I solve all kinds of problems with research and design

Visual Design//Research//Communication

I take inspiration from the everyday nature objects and from people – the ironwork of a Victorian oven, the meeting of mountain top and sky, the warbling tremble of a birdsong, or the indignant face of a young baby feeling a harsh wind for the first time.

I meld inspiring images with usability best practices to create great experiences. I believe that beautiful images are useful, and useful images are beautiful both aesthetically and in their usability.

When creating visual designs, I design with the notion that images serve a purpose. Non-verbal signifiers and design need to tell the user that something can happen, has happened, or will happen. In order to meet this need, I research and keep up to date with best practices to ensure that design is understandable by the user upon viewing, as well as staying within the style guidelines of the product.

Visual Design

Project: Little Learners App

app menu screen mocked up on smartphone

Problem: Design and develop Little Learner’s app to be more “child-friendly” – the placement of buttons on screen caused problems for young users.

My Role: UX/UI Designer and developer

Solution: I researched how children interacted with touch-screen technology, focusing on how those interactions differed from adults: children tend to have less success with interactions that involve swipe gestures and pinch to zoom gestures.

Lo-fi storyboard of app

Using Sketch to test layouts

I made low fidelity wireframes to brainstorm various ways to solve the “menu button” placement problem, as well as different ways to increase engagement through each section by encouraging children to either play the section again or an easy way to go back to the main menu to pick a different section.

Prototyping the app

I made high fidelity wireframes and eventually a prototype that could be used for testing.

Project: The Ultimate Book of Barbecue

Different shots of cross platform design

Problem: We wanted our users to be able to access information related to their barbecuing needs at any point in their day – at home, at the grill, in the store, or wherever they may be – to make their planning easier. Content across different platforms called for different sorts of design based on the device, so we want to make the design cohesive, recognizable, and useful within the constraints of each platform.

My Role: Designer

Solution: Translating a print design of a book into a reflowable, responsive digital version alone entailed checking font and image rights and finding complimentary replacements when necessary, rethinking the layout of text on a page in order to fit multiple columns on a paper page to a single column on a mobile device without losing the book’s style and feel, and designing visual info-graphics to work on a screen.

I converted the book from print to ebook, and worked with marketing to conceptualize a website that would support the content of the cookbook as well as offering free downloadables like additional cookbook content, food labels, a tip sheet, and instructional cooking videos per the recommendation of our marketing team.

Project: Printable Art


Problem: Creating downloadable art for consumers comes with different challenges from its digitally displayed or physically purchased counterpart. The art must show up on a variety of screens and print on a variety of printers by the end-user, and still matching the initial image in the online storefront.

My Role: Artist and UX Designer

dragonfruit art on brick wall
Art in the online store

Solution: In order to present the best product to prospective consumers, I took my designs and tested them out on a variety of screens (desktop and mobile) and printers.

dragon fruit art on the walls
Art printed at home, on the walls of a customer’s house

I learned very quickly that what looks good on a screen does not necessarily translate well to a home-printed item, no matter how good the printer was – much more contrast between like colors was needed, and some sizing and proportion needed to be adjusted for standard paper sizing. Photographs of the art needed to be carefully tuned to properly represent the final item in clear lighting without misrepresenting the final colors of the product. Even with these constraints, creating art representing the beauty in everyday objects is a joy.

Research

Project: Little Learners App

Collecting Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Problem: How do pre-literate children interact with touchable devices?

My Role: Researcher

Solution: Finding the answer to this question was two-fold. First, I researched how children interacted with touch-screen technology, focusing on how those interactions differed from adults. I read a number of studies that examined both the predilection of children to tap around on a screen, and the levels of hand-eye coordination up to adulthood. Surprisingly, I found that while most adults assume children have a near-inherent fluency with mobile devices, young children struggle with many gestures that are built in a number of “kid-friendly” apps: swiping, pinching, and hyper-accurate touching are all skills we tend to learn at an older age.

Additionally, I reviewed what parents expected and wanted out of apps for children. With the results of my research, as well as notes taken from user comments from a previous version of the app that had the usability issues, I developed a new design that would be more child-friendly and usable with a focus on tap-based interaction and a generous tolerance of extra tapping.

Project: Website Design

Problem: Our website is generally visited by users on desktops – except for the special brand pages whose links are printed on the back of our books. According to Google Analytics, these pages are overwhelming viewed by users on mobile devices. Futhermore, our responsive design for mobile pages had unwittingly cloaked the clickable nature of some elements on the page and these elements (downloadables, other links) were not being touched by users. How could we tweak these pages to clearly show, and not cloak, the clickability of elements across all devices?

My Role: Researcher and Designer

Solution: The first part of this change was realizing their was a problem with our design when our analytics showed that our clickable tiles that gave users the ability to download additional content were not being clicked. Delving further into the analytics showed that 1) most of our users to these pages were on a mobile device and 2) it was not immediately apparent upon viewing that our tiles were clickable or held further content upon a tap.

Our team was unable to change the nature of the page layout or the responsive design of the page itself – the challenge was to create a tile that indicated there was more content to be had if a user clicked on it. Initially, the tile would often be an inviting image and upon mouse scroll over or tap, a layover appeared inviting the user to download content (a PDF cookbook, coloring sheets, etc), view a video, or read more content (linking to a different part of our site). On mobile, the tiles merely looked like supporting graphics and not clickable items unless the user actually tapped on them. We redesigned the tiles so that even without scroll over or tap, it was clear that they were clickable and held additional content. Sometimes, this was as simple as added a “Free Cookcook” banner to the image, sometimes a tile had to be redesigned in order to show that it was a link to a video on an external site.

After applying these changes to a couple pages, click through rates on the page increased compared to the pages that we left alone for comparison purpose. Future work would include identifying every single location that could be improved with more specific design and applying those changes.

In the end, it was identifying the problem and researching the solution that took up the bulk of this project and showed our team that sometimes, making a small change to the design as a result of feedback and research can have clear and profound results without having to change the base architecture.

Communication

Project: Educational Apps Proposal

Prepearing a project proposal

Problem: What content do we have that can be used to create a relevant, educational app that will appeal to children and parents?

My Role: Researcher and Designer

Solution: I researched what educational apps for elementary aged children existed for iOS and Android. I then compared what existed to what sort of educational focus parents and children were searching for using Google Trends, Adwords and other analysis tools. After identifying areas that had a relatively small number of apps but a larger trending demand for our potential users, I examined our library of educational content to see what we had that would fit this demand.

example of an app proposal

After identifying the content, I created a mini-clickable protoype that showed clear examples of the type of app we could build. I also created an outline and full flowchart for two specific ideas for an app that would appeal to our users. The prototype and outlines were presented to the company as possible digital products we could use to share our educational content with children and parents, and also help further our business goals of raising awareness of some brands that did not have a large digital presence currently, though the genre of their content was something people were searching for online.