Back to Basics with SMB Ottawa

On Wednesday, May 18, I decided to attend my first Social Media Breakfast. The environment, people, venue and speaker were remarkable. Let’s just say this will not be my last SMB.

After a remarkable homemade muffin breakfast, we got to hear the words of wisdom of Algonquin College professor, Martin Gomez.

Martin Gomez is a graphic designer with eight years web design experience in international entertainment industry. He is currently a part-time professor in Graphic Design program at Algonquin College.

Martin’s talk was a 25 minute compressed review of his semester-long class on graphic design.

He title his talk: designing for humans. A valuable lesson indeed. Nowadays, with so much technology involved in our lives, we tend to forget as designers, communicators or even project managers, even though we may use a machine to communicate with our audience, our audience remains human.

Martin broke it down in to four points we should all remember when designing something for our audience, be it a product or a website:

  1. Conventions
  2. Sometimes the best way to do it is the way it has been done all along.

    For example: think of how a person reads a website. They look at the top left corner than move down, making almost an F formation. That is the convention. Therefore, don’t put your logo on the bottom right corner, the reader won’t pay attention to it.

  3. User-centered design
  4. Ask yourself, how are people going to use it?

    For example: if you are building a website, how are your users most likely going access your website, mobile browser? Home computer? Tablet? What time of day will they access it? At work? At home? During the day with the kids?

    It is important to plan for usability tests, these can be formal or informal. Set up a formal focus group, or simply ask your dad to use the site and record any patterns.

  5. Simplicity
  6. Less options = less thinking =more enjoyment


    Take the example of the ColecoVision controler with the cool design (for its time) and lots and lots of buttons to choose from. Then take a look at the Nintendo controler: small, less buttons with a simple design.

    History showed us that Nintendo won this game.

  7. Innovation
  8. The last point almost seems to go against the last three points.

    Innovation should be so intuitive that the user automatically forgets convention. A good example of this is iPod. MP3 after MP3 was created for years. Companies tried to make them smaller, cooler looking, but along came a heavy bar of soap that could play all your music. The moment our thumbs touched the track pad the world fell in love.

To finish off his lesson, Martin reminded us of the three things a user asks of a designer:

Don’t make me think
Don’t waste my time
Show me what to do

Well, I hope I was able to capture the inspiring moments of Martin’s presentation.

Are you a designer? What are your suggestions for the perfect design? Leave a comment and share it with us all.

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