Netscape, Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome


Could something like a 16x16 icon be on display in a modern art museum? Would something so tiny and digital be considered too silly and insignificant to rest under the same roof as a Rauschenberg, O'Keefe, or Warhol? With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface.

Typeface to Interface.

I was reunited with those interface exhibition dreams during the opening of the overwhelmingly airy and far-too-much-to-see-in-a-day new SFMOMA. The 170,000 square feet of exhibition space turns the museum into one of the largest art museums in the United States (larger than the New York MOMA and The Getty Center in Los Angeles) making SFMOMA one of the largest museums in the world specifically focusing on modern and contemporary art. 

The exhibit takes selected work from the museum's permanent graphic design collection (spanning as far back as 1950) and joins it with examples of graphic design that has shaped the development of the interface – our modern day means of visual communication. Posters, visual communication systems, and annual reports are interwoven with a variety of technology platforms: the desktop interface, the stylus, and the mobile touchscreen – the tools and methods we’ve used to communicate via the interface. Underlying all of this are the foundations of visual design and as a result an understanding of human behavior.

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With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface. 

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Is Online Voting the Next Big Thing?

Cooper has just posted the first in a series of articles on Elections for UX Magazine. Below is an excerpt from the article "Is Online Voting the Next Big Thing" written by Chris Calabrese. Check it out and read the full article on UX Magazine

Even though we live in a digital age, in Election 2016, you won’t be voting for Clinton or Trump via your phone or the web. 

You’re probably reading this article from your mobile phone. And with the US primary elections in full swing, there’s a good chance you’re learning about issues and candidates on the web, and sharing your political opinions through social media. Even though we live in a digital age, in Election 2016, you won’t be voting for Clinton or Trump via your phone or the web. Instead, if you go (43% of eligible voters didn’t vote in 2008), you’ll wait on a long line of US citizens to cast your ballot in a number of antiquated ways:

  • Paper Ballot - 1856
  • Mechanical Lever Machine - 1892
  • Optical Scan Ballot - 1962
  • Punch Card - 1964
  • Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Voting Machine - 1974

It’s amazing that the predominant ways we are using today to cast votes in our government elections have remained virtually unchanged through the whole digital age.

Think about this: NASA sent two people to walk on the moon in 1969, when the entire agency possessed less computing power than your mobile phone. We can do better!

So what’s the problem?

In a nutshell, the biggest hurdle to online voting is insufficient security. You may wonder, in a world where billions of dollars of financial transactions occur on a daily basis, why can’t I vote for my government officials online? Unlike a financial transaction, which requires a transparent and auditable process for its security, online voting needs to not only be auditable but also anonymous. These conditions, according to a report published by the Atlantic Council in 2014, are “largely incompatible with current technologies”.

Read all of Chris' article here on UX Magazine.

Even though we live in a digital age, in Election 2016, you won’t be voting for Clinton or Trump via your phone or the web.

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From CX to CVX: Delivering and capturing value, by design

I often tell people that I’m passionate about designing value exchange, and I am often met with blank stares. Here’s why this little-known but powerful principle matters.  

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At every encounter between your brand, business, product, or service—across channels and over time—you have an opportunity to capture value from and/or deliver value to your customer. Value exchange is the idea that every encounter should involve both delivering and capturing value. Customer experience (CX) is actually the experience of value exchange. 

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Designing for Moms

Cooper’s Founder, Alan Cooper invented the modern-day design persona. Personas are archetypal user profiles that describe the key goals, behaviors, and attitudes of target users. Personas are created through a framework that identifies behavior patterns through individual ethnographic interviews. 

At Cooper, design personas are an important tool in our everyday work. Once they are crafted, they allow for a more focused understanding of user needs. We use them in our consulting projects to drive and evaluate approaches for creating meaningful and effective products and services. 

Personas are often used to: 

● Audit existing products and services, 

● Provide context for evaluating new products and services, 

● Build empathy for a diverse set of audience members, and 

● Avoid creating solutions based on self-­referential assumptions.

To learn more about the history at personas at Cooper, read: The Origin of Personas by Alan Cooper

Since 1992, Cooperistas have created thousands of personas for clients large and small. We design many products and services with moms in mind. To commemorate Mother’s Day, here’s a gallery of some of our favorite “mom” personas. 

Note: These personas are borrowed from actual Cooper consulting projects. Enjoy!

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Since 1992, Cooperistas have created thousands of personas for clients large and small. We design many products and services with moms in mind. To commemorate Mother’s Day, here’s a gallery of some of our favorite “mom” personas.

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If your RFP was a Tinder profile, you’d never get a date

During my two decades as a design and strategy consultant, I’ve seen countless requests for proposals (RFPs) in my inbox. We consultants are honored and LOVE when potential clients reach out about exciting new projects. (Thank you!) That said, sometimes my delight at reviewing an RFP is tempered by anxiety; will this be another one of those RFPs?

We certainly don’t expect clients to walk up to Coopers’ doors with a bag of money and a blank piece of paper for us to dictate how we will work together. That said, RFPs can be an obstacle between a firm and the client, making it hard for both parties to evaluate whether we’re a match.

From a consultant’s perspective, here are ten recommendations for making an RFP a highly effective tool for finding the perfect design and strategy partner:

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From a consultant’s perspective, here are ten recommendations for making an RFP a highly effective tool for finding the perfect design and strategy partner.

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The Secret to Giving Away Secrets

There’s a baker in San Francisco named Josey. He owns a popular bakery and coffee shop called The Mill. Josey’s bread is really good, but it’s also not cheap. Loaves sell for $7 and up. And they sell toast — with toppings like almond butter, cream cheese or house-made jam—for $4 a slice. This is a lot of money for toast, but it’s so good that people line up down the block to buy it. It is that good. 

Josey also wrote a cookbook teaching people new to breadmaking about how to make bread. He writes in an approachable, un-intimidating style. Joseys’ basic message:making bread is easy.  

In the same way Josey sells bread, and teaches people how to make bread—we do the same thing at the design consultancy where I work, Cooper. We sell our design services to clients. And as part of those projects, we also teach clients about design and our design process.

That sounds crazy.  

Why teach people how to design (or bake bread)? If you teach everyone how to design (or bake bread), then no one will buy your design services (or your bread). Well, the opposite actually is true.

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How design consulting is becoming more about teaching design (especially to non-designers)

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California Academy of Sciences + Cooper UX Boot Camp

By Dana Lamb, PMO Manager, California Academy of Sciences

I joined the technology team at the California Academy of Sciences shortly after completing Cooper’s UX Boot Camp back in 2013. While at the Academy, I’ve leveraged many of the concepts I learned at UX Boot Camp, including creating powerful personas to engage our stakeholders and solve complex design problems.

The Academy has a unique new challenge, and I’m excited to work with Cooper and Cooper U workshop participants -- and perhaps *you* -- to solve it.

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The California Academy of Sciences has a unique new challenge, and I’m excited to work with Cooper and Cooper U workshop participants -- and perhaps *you* -- to solve it.

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4 Days of Change

By Rob Vanasco, @nocuberequired

“Please sign my petition asking for M&M’s to be made without artificial dyes.” 

That was the plea of a mom of two kids. In 2014, realizing the petroleum-based dyes in her son’s M&M’s were causing adverse effects to his behavior, Renee Shutters partnered with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to help her son and other parents dealing with similar situations. She wanted to rally people to ask the makers of M&M’s to stop using harmful dyes.

It seemed like a difficult task, but Renee found Change.org, which enables people to start a petition around virtually any topic and share it via social media. Renee received 217,123 electronic signatures in support of her cause over two years. In this forum, people shared their stories and discussed how removing dyes helped their kids.

In February of 2016, M&M’s announced they would no longer use toxic dyes in the production of M&M’s. Renee’s petition was a confirmed victory. If you visit Change.org, you will see a long list of similar victories. People are making a difference in their communities, and around the world, by using this technology.  

But, what if you want to do more?

What if you want to go beyond the limits of a petition and rally people around a cause? 

What if you want to organize people within a community?

How do you engage and motivate that group?

How do you provide that group with a delightful experience while giving them the tools they need to accomplish their mission?

These are the questions that leaders at Change.org asked the participants of UX Boot Camp to address.

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Cooper’s UX Boot Camp allows participants to learn the art and science of user experience design, and to put it immediately into practice with a real-life client. So when my company encouraged me to consider professional development opportunities, I researched all the options out there. I reviewed all the workshops offered by Cooper U, and UX Boot Camp was exactly what I was looking for. 

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