Demystifying IA/UX/UI: Part 1

To understand Information Architecture, User Experience, and User Interface (IA/UX/UI) it may be helpful to begin from the broader scope of Interaction Design. Per the IxDA (Interaction Design Association), Interaction Design defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems. Interaction Designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services they use—from computers and mobile devices to appliances and beyond.

Interaction Design defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems.

Does this sound familiar? Do you create advertising, applications, augmented reality, communications, content, educations, events, packaging, products, promotions, signage, social media, surveys, virtual reality, or wayfinding? Does your work impact customers, employees, users aka… people? Whether a user (code for person/human) is internal or external to your company, chances are the answer is yes. Many of you like myself have been architects, creative directors, communicators, designers, developers, educators, engineers, marketers, product designers, technologists, etc., and have used your expertise including Information Architecture, User Experience, and User Interface Design. But not so long ago we just called it “good design” as all successful solutions include IA/UX/UI best practices. Why? Because we are problem solvers who use research to analyze problems and opportunties from end-to-end to inform us on how to deliver a solution that benefits the USER, and how that translates to driving impact.

Unfortunately with the ‘siloing’ of skills, team members may not have foundational knowledge or hands-on experience with each of these skills, which limits the facilitation of interconnected workflows to deliver cohesive solutions. So let’s demystify these “skills” and into real-world applications with which many of you are already quite familiar.

Interaction Design focuses on a person NOT the technology.

Whether you are designing a candy dispenser in the shape of a tube so toddlers can hold it and open & close it with ease

  • A medical device that fits in your back pocket to encourage young people with diabetes to check their blood sugar.
  • A cell phone with bigger buttons, numbers, and a screen display so senior citizens can actually use it.
  • A coupon to be cut out of an FSI ad (Free Standing Insert) or the QR Code (Quick Response) to be scanned with a smartphone and presented to the cashier for savings.
  • The back of a cereal box with glorious games so you eat your way through a honeycombed breakfast with dreams of adventures to be continued on any number of digital devices.
  • A parking meter that takes coins, credit cards, or Apple Pay.

All of the above are examples of Interaction & Experience Design and require the expertise of good designers who are sometimes called Information Architects, User Experience Designers, or User Interface Designers. And sometimes that designer may have worked on solutions that required using the unique mindsets and skills of each of these roles.

Remember Interaction Design is about people, how they feel, what they know, and what they do… and what they WANT to do.

But wait, there’s more…
Depending on the complexity of a project, the list of specific and transitional skill sets to meet the needs and the nuances of each Interaction Experience can be quite expansive. Check out Demystifying IA/UX/UI Part 2 to learn more!

“I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette.” ~ Ray Eames

Quickly Grabbing Elements from Your Environment – Amazing New App

Using the new you are able to quickly grab any object that is around you. This blows my mind every time I use it because I think about in the old days, yesterday, having to either reposition everything perfectly or opening a photo in Photoshop and spending an hour or more editing. can be installed on your iOS or Android device and there is a complimentary Mac or Windows app which will sync the photos to your computer to use instantly in whatever program you want.

Example of grabbing a water bottle off my busy desk.

After a handful of tests, you will need to subscribe to a monthly or yearly subscription but the cost is worth it, $40 per year, if you use it in one comp or product.

Learn more and links to download at

CHANGE – A Continuous & Very Loud Noise

A image of a dog barking with the title. Change - A Continuous & Very Loud Noise - Tech?

In many situations, change is the only thing we can count on in any career, project, or best-organized plan. Today’s standards of success will take a different approach than what worked yesterday, and it is going to change again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. So rather than cower in fear, or reminisce about how things used to be, it’s time to embrace change (or at a minimum become respectful ‘friends’) to take advantage of all the opportunities change has to offer. 

How an innovative design and development team functions, or any team for that matter, by today’s standards of success requires a different approach than what worked a year ago. The strategy and goals of an industry’s clients, markets, and customers must be identified so everyone is aware of what lies ahead and the expectations of change to follow. It is up to each of us to outline a new path for ourselves to develop the skills (both hard and ’soft’) for what is needed in a constant transformational future.

For example, does your organization focus on Traditional Media? Digital Media? e-Learning? Marketing? Commerce? Gaming? Is your content going digital?  Have you made the decision to move your website off desktops and onto tablets and mobile phones? Are you a Mac or a PC? Does it matter? Where do your customers/users get most of their information? Has it changed? Well with COVID-19, who hasn’t had to change… and quickly. But there still remains a lot of work for each of us to do. 

Everyone needs to learn new skills to change the way they communicate, collaborate, and engage audiences. Because your users, customers, employees, learners have already changed the way they want to receive information. 

If you want to be viable next year, you need to make the decision to be viable this week. Make it your mission to care, encourage, and support those around you to learn something new every day and become agile in the practice of life-long learning. 

Where do you begin? How do you assess the type of skills required in our current and future digital landscapes? Positions such as Application Developer, Game Designer, Experience Learning Architect, Mobile Developer, Scrum Project Manager, User Experience Designer,  seem to be on everyone’s “hot” list. Where can you find these people? Do you need them? The skills required for these positions— problem-solving, critical thinking, exceptional design—have always been in demand, but are now also essential for a growing number of new and developing communication channels. Many of the positions we hear about today didn’t exist a few years ago, or maybe they did but under a different name. Either way, the big problem is everyone is just beginning—there are no experts—and with technology changing rapidly, everyone is playing catch up, all day, every day. So be sure to share what you learn to accelerate the process not only for yourself but for your entire team so you are continuously updating and advancing your capabilities.

I read this article, a few years ago, in Before & After magazine (founded by John McWade the creator of the world’s first desktop studio) and was struck by something that still resonates with me today. 

“Our industry—the creative field—no longer makes masters. Change comes so fast that everyone is just starting out; skills and entire professions now run a 100-year life cycle in less than a decade. Professionals no longer gain the wisdom or experience of years.” 

From my own professional experience, I estimate that entire professional life cycles are now changing even faster to be closer to every two years.

From my empirical observations and user research over the last 4 years from a wide variety of industries, leaders, managers, and talent alike need to constantly gain new skills. And should strive to have a minimum of “three suits” they are comfortable wearing while having a “best suit” that reflects their strongest skills. To continue doing what we love in our professions we must be agile in our ability to transition from one thing to another and embrace lifelong learning to become more than we were yesterday, and better than we dreamed of tomorrow.

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  

Andy WarholThe Philosophy of Andy Warhol

The Artists’ Closet: A Play in One Scene from the Weekend

Desk with notebook, iPad, colored pencils, ruler and markers.

A neglectful artist (NA), a woman, walks into her studio to work on some real “art work” for a change, taking a break from ‘digital’. As she tries to organize her studio, she gets side-tracked, as usual, and spots some long lost “friends” in her old cabinets.

NEGLECTFUL ARTIST (NA): What is this? Can these be my old comping markers?

DESIGN MARKERS (DM): Yes… it is us… all of us… you left to rot in the dark recesses of these drawers!!

NA: [whispers] Oh my God… [Then a little louder] Oh my GOD. What have I done…

DM: We thought you didn’t care.

NA: I DO! I have missed you all. Do you still work? Do you still [gulp] smell the wonderful way you did years ago? [Looks around to make sure she is alone, cracks open top of marker and takes a whiff]

DM: Getting a little personal, aren’t we? Why don’t you go find some paper and try us out?

NA: YES! YES! Paper! [Very excited she pulls out all the DMs and looks frantically for paper] Two closets later… she finds it.

LAYOUT PAPER (LP): [seriously]. Well… that took long enough! Why don’t you try us out and see if we still hold ink?

NA: [still looking for supplies] HA… HA! [More come out of the closet]

LP: Come on! Let’s get some color on these pages!


LP: Well, what are you waiting for?

DM: YES… hurry up and get busy!


CONTE CRAYONS: Us first… and don’t forget the Chamois!

LETRASET: Use us! Use us! Multi-media is best! Pleeeaaaaaassssseeeee!

[NA grabs all her “friends” close to her and runs to her easel and drafting board with a big smile on her face.]

FRIENDS: What will you do first?? Hurry, hurry, it has been soooooo long!


FRIENDS: [short silence] We certainly hope not. Maybe you should think of this as the FIRST TIME YOU BEGIN!

[NA starts whistling as the worries of the day fade away and creativity springs back into her studio].

Check out the new podcast L&D Forecast

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

Check out the new podcast L&D Forecast hosted by Emily Sheetz, which is easy to listen to and provides a fresh perspective of what to consider and where to look in the world of learning. Take some time to get to know us from her brief, fun interviews, as they went so fast we can’t wait to do it again.

Interview with Linda

Interview with Nick

Check out her other podcasts in her series, and you can connect with Emily on LinkedIn and view Emily’s writings on Medium.

Our Origin Story

We have been thinking about collaborating on how to provide resources around design fundamentals and how they impact everything in how people communicate, read, learn, engage and interact whether at work, rest or play. As artists, design thinkers, software engineers and educators focused on human-centered design, we have been fussing about the industry for some time; back to the days when software came in a box, and there was no such thing as a subscription model. Yeah, that far back. We like to think we do a pretty good job of staying on top of industry trends, but let’s face it, it’s better to have LOTS of friends with different backgrounds who have the same passion as we do, but different talents and experiences so we can learn from one another. It makes problem-solving much more fun and design solutions that are much more amazing.

Some time ago (a real long time ago)  I was at a ‘Higher Ed Camp’ in Philadelphia looking to glean from the presenters knowledge I lacked so I could increase my ‘bag of tricks’ to upgrade my current digital projects. That is when I met Nick, a terrific presenter who obviously had A LOT of experience in the technology space surrounding all things digital. How did I know he had that kind of experience, you ask? Simple. His interactive samples were already 5-7 years old, but they looked like they were made with the most current technology. Nick knew how to design in an engaging way so people could interact, regardless of their age or technology prowess. Nick’s experience also came from ‘long ago and far away’ (like me), as he demonstrated how to create a drop shadow in Photoshop without using a button or effect. I knew right then we would be great friends 🙂

I introduced myself, and we have been collaborating ever since serving on industry boards, hosting talks and workshops, and even creating a corporate learning event or two.  

So where do we start when we want to show the design and development process to create amazing learning experiences? Well at the beginning of course, at the VERY beginning. Just so you know, we did not make this stuff up, the tenets of good design have been around for a very long time, people just keep forgetting to use them.

We will be sharing what has helped us launch hundreds of amazing user experiences for our customers, learners, employees who are people just like you, to help you to update, enhance or adopt a process that will enable you to continually grow and develop within your discipline. So get ready, grab a notebook (pencil or digital) and see how you might ‘level’ up your next experiences.