Olivia Dias Bagott: Development Practice

Introduction / Why UXD?

Hi I'm Olivia, I'm currently studying for a Masters in User Experience Design at Falmouth University, and here I'll be reflecting on my experience of the first module, Development practice.

I chose to embark on this course when I reached a point in my career where felt that I needed to be challenged. I'd been my own boss for 2 years, co-founding a small branding studio named Ardea Creative. I identified User Experience Design as a discipline in which I could combine my skill & experience in design with my curiosity for the ways in which digital interactions impact human wellbeing & society. My long term goal is to establish Ardea as an in-demand team of creative professionals, using our expertise to support ethical and socially aware businesses by designing products addressing real–world issues, balancing practicality and elegance with playful, emotive style.

Key Learnings & Challenges

One of my most valuable lessons from this module has been cultivating a reflective professional practice. As Gillie Bolton states in 'The Reflective Practitioner'; "The act of learning requires a flexibility of thought and an ability to accept when we're wrong." As designers we're usually designing for people other than ourselves, so it's of upmost importance that we're able to challenge our assumptions, explore different perspectives to a problem and notice when our design choices may exclude or harm others. (Onafua 2018) I explored examples of discriminatory design in my blog post 'Reflectice Practice, A Social Responsibility'. Learning where designers have made mistakes, often unconsciously, led me to consider questioning biases as an integral part of the design process. Informed by the SCAMPER (Eberle 1996) technique I created a set of questions to challenge my own assumptions during the ideation process. I will be applying these to practical projects in the next module.

Communities of Practice

In her report 'Empowering Designers Through Critical Theory' Callahan points out that designers can wield great power to impact society, (Callahan 2015) fortunately the conversation of social responsibility is building within the design community. I explored this in week 9, when we were encouraged to examine our place in communities of practice. This gave me the push to become a member of Climate Designers, an international group of professionals who focus their creative talents towards solving our climate crisis. I see this as an excellent opportunity to learn from practitioners with years of experience, different expertise and common values. I created SMART goal to keep myself accountable to engage in communities of practice, starting with 1hr a week throughout the next module.

Creative Methodologies & Rapid Ideation

In both rapid ideation tasks I found the 'opposite thinking' ideation process (board of innovation 2020) a helpful tool to challenge my assumptions. In the first RI I switched my perspective from designing for an individual (based on my own experience) to designing for FemTech startups. Further research helped me to identify the need for data-led research solutions to regulate this growing technology sector. I explore this in my blog post 'FemTech Insights & Futures'.

In my second RI task I designed an app to create & share natural sounds from around the world. This started with an investigation into how we can capture the health benefits of nature in urban & indoor environments. I discovered that I was not alone in my curiosity on this topic, the BBC were conducting a large-scale study on natural soundscapes, and their potential application in therapeutic interventions. This RI was my first time using the prototyping tool Adobe XD, so I used it as a chance to experiment and expand my skills. I reached out to my peers who showed me some excellent resources to learn XD prototyping skills on Youtube. In this project I explored how colour is used to guide the eye and signify states. In my earlier reverse engineering of SuperHi.com, I was inspired by their strong use of blue which permeated their brand identity and made for a smooth user experience. Learning that not only can colour evoke emotion, but it can also direct behavior. (Barševska, Rakele. 2019) prompted me to choose a distinctive yellowgreen to guide the users' eye around the interactive features of the app.

Conclusion & Plans

I spoke about reflection as an important part of becoming a critically conscious designer. Yet as Paulo Frerie says one cannot truly perceive the depth of the problem without being involved in some form of action. (Freire 1974) This is why the practice of UX design in an Agile framework involves an iterative cycle of testing ideas with the end users, and therefore requires designers who can adjust to new environments and learn from their experiences. (Boehm 2004)

I feel that my transition into UX design will enable me to have a wider impact on the projects I care about, by developing the practical skills to design iteratively, the theoretical experience to understand how to investigate user behavior and the chance to grow as a reflective and empathetic designer.

I plan to further my learning on inclusive & critical design practices by reading from the following sources. It's important to me that my sources are diverse, hence this list includes a journal which explores decolonizing design, and widely respected thinkers from varied continents:

Design & Culture, The Journal of the Design Studies Forum 🌍

– Mismatch, How Inclusion Shapes Design 🇺🇸

– Researching The Vulnerable, A guide to sensitive research methods 🇹🇭

– Paulo Freire, Education for Critical Consciousness 🇧🇷

Furthermore I'm looking forward to the next module: UX design where we'll be experimenting with practical design methods. I plan to do this through a lens of Inclusive design, referring to the aforementioned texts and questions I defined in this module. Meanwhile developing my practical skills in Figma & XD, exploring how I can balance my bold playful aesthetic with sleek interfaces that are practical and pleasurable to use.