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Episode #56 Excelling at Interaction Design with Kim Goodwin

August 18, 2008  ·  29 minutes

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What is the difference between good and great interaction designers? That is the subject matter for this week’s show, which features a compelling conversation with Kim Goodwin. Kim is the VP of Design and General Manager at Cooper, one of the world’s premier design consultancies, in San Francisco.

Show Notes

What is the difference between good and great interaction designers?

That is the subject matter for this week’s show, which features a compelling conversation with Kim Goodwin. Kim is the VP of Design and General Manager at Cooper, one of the world's premier design consultancies, in San Francisco. She suggests that three traits of great designers include design judgment, communication skills, and the ability to observe people’s behavior and then design something that can give them a good experience.

Design judgment is the ability to know if your solution is good or not. Great designers have the ability to look at their own work with a critical eye, and implement outside suggestions that make their solutions better. Effective critique is essential.

  • The teams at Cooper follow the fifteen minute rule—if you’re experiencing difficulty with a design for fifteen minutes, get another brain in on the solution.
  • Critique early, critique often. Critiques test your solutions and challenge your assumptions.
  • Being solo is tough. Don't have the advantage of a design team? Kim suggests reading is huge supplier of continuous inspiration and education. Analyze well-designed products. Keep sharp by going out and meeting other designers.
  • Good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. Failure is part of the system. Failure is an experience imperative to growth.

Communication skills are incredibly important. Active listening skills are important for extracting the most information out of a conversation. Active listening takes practice.

  • Listen thoughtfully and dig for the needs behind the words.
  • Approach any situation with the axiom “I don’t know what I don’t know.”
  • Don’t lock yourself into a solution until you’ve really soaked in the full scope of the problem. When ideas inevitably pop-up, sketch them out quickly, so you can capture the ideas and then clear them away so they don't distract you from absorbing the total problem.

Be open to the world. Kim’s advice is to make no assumptions, go see the problems.

  • Accept that you may not know the problem as well as you think you do.
  • There are people that may already have the context and solutions. Explore them.
  • Simply be curious about your environment. Designers have boundless curiosity.

Kim has even more thoughts in the podcast about concise communication, time management and collaboration skills, you'll want to give it a listen.

You can hear Kim Goodwin present her workshop, The Essentials of Interaction Design at the User Interface 13 Conference in Cambridge, MA — October 13-16, 2008. She’ll cover fundamental skills like sketching, workflow, storyboarding; and explore innovative techniques to keep the ideas flowing and designers fresh.

How are you staying sharp and curious as a designer? Share your questions and experiences in the comments.