Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

There is this programming term “failing gracefully,” which basically means that when things go wrong the program is designed to do its best to course correct or give the user another option. Often in this field of interaction design, especially with young designers like myself, there is hesitation on our part to show our failures, even when we corrected them or learned from our mistakes. The more I delve into this world, and in particular the task of landing a job or internship, the more I am reminded that hiring managers do not want to see just the final product that we have created. Rather, they usually are more interested in the process of creating the product than the product itself. Hiring managers want to see every step you took to get there, even the mis-steps. As is the mantra of every middle school math test ever taken, “Show your work.”

Perhaps if we were producing paintings to be hung in a gallery, things would be different. (Not to say that those gallery artists did not do months of pre-production work). As it is, though, we are creating interactions that are constantly evolving based on user experiences, feedback, and the rise of new programs and platforms. If we are not showing the journey from user research, to sketching, to framing, to prototyping, to creation, and back again, then we are only doing an injustice to ourselves. Certainly no one expects near-perfection straight out of the gate. That is an illusory enigma that every designer is constantly chasing. It is the human condition to try and show people the best version of ourselves, even if that is a total misrepresentation of who we truly are. It can feel counter-intuitive to our goals to present ourselves as less than perfect. The reality, however, is that we will fail; It is inevitable. So, let us then embrace how we failed and gracefully turned around the experience to create something even better.


A few weeks ago, me and my fellow sophomore interaction design students had our sophomore show at CCA, where we got to display our work from the year. Here’s my section of the show and another student playing Analog Strangers on the Rift.

All-in-one digital table for Ikea suggests recipes based on leftover ingredients

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: a team of students have created a concept kitchen table for Ikea, which acts as an integrated cooking hob and dining table and can suggest recipes based on ingredients you put on it (+ movie).


Interaction Design (IxD) defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems.

Where does it fit within design?

IxD is a subset of UX Design that comes from Human Computer Interactions and ergonomics. It’s interrelated to UI design.

You can break it down into micro & macro interactions.


Macro is considering the UX, specifically flows, and asks: “What’s our distal goal?”  

Micro-level UI

Micro is more UI. What feedback do you get on a specific page? Recommended read Micro Interactions by Dan Saffer. 

How are users interacting? Mouse events and gestures, known as affordances.

Affordances are qualities that make a potential actions possible. For every affordance there should be a signifier, some sort of indicator or signal in the physical or social world that can be interpreted meaningfully.

For example, hover state is an affordance.

What is the signifier? How can you tell that there is a potential action? It needs to be separate and distinguishable from other elements. For an example, check out this product page from Warby Parker and hover over the eye glasses. The mouse changes states, indicating a potential action.

So what’s the anatomy of a mouse movement or gesture? 

Mouse Events

  • click up

  • click down and or hold

  • scroll X,Y

  • right click (two finger, cmd+click)

  • hover state 

  • drag

  • double click

  • speed

  • sound


  • tap, double tap

  • swipe: right to left and left to right (start position > end point)

  • flick

  • speed

  • acceleration

  • direction

  • temperature

  • pressure

  • multitouch

  • duration

  • rotation

Bill Scott and Theresa Neil gave us 6 handy principles of Interaction Design. 

Make it direct.

How immediate is the action? Allow users to interact quickly and efficiently with your design by not obfuscating functionality. 

Keep it lightweight.

Allow of micro-interactions that don’t take your user out of the flow. Check out Little Big Details for inspiration. 

Stay on the page.

Reduce the need for adding extra content by using elements like overlays, i.e., a dropdown menu or pop up. At Bonobos, their checkout flow doesn’t take you off your current page until you are ready to pay.

Provide invitations.

Give your user the tools to understand where they are headed. Use explicit calls to action, and don’t leave your user wondering where to go next. 

Use Transitions. 

Illustrate the action just taken. Below, the iPhone lock screen has a great example of this. If you tap on the camera icon, the screen bounces up slightly, indicating to the user that they should swipe up. 

React Immediately.

Respond directly to input, changing input, indicate progress, prevent errors before they happen. 

You’ve heard it before.

Sir Isaac Newton said, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Interaction Design is about crafting those reactions and anticipating those actions to surprise and delight your user!

UX-related Quotes/Notes

These get me through my day. I don’t remember the exact specifics of where most of these came from, most likely from reading (i.e. It’s Our Research) or conferences/workshops/classes (i.e. Adaptive Path, ARTIFACT, Idean, SVA) that I’ve attended. I just thought I’d share some stuff from my personal notebook. Hopefully someone else also finds these useful or motivating?

Induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than the methodology, design, technology, etc… (But always be aware of existing and upcoming technological development in order to propose appropriate opportunities for solutions)

If you have five things you need someone to do, are those things easily found and understood in your interface?

Always look for: emotional cues, relationships, sequence, exceptions
Always do: ask why, be able to explain your thoughts to an outsider, be able to teach another
Always compare: processes, to others, across time

An answer that generates a discussion is a good sign. Keep stakeholders focused on business, not technology. Offer only findings (as a researcher), not recommendations (you should do that together with your client).

Designers are better at viewing strategies from the outside, in, and working with incomplete information.

Discover what users really value and tell their stories so stakeholders can understand and empathize.

“Be conservative in what you send; be liberal in what you accept.” –Jon Postel

What info can you give the user at this point to tip their decision to your favor? Help them make their choice.

Kick-off = building consensus

Invite others to tell their stories / create their versions of your product
*Your product is not the end of your user’s story, it’s the beginning!

The story’s heart should be about connecting people, not about the tool.

“Ask _____ about _____” instead of “Search for _____ on _____”

As a designer, you bring the big pictures (outside perspective) back into internal, siloed teams who don’t get the same exposure.

“Care deeply; be bold.” – Laura Faulkner
(To be the expert or to be humble enough to start over.)

SMC One of First 15 California Community Colleges to Offer Bachelor’s Degree

Santa Monica College student Casey MacAllister, 25, dropped out of college to support her family in 2008 when the stock market crashed. Then, she returned to SMC to take graphic and web design courses, because she stumbled on her dream career: Interaction Design (IxD). MacAllister started looking at four-year programs and could find only two in California that offered bachelor’s degrees in interaction design, also called “user experience design”.

The degrees at these two colleges cost around $160,000 – more than she could afford.

Last year, SMC submitted a proposal to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design to the Chancellor’s office and on Monday, May 18, received final approval from the California Community Colleges Board of Governors to be part of a landmark pilot program allowing 15 community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in a field of study not offered by the California State University or University of California. SMC’s bachelor’s degree in interaction design will cost a little over $10,000 – a sharp contrast to $160,000.

Over 100 letters of support poured in to affirm the need for SMC’s degree from Los Angeles tech and entertainment companies including giants like Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox TV, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Amazon Web Services.

“For us, this has been about our students first, and also about fulfilling our mission to create a competitive workforce to keep California on the economic cutting edge,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “We are thrilled at the prospect of training our students for a career that pays well and will launch many of them into the middle class, while meeting a dire need in our tech industry.”

The median salary for Interaction or User Experience Design professionals in Southern California is $115,000, according to a 2014 salary survey.

“The Interaction Design field has evolved so quickly, even the tech industry can barely keep up with its growth – the shortage of skilled interaction designers is just overwhelming,” said Steve Vincent, Vice President, Music & Soundtracks for Disney Channel Worldwide. “We need these graduates to continue our symbiotic relationship with the economy of Los Angeles and California.”

Daniel Ice, founder of LA-based startup Commerce.io, found it even more difficult to find qualified interaction designers than engineers. The rise of mobile applications or “apps” changing how people interact with digital things is credited with interaction design finding its own niche.

Jill DaSilva, a single mom and former business owner, relocated from Orange County to attend SMC, the only school that she found offered what hiring managers were looking for in graphic and web design. She made $40,000 a year at her first job with a tech startup in Santa Monica, after completing SMC’s certificates in graphic and web design. In two years, she was making $120,000. But, said DaSilva, a bachelor’s degree would have helped her command a higher salary.

“I am living proof of why SMC is the perfect place for this degree – they gave me the foundation I needed to be successful,” said DaSilva, currently Head of User Experience Design at General Assembly, a training center for tech professionals in Santa Monica.

And as for Casey MacAllister, SMC’s bachelor’s degree is nothing short of a dream come true.

“To think that I would be set up for a great career with so many options and not have to worry about debt weighing me down – I can’t tell you what that means,” she said.

The Interaction Design program will be housed in the design and media campus – formerly known as the Academy of Entertainment and Technology – which is currently undergoing an $89 million redesign and slated for a spring 2016 opening. The 120-unit baccalaureate degree will offer ways for students to also earn an associate’s degree or a certificate in interaction design. Check out www.smcdesigntech.org for updates.

UX Research Tools: Ethnographic Frameworks

image courtesy of Lisa B. Woods 

As of the past few weeks I’ve been exposed to this concept of frameworks. First by design research professor Erin Muntzert at CCA, and then through further secondary research.

My understanding of frameworks to date are they enable ethnographers and ux researchers to synthesize data in new ways to reveal new ideas and opportunities for products and services within a given opportunity or problem space.

I’m collecting as many links as I can on the subject and this is what I’ve found so far.

I Heart Frameworks by Artefact Group’s Masuma Henry - a nice overview of how frameworks can be applied in the design process.

My Gardening Experience by Lisa B. Woods - I love the visual interpretation of these frameworks as infographics.

Recording Ethnographic Observations by Jono Hey - a survey of various frameworks to explore.

Ethnography in the Field of Design by Christine Wasson - a history of frameworks and ethnography’s penetration into the world of industrial design.

Entrepreneurial Design has been quite the process (see photo above)! I experienced the TechCrunch of Initiation and Wearing Off of Novelty in my first project, and am now residing in the Trough of Sorrow. In an attempt to complete one of the other assignments we have, I cold emailed someone I admire and managed to get myself pretty excited about the possibility of getting to chat with this person. 

To my surprise (sorta), I was turned down for a coffee chat/Google Hangout. Maybe I was too optimistic, but this was a REAL blow to my pride. I read tons of articles about the art of cold emailing and even used the semi-creepy service, Crystal, to figure out which email styles would and wouldn’t work, all to be rejected. After this, I basically packed my things and moved to the Trough of Sorrow. I was pretty down on myself and ultimately, it led to me self sabotaging my Surprise & Delight project. 

It’s hard to get back on the horse after taking a risk and feeling like you’re the single point of failure. It’s worse not knowing what you did wrong, so you can fix it. I value mistakes when I know what went wrong or how I was perceived, but this makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong and I can’t fix it. As a designer, I’m a fixer, so I want to fix this, but I have no idea where to begin. So much so, that I couldn’t even move forward on other projects. I sat down multiple times to share my Surprise & Delight event and each time I was too afraid to press send, out of fear of rejection. Thinking to myself, “What if people don’t participate?” and “Is this the right time?”. 

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is: DON’T WORK ALONE. Something about failing with others softens the blow and allows you to support one another in moving on to the next project. I’m not sure how this lesson will apply to sending cold emails, but maybe I’m meant to find network connections to the people I want to be introduced to instead of sending cold emails.