Senior UI/UX Designer
Designing interactions is a series of small events over time. Invisible design binds these events together into meaningful experiences. My background is in Industrial Design — but I felt stuck in the old way of working, where everything was in silos. Then I joined a young agency where the barriers between design disciplines were torn down.
“Invisible Design is a collection of considered decisions that make a great experience”
Because today physical and digital interactions simply aren’t siloed. There are computers in everything, connecting people, products and spaces. And great products are holistically considered from the start. Look at Lyft or Uber that recently came to Portland. What a great service. Forget the sharing economy for a second, because that’s not the only reason it’s great. From the moment you request a ride, to when you walk away, it just feels seamless. You know who is picking you up, where they are, how long it will take, and when you reach your destination, you simply get out and walk away. There’s no formal payment procedure and no need to calculate a tip. This is an example of Invisible Design — a collection of considered decisions that make a great experience.
“When done right, no one even notices.”
When we design end-to-end experiences, we finesse every touchpoint along the way. If you go to a great restaurant or cafe, you might think, “That was a good cup of coffee.” or “The food was tasty.” but what tends to leave an impression on you was the vibe of the place. That the servers were polite, it was clean, your chair was comfortable, the menu was on really nice paper, and the lighting was just right. All of these micro-experiences that happen along the way were carefully considered, and we take them for granted, but collectively, they trigger a positive sensation, and when done right, no one even notices.
My wife recently opened a juice cart, so I’ve been envisioning what an ideal experience would be. Imagine a hot summer’s day and you’re hungover. Your pseudo-science brain is telling you that a fresh juice will make up for the hedonistic binge you’ve been on the past couple days. You summon Siri and say, “JUICE”. Siri brings up the most recommended spot near you, and directly links to a dynamic menu: “Fruit or Veggie?” “Orange or Red?” “Spicy or Not?”. Within a few seconds you’re given four recommendations. “Great, I’ll go with the Liver Cleanse”. You order with one click. When you arrive the setup of the cart is incredible, the counters are lowered so it’s more personable, the equipment is elevated so you can see what’s going on, there is fresh produce on display and the owner is focused on making your juice, because there are no distractions — no long order taking process, or fumbling with your credit card.
You take your juice with thanks and walk away. Payment was automatic, and you weren’t even charged this time because it was your 10th purchase, a way for the owner to say thanks for the loyalty, no stamp card necessary.
“Because what we really want is meaning, not just data.”
Later that day the owner is closing up, she can see sales, what is doing well, the number of repeat customers. This is awesome because she can cater to their likes, give relevant suggestions and make it a little more personal. There is an overview of what ingredients were used, what she needs more of, and it’s all clearly visualized in a simple, actionable way. Because what we really want is meaning, not just data.
“You can’t see the vibe of an experience, you have to feel it.”
Invisible design is redefining the way we experience products and services. The scenario described above is entirely possible today. All of the components exist in some form or other, but it’s the way they work together that creates an ideal experience. That’s the beauty of being an interaction designer today — we all have the enabling technologies to bring our concepts to life. Whether you’re designing products or experiences, great design tends to be reductive. And unless we try something, we’ll never really know how desirable it is, or if we should leave it out. Because you can’t see the vibe of an experience, you have to feel it.
Thanks for reading,
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