Workshops & Facilitation

One area in particular that Martin really shines is workshop facilitation and presentations. A number of others have said the same in his recommendations and it’s no surprise. I’ve worked with a few great facilitators/presenters in my career, but Martin gives a masterclass.

Edward Ford – UX Consultant

Martin is a great workshop facilitator, charismatic communicator, and team player. He is good at bringing people together in a harmonious and exciting way. 

Erika Lauro – Principal Strategic / Product Designer

A born communicator! Martin’s outstanding and confident moderating skills make each of our meetings not only productive but also natural and connected. 

Lilika Schulte-Ostermann – UX Designer

UX mentoring feedback

Martin, you have been an ex­cellent tutor. I hope that my next tutor will be someone who is as smart, experienced and responsible as you.

Career Foundry student

Thank you so much for all of your support, feedback, comments, advice, and insights over the last 5 months. All of it has kept me motivated and focused throughout. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I probably would not have made anywhere close to as much progress on this course without your dependable and timely input every step of the way. It’s been a blast!

Career Foundry student

This has been some journey and a wild ride. I can’t acknowledge enough how lucky I was having you as my tutor. Your critic, your review and answers have always been on the point, super informative and encouraging. You clearly knew how to offer help and guidance when the path was stony and to give perspective when it was tiring. And you never forgot about the joy within the journey, how amazing the path and the profession are. It was an awesome ride and I’m only half happy that it’s over. 

Career Foundry student

PiggyBank – (UX Design).

♟️The Challenge: It’s hard to keep track of all the products and services that we have subscribed to every month. All we see is money deducting from our accounts, sometimes from services that we don’t need anymore.

🧠 The approach: Design a product that stops unwanted subscription fees within 10 days.

📱 The Output: A responsive web app that monitors subscriptions and avoids unnecessary fees. 

Competitor Analysis

Problem Statement

“My user needs a way to track the usefulness of a subscription, so that they can make a decision whether it’s value for money.”

Research Goals

  • Understand which products / apps are being used and by whom.
  • Learn how these apps are being used and which pain points exist.
  • Identify what’s missing from existing apps and highlight opportunities.


(Click images to enlarge)

  • Summary of the survey:
    • Average age 25
    • 10-15 subscriptions
    • 81% manage their subscriptions manually
    • 59% manage their subscriptions in their head
    • 85% “I cancel a subscription when I realise that I no longer need this.”
      • Which means there has to be a period where the subscription is no longer used, but is still being paid for
      • This raises the question, at what point is the subscription no longer useful?
      • And can this be pin-pointed?

User persona

User journey

Hypothesis statement

“Alex needs a way to track the usefulness of an app over time, so they know the right time to cancel based on insights. This will be confirmed when Alex saves money after cancelling a subscription recommended by the app.”

Task analysis

User testing

“On the first screen I’ve set a payment threshold of €40, but in relation to what?”

“The payment input field is so small I cannot see it properly.”

– User Tester

“I think the Frequency input field is confusing. I’m not sure if this is a single or regular reminder. I would also put this at the beginning.”


Next: Customer Experience Mapping – (Service Design).

Talk2Me – (UX Design).

♟️ The Challenge: Parents face challenges when guiding teenagers on difficult topics like war, faith, sex, politics and alcohol/drug use. For many it isn’t clear what resources are available. 

🧠 The Approach: End-to-end UX design methodology

📱 The Output: A responsive web app that enables anyone to instantly chat with a certified Expert. 

User interviews

Research summary

User journey

Task analysis

Card sort > Site map

Key features (before Card sort):85% of participants split the cards into fewer categories:
• Home 
• Account
• Appointments
• Content
• Messages
• Expert
• Payments 
• Learn
• Home
• Learn
• Expert 
• Appointments
• Messages

User testing


“When I search for an Expert, I don’t know if this is for a parent or a teenager.”

“If I’m already registered, then I don’t need to see the Intro screens again.“

“I feel confused because there are so many filters to choose from.”

Design System

Next: PiggyBank – (UX Design).

Berlin Service Design Jam 2023

We’re all familiar with starting a new project. A new brief, a team discussion, interviews with users, framing a problem, ideating, then prototyping, testing, iterating and finally presenting the final solution. But all of this within 48 hours? Now there’s a challenge not for the faint hearted.

Our Berlin squad of 50 eager Service Designers packed into IBM-X’s Berlin based HQ to watch our weekend project video brief, the same video that would be played in different cities to different squads around the world. The short video intermingled footage of different cities, buildings, skyscrapers, skylines, city inhabitants, streets, roads, traffic, all coupled with the words Build:Re:Build. Our brief was complete, if not abstract, slightly vague and perfectly open to creative interpretation for every person to think of the problems that faced them in their city.

As a group we honed in closer to our topic by discussing what we had deciphered from the brief by sharing stories, experiences and personal observations. We summarised the discussion by choosing three key-words that we agreed balanced issues, opportunities and serviceable futures. 




The next morning we prepared our research plan and went out in pairs to the streets of Berlin to speak to the inhabitants of our city.

  • Tell me something about feeling connected to a community here in Berlin?
  • What helped you arrive to this community?
  • Could you talk a bit about any obstacles?

Key quotes

“I’ve lived in Berlin since the 90’s when Mitte felt like its own village. This declined to virtually nothing until COVID and it suddenly returned. Why did it need a crisis to bring people together?”

Berliner since 1990

“We have a saying, “Die kleinsten gemeinsame Nenner” (the lowest common denominator).”

German visitor from Hamburg

“In our neighbourhood, I don’t feel connected unless there’s an issue, then suddenly everyone connects.”

Visiting couple from Moscow

It was interesting to hear various stories with a similar theme. Many people had experienced this incredible human connection during the moment of a crisis during the covid pandemic. Back at our HQ we discussed why it takes an event like this to bring people together. We reflected on the film, Independence Day which starts with human communities fighting with each other and ending with the human race uniting in a way never seen before in order to conquer the invading aliens. What was it that created this magic? The sense of urgency? The distraction from our every day quarrels? The threat of a new overarching power? Or the simple loss of power over our own autonomy? We wondered what opportunities were there in order to create this feeling and bring more and more people together. 

Problem framing

Problem: Deep connection within a community happens during a crisis (like the pandemic)

User: Two people from parallel communities who don’t want to talk to each other

Hypothesis: We believe that by offering a stressful yet bridge-building “Kobayashi Maru” Style community service, we can solve conflicting arguments and build relationships


Our original prototype was a role playing experience with digital and physical touchpoints that the participant had to carry out in order to learn the lesson of community. 

What we learned

Here is a selection of the most important comments that we derived from the user testing.

“It was fun!”

– User #1
  • Suggested Change – HIGH PRIORITY
    • Change: Our testers thought that the experience was fun, when we had created it to engender a sense of panic.
    • How might we… build tasks that are intense enough to create stress in a role-playing environment.

“The experience would have more impact if we were working as a team instead of individual participants.”

– User #2
  • Suggested Change – HIGH PRIORITY
    • Change: Create scenario tasks that require teamwork.
    • How might we… build tasks that rely on teamwork from two people from parallel communities to use their unique qualities to achieve success together.

Our final solution

Two members from parallel communities working together to complete tasks

Key learnings

For all workshops, avoid wasting time by electing a decision maker (usually your most valuable stakeholder) to avoid all squad members maintaining their subjective bias on solving the problem. Quite often we realised that we were slowing ourselves down by explaining competing actions that supported our own approach and not listening to the wider group. Imagine a scriptwriter describing a scene for a film, then we’re 6 movie directors with the job to build that set – we need a single director as a principle designer instead of a mash of 6 incompatible visions.

Working in our team I felt a genuine deep connection as if we had known each other for a couple of years rather than a couple of day. For me having worked through the 90s, 00s and 10s this has to be the most beautiful paradigm shift of our new generation of younger workers. We’ve learned to shed our judgement and to leave our bias at the door, we leverage our difference of opinions and actively seek out to listen to other opinions – for a designer these are the golden nuggets to make our solutions more robust and to mitigate risk. The workforce still has a long way to go, but more and more I see designers, writers, researchers and all streaks of creates with a deep desire and NEED to delve into the deepest mental models of why opinions differ so much. If we can understand, then we can design effectively for it.

The magic of having a deadline created the necessary (and healthy) restrictions for fast paced action and results. Give us twice as long and we’ll take twice as long

Our amazing team!

Next: How to get more buy-in for Service Design (as an in-house designer)

Getting buy-in for Service Design (as an emerging team)

We are ⭕ The Circle – part of The Service Design Show’s group for in-house Service Designers. We work in countries around the world and meet once a month to discuss emerging trends, explore new ways of working and share best practices.

Together we answered the question within our Circle group, “As an emerging team, how might we get more buy-in for service design?”

We all recognised our continual task of advocating for ‘design thinking’ within our working environments. We each shared our learnings of being the first Service Designer within a company and how we’ve pitched the benefits of Service Design. Many of my peers had never heard of the Service Designer role before and I was asked once, “I thought design was about making things look good?”  

Doing service design (not preaching service design)

Starting in a newly formed Service Design team, I learned that by evangelising the benefits by simply ‘telling’ (instead of ‘showing’ the benefits with early success stories) created confusion and resistance. I sensed that peers might perceive our Service Design proposal as a threat, with one business owner asking, “You’re proposing to take away our creative work away from us?”

Early wins and communicating success stories

In an organisation that’s new to Service Design, we agreed on the benefits of building a repository of case studies that focus on “The problem, the approach, the output and the outcome.” These stories focused on the strategic approach as a Service Designer, being the metaphorical gel between specialised departments and applying the methodology for quick iterations of prototyping and testing to highlight problems that might have been missed through the lens of a single team. The more I repeated these stories, the higher the chance that I was reaching new audiences and Service Design allies. 

Evangelising Service Design through multiple channels

Other take-aways to regularly communicate the benefits of an emerging Service Design team included:

  • connecting to all new starters from around the business by presenting to them during their induction program and explaining how to request design collaboration on a project
  • hosting a regular Design drop-in calendar slot in order to answer common questions from around the business
  • communicating via multiple channels to engage with all audiences e.g. blog, video updates, design thinking events (hackathons, panel discussions, workshops) and business wide updates

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Next: What’s the difference between UX and UI?

Heart Hub, Women and Heart Attacks – (Service Design)

♟️ The Challenge: A heart attack has historically been perceived as a ‘male disease’, and has been understudied, under-diagnosed, and under-treated in women, leading to both the affected women and their male doctors mis-diagnosing a heart attack as symptoms of stress, anxiety or menopause related conditions.

🧠 The Approach: To design a digital service with a focus on ‘Women and heart attacks’, by applying our service design methodology, starting with research, discovery and user interviews, to explore the problem space and turn our assumptions into hypotheses, to test with prototypes and build an effective MVP through design iterations.

📱 The Output: A toolkit for women in communities of all sizes i.e. cities, towns and villages. Empowering all women to start their own Heart Hub community via a digital platform. Inviting individual users to sign-up to join a Heart Hub community. For all members to explore educational resources and actively participate in their Heart Hub community.

🪴 The Outcome: A service that has been positively rated in our final round of user testing as a desirable, useful and usable service. As a group of service designers, we are deciding on our next steps to roll-out a series of pilot programs that can be tested, monitored and optimised.


Professor Birgit Mager (President of the Service Design Network), introduced our team to the topic with a 90’s UK TV campaign from the British Heart Foundation, designed to educate the nation on what to do when someone is having a heart attack. The video shows a man performing CPR on another man.

The classic image of a heart attack—severe pressure and tightness in the chest—is actually the classic male image of a heart attack
  • Due to the fact that there is no female representation, the advert led to a more widespread perception that heart-attacks are a “male problem”
  • Recommended emergency CPR has been simplified since the campaign to exclude mouth-to-mouth instructions

Our task: Perform research into this topic to highlight key issues related to women and heart attacks. Develop a service that helps and supports one chosen area that our team discovers through our research.  

Our team

Our team goals:

  • Explore the gender inequality in this topic
  • Understand any root causes of gender misrepresentation
  • Ideate on design solutions that could dislodge false mental models
  • Build a scalable service for women by applying our women-centred design methodology
  • Conduct research, engage with users through interviews and workshops to build a clear picture of problems, user needs and challenges
  • Run a pilot program, test and improve our designed service based on our findings

🕵️ Research & Problem Framing


A snapshot of some of our preliminary research findings.

Gender inequality: Some staggering facts that we discussed as a group.

  • Women are 50% more likely than men to get the wrong diagnosis after a heart attack
  • Some women have had to wait over 12 hours before receiving a correct heart attack diagnosis
  • If a heart attack patient is a woman and her emergency physician is a man, her risk of death will rise by about 12 percent

Other important stories that we heard:

  • The average age for a man to have a heart attack is 65, where for a woman it’s 71
  • Women have a higher pain threshold than men
  • Evidence that male doctors harbour ingrained prejudices against women
  • In preclinical studies, female animals make up less than half of tested subjects
  • In medical research, women are under-represented
  • TV, film and the media have a huge role in portraying that someone suffering from a heart attack would be a male character. We could not think of any female character having a heart attack in a TV show or movie

Stakeholder map

Through a workshop we identified our target audience and stakeholder group in order to learn key information from them and strengthen our design decisions.

User interviews

In order to understand this difficult topic from a number of angles, we interviewed a range of people including women who had suffered from a heart attack, medical professionals and supporting family members.

Insight Clustering

  • There are so many other campaigns for breast cancer, but not for heart health, even though women are twice as likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer
  • It’s imperative to get the right treatment for a heart attack within the first hour, making an accurate diagnosis imperative
  • The menopause is a complicated and sensitive topic that is not understood by most male physicians and can be a factor in mis-diagnosis
  • Making small and positive life-choices / life-changes is hard, in particular the older you get, but the best thing you can do to improve your heart health
  • Living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Try these heart-healthy strategies:
    • Quit smoking
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
    • Manage stress
    • Avoid or limit alcohol

Problem statement

Problem statement: Professional medical services have always included male physicians who are liable to give incorrect advice to women.  Women need a women-centered solution as a way of reaching out, to share and learn stories about each of their lives, their health and their individual symptoms.

User persona

We summarised all of our research into a user persona.

Ideation workshop

We designed an hour-long workshop and invited a group of women of varying ages, cultures and backgrounds. Some of the women had health issues and were concerned for their health. Others had been affected by this topic with an ill family member.

General challenge of the workshop: To design interventions that will reduce coronary heart disease deaths in women from prevention, late/ missed diagnosis, and inadequate medical treatment.

  • Section 01: We introduced our topic with a summary of our research.
  • Section 02: Sailboat exercise.
    • Specific question for this exercise: How might we make it easier for women entering menopause to be aware of the risks of heart disease?
    • After ideating, we asked participants to read all the comments and dot-vote on those which they felt were the most important to explore and discuss further.
  • Section 03: Lotus flower ideation exercise.

Key quotes

“Being part of a community is so important to me.”

We conducted some additional research to understand some of the other local communities that our workshop participants spoke about. Our team saw how the participants spoke highly of these communities, initially for the opportunities of social contact that they created, but many other unexpected benefits that grew over time.

“Hearing other women’s voices like mine would encourage me to listen more and make the right choices.”

Listening to other women, being around other women, learning from other women, sharing stories with other women were all contributing factors that were empowering other women to strengthen their understanding of their needs. This was of particular interest knowing the impact that simple (yet difficult to change) life choices can help improve heart health and reduce heart disease.

“Some menopause symptoms could seem the same as a heart attack and this needs to be understood more.”

We discovered detailed information about menopausal symptoms being similar to the symptoms of a heart attack in our research. However, hearing this comment and an agreement from other women in the workshop, we identified a need for this important knowledge to be communicated to women from other women (and remove men completely from any proposed solution) in order to raise empowerment, confidence and awareness in a critical moment when being diagnosed.

Hypothesis statement

Hypothesis statement: We believe that by creating a scalable toolkit for women to build communities for other women, for women to educate other women, formally and informally, that we will empower all women involved to make positive health choices in life that will contribute to the reduction of heart disease and heart attacks.  

Measurable metrics: We will know when we have achieved our goal when we reach our three SMART goals:

  • Through multiple rounds of design iteration, to improve the desirability and usefulness scores from potential users. This includes a survey of 100+ participants to score on a scale of 1-10 a minimum average score of 7 or above
  • To empower women to share stories and invoke at least one small positive lifestyle change in each participant. To be captured in a gamification feature within our proposed responsive web app
  • To roll out the program and get at least 6 groups started within the first 6 months

🏗️ Prototyping & Testing

Prototype V1

Our first tested prototype was a desktop version of a proposed website portal designed to educate, connect women and act as a toolkit to build communities.

Our V1 prototype – desktop website landing page

User testing

We conducted user testing with 5 women aged 24 to 71. We asked some general questions and then followed with these questions in order to understand who we could improve our initial idea.

  • Can you tell me what the site is for?
  • How do you think this site could help someone? 
  • Can you tell me why you’d visit this site?
  • Who do you think this site is aimed at? 
  • Tell me what information you find useful on this site? 
  • Tell me anything else you’d expect to find on this site?
  • Is there anything that you’ve seen on a similar site / with a similar service that you think is missing? 
  • Do you have any last thoughts on the topic in the site?
  • After seeing our page, could you tell us what you think a Heart Hero is? 
  • If this was available do you think you would like to become a Heart Hero

What we learned

Here is a selection of the most important comments that we derived from the user testing.

The heart attack symptoms will be the most helpful area for me.”

  • Suggested Change – HIGH PRIORITY
    • Change: make this section more prominent
    • How might we… make this more of a key feature for our users? As a result of this comment, we decided to add additional structure to our originally proposed website. In the following section I created a sitemap that shows a clearer navigation, with Resources / Symptoms as the first section for users to explore.

It’s still not clear to me what it means to be a member of a Heart Hub.”

  • Suggested Change – HIGH PRIORITY
    • Change: Create a clear description with an infographic that can be communicated.
    • Testing: This was particularly important for us to get right, therefore I redesigned our visuals and re-wrote our vision for what a Heart Hub stands for and its values. We organised additional testing for users of different ages, background and health priorities to read, digest and comment on the clarity of our new proposal.

Some more media stuff about what to do if someone has a heart attack. A tutorial or a step by step guide.”

  • Suggested Change – LOW PRIORITY
    • Change: This is an important change for us to consider, however as Service Designers we were conscious that we should not be responsible for creating a large amount of educational content.
    • How might we… empower the members of any community to gain access to the training material needed in order to educate all women members?
    • I created a flow diagram to incorporate a new feature to allow for members and organisers to request / book educational, medical or motivational speakers to attend a Heart Hub community meeting

Site structure

In order to get some feedback on our initial ideas, we originally did not spend too much time on planning the site navigation and information structure. After our user testing, I created this site structure to ensure that anyone using the responsive web app would within seconds understand the end-to-end Heart Hub service offering:

  • Find useful information on heart health and making better life choices
  • A user forum to ask any question and connect with others
  • Become a member of an existing Heart Hub
  • Start your own Heart Hub community

The agreed sections will be used to create the navigation on our mobile-first responsive web app.

Project summary

  • Future opportunities:
    • The next step of our project is to create a V2 mobile-first web application for the Heart Hub community. This will involve a prototype that will include the new site structure and educational speaker booking system. This will then be tested with a new set of user testing participants
    • In order to validate our hypotheses with measurable metrics, we would like to continue to the next stage of this project and roll-out a number of Heart Hub community pilot programs.
    • As a group we have discussed the benefits of building an app that includes a ‘positive life-changes’ tracking app and corresponding gamification feature to improve overall health and reduce heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Key learnings:
    • Being both a designer and a man, I faced some personal challenges in my mental dialogue throughout working on this women-centered project. My ongoing questions revolved around, “As a man, how can I effectively, directly and compassionately advise, propose and be an expert in this women-centered topic?” I had to remind myself many times that I was here as a designer and not as a man. As a gay male, I often experienced this as a double bind as my husband and I live our lives through a very gender-neutral lense. As a result, I felt shame for the continual bias, inequality and mis-treatment of women that’s generated by other men, but then felt disconnected from both cis-gendered male and female communities due to my sexuality. I concluded that the project would have been easier if I had had the ability to “switch off” any indication of gender, but as with all deep learnings I found a positive: as a result of my gender-neutral viewpoint, I was able to strengthen my skills as an empathetic and compassionate Service Designer
    • The trade-off of knowing the right level of information to be able to make informed decisions. We had to understand that we would never know everything about the project
    • I repeatedly learned from our research participants who were older than me exactly how difficult it becomes to make small life changes. It is these small changes that can have a bigger impact over long periods of time and this is what our service is designed to encourage, support and grow


Next: Mock-up Request Service – (Service Design)

PiggyBank – (UX Design)

♟️ The challenge: Stop unwanted subscription fees. It’s hard to keep track of all the products and services that we have subscribed to every month. All we see is money deducting from our accounts, sometimes from services that we don’t need anymore. The challenge is to design a product which helps manage these subscriptions.

🧠 The approach: 10 day sprint

📱 The Output: A responsive web app that monitors subscriptions and avoids unnecessary fees. 

🕵️ Research & Problem Framing

Day 01Miro Whiteboard Ideation

With a 2-week deadline, I needed to work fast and efficiently. I’m a visual thinker and I dream big, which means that my ideas come thick and fast. Tell me a problem and my mind will light up with a flurry of solutions. I need a tool to get all my thoughts down and laser-focus my thinking.

Restrictions act as compost for creative ideas, so I spent one hour with five of my fellow UX designers to scope out ideas, gaps in knowledge and determine an approach with context.

Summary of Miro ideation session

Early ideas that bubbled up during our co-creation session:

  1. Offer the app free for 6 months
  2. Start new subscription i.e. Netflix > Get confirmation email > Send email to Sub-app > Sub-app adds a new entry with reminder
  3. Users are asked to rate a subscription to determine whether it’s value for money

Competitor Analysis

The results of my competitor analysis and S.W.O.T. analysis are shown below with major insights highlighted in pink.

S.W.O.T. Analysis

Summary of Competitor Analysis / S.W.O.T. Analysis:

  • All subscription apps on the market can be split into two categories:
    1. Connect to a bank account:
      • App automatically determines regular payments
      • Sophisticated data analysis
      • A.I. transaction management
    2. Stand-alone app:
      • Input subscriptions manually
      • Basic data reporting (basic info in / basic info out)
      • Low security issues
  • Potential opportunity:
    • An app that lies in-between both categories
    • Independent of a bank account
    • Asks the user questions to collect data
    • Provides deeper data analysis
    • Knows “why” a subscription should be cancelled

Problem Statement

“My user needs a way to track the usefulness of a subscription, so that they can make a decision whether it’s value for money.”

Day 02Research Goals

  • Understand which products / apps are being used and by whom.
  • Learn how these apps are being used and which pain points exist.
  • Identify what’s missing from existing apps and highlight opportunities.


I created a survey using Google Forms with these goals:

  • Define a target audience.
  • Gather data about subscription use and mental models used in managing finances.
  • Gain some understanding how, when and why subscriptions are cancelled  

Summary of the survey:

  • Average age 25
  • 10-15 subscriptions
  • 81% manage their subscriptions manually
  • 59% manage their subscriptions in their head
  • 85% “I cancel a subscription when I realise that I no longer need this.”
    • Which means there has to be a period where the subscription is no longer used, but is still being paid for
    • This raises the question, at what point is the subscription no longer useful?
    • And can this be pin-pointed?

User interviews

I wrote a script for the user interviews with these goals:

  • Understand what unique methods people use to manage their subscriptions
  • Understand why users are managing subscriptions in their head
  • Hear some real life stories that reveal the user’s thought process when cancelling a subscription. 

Day 03Affinity maps

I conducted the interviews and created an affinity map of the key quotes.

Summary points of the user interviews / affinity map:

  • “I manage my subscriptions in my head.”
  • “I cancel when I realise that I’m not using it anymore.”
  • “I expect the app to track my progress.”

Key findings

My key findings from the research:

  • I know that users are managing subscriptions in their head
  • I know that users are relying on the apps to track their progress
  • I know that users will decide to cancel once they realise that they are no longer using it

With these insights, I began to think about a perceived cycle from the user that was not working for them:

  • Apps use reminders, gamification and hooks to push the user to make progress
  • The user becomes more addicted
  • The app praises the user when they’re doing well
  • Which pushes the user to use the app more
  • However…
    • It will never tell you that you don’t need the app anymore
    • Even though the user is relying on the app to track progress

User persona

User journey

I mapped out the user’s journey when I realised why users were managing subscriptions in their head.

Summary of the user’s journey

  • Users manage their subscriptions in their head
  • Users are not setting a reminder in order to re-affirm that their goal for that app will be a success
    • “I will use this app to reach my goal.”
    • “It will be successful.”
    • “It will be value for money.”
  • By setting a reminder the user would be saying:
    • “I need to set a reminder to check whether I have failed.”
    • “Failure is not an option.”
    • “If I were to set a reminder, it might mean that I will fail.”

I amended the problem statement to the final version:

“Alex needs a way to track the usefulness of an app over time, so they know the right time to cancel based on insights. This will be confirmed when Alex saves money after cancelling a subscription recommended by the app.”

Task analysis

The following task analysis showed the core feature of my unique app:

🏗️ Prototyping & Testing

Day 04Ideation

Day 05Mid-fidelity wireframing

Day 06User testing

I wrote a test script with these goals in mind:

  • Set the scene about managing subscriptions
  • Create a hypothetical scenario where the user would like to track a subscription
  • Ask the user to set up a subscription tracker for a gym membership
  • Ask the user to track the subscription’s usefulness over time
  • Ask the user about these key features

Day 07User testing – what needs fixing

“On the first screen I’ve set a payment threshold of €40, but in relation to what?”

  • My original idea that I sketched was designed to help lighten the burden for users who previously managed subscriptions in their head, wanted to migrate to a digital solution, but did not want a lot of time setting their subscription trackers up.
  • Suggested Change – HIGH PRIORITY
    • After further consideration, I began to question the usefulness of this screenIf our goal is to save the user money, then there does not need to be any thresholdRecommendation is to remove this screen completely
  • Evidence
    • My first tester highlighted this and after including an additional question in the script, all other testers agreed to remove this superfluous screen.

“The payment input field is so small I cannot see it properly.”

  • A design error that was easily fixed. The payment was big enough on my original sketches, but during the mid-fidelity screens the font was not sized correctly.
  • Suggested Change – HIGH PRIORITY
    • Increase fontConsider changing the payment input field to the same style as all other fields
  • Evidence
    • Again my first tester highlighted this oversight which clearly needed fixing.

“I think the Frequency input field is confusing. I’m not sure if this is a single or regular reminder. I would also put this at the beginning.”

  • I believe there was an error in the testing script. I had primed the user with too much information about how the app would remind the user in the future about tracking the usefulness of their subscription. This caused confusion when similar wording appeared in the prototype.
  • Suggested Change – MEDIUM PRIORITY
    • I decided to add a Calendar icon to allow the user to choose their own reminder dateI also changed the wording to simply read, Reminder
  • Evidence
    • After this was highlighted in the user testing, I went back to my research
    • I looked through the screenshots that I had taken from competitor apps
    • I made slight changes, but decided not to change the order
    • I would like to look into this option further and conduct some further research with other testers to fully understand the user’s perception of this.

Day 08Hi-fidelity screens

The process flow of my final screens.

Day 09Hi-fidelity prototype

Day 10Project summary

  • What opportunities remain for future improvement?
    • I am looking at patenting this idea or approaching the existing companies who offer similar apps whether they would be interested in my research or integrating the idea into one of their app’s features
  • Key learnings:
    • My UX methodology can be adapted to be a 1-week, 2-week, 3-week or 4-week process
    • It’s hard not to run away with all the big ideas that come into my head at the start of the process. My UX methodology is there to prove it right or wrong.
    • It initially felt demotivating to work on a project that had been done to death. However it was a great challenge and it reiterated that there are always great opportunities to be had for designers willing to deep dive into user behaviour

Next: Talk2Me – (UX Design)

What’s the difference between UX and UI?

UX encompasses all the interactions that a user has with a company’s product, service and web applications. UX is a methodology that’s driven by emotional research to understand everything that a user thinks – their mental models, their behaviours, their needs and goals. UX is about mapping the user’s journey to complete a task from start to finish, understanding any pain points and creating effective solutions in the form of prototypes. UX is about testing these prototypes to find out what works and what doesn’t work, then iterating the design until an optimum user experience is achieved.

UI is all about the visual interactions that a company has between a company’s product, service and web applications. UI is all about the aesthetics and creating visually pleasing user experiences. UI is all about the colour palettes, typography, language, icons, buttons, call-to-actions and the way the user navigates through an experience perhaps through scrolling, swiping or via voice commands. UI is driven by a style guideline in the form of an online design system in order to create high-standard consistency and thus increasing the quality of the experience for the user.

To summarise, UX focuses on the way something functions, the way the user feels and their overall experience. Whereas UI is all about aesthetics and creating visually pleasing visual interactions.

Next: The History of Adobe Illustrator

The History of Adobe Illustrator

When Adobe Illustrator V1 was first released in 1987, the creators aimed to revolutionise the professional illustration and graphic design market by bringing digital solutions to everyday analogue problems. “My wife couldn’t ink,” said President of Adobe and creator of Illustrator John Warnock, referring to the laborious process of manually drawing and sketching illustrations.

People would use Rapidograph pens which are industry standard fine art pens that maintain a standard thickness no matter the movement or direction. They were messy, they would explode and one mistake right at the final line would render a drawing that you’d just spent a whole day working on would be ruined. Clients would ask for colour, size and style changes which before Illustrator meant starting from scratch.

V1 – 1987

Illustrator was the first clear signal that artwork was starting to become digitalised, and for some this felt like a threat to their profession. Designers who had mastered the skills of using analogue tools like the industry standard Rapidograph pens struggled to grasp the new concept of bezier curves. But for others, Illustrator’s pen tool was their new best friend. It allowed a whole new generation of designers to bring their ideas to the table and have complete control over every curve of the design. Many students who were finishing their design degrees at the time quickly mastered these techniques offered by Illustrator and proudly showcased the artwork that for the first time had been created using a computer.

The original version of Illustrator was a basic user interface between the user and the postscript code. One user remembers working with Adobe and if he made a mistake, he would have to ask a developer to come and remove that bit of code as if it were an undo function. Soon this would become a feature of Illustrator and for many traditionally trained graphic designers, a wave of a magic wand to be able to undo something and try again as this allowed designers to be braver and try out things that they’d never tried before.

An original Apple Mac circa. 1984

V5 – 1993

Did you know that before v5 of Illustrator it was not possible to work on the preview of a design? This meant that designers would have to have two versions of a design open – one version to work on and one version to preview the final version. Adobe quickly responded to the market needs after they had a flood of complaints that designers were having to have two versions open and released this feature to do live editing in preview mode.

V7 – 1997

For many years up until this version, designers had to battle with two different formats of fonts, namely Truetype fonts and Postscript fonts. The format war was quickly dispelled when Illustrator released V6 that was compatible with both and for some designers, instantaneously doubling their font library if they’d previously used a graphics package that only allowed one type of font from their library.

Even today there is still a strong debate as to whether Macs or PCs are the strongest machine to use. A big part of this is dependent on the work that you’re doing and of course some arguments are subjective. Before version 7 there was no compatibility between the Mac versions of Illustrator and the Windows versions of competitor packages like Coreldraw and Freehand.

After this, collaboration between artists, studios and printers was much easier and there was less need to buy additional packages just for compatibility purposes.

With version 7 came the ability to move around and customise the tool palettes. Up until this point, if a user was working on a design that required both the Align and Transform palettes, they would have to constantly change between the two. This new feature—to be able to split the palettes and place them wherever you wanted to on screen—allowed for a smoother worflow due to the constant interruptions needed to switch between tool palettes.

The text tool was also updated in this version including the ability to place type on a curve. Not only did this allow designers to create new designs and layouts with fun titles that engendered movement and direction, it also spawned a whole sub-genre of art called Calligram. Dylan Roscover is famous for creating these illustrations that are made out of type I.e. a mosaic made out of words. His most famous example of Steve Jobs in 1990’s that included quotes from his speeches drew attention from Time magazine and Roscover eventually created a Caligram of Romney and Obama for one of their magazine front covers.

V8 – 1998

Imagine doing UI Design without the gradient tool? It didn’t appear in Illustrator until v8 and this ability to mix two colours together to get a smooth blend started a new trend. A gradient creates visual interest and helps users navigate a design. If you search for UI Design examples on any search engine or social media platform like Instagram, the majority of the strongest examples leverage the gradient tool because of its simplicity to create and its power to attract.

Smart guides was an example of introducing AI (artificial intelligence) into Ai (Illustrator). The main purpose of Smart Guides is to bring consistency, precision and speed to a designer’s workflow, but it can be a great learning tool for new designers. Just like a spell-checking feature in a word processor teaches many people correct spelling and grammar, Smart Guides gives inspiration to budding designers as to what can be lined up and when. This useful tool is now a heavy feature of programs such as Adobe XD where speed and conversion of UX design ideas to screen is key.

CS2 – 2005

A rainbow gradient

When I first saw Live Trace I knew how important this tool would be for me. I have spent many years mastering the pen tool, but after looking at some drawings you know that a computer can create it half the time as you could. The traditional process for many designers and illustrators would be to sketch out using pen or pencil, then take a snapshot on a camera or mobile phone. Once the raster version is on screen as a backdrop, the artist can then draw over the lines using bezier curves. Live Trace gave users the ability to skip a huge step in this process by getting this intuitive tool to make the bezier curves themselves. The tool requires some mastering, but the beauty is that if the tool creates a few curves which are not quite right, as they are bezier curves they can be quickly amended for precision.

CS6 – 2012

Many design reviews of this new version of Illustrator starts with the new “darker interface”, which of course is still controllable if you were to prefer the previous lighter version. This update had listened and observed how some users were struggling with headaches and eye strain after working on their graphics for hours a day. Combined with additional research about how bright colours on a monitor were prime culprits to adding to eye strain, the simple change to the darker interface was for some designers the equivalent of being wrapped up in a fluffy blanket on a cold day.

CC2014 – 2014

CC Libraries is another step towards global thinking and the ever increasing demand for remote working. Today in many areas of UX and UI design, teams and companies are spread out all over the world. Studios, clients and even colleagues sitting next to each other need a consistent and structured way to collaborate and share assets and CC Libraries was the solution that was released. Even from v1 of Illustrator when designers saw the potential power of the software in being able to make those oh-so-annoying client changes on the computer instead of starting again, CC Libraries allows multiple users to ‘child’ instances of graphic elements like logos, icons and straplines which will update if there is a change to the master / parent. All corporate branding goes through stages of evolution with design iterations that include tiny tweaks and major overhauls. As long as all designers work consistently by utilising assets from the CC Libraries, this will allow for client changes to a portfolio of artworks to be done in minutes rather than days or even weeks.

Illustrator is now available on the iPad

Next: How to survive a Career Foundry Boot camp