Doing some workshops on usability testing and codesign and one odd issue popped up. Client wants to talk about how organisations want delivery thru certain digital platforms rather than allowing users and content to define platform.

Forming Content

In order to question this presumption I just made the Forming Content exercise. It’s a self-awareness exercise around the Format (moving image, image, audio and text) and Form (smartphone, tablet and TV/monitor) preferences of design team and other stakeholders they encounter.

I do understand that digital projects can start with defined ideas of final platforms but to talk of codesign and be inflexible about…


Fake news and conspiracy theories are problems that many people seem to think can be mitigated by real facts and better reporting. However, this may not be enough because what may hold people’s attention and motivates them around conspiracy theories lies more in our sense of shared communities and individual certainty.

I am writing this now because of an encounter yesterday with people talking about conspiracy theories around Bill Gates and Covid19 vaccinations. They were nice people, fathers of friends of my son, who are articulate and well educated (please note I appear to have a bias here about somehow…


The Spanish Post Office wanted to make a point about racism and developed Equality Stamps to show both the skin colours and values assigned to them. White is explicitly more valuable than Black on the stamps. The point they are making is that this is a bias and it is wrong.

However, without supporting material, using just colour and stamp value, this message gets lost. It can be read as confirming the correctness not the wrongness of the current situation. …


9 images of cards from cover to inside
9 images of cards from cover to inside

I am offering 5 new skills workshops using a new hybrid “Workshop On A Card” format.

Each workshop has the same structure:

  • A greetings card with some new ideas and space for notes
  • A 20–30 minute podcast with more detail on those ideas
  • A 60 minute Zoom encounter to explore ideas and actions together

These workshops are designed to cover a few topics that have come up in my UX and Accessibility work over the last few years and to talk about ideas and skills that are relevant to people wanting to create more human-centered products and services.

Emotional Design


Three postcards overlaid on Alignment, Wayfinding and Network Thinking
Three postcards overlaid on Alignment, Wayfinding and Network Thinking

This post is a few notes on some ideas raised during the Unlearning Design Thinking workshop at the 2021 Information Architecture Conference. They do not replace the basic ideas of Design Thinking (popularised in the Stanford/Google/Double Diamond models). What I am attempting is to use the idea of Alignment to bring system thinking models closer to how human think.

I am now using three postcards to explain these ideas. I will be running some online/offline workshops later this year.

This post has three main sections:

  • Alignment
  • Wayfinding
  • Network Thinking

Alignment


Cartoon frog from Jurassic Park movie
Cartoon frog from Jurassic Park movie

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about accessiBe. It is a product that overlays onto websites to ‘fix’ accessibility problems in the original design. It is an automated tool to solve a problem that other professionals try to fix thru adjusting of original code, using defined web standards and engaging with users to check what problems and solutions actually work. (Advice: do not use accessiBe. Read this post by Adrian Roselli for why).

It is the idea of automation that interests me. Automation is offered as clean technical solution to a problem. …


I live in Stroud. It is a small town in the South West of England. It is mostly set in five valleys, carved out over the years by rivers. The town has both a fairly standard selection of shops and a weekly Farmer’s Market. Our family tries to use both and support the local economy (tho the last year has led to more use of Click And Collect for supermarket and Amazon deliveries). This post is about both what I feel I need to shop more easily and also a discussion of what may be better socially and economically.

There…


There is a theory that people with privilege fund and patronise the arts to prevent futures that threaten their privilege. This generally works but went catastrophically wrong (from their perspective) with the Salons and the French Revolution. This is the idea of the arts acting as reconnaissance for conservatism.

What this means is that the expansion of vocabulary and ways of expressing novel ideas is being watched in order to ensure it does not enable radical change. The most extreme version of this ideal is explained in George Orwell’s 1984 and the explanatory note on Newspeak. …


A 6 minute talk for BA Fringe event on why Normal is a problem and why New Nexts are so important.

Normal as Bait and Switch

One issue raised in the talk is that Normal is often talked of as if it were a neutral mathematical concept. Simply how averages cluster.

However, that is not what Normal is now. Over the last 180 years it has been switched from being such a measurement to a target of a type of person. From describing the typical in a population to a default in any population.

This is why BroTech works. It uses datasets and data…


showing both sides of card about judging your sense of energy available and the intensity of place of activity
showing both sides of card about judging your sense of energy available and the intensity of place of activity

I was sending some Etsy orders this week and Comfort/Capacity Cards were in one package. This post is about my attempts to lose my control in workshops to gain comfort for participants.

Everyone have fun (or else)

I run (even now online) experiential workshops on senses and emotions and it is hard to talk about those subjects without experiencing sensory or emotional moments.

However, there is a serious tension in this. I generally get good feedback for workshops but there are valid criticisms about such individual and group activities. Facilitators have the power (due to the temporary authority of holding a place and a time…

Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

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