Best Design Articles of 2012

January 10, 2013 in Notes from the Field
David Bishop
Strategic Design Lead

Welcome to 2013… I was going to collect a “best design articles of 2012” list, but when I started to curate the list, I ended up with books, videos, and articles that stray from Design but should be read anyway.

In any case, MAYAns are always trying to advance our craft, growing and learning, challenging each other. I’ve looked through a number of internal “you should all read this” emails, a few of our favorite feeds, and so on, to collect this list of recommended items. Remember, by “design,” we mean Human Centered Design in its broadest sense, whether you’d like to call it Product Design, Interaction Design, Design Thinking, Experience Design, or Information Architecture.

The List: Best Design Articles of 2012:

First, I must point out that MAYA produced two notable books in 2012. The first was developed by our sister company, LUMA Institute. LUMA helps organizations learn and apply the discipline of Human-Centered Design and uses this book as the textbook for their workshops.
Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods

MAYA also published a book in 2012; it’s about Design, but it’s also about complexity, the future of interconnected devices and living in a sea of information.
Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology

From the Pacific Standard: Put Down the iPad, Lace Up the Hiking Boots. This nice article came out at the end of the year, and reminds us that if we want to design, if we want to innovate, we’ve got to get away from the technology. Maybe you intuited this; here it is in concise format, with good references.
Related: research that shows there is literally something to the metaphor “thinking outside the box.” Students who walked freely came up with ideas that were 25% more original than those who walked in a rectangle marked out on the floor with tape. Reported in the New York Times with some additional details later filled in by NPR.

This article is from 2011; in any case, we became aware of it in 2012. It’s a short treatise that outlines the six disciplines necessary if a company is going to excel in creating good products and user experiences. Megan’s list is well-aligned to what we have been saying at MAYA for 20 years, and she’s additionally pointed out the need for governance and strategy.

David Rock’s Harvard Business review article, Three Ways to Think Deeply at Work isn’t about design per se, but about how to use more of your brain’s potential (specifically at work). At MAYA, we’re always interested in learning about how we think, how to reliably conceive designs, and how to evaluate and refine ideas.

For some levity: If you’re a fan of buzzwords or if you’ve followed the “Stuff People Say” internet meme in early 2012 you should find this entertaining. Wait for “The synergy of the gamification of cross-mobile platforms.” [Stuff] Interaction Designers Say I sincerely hope this isn’t how MAYAns sound when we speak; we go out of our way to speak (and design) without using jargon.

Vinod Khosla produced a list he called The Unhyped Dozen. I liked the idea — he’s asking “What else new has the potential to be truly disruptive or establish a new category in the domain of consumer Internet / mobile / services?”

Jeff Sauro has an excellent blog about measuring usability. In 2012, he completed a study comparing a 4-expert Heuristic Analysis to a 50-participant usability study. MAYA has been recommending Heuristic Analyses (or “expert usability audits”) for years as a first step to finding issues before running a more full-blown usability test; Jeff has some good data about the effectiveness of Heuristic Analysis. To wit:

  • The heuristic analysis found 32% of the 50 usability issues from the usability test.
  • The heuristic analysis found 100% of the top 10 issues (phew) (I was worried there for a second).
  • There were few/no false positives.

Have a great year!

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