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NO ice cream, YES unicorns!

It's funny how the smallest details can help guide a user experience.

Since the beginning of time, testing has always been a part of the job. Designers or artist would grab someone and show their work, usually with some sort of explanation of what they were trying to accomplish. They get feedback, tweak a few things, then call it done and move on to the next project.

I'm generally a very inquisitive person. I can't walk into a room without noticing things that are out of place, or when something feels off. Most of the time, this is a good thing. I've learned to use this skill professionally in my desire to question everything. I recently decided to question the purpose of our user testing.

Our current process involves testing throughout the workflow. We practice rapid prototyping and iterating with the team, but also with users. Once we hit that sweet spot, we turn that prototype into a high fidelity mock up and get it ready for the next stage. While this sounds like foundational UX principles, I've taken this workflow and pushed it to all of my teams. This includes:

  • Infographics / Proposal graphics

  • Corporate design / presentations

  • Isometric graphics / 3D design

  • Process / Workflow / Network design

It occurred to me that the majority of the images we produce were not being tested. With so much emphasis being put on the user testing within the UX team practice, I was completely blind to the output of the rest of the teams. I brought this up to a few people who brushed it off, graphic design has always been like this. We create something, we show it around and send it out- it sticks or it doesn't, right?

It's pretty amazing what is hidden in the subconscious details of our mind. We see a symbol or an icon and our brain interprets it. It usually does this so quickly that we don't realize that it happened.

What happens when the interpretation is slightly off. A little off here, when delivery is mistaken for transportation... or when no dogs accidentally means yes unicorns.

A few months back, I rolled out a new process where we test all of our images. We put them out to a large group and simply ask the question "what does this image say"? My belief is that from a very high level, anyone should be able to look at a graphic and be able to give you a favorable answer. They might not be able to give the details or fully understand the deeper concepts, but they should be directionally aware of what we're trying to achieve.

This has been such a great learning experience. We have run a few hundred graphics through the cycle and learned that while we've been pretty close/spot on with the majority of our deliverables, there were a few that felt like that unicorn icon above. An aha moment that we were all too close to see, and it delivered the wrong message.

Since this is a relatively new process, I haven't been able to measure the impact- but I suspect as time goes on that it will have a steady impact on our messaging, team wide.


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