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UX Instructor Interview: Julia Morton

JuliaMorton_HeadshotUCLAExtension4.26.2015We’re excited to share with you an interview with one of our incredible instructors, Julia Morton! Julia is a UX Designer at Fandango and teaches our UX: Mobile course here at UCLA Extension. She will be teaching UX: Mobile in fall 2016.

  1.       What brought you to this field?

I was getting my Masters in Library and Information Studies at UCLA when I fell in love with the way UX design marries art and science to make life better for people. Taking design thinking classes, it hit me — what does it matter if you have a fabulous library collection if no one can find what’s in it? The idea of designing for better access inspired me. What motivates me now is the hope that my work can help folks enjoy or accomplish their end goals rather than have to think about how an interface functions.

 

Before I studied it, I used to think ‘design’ was about making toys for rich people, like $15,000 watches, or about luxury utility, like how maybe you can afford to have one well-designed task chair in your apartment, and it becomes a sacred object. That never struck me as much fun.

 

One of the things I love about UX design is that it’s for everyone who is using your product or service, and people expect websites and apps to be designed well enough that they don’t have to think about how to use them. That’s the great thing – these days, folks are upset when a site or app doesn’t meet their needs; we assume that sites and apps should just work.

 

  1.       Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

I work at Fandango. One of the more impactful projects I’ve gotten to work on was developing a digital movie ticket that people can use to show a ticket taker and get right into the movie they’re going to go see, with no scanning technology needed. I loved this project because it’s something that genuinely makes people’s lives easier, from the person who is walking into the theater to the ticket taker, who doesn’t have to use special equipment to check the ticket.

 

The work itself for this project was so much fun because it required a huge amount of collaboration with developers, business folks, and visual design. The idea sounds so simple as to be trivial, right? But we needed to take into consideration all sorts of edge cases, ways to avoid fraud, and ways to make sure people who aren’t used to using it would understand it. I’m tremendously lucky to get to work with fabulous teams — all of my most fun projects have involved lots of collaboration with tech, and have ended up somewhere I couldn’t have imagined when we started out.

 

  1.       Why is your course, UX Mobile, important for my UX education?

 

Mobile web and apps are huge channels for people to engage with digital products and services, and many companies these days work by designing mobile first. There are a couple of reasons it’s a good idea to learn how to focus specifically on mobile design:

 

1) Mobile is often the most important platform and the hardest to make prioritization decisions about, because there is less space available. Also, your user likely has less time on mobile. When you learn how to design for mobile first, it becomes much easier to take care of the other platforms afterward.

 

2) There are a number of mobile device-specific functions that offer huge advantages, such as location services, accelerometer, and camera/mic/photo/contacts integrations, and learning to think with them in mind expands what you can do.

 

3) In class, we look at Android and iOS, the two dominant operating systems used in mobile these days. Each system has a specific set of conventions, and it’s worth taking time to understand them and learn how to stay up to date with their rapid changes.

 

4) Because UX is a field where you learn by doing, the class is project based. You’ll do lots of work both in and out of class, get lots of feedback, and end up with a prototype that abides by the conventions and practices of mobile design.

 

  1.       Do you have a sample assignment?

 

Create a persona for your product, not just for your users! This is a great idea I recently learned from an Alastair Somerville conference talk (his Twitter handle is @Acuity_design, if you want to check him out).

 

By now, creating personas to represent the people who will be using your product is a well known step in the UX design process. Sometimes we make personas for stakeholders, too.

 

What we think of less often is that the product or service we are designing will be imbued with personality, perspective, and values, all shaped by what we put into it. That’s why it’s a great idea to create a persona for your product or service: it helps you define and understand what you’re building, which in turn helps you make the connection between it and your users.

 

  1.       Any advice for UX designers just starting out?

 

Keep thinking critically about how to do things. Interface patterns are useful because people recognize them and know how to use them, but we all have a responsibility to keep moving interface conventions forward when we come up with something better.

 

Keep building your ability to empathize with your users. Your ‘beginner’s eye’ is a precious resource – yes, your thinking will become more sophisticated as you develop, but pay attention to your first thoughts and reactions. Contemplate your ideas rather than discarding them as the dross of ignorance. You might learn something unexpected, or you might start thinking about something that will bear fruit in years to come.
When it comes to mobile design, keep your tap targets large, my friends. Keep those tap targets large.

 

See one of Julia’s sample assignments here: CharacterAppSiteTemplate2016

 

LA River Shoot for Photography II

We were thrilled to have Craig Havens back teaching with us for the spring quarter. His Photography II students got some valuable hands-on experience during three field trips to Downtown LA, the LA River, and Joshua Tree.

Though Craig’s now back in Berlin, he’ll be teaching Photographic Composition online during the summer quarter. Below are some images from their trip to the LA River (all photos by Craig Havens).

Havens 2 Havens 3 Havens 4 Havens 5 Havens 6 Havens 7

The Colors of the Flood: Joe Blaustein’s Photos of the Flood of the Arno

In November 1966, Florence, Italy experienced a catastrophic flood. The Arno River overflowed, killing over a hundred people and damaging thousands of priceless works of art.

Joe Blaustein, who teaches in our studio arts program, was living in Italy during the time of the flood. His color pictures, from the immediate aftermath, have been included in an upcoming book The Colors of the Flood. The book will be published shortly, but in the meantime, take a look at some images. Joe and his family are featured in the first one.

Congrats to Joe on this remarkable historical record, and his recognition from the city of Florence! You can see more information on the site The Florence Flood.

Flood 2Flood 1Flood 3 Flood 4

Course spotlight: Advanced Typography (online) with Anya Farquhar

SP15_AdvancedTypographyWe were thrilled when expert designer Anya Farquhar not only joined our instructor team but also agreed to help us bring the course Advanced Typography into the online world!

What can you achieve in this awesome class? Check out this gallery of student work:

Enroll in Advanced Typography (online) today!

Interview with Instructor Chris Becker

DesignThinking 1
Chris Becker will be teaching Design Thinking II this upcoming Summer 2015 quarter. He’ll bring creativity, insight, and develop unique visions with all who join him in this exciting class.

We talked to Chris about his work, his class and his advice for the would-be UX Designers and beyond.

chris becker

Can you describe your current practice? What projects are you working on or hoping to start soon?

As a UX Designer / Interaction Designer / Design Researcher / Educator, my practice has been focusing on the interplay between systems (websites, app platforms, software & learning systems) and design / design education. I have been using the design thinking process as a foundation for which all of my work stems. By leaning on the process I have been able to show my clients and my class rooms that design is not only fun but has ability to be innovative and necessary.

I am currently working with early stage startup: a neuroscience based brain mentoring platform called mymntr.com out of San Francisco and have started on a responsive website redesign of a major university in Colorado.

Can you describe your Design Thinking II class that you will be teaching in Summer?

Design Thinking II will take a deeper dive into the design thinking process. We will be exploring and improving our design thinking methodology through 3 distinct design thinking cycles. 1 short cylce, 1 medium cycle, and one long cycle. Since design thinking is a way of approaching problem solving, this course will engage your critical making, out of the box thinking, creativity, and prototyping skills. All along the way we will be improving our ability to develop insights and forage through an iterative innovation cycle with a goal of producing clear and unique solutions at varying levels of finish from sketching to working prototypes.

The DTII course is built on a workshop based interaction which will require highly collaborative discussions, in class testing of ideas, and lively brainstorming / insight gathering & problem definitions. Students will leave with an nuanced knowledge of the design thinking process and 12 weeks of practice and documentation of using the methodology for solving design problems.

Design-is-a-process

What do you hope students walk away from your class with?

Design Thinking 2 students will walk away with a growing confidence in using the design thinking methodology as well as 3 projects that illustrate their usefulness and problem solving abilities. Furthermore they will grow their ability to articulate and document the design thinking process and show how they move from insight gathering through problem solving prototyping.

What advice would you have for people who are thinking about pursuing User Experience Design or a related Design field as a profession?

Some advice.
Try not to be defined by deliverables like wireframes or sitemaps. The “oh you make wireframes syndrome” diminishes the vast umbrella of impact a User Experience Designer can think about inside any company or system.

Concentrate on and show how human centered design methodologies can improve business and the impact of experience on your users.

User Experience is a relatively new and growing field of practice and it needs to be internalized by industry from a foundational perspective so be part of showing how and why it matters. Then go out and make awesome stuff.

Enroll in his Summer class Here

Greatest Illustrator I posters ever

How can you not want to take Illustrator I (online) with new instructor Eric Rosner after checking these out:

 

 

Instructor Spotlight: Richard Barkinskiy

hamstervalhallaWe’re thrilled to welcome HTML5 instructor Richard Barkinskiy! An outstanding graduate of our very own Advanced Web & Interaction Design program, Richard is a digital application specialist for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He specializes in WordPress website development with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, and MySQL.

Richard fields our “big four” questions here:

What brought you to this field?

Web development is in constant flux, always keeping me challenged. It requires patience, planning and determination to execute every web site. Although at times it can be frustrating, it’s never boring.

Today websites are more than just online brochures. They contain videos, interactive images, games and everything in-between. If there was ever a profession for a curious mind, I can’t think of a better one than website development.

www.discoveriesmagazine.orgTell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

Working for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has given me many opportunities to further strengthen my web development skills. One such opportunity was creating the Discoveries Magazine website in 2012.

The Discoveries Magazine publication chronicles the latest research conducted at Cedars-Sinai with moving photography, stylistic typography and engaging stories that help bring to life the work undertaken at the medical center. I was tasked to bring the same level of professional and innovation to the web.

I sought to build a website that not only took advantage of HTML5 semantics, but employed responsive website design techniques. At the time, responsive website design was just a concept being discussed by the web community, not as the de facto approach to website development it is today.

Taking a calculated risk, I presented the responsive website design idea to various stakeholders and was entrusted to create a website unlike anything they had ever seen before.

Having no prior experience building a responsive website, I did my best to soak in as much information regarding the technique. With the deadline looming, I tackled the project and launched the website about two months after its conception. The website was one of the first built with responsive website design for Cedars-Sinai and most recently earned a 2013 Eddie award for an online publication.

Why is your course, HTML5, important for my design education?www.zugotruck.com

Understanding key fundamentals of modern website design is paramount in constructing the next generation of websites. The web today is accessible on multitude of devices—from laptops and tablets to smartphones and gaming consoles. It’s now, more than ever, imperative in understanding how to code with accuracy and employ modern best practice techniques effectively in order to engage online visitors on any device that connects to the web.

Do you have sample work?

www.runforher.com

Utilizing HTML5 and CSS3, I constructed responsive landing page for the Run for Her event. The Run for Her event supports ovarian cancer research and awareness and this year has grown to include events in the Bay Area and New York in addition to Los Angeles. The homepage needed to consist of links to the various events, a feed to the event’s photo gallery and video—all while remaining responsive.

www.discoveriesmagazine.org

Incorporating “Art Directed” techniques in bringing the printed publication to the web, I have helped transform stories from print to an engaging online presence utilizing HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery.

www.pink-party.orgwww.zugotruck.com

Building the Zugo Liquitarian website was a fun project where I got to tap into my creative side and build a website for the best juice truck in Los Angeles. I utilized jQuery to help deliver Instagram’s API onto the homepage.

Additional websites: www.pink-party.org, www.hamstervalhalla.com, www.nvenv.com

Welcome, Richard!

Instructor Spotlight: Benjamin Woodlock

Ben WoodlockWe’re thrilled to welcome new Typography (beginning fall 2014) and Advanced Typography (beginning summer 2014) instructor Benjamin Woodlock! A CalArts MFA grad, Benjamin now runs Subtext Office, a Los Angeles-based foundry and graphic design studio specializing in custom and retail typefaces, branding and publication design.

Benjamin fields our “big four” questions here:

What brought you to this field?

My path to design was through music. For a while I recorded and toured with an indie-rock band. We started a little label and did everything ourselves, so one of my jobs was to make posters for every show. When we started out, I had almost no skills or knowledge about design, but little by little I got better at it and started to fall hard for typography. I went back to school to get my masters which is where I started really geeking out by learning typeface design. Now my work is split between more traditional graphic design–mostly focused on branding and editorial work—and custom typeface design. When I can find some free time, I spend it working on a couple of typefaces that I’m developing for retail.

Tell us about an especially rewarding project you’ve worked on and why you enjoyed it so much.

Last year, CalArts asked me to create a typeface to expand their branded communications. They wanted a three-style font based on their logo and I was lucky to get the commission right after an intense MFA experience there. Calarts has an amazing, vibrant, and bonkers tradition of typeface design so I was a little terrified at first trying to draw on all of it as inspiration for an institutional typeface. Fortunately, the project moved so quickly I didn’t really have time to freak out—it was a blur of drawing, revising and kerning. It was exciting how fast “McBean” came together and it is really rewarding to see them use it in so many different ways.

Why is your course, Advanced Typography, important for my design education?

Designers today need to go beyond just practicing good typography, which is a complicated enough task as is. Great typography needs to solve a complex equation: it has to be clear, inventive, complex, balanced and expressive, among other things. We are lucky to be designers right now because the wealth of typefaces and digital tools at our disposal means that there are endless possibilities for typographic expression. Advanced Typography provides a forum for stretching muscles and taking risks, while confronting the sort of challenging problems that typographers are asked to solve in the real world.

Do you have a sample assignment?

Here’s a teaser: since we’re in LA, the first project will revolve around the branding and marketing of film. All the projects in Advanced Typography will focus on two areas of growth. First, they ask students to experiment and explore the limitless possibilities of typography. That means pushing beyond boundaries to create innovative and unexpected solutions. At the same time, the work focuses on typographic complexity by engaging dynamic systems to handle many layers of information. Most of the projects will be open-ended in terms of format—so students can answer the brief in ways that interest them, whether that be a printed piece, a website, motion graphics, or something completely different. I’m looking forward to surprising ideas and approaches!

A poster for the Calarts Visiting Design Lecture Series. The title treatment is the result of a multi-stage analogue and digital process, reflective of Oh Yeah Studio's unique approach to design.  Screenprint; edition of 15.

A poster for the Calarts Visiting Design Lecture Series. The title treatment is the result of a multi-stage analogue and digital process, reflective of Oh Yeah Studio’s unique approach to design.
Screenprint; edition of 15.

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