While riding the subway to work every morning I am bombarded with hundreds if not thousand of ads, everything from acne removal to Jameson’s Irish Whisky ads (which I think are great). An ad today for a new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of one of my favorite illustrators Norman Rockwell struck me. Not because I’m a fan, which I am. Not that I have grown up with him always close to me – my mother always had postcards of his illustrations on the back of our front door, the Norman Rockwell Museum is just 1 town from my families country house in the Berkshires. But what struck me is that this was about the photographs he took as source for his work.
Being a trained illustrator myself (I’m sure Norman had something to do with that along with Frank, Boris, and NC, but that’s a different post) photography is always a companion. Sourcing or shooting, you are always looking for where or what to base your work on. This got me thinking about design and UX. If photos were so important for Norman what’s so important for the UX designer? “wire frames you fool!” I’m sure you are all shouting. And yes, but there’s more. Since there is more to UX than just wires and maps there must be more than that for foundation or reference.
This lead me back to something I have been interested in, have written about and even spoken about before. Real Life UX. Pulling foundations from the everyday offline interactions & experiences we all have and applying them to what we know about digital and online user experience. Sometimes it helps to have a mental camera (or just use a physical one) to capture these moments. Moments when there is a key insight you can take.
As an example; recently in NYC there has been a release of ranking for food establishments. Each store or restaurant is required to show their rating in their window, unobstructed. As I was walking to work this morning I noticed that one such “deli” had gone a step further. They reprinted their “A” ranking and make a very large sign hanging above their door that reads “Rated Best in the City, A”. They turned something they were forced to do into a marketing message and a way to make that rating truly work to their advantage.
When involving your users remember there is a message you want them to receive, and a way in which they need to receive it. Look around you, you may find the foundation for that solution right in front of you. Take that mental snapshot, use you iPhone or digital camera, or even jot it down in your Moleskine. But never ever let the chance for great inspiration or foundation pass you by.
Image: The “Four Freedoms” gallery at Norman Rockwell Museum. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Visitors Bureau. All rights reserved.