Skip to main content

Cognition

Design Thinking

We’ve written 16 blog posts about Design Thinking. View all topics »

  1. Avoiding #RWD Limbo

    Almost four years ago, I wrote a Cognition post about my Rule of Threes. In it, I explained that pushing a design effort far enough often resulted in stronger, better-conceived, and more thoroughly vetted solutions. If you didn’t read the article, let me give you a quick recap:

    At the conclusion of the information architecture phase, multiple designers worked in unison to evolve three unique design concepts. Each effort was aimed at different, but agreed upon goals. By varying art direction, user-interface interpretation, and content prioritization, the Rule stressed designing a “range” of static mock-up solutions to present to a client. Whichever concept garnered the most attention became the “base model” that was iterated on and drove the overall look and feel moving forward.

  2. A Healthy and Balanced Website

    Do you ever overcompensate? Maybe you’ve gone on an “unplugged vacation” to combat device addiction or embarked on a juice cleanse after an indulgent weekend. I’ve been there often.

    I’ll spare you the details of my “10-Day Sugar Detox,” but I can share a little about how I’ve overcompensated in my design work. You see, my early designs were chock-full of inconsistencies—every style I created had a unique embellishment. One day, I became fearful that I had become one of “those clueless designers” that frustrated developers write scathing articles about.

  3. The Web on the Web’s Terms

    After finishing journalism school, I worked for a series of terrific newspaper and radio companies. Barely two years into it, after flirting with the web, I quit.

    Compared to the web, print and radio had limited reach and were clumsy to use. In print, we plugged content into a fixed canvas and delivered the same experience to every reader. The closest we got to flexibility was an evening edition or special insert. The web attracted me because it couldn’t have been more different. It challenged me to design and build something that can reach anyone on any web-browsing device—a cause worthy of committing my career to.

  4. Quick, grab a pencil and paper!

    If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me, “what is your favorite tool for responsive web design,” I would have enough nickels to buy a cup of coffee… in 1941. I’ve realized, collecting nickels is a terrible way to get rich, so I’ll give you the answer for free. My favorite tool for any design project is: pencil and paper.

  5. Invention is slow.

    By now you’ve probably seen Noah Stokes tweet assailing responsive web design’s command over aesthetic:

  6. One Size Fits None

    Who doesn’t love to talk about process? Every week, it seems, someone has discovered “the new way to work that everyone should be doing.” While I love a healthy process debate, I find discussions that promote a one-size-fits-all design approach problematic.

  7. The Design Cocoon

    Website redesign projects are not for the faint of heart. The path is filled with dangerous pitfalls and scary things—but also great wonders. Critical junctures in a project’s timeline can slow or even possibly derail. I’ve worked on small but smart ways to improve these periods from being abrupt stops and starts to being more seamless transitions.

  8. All Systems Are Go!(ing to Come Apart)

    Bless her soul, Bessie stunk at jigsaw puzzles. She seemed less interested in recreating the dissected bucolic scene she’d purchased at Rose’s pharmacy decades ago than she was in hurriedly rearranging and redefining the jumbled mess splashed onto the modest kitchen table in front of her. There was no right way, just her way—and the multiple arrangements that lay ahead were every bit as valid to her as the ordered state its designer printed on the box. She just can’t see well, I figured. I never asked.

  9. Rut-Roh! I’m in a Design Rut

    Last week, while plugging away in Photoshop—tunes blazing through my headphones, pixels flying from my fingertips—it hit me. I was in a design rut. I’d grown complacent with my pagination arrows. Countless times, for vastly different sites, I’d relied on the DIN Bold arrow character. It’s a sturdy, hard-angled, utilitarian arrow, perfectly suitable if I quit web design to design highway signs in Germany, but not the quick-fix solution for all my arrow needs.

  10. Q&A: Design Through the Lens of a Project Manager

    Hello. Thanks for coming back to part two of the conversation between Brett Harned and me. Please help yourself to some tea, a pastry, and a comfortable chair. Brett and I have worked together for nearly 5 years, so we thought it would be interesting to discuss the collaboration between our two disciplines that occurs somewhat invisibly. Working with a project manager allows designers to focus on being creative and doing good work. I’m loathe to think of going back to working without one.

    I hope you enjoy the second part of the conversation. We’d both love to hear how your process has changed working in collaboration with other disciplines in your organization.

  11. Q&A: Project Management Through the Lens of a Designer

    As a project manager, I’m constantly wondering how I can better support my team. I’ve always been a believer in the fact that project managers must have the ability to build relationships to understand how their team members work. It’s never as easy as “hand over the wireframe to the designer and make it pretty.” If you’re a project manager and you think that way, you’ve got a lot to learn. I urge you to sit down with your coworkers and chat about what works for them. That’s exactly what I’ve done for my article this week: a chat with Kevin Sharon, a Happy Cog Creative Director, to view project management through the eyes of a designer.

  12. Sweet Systems

    To most, it’s just the sugary centerpiece to a child’s birthday party—but to me, the Cupcake Cake is systematic genius. A balance of consistency and variety, each cupcake is decorated with the same delicate piping technique, from a carefully selected color palette, with no drop of icing wasted. The result is surprising, delightful, and the highlight of the party.

  13. Illustration by Kevin Sharon

    Designers are From Mars

    Prior to my days at Happy Cog, I worked on a team tasked with creating an online promotion for our client’s new high-end candy. The candy was delicious, but each small box sold for approximately $4, so conveying its quality was important. The product’s target market was women in their 20’s and 30’s, so my team decided to take the high-maintenance diva approach to the design. When all was said and done, we launched a microsite full of glamour and glitz, sparkles, stilettos, and lipstick tips. Users could take a quiz to determine just how “fabulous” they were. At the time, I was in my twenties, and I’ve always liked candy, so I considered myself a member of the target audience. But there was a problem: I couldn’t relate to this content at all. I liked to be girly from time to time, but sparkles and stilettos were not my thing and they never will be. I also couldn’t see any of my female friends connecting with this. To be fair, the tone of the site was tongue-in-cheek and it wasn’t taking itself too seriously, but I just didn’t feel right about it. It didn’t feel right to reduce our target audience to stereotypes. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have spoken up and advocated for a better understanding of our audience. Were these women really into makeup and expensive clothes and nights out in Manhattan? Or were we completely off the mark?

  14. The Secret Ingredient

    Variety is a blessing. Here at Happy Cog, each and every design project is radically different. Show me the day when any two client design challenges are exactly the same and I’ll turn in my font library, ergonomic chair, and scribble-filled Field Notes. Retirement at 34? Sounds good. Now, where’s my fishing pole…

  15. Sustainable design

    Sustainable, Not Pixel Perfect

    Last week, Happy Cog was nominated for two Webby awards for our work with Zappos.com. I know some people don’t like awards, but as someone who didn’t grow up in an era when “everyone gets a trophy,” I still think they’re pretty rad. Seriously though, I think of a nomination like this as a recognition of doing great collaborative work with our clients. When I heard about the nominations, I was chatting with one of my coworkers who wondered, “can we really take the credit for this work?” As I typed the words, “shut your stupid face hole,” and considered whether to press enter, I thought about his question for a moment and the life of our work after we hand it over to our clients.

  16. Accounting for Taste

    Perhaps you’ve stood in line at Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and said,

    “What flavor of ice cream do I want today?”

    You’ve probably all wished, as I have, that you could have a dozen flavors at once. Thankfully, someone, possibly Messrs. Ben & Jerry, invented that tiny ice cream spoon. Sample just a taste to see if that flavor suits your mood.