User Experience & Creativity — UX Talk #22

Creativity is a productive capacity where imagination and reason are linked so that the obtained result is always practically feasible.

Bruno Munari

The 22nd Edition of the UXTALK format discussed the role and requirements of creativity in User Experience practice. How User experience should be able to tell a story by building a sense of astonishment in the user, as it happens in movies, adverts comics or in any other kind of less ordinary narrative. What is creativity? How does it apply to user experience? How creativity could change the way we currently practice UX?

For this special event, we had the honour to host two exceptional guests:

Watch the full video of the event

Below there are two short extracts from their keynotes.

Joahn Liedgren: a narrative needs to be both inevitable and surprising

It’s not THIS experience, it’s the promise of what might come next. UX: create desire. Create promise.

Creativity is what makes something meaningful. This approach applies similarly to the relationship between design and user experience, transforming an experience into something purposeful. Creativity is not what makes something prettier or best selling, but is what gives the product or the experience the significance, the sense. Creativity is what gives purpose and the forward direction to anything.

Obviously, this sounds as the best approach also in a commercial project, yet it is still in strong contrast to what the majority of companies currently do when delivering a product.

Joahn Liedgren states that creativity is to build a story, therefore how could we think about User Experience as a narrative?

Experience is not just a slice in time or a specific moment, rather a succession of events. If the beginning of the experience is the same as its end, the story lived in the experience won’t be meaningful.

The beginning will need to lead the user to something else that, likewise will entail in something different and so on and so forth by adding complexity to the story. We keep exploring if the promise of what comes next holds the promise of being both inevitable (relevant) and surprising at the same time: this is the core of narrative desire.

“As a matter of fact narrative is always complex, but if complexity is strictly linked to narrative, how can complexity be applied in User Experience?”

Joahn Liedgren

How could we apply the complexity of a narrative in user experience and why we should embrace complexity in user experience?

The beginning of a story anticipates some level of complexity of the narrative, the audience needs to receive part of the knowledge in order to desire to discover how the story will continue. We need to convince the audience to stay and keep hearing the story.

This should apply seamlessly to User Experience, creating something that provokes curiosity in the users to deepen in that experience. Hence, each step of an experience should create a feeling of desire for the following step.

Currently User Experience is “Inevitable”: when we click or interact with a platform, we expect a response by this action. Therefore what will happen after performing the action of clicking an icon is always going to be expected. But it shouldn’t be enough. The user should be surprised in order to feel the urge to keep experiencing and interacting with the platform: the experience should include the correct amount of expected and unexpected elements in other to be both surprising but inevitable.

User Experience Designers should promise the user that on each step towards the end of the experience, a new beginning with a new level of complexity is set up. It will give to the user the possibility to continuously have a very different and unexpected experience.

This is the reason why we should embrace complexity: the more complexity we can embrace in a single narrative, the more alive and interesting the experience will be. Stories are alive, and complexity is what makes them alive.

Inevitable but surprising, complexity is made of conflicts, the biggest part of the story is made by conflicts, adding complexity to the narrative. It is what is missing from UX Design. The complexity in the experience is not what companies wish to include in their platforms but conflicts and frictions are the elements that users remember at the end of the day and at the end of the experience.

There is no story without conflict.

Watch the full keynote by Joahn Liedgren

Elisabetta Balconi: “The designer’s point of view”

Creativity is a human driver. You need to create an emotional connection with people. It’s what they do with the experience and how they interact with it that matters, otherwise it’s just a void container”

Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi, founders of DixonBaxi

At the very beginning of a project, the designer should always investigate what he or she wants the user to experience. Elisabetta walked us through one of her personal projects, O Ye Light and Darkness: A tribute to Scotland, in order for us to deep dive into the mind of a designer working on a meaningful project.

O Ye Light and Darkness || A tribute to Scotland

Elisabetta’s personal project was born after few of her trips to Scotland over the years. The project includes photography, poetry and design, it celebrates the harsh, gloomy and the mesmerising landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye.

What makes her project standing out from being a mere tourist postcard on Scotland, is her strong personal filter. Her creativity is the key point that gives meaning to the whole project. Her wish of sharing what she felt and how she perceived the Scottish landscape and culture is what pushed her on thinking about every single detail of the experience the project would have on the user.

During the very first stages of the project the designer should think about what kind of feeling wants to share and how. What is the message that should arrive to the viewer. The project should speak for the designer.

How is it possible to leave a mark by doing a project? How, thanks to creativity, the project could create emotions in people? How to involve people and push them to be curious to get to the end of the project?

This challenge applies seamlessly when working on a platform, website, product or a mobile app.

The first step in a project is starting by exploring references. Projects shown are by hardalstudio.com, elkineditions.com, cubiclejournal.com

When working on a project the goal should be to design an appropriate emotional experience. When thinking about the story to share, it is necessary to envision how it will look like and what will be the feeling of the story visually speaking. What will be the overall mood of the project. The first step to designing a correct experience is to start by exploring what already exists, and organising the material on a mood-board. This will easily lead to new approaches and methods.

Be that as it may, what are the details that influence the overall mood of the experience? How to leave a mark on the user?

Design is a deep dive approach that tackles every subtle nuances. Design is creating an experience in a team group and user experience is in every part of the product.

Watch the full keynote by Elisabetta Balconi

These lectures were held during the 22nd UX Talk organised for the students of the Master in User Experience Psychology by Politecnico di Milano & Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and of the Higher Education Course in User Experience Design by POLI.design. Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook to be updated about the upcoming UX Talks, always open to the public.

A polytechnic centre of excellence dedicated to User Experience - by POLIdesign.

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