XX+UX: Tales from the Design Frontier (from a Non-Designer)

Anneliese Herbosa
4 min readFeb 26, 2016

Hi! I’m Anneliese, and I’m not a designer.

I attended XX+UX Vancouver, the first XX+UX event to take place outside of San Francisco, along with a colleague (she’s a designer).

I know what you’re thinking: Why would I, a non-designer, decide to attend an event tailored to existing and aspiring designers? Empathy is central to good design. I believe that having an appreciation and awareness of other roles and how they relate to yours is so important. I felt that going to an event like this would help me gain a deeper understanding of this discipline.

And it did.

In the spirit of empathy both in design and in the workplace, here are some things I jotted down using my ultra fine point pen and Google notebook (event swag photographed below) during the fireside chat that featured kick-ass designer ladies from Microsoft and Shopify.

How do you like my application of the Rule of Thirds?

XX+UX is a monthly meetup for women in UX with the goal of fostering greater diversity in the field.

Themes

Presenting one’s design (read: the art of persuasion)

I’ve sat in my fair share of design walkthrough meetings, and it always wows me when designers get up there and bravely take us through their thinking, rationale behind decisions, mockup alternatives, and everything in between.

Their job is to basically persuade us — the stakeholders, those representing the end-user or end-customers — in believing that their design is the best fit given their understanding of who the target end-user/customer is. This is not an easy feat.

  • The challenge for designers? Reminding the group to leave any biases at the door, and educating them about the unique persona(s) the design at hand has been tailored to.
  • The challenge for non-designers? It’s tempting to bring our personal opinions into the conversation, but we need to remember to critique design objectively. We are not the audience. More often than not, we are not the users/customers. We are merely representing them. We non-designers need to adjust our critical lens as appropriate.

Designers need to speak the language of whomever they’re talking to, and fluency in this language stems from first having a deep mutual understanding of who the real user/customer is, in order to foster a more fruitful, constructive discussion.

I learned that half of presenting good design is mastering the art of persuasion.

Comprehensiveness of research (data-informed vs. data-driven)

Prior to my exposure to graphic design, user interaction, and user experience work, I used to think that design was all about the artsy stuff; purely manipulating the look and feel of things. I assumed that the bulk of the work was in making everything look pretty on the front end. What I wasn’t so familiar with was the extent to which research — the fundamental principles, and the careful calculations happening behind the scenes — feeds into the design. What I’ve come to recognize is that design is both an art and a science.

Regarding the latter, ‘data’ has become a buzzword thrown around in any and every context. In design, what adds weight to its presentation is in knowing how to weave data into the narrative in a strategic way. Know the difference between being data-informed through referencing theories and best practices, and balancing such qualitative findings with the quantitative (being data-driven to inform decisions).

I learned that research is your best defence, and knowing when to balance qualitative with quantitative data will help strengthen your argument.

Assertiveness in design and at work (hint: stop apologizing.)

Having a tenacity, a boldness, a strong sense of self-confidence in one’s work and in one’s preparedness (research) will arm you with the backbone you need — not just in the context of design, but in any other role.

I learned that being assertive at work is like being assertive when presenting design — werk it💃 (don’t hold back), own it (don’t apologize), believe in it (don’t second guess yourself), and others will believe in you, too.

Anneliese Herbosa is the Quality Assurance & User Support Manager at Quietly where she works closely with their Product Development and Design teams.

Related: On the topic of empathy, if you’re a non-designer wanting to gain more of an understanding of a designer’s (and non-designers’) psyches, you should check out The Tiny Designer. It’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of email course designed by Jarrod Drysdale tailored to both designers and non-designers. Here’s my fave piece of his to date.

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Anneliese Herbosa

Hyperconscious Millennial. Tech & pop culture enthusiast. Passionate about personal growth. ✨ annelieseherbosa.com