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[Interview] Gear Sport: Designing a Smartwatch for the Everyday Athlete

Featuring a full suite of premium fitness features, a stylish yet practical design, and an enhanced and intuitive user interface, Samsung’s recently released Gear Sport smartwatch was designed to help people get more out of their day, and live a healthy and well-balanced life.

 

Here, two of the minds behind the Gear Sport’s design, Product Planner Sungjin Kim and UX Designer Hayeong Jeong, discuss Samsung’s efforts to design a sports watch that’s in a league of its own.

 

 

Q. Who was the Gear Sport designed for?

 

Kim: Our chief priority when designing the Gear Sport was to introduce a smartwatch that featured new, easy-to-use functions that allowed users to go ‘beyond fitness’.

 

Conventional sports watches tend to be huge and heavy, and designed mainly for those who are interested in pushing their bodies to the limit to reach peak condition. We’ve tailored the Gear Sport to those who want to work out and stay in shape, but aren’t necessarily interested in becoming a pro athlete.

 

 

The result is a smartwatch that’s sleek, comfortable and great for everyday wear, and packed with features that empower users to get the most out of a workout whenever they wish. We set out to design a device that struck a fine balance between stylish design and powerful, fitness-focused function, and we’ve been delighted to hear that the result of our efforts has gotten great feedback from users.

 

 

Q. What are some of the ways that the Gear Sport streamlines exercise?

 

Kim: The Gear Sport features built-in GPS and an advanced, continuous heart-rate sensor, and is one of the first Samsung wearables (along with the Gear Fit2 Pro) to boast 5 ATM (50-meter) water resistance.

 

This level of water resistance means that the smartwatch is built to not only stand up to rain and the odd splash, but also dips in the pool. In fact, the Gear Sport’s support for swim-tracking app Speedo On makes it the ideal companion for any swim.

 

 

The device is packed with powerful fitness-tracking software, including a built-in “pace-setter” feature that makes it excellent for managing runs, as well as automatic activity detection. And by seamlessly syncing with Samsung Health, and allowing users to easily log their calorie intake directly into their smartwatch, the Gear Sport also offers tools to help users keep better track of their eating habits and ultimately achieve their weight goals.

 

The smartwatch is also great for home training. Its Samsung Health integration allows you to easily access an expanded collection of fun fitness classes from third-party content providers that may be streamed to your Samsung TV using your Samsung smartphone’s Smart View function, while its continuous heart-rate tracking allows you to monitor your performance on your screen in real-time during your workout.

 

 

Q. The Gear Sport also introduces a new, square form to the Samsung smartwatch lineup. What inspired this adjustment?

 

Kim: We chose to equip the Gear Sport with a case that combines the Gear line’s signature bezel with a slightly square body not only because it created a unique way to differentiate the device from our other offerings, but also because it allowed us to incorporate a large, 300 mAh battery.

 

The contours of the case make the Gear Sport quite comfortable to wear, and add a nice, elegant touch to the device’s overall aesthetic.

 

 

Q. How have you enhanced the Gear Sport’s familiar, circular UX?

 

Jeong: Our wearables’ signature UX makes accessing their functions simple and intuitive. When we set about designing the Gear Sport, we prioritized finding useful ways to enhance the circular UX, and make best use of the versatile bezel.

 

For example, sending a completed text with the interface used to require a tap of the screen. Now, a slight twist of the bezel will automatically pull up a prompt to send your text. We’ve also optimized the bezel to make tasks like changing a watch face more seamless and convenient. So if you rotate the Gear Sport’s bezel quickly after pulling up the watch face selection screen, now, you’ll be able to instantly view more options.

 

The Gear Sport’s UX enhancements make it easy for users to view more watch faces at a glance (top row), and allow more apps and information to be presented clearly on the device’s circular display (bottom row).

 

Other adjustments include the new app shortcut widget, which displays your most recently accessed apps, and the streamlined Quick Panel, which may now be accessed from any screen, rather than solely via the watch face. The optimizations we’ve made are the results of incorporating user feedback, and make it easy for users to access key functions and find the information they need at a glance.

 

We’re constantly looking for new, innovative ways to optimize UX – not only for the Gear Sport, but for each of our wearable devices.

 

 

Q. The Gear Sport’s highly customizable design adds another fun layer of versatility. Is this something that was prioritized from an early stage?

 

Jeong: Absolutely. Our aim with the Gear Sport was to present a sports watch with a truly versatile design.

 

The watch comes in two colors, black and blue, and features 13 preinstalled watch faces. The colors of those watch faces may be customized to create a wide array of unique designs, which may also be paired with 23 available straps, yielding a total of more than 3,600 distinct variations.

 

 

On top of that, there are tens of thousands more watch faces available to download in the Galaxy Apps store, and we also offer a Gear Watch Designer tool, which makes it easy for users to create and share high-quality watch faces of their own design.

 

 

Q. Were there any other fun features that you were able to incorporate into the Gear Sport’s design?

 

Kim: Because smartwatch users tend to be tech savvy, and IoT-interactions are becoming more ubiquitous in our lives, when designing the Gear Sport, we prioritized optimizing the device for inter-device connectivity.

 

This ultimately led us to develop cool functions that allow users to use the Gear Sport to streamline how they do things like manage PowerPoint presentations, navigate VR interfaces,* and pay for goods on the go.

 

*Using Samsung’s Gear VR headset

Selling Higher – Changing Our Selling Motions for Better Customer Outcomes

If you attended this year’s Partner Summit, live or virtually, you might have heard Wendy Bahr talk about the need for Cisco and our partners to focus more on our customers’ business outcomes and own the opportunity together. At face value, it sounds simple. What she’s really talking about is an evolutionary change in how […]

#WeekofIcons – Icons for the Ages

Did you know the second version of Instagram’s icon only took 45 minutes to design? Yes, the second rendition. The original icon, an image closely resembling a specific camera made by Polaroid, was available on iPhone for two weeks before Apple decided to feature the app. The caveat? Apple wanted a new icon.

Graphic designer Cole Rise was the mastermind behind the version of Instagram’s signature that became, well, iconic. He was inspired after coming across a previous icon he designed based on an old Bell & Howell camera from the 1940s. There was just one problem: Rise had only 45 minutes to get a workable design to Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. The simplistic design of a lens, viewfinder, and rainbow with the abbreviation “INST” became one of the most recognizable icons for one of the most beloved apps in the smartphone era. Rise’s 45 minute creation remained Instagram’s identifier from 2010 to early 2016.

In a world dominated by technology, the importance of a well-designed icon is increasingly critical to delivering positive user experiences and improving human-computer interaction.

Navigating the world around us.

The first versions of the icon — pictograms — have been used since the early days of human history, representing the beginning expressions of a written language. In that same vein, modern icons convey meaning through images meant to enhance understanding, evoke emotion, and provide direction.

With virtually all of us carrying around handheld computers in our pockets, we have access to more answers than ever before. Iconography serves as the wayfinder to getting those answers.

The modern digital landscape is demanding. Users expect to unlock their phones to an easily recognizable interface of apps and programs. The app store, camera, email — we count on seeing recognizable images to access information and applications quickly.

A range of styles and variations.

Recognizable does not necessarily mean icons representing similar meanings need to look the same. Icons are often purchased and selected in packs and, for this reason, designers are constantly looking to create something fresh and new.

“Icon design seems to be an exceptionally trend-oriented area of design,” graphic designer Brian Barrus says. “Many of these trends come and go very quickly because they become so popular and then people need to do something new. This is not all bad, however, because icons are designed to be more temporary in nature than logos, even though they are visually very similar.”

The first and foremost purpose of an icon is to create meaning, and certain styles will convey particular meanings better than others.

Flat icon designs epitomize the mantra “do more with less.” This is your minimalist take on icon design. They are meant to convey clear, simplified meaning with the ability to be large or small in scale without the possibility of losing understanding. A good example of this is the Gmail app icon, or the stock camera app on iOS.

Flat icons often make good use of subtle shading, highlighting, and layers to create some depth and visual hierarchy.

Illustrated icon designs have as much of a chance to evoke personality and emotion as they do understanding. Just take a look at some of Jeremy Reiss’s baseball designs. Hand-crafted icons packed with emotion and thoughtful brush strokes have a unique ability to capture the imagination and also be memorable.

When illustrating icons, remember this key takeaway from Olha Filipenko, a graduate in printing design who currently works for a social game developer in Ukraine: “Improve your imagination. You can illustrate usual things in unusual ways.”
It’s now even easier to work with your icons in Adobe Illustrator as the latest version allows you to create up to 1,000 artboards.

Simplicity and understanding — the keys to success.

While the camera app on iOS conveys a meaning almost impossible to confuse, this isn’t the case for every icon. Often, icons are partnered with text to ensure accurate meaning. And even when you think an icon is clear enough standing alone, it’s never a bad idea to couple it with a text label to clarify meaning. Learn more about icon usability best practices here.

“Don’t let the tail wag the dog,” Brian says. “Icons should serve the design and the function of  your design, not hinder it by confusing users. Be very cautious before using an icon without a text label.”

For optimal experiences, don’t forget about space.

Icons generally replace words for good reason. There’s just simply not enough space on the screen. Indesign, Illustrator — all Adobe products — use dashboards and panels to create a more efficient workspace and provide a better experience. That, of course, places even greater importance on icon design and placement.
As you iterate your designs, think about the type of device that will be used and how your icon will change visually when shrunk or enlarged. You can also try responsive icons as a way to maximize your designs.

Innovative approaches to the everyday.

Icons are a crucial part of the modern user experience, and they present a unique opportunity for designers to find beauty in the common things they see everyday. Be innovative in your approach. The goal is to create icons that serve their intended purpose with style.

To learn more about how to create eye-catching icons, rewatch Paul Trani’s livestream, and don’t forget to download the free icon sets available during our #WeekofIcons Campaign.

Don’t forget to download Dmitry Mirolyubov’s free icon set here.

Got something cool to share about icons? Share it with #WeekofIcons and we may retweet your work on Twitter!

Hand Lettering with Adobe Capture: Featuring a Hand Lettering Piece by Esther Loopstra

There’s no question that hand lettering is gaining popularity in the design community. Just ask designers like Gemma O’Brien and Christine Herrin who have received recognition for their creative use of lettering. Why the surge in popularity? Hand lettering gives design projects a unique signature; it’s the designers personality manifest in the purest form.

Esther Loopstra believes that audiences have gotten so used to the clinical perfection of computer fonts, they want to see something more human. “People are really craving a more ‘done-by-hand’ quality,” Loopstra says. “They want to see that your work is authentic, finding beauty in the imperfections.”

The natural imperfections in hand lettering — like crooked lines or varying thicknesses in letters — give your designs more personality, allowing your audience to form a connection to the piece. Technically perfect lettering hides a designer’s individuality, but leaving in small flourishes or quirks lets the personality of the designer shine through.

Rather than using fonts, handlettering lets designers feature their most artistic side, using lettering that wholly belongs to them. For Loopstra, hand lettering has always resonated with her personal emotions. “I’ve been doing this type of hand lettering since I was a little girl, although it has certainly evolved since then,” she says. “It’s always different, and that really strikes a chord with the need for creativity and diversity that I have within myself as a designer.”

Prior to Adobe Capture’s launch, designers had to scan a hand-lettered document, open it in Illustrator, and use Image Trace to digitalize it before they could add the lettering element to their designs. “Capture simply makes life easier,” Loopstra says. Digitizing her lettering through an app like Adobe Capture allows Loopstra to design while on the go. It’s a simple process, and it gives her maximum control over what the final design will look like. Here’s how she uses Capture in her daily workflow.

How to create your own hand lettering with Adobe Capture:

Embed instructional video from Esther: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAGf9y-ca8o

1. Like any great design, hand lettering starts with a basic idea. Feel free to be as creative as possible. Consider how you want your lettering to look, what tone you want to convey. “A great way to get inspired is to look at other fonts in the world around you. How do they make you feel? What do you like or dislike about them?” Loopstra says.  

2. On paper, sketch out your text. Experiment with different types of writing materials to achieve the desired look. “The writing material you use has a major impact on the tone of the image,” Loopstra says. “For example, pencils will make your lettering softer and less refined, while pen will make the lettering bolder and sleeker.”

3. Once you have the text written out, open up the Capture app. At the top of the screen you’ll see the icons Shapes, Patterns, Colors, and Brushes. Select the Shapes icon, which opens up your Creative Cloud selected library, and then select the plus button. This begins the process that will allow you to add your hand lettering to your library.

4. Capture opens up your camera and allows you to choose how you want your image to look before taking the picture. Use the slider at the bottom of the screen to alter the thickness of the lines or choose the square at the top of the screen to invert the colors. The wand at the top right is the auto-clean feature, which will clean up your image for you before you capture it. Once you’re satisfied, press the green button to save the image.

5. On the next screen, you can refine and crop the lettering, as well as erase blemishes and remove anything you don’t want to be a part of the final shape. When you’re ready, click Next.

6. Capture will now turn your image into a vector. On this screen, you can choose whether or not you want to smooth out the image. When you’re satisfied, choose Next to save the shape into your CC library, save it in your camera roll, or export it to Illustrator or Photoshop. “Organization is key here,” Loopstra says. “I like to create libraries in Capture that allow me to organize all my different shapes. You can create a library specifically for hand lettering or one for all of the different shapes and elements you will need for a specific project.”  

7. You’re done! With just a few minutes of work, you now have a beautiful, personalized, and vectorized text you can manipulate in other Adobe applications.

“When it comes to hand lettering, don’t hold yourself back,” Loopstra says. “Experiment with lots of different mediums and textures. Try different inks or paints. Use whatever inspires you, and allow tools like Capture to open up a whole new mode of creativity.”

To easily incorporate hand lettering into your work, download Adobe Capture.

TrustSec: The Cybersecurity Enforcer

So many newsworthy hacks in recent years have had a staggering impact on literally millions of consumers and businesses. While these hacks have perhaps made us numb to their effects, the reality is these breaches represent the new normal in today’s digitized world. And given that attackers are growing in number, sophistication and intensity, many […]

When UX Puts Lives on the Line

We look at how designing a robotic arm used in neurosurgery came down to UX 101, and how one hospital has doctors and designers working together to enhance the patient experience.

User testing for the Modus V looked a little different than your average usability research. That’s because the users are neurosurgeons and they are testing the efficacy of a robotic microscope by operating on cadavers. Their ability to use the microscope during brain and spinal surgeries depends on a reliable UX and UI, something that must be seamless to use when a surgeon’s hands are busy performing life-saving operations. It’s not something they want to test on live humans without experiencing it firsthand.

The Modus V is a fully automated, hands-free, robotic digital microscope that leverages space technology used in the Canadarm—a series of remote-controlled robotic arms used by NASA to deploy, capture and repair satellites, among other things. The technology is Canadian made, so it’s no surprise the Modus V comes from Canadian company Synaptive Medical.

Reimagined for medical purposes, the Modus 5 was released in October and is part of Synaptive’s suite of BrightMatter™ technology solutions. BrightMatter technologies have been acquired by hospitals across North America including Castle Rock Adventist in Colorado, Cedars-Sinai in California, Northwell Health on Long Island and the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.

It was inspired when Wes Hodges, director of Informatics and external collaboration at Synaptive, together with other members of the company’s founding team witnessed surgeons experience a usability problem in a clinical setting.

“The arm grew out of immersing ourselves in the operating room environment, so immersing ourselves in the problem,” Hodges said.

The team witnessed surgeons using an ecscoscopic camera, meaning the camera is positioned outside of the patient, mounted on a mechanical arm. The surgeons would have to take their hand out of the surgical field to realign and reposition the camera every 20-30 seconds.

“That camera is so zoomed in, every little change you make in the corridor you’re working down requires you to re-center. In seeing this, we said hey why don’t we have that move for you and automate it, put it on a robotic arm?” Hodges said. “The response from the surgeons was fantastic. Wow, can you do that? It’s something that was conceived from immersing ourselves in the problem.”

Since patients are often awake during brain surgery, technology like the Modus V empowers surgeons to communicate with patients while the surgery is underway, giving them vital information as to how the surgery is going and if they’re on the right track. The entire surgical experience has changed.

UX Isn’t Brain Surgery

Despite the complexities of the technology itself, the UX design process remains very much the same whether you’re designing a robot that assists in brain surgery or an app that plays brain games.

“Regardless of the context, it’s extremely important in order to design an effective product that’s going to meet your end user’s needs to really immerse yourself in the environment and the context, and that involves getting to know your users. That’s UX 101. Who is your user, what are their needs, what are the goals they’re trying to accomplish and perhaps most notably, what are the pain points in existing workflows and processes they’re using to accomplish their goals?” said Justin Kirkey, manager of user experience at Synaptive.

“It involves lots of clinical visits to make sure that we’re understanding the clinical context, user interviews with surgeons, neuroradiologists, operating room staff, cleaning department individuals who are using many of the tools indirectly. There is wide slew of clinicians who are involved in this. Understanding the ins and outs of their mental models is key to designing a successful product.”

The products that Synaptive develops may be deployed in highly stressful and sensitive environments where patient lives may be on the line, but from a UX perspective they still need to be validated like anything else. The results have proved rewarding for the team, users and patients alike.

“One of the favorite things for me is seeing an outcome for a patient that a clinician feels wouldn’t have been there, or wouldn’t have been so positive if our technology wasn’t used,” Hodges said.

How UX Is Transforming the Way Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Understands Patients

Just as UX is crucial in the tools and technologies clinicians use in surgical settings, it also factors into the entire hospital experience. Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is one organization exploring the relationship between UX and healthcare innovation.

Tim Moyer is the lead experience designer at Thomas Jefferson University’s Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) group and co-founder of DICE group’s AR/VR Initiative. As part of DICE, he explores how technology can enhance the user experience, which is often the patient experience in a healthcare setting.

Part of his work includes developing applications and exploring technologies that assist the entire patient journey, which starts long before the patient ever steps foot through the hospital doors.

“We try to understand where the patient journey begins, whether they’re at home or at work, thinking about visiting a hospital or a provider. We try to ask what will that person’s reality be when they leave the hospital, what will their story be when they’re interfacing with Jefferson, and how did that story begin and conclude for the patient and their family?” Moyer said.

Image Credit: Josh Luciano

To better understand the needs of patients, Moyer works with Pavitra Krishnamani, who is studying to become a physician. One of their projects is the development of a smart patient room that leverages AI technology to enhance and modernize the patient experience.

“I had a chance to learn how my patients perceive their healthcare environment. So much of the work I’ve done so far is as a person providing care, so I understand what happens behind the scenes. Seeing how they perceive that care was quite eye-opening. Taking a step back and looking at patients through a UX lens provided me with insights I never discovered while in a white coat,” said Krishnamani.

“In my time as a clinical fellow, I have found that UX design and medicine are both fuelled by empathy and a strong sense of inquisitive curiosity. As healthcare becomes increasingly patient-centered, our solutions to the challenges we face in the clinical world and healthcare delivery must absolutely follow in the same vein—no pun intended.”

While Synaptive serves as a reminder that designing a user experience always comes down to the fundamentals no matter how challenging or complex the product, Jefferson speaks to the potential for UX practices to revolutionize the entire hospital and patient experience.

When patient lives are on the line, a well-designed UX—whether it’s a medical product or a recovery room—can make all the difference.

Adobe XD and the Fast Track to a Creative Career: IT Pro Owen Modamwen on Becoming a UX Designer

As a longtime IT professional, Owen Modamwen knows tech. Managing servers, computers, and networks was no problem for the D.C. native, who’d been in the field for almost six years (and most recently spent time on Capitol Hill setting up new congressional staff with plug-and-play digital systems during the transition between Presidents Obama and Trump). “It’s definitely great being able to provide helpful services for people, but I’d always be sitting at my desk thinking about how I could be more creative.”

This desire for creativity was, in many ways, a desire to return to his roots. He grew up tinkering with electronics and immersed in art thanks to his dad, a sculptor and all-around dynamic talent.

“My father was a major influence on my creativity as a child. This is him in Nigeria in his 20s, making a bronze statue of an Eagle. After losing him this past summer, I dedicated my life to one of health, happiness, and artistry.”

After Modamwen’s own son was born last October, he took the opportunity as a stay-at-home-dad to take on a fresh challenge; during naptime, he began to learn to code. “I started out with web technologies: CSS, Javascript, and HTML,” he says of his self-made curriculum comprised of online tutorials and how-tos. “I got to the point where I could understand the concepts, but then I thought: ‘What am I actually trying to make?’”

Owen Modamwen in his natural habitat–coding at home.

Discovering User Interfaces–And a Secret Weapon to Design Them

Modamwen decided to expand his studies. “I found all these YouTube videos about how people were building user interfaces, and I was fascinated,” he says; but sporadic attempts to master Photoshop and Illustrator as UI design tools left him overwhelmed. “Every time I opened them up, I felt like I was sitting inside the Millennium Falcon, trying to figure out how to make it fly.” When a favorite vlogger introduced Adobe XD, Modamwen figured it could be worth a shot.

“Adobe XD was ridiculously simple to figure out,” he says. “The overall interface was clean and inviting, and the tools were minimized to what I actually needed: rectangles; colors; there you go.” As he continued to experiment and explore, the program became a crucial bridge between his burgeoning roles on the back- and front-end.

“Design and development work in tandem; I believe they’re two halves of a whole,” he says. This inclusive approach that isn’t necessarily common in the industry–the specialties are often separate, though it’s not unheard of for individuals to master both–but was a perfect fit for XD’s streamlined format. Here, he could produce quick, lo-fi wireframes, which he would then build out–and bring to life.

Establishing an IRL Community

Modamwen was going solo on this creative journey until a chance encounter with a fellow coder opened him up to a whole new world of support. “I was sitting behind a guy at IHOP who was talking to his friends about web development; all these tips, ‘do this,’ ‘do that.’ When he was leaving I stopped him to introduce myself, and he invited me to these regular meet-ups he was having with a group of young folks all learning to code.”

The crew would come together weekly at a Korean tea house for feedback on their own projects, for explanations on tricky concepts, and for all-around encouragement that made a massive difference in Modamwen’s own trajectory. “Being surrounded by these other enthusiastic people took my skill level from zero, through the roof,” he says.

Committing to Learn

When an opportunity opened up for a scholarship at General Assembly, Modamwen went for it. His application included a preliminary prototype for an app that redesigned the grocery store experience. “At that point, I didn’t do any research–I just made it for myself,” he says. “But because I designed it in XD, I was able to have the actual prototype on my phone that I could share with friends, or at meet-ups–which was awesome–and I got some solid feedback.”

“Using Adobe XD I can quickly turn ideas into wireframes, then test those wireframes on potential users with the program’s prototyping capabilities.” This is some early work on Cream, the grocery experience app.

He was accepted to GA, and the course itself was an intensive ten-week whirlwind. “The most important thing I learned was to start with lo-fi prototypes first,” he says. “You have to get your ideas out quickly. Commit your early time to concepts, because you’ve got to put those through research, testing, implementation, all these steps and processes. Ultimately, you want to make sure that what you’re putting out actually matches the issues that arise when a user has a problem. It’s not just about the way something looks–it’s about functionality.” He and his classmates produced a few hypothetical projects, a few revamps of existing apps, and a few client commissions. When it was all over, Modamwen couldn’t stop thinking about his grocery store app.

Owen goes analog during his General Assembly course.

Getting Focused on Finishing a Project

“After General Assembly, I decided to see how far I could really push this thing,” Modamwen says. “I had all this new knowledge about user research, design concepts, and different affordances that exist within apps.” Though he already had a high-fidelity mock-up thanks to XD, he put it aside to get going from scratch. “I needed to talk to people who were shopping,” he says–but standing outside the supermarket asking for a bunch of opinions didn’t go over too well. “I changed my approach completely,” he says. The new tactic? Loading up a cart, wandering the aisles, and stopping friendly faces with a single question and follow-up: “What is the number one problem you experience when you go to the grocery? And how would you solve it?”

“The prototype feature in Adobe XD allows me to build the user journey one screen at a time, then see how all screens are related from a bird’s eye view.”

“After talking to users and testing the usefulness of the product, I go on to the next phase of design. Here, I’ve implemented the features and flows that have been suggested by the users themselves for Cream, which I go back to test with them again. I usually know I’m on the right track when I see the excitement in the user’s eyes when interacting with the prototype.”

All of a sudden, people were sharing all kinds of ideas, frustrations, excitement, and solutions. He culled those down into four main categories: identifying the location of items in the store; speeding up check-out; and budgeting. Now he’s busy building it out, and one day hopes to add his app design to the official Apple Store. “It’s all happening–and I cannot wait until it’s a real thing.”

Hey budding UX designers! Are you interested in making a transition into this growing industry? Get a sense of the various job titles and responsibilities; take a crash course in how to break into the field; and nab these top tips on how to ace your first gig. Check out what UX designers work on all day, and have a look at our UX Do This Not That advice for newbies. Or see what the shift has been like for an industrial-designer-turned-UX-designer, and a visual-designer-turned-UX-designer. Lots to learn, and we’re here to help!

**Hey designers: For more insights into the whos, whats, whys, and hows of UX design, sign up for Adobe’s experience design newsletter!

Messages Matter: Exploring the Evolution of Conversation

By the Messenger Team

December 3rd 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the first SMS text message ever sent. In case you were wondering, it was a simple greeting dispatched by software engineer Neil Papworth. Cell phones were much larger, and connection times were much longer. Since that pivotal moment, technology has changed, and alongside it the art of conversation has evolved immensely. Billions of people now use messaging as their preferred way to connect with the people and businesses they care about, from sending a note to tell someone you miss them to sharing an inside joke; from wishing someone a happy birthday to saying you’re thinking of them during a tough time.

We know messaging is more important than ever. In fact, 80 percent of adults and 91 percent of teens message every day, according to a recent study we commissioned. With more technology in our hands, we have the ability to connect and share with people across the globe – more than any other generation.

At Messenger, we believe in the power of messages to make meaningful connections. We believe in their power to engage and unite the people who make use of them. With this study, we wanted to dig deeper into how our global conversation has evolved and get a glimpse of where it is going, plus understand if some commonly believed myths were true. What we found is that messaging turns out to be not a wedge, but instead a bridge bringing us closer together.

Now let’s explore some of the key trends and takeaways from the study.

More Devices Lead to More Communication
Some believe that the digital age has its tradeoffs in communication. But our study reveals that the diverse toolkit of channels available has improved and deepened the way people connect with others.

  • Messaging is a core part of everyday life: 80 percent of adults (age 19-64) and 91 percent of teens (age 13-18) across the globe message every day
  • There has been an increase in the amount of communication over the past two years: People have increased their usage of various channels, but the top five include messaging (67 percent), social media (48 percent), email (47 percent), video chat (47 percent) and face-to-face (38 percent) communication
  • More modes of communication = greater social satisfaction: As modes of communication increase, people report having greater and more authentic conversations

Sidebar Conversations Strengthen Relationships
Sidebar conversations – the secret non-verbal chats we have on our phones whilst in meetings, at dinners, watching TV shows – get a bad rap. Our research tells us they are on the rise and taking place around the world. Naturally, they must be serving a purpose. So what is it? We learned that the “sidebar” is drawing more people together, facilitating close relationships and promoting intimacy.

  • Most people admit to sidebar conversations: Most people (71 percent) have sidebar conversations, and 62 percent of those that do say messaging makes them feel closer to friends (versus 36 percent of those who don’t sidebar)
  • Sidebar conversations are happening around the world: People across various countries and age groups indulge in sidebar conversations, with millennials (82 percent) and teens (79 percent) most likely to sidebar
  • Sidebars happen in social settings: Sidebar interactions occur primarily at social events and family gatherings; survey respondents cite their power to strengthen relationships

A New Language of Hieroglyphics
Human history has shown that images are worth more than words. With the rise of visual-based communication, we’re returning to more visual expressions driven by a desire for intimacy in a hectic world with an urgent need to release emotions. This is reflected in a new vocabulary of emojis, GIFs and camera-based messaging, which is making us more expressive than ever before.

  • Visual messaging is the new universal language: Most people (57 percent) have responded to a message with a GIF, while 56 percent have sent a message using only emojis
  • Emojis and GIFs are ageless: 77 percent of people over the age of 55 use emojis to communicate while more than half (53 percent) use GIFs
  • Visual messages lead to great conversations: People who frequently communicate with visuals have more “great conversations” compared to those who don’t use visuals as often

Keeping in Touch Thrives as Never Before
Many report that messaging has replaced other forms of communication in their lives. But across the world, face-to-face conversations continue to rise, suggesting that there may be a correlation between more messaging and greater in-person connections.

  • Messaging replaces other communication channels: Half the population reports messaging has replaced their other forms of communication; 67 percent of people are messaging more than they did two years ago
  • More messaging = greater in-person connection: People who message more are 52 percent more likely to be also talking face-to-face more, as compared to someone who is not messaging more
  • Face-to-face conversations are increasing all over the world: All markets surveyed are doing more talking in person, but Brazil (+33 percent), France (+22 percent), Germany (+21 percent) and the US (+20 percent) have seen the highest increase in face-to-face interactions

People Are Finding Their Authentic Voices
For some people – particularly those less comfortable with other forms of communication – messaging opens up doors to more authentic dialogues. Our study shows that messaging removes filters and an emotional burden. People are bolder, more impulsive and more honest when they communicate. This, the survey results suggest, leads to more authentic conversations.

  • Those that are messaging are having more authentic conversations and relationships: 66 percent of people who message say they have more authentic conversations; 61 percent have more authentic relationships
  • First comes dating app, then comes messaging: One third of people (34 percent) who started a conversation on a dating app will continue their conversation through messaging, compared to a quarter of people (26 percent) who continue conversations in person
  • Genuine conversations are the best conversations: For a conversation to be great, people cite it must be genuine first and foremost (64 percent), followed by thought-provoking (49 percent) and entertaining (48 percent)

With the future of messaging looking more promising than ever, we hope you continue to use Messenger to connect with the people you care about most.

Cisco Email Security is Top Solution

Billions of corporate messages flow back and forth on a daily basis. And with over 90% of breaches starting with an email, organizations today face a daunting challenge when choosing the best email security solution to stop emails with phishing links or malicious attachments that unleash ransomware, phishing or business email compromise attacks. Securing the […]

Getting Into a Groove

Concerts, festivals, sports. It’s all about the connecting with the music, the game –  watching the same thing at the same time. So naturally, fans want to join the connection and share, post, and tweet. But if 25,000 other people are doing the same thing on a shaky network, all you’re going to get is […]

Artist spotlight: Sebastien Hue

When selecting an artist to create a piece of artwork on our November Visual Trends theme, “Machine Learning Comes to Life“, there seemed to better choice than French ‘photobasher’, concept artist and matte painter, Sebastien Hue. Fuelled by his love for science-fiction, Sebastien is pioneering digital imagery in this innovative landscape, with incredible depth and attention to detail. We spoke to him to find out more:

ADOBE STOCK: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?

Seb: My name is Sebastien Hue, I’m a French digital artist from Paris’ area. Self-taught, I started around 8 years ago when inspired by the likes of Dylan Cole and other famous matte painters. Initially I started out with Photoshop but as I put aside my drawing skills for a while I decided to learn 3D modelling as well to help me build objects or things I could not paint. I felt that environment was more my kind of thing and my passion for Science Fiction fuelled my inspiration and imagination. Formerly Community Volunteer for Deviantart Sci-Fi gallery and Staff-admin for the International Collective The Luminarium, I became officially professional freelance CG artist in 2014 and works worldwide since then for Publishing companies as well as Gaming ones.

AS: How would you describe your style and the techniques you use?

Seb: I don’t know if I do really have a style but it’s a great compliment if so. I would say my style turns towards photorealistic environments and keyframes. That is why my main technique is to use stock photos to achieve this kind of result. I really like to start from sketch painting, then to speed up the process, photobash with some textures and stocks and then paint over to blend everything together.

AS: Where do you look for when needing a shot of inspiration?

Seb: I have several resources to find inspiration but simply browsing for photo references can trigger inspiration. I follow many artists through social media and so it’s part of an inspiration loop as well. Movies are a strong source of inspiration too, so very often I draw some thumbnails on my sketchbook when I see a cool keyframe when watching a movie. Then my sketchbook becomes my own inspiration database.

AS: What’s been your biggest challenge to overcome in the design industry?

Seb: There were so many challenges but the biggest one was to change my life career from logistics to art freelancing. I worked so hard just to be able to make that U-turn and actually live from my art. I think my will to change my pro situation was stronger than all, this will was driven by the passion to learn which turned the hard work into a positive need to become a better artist and produce better and better artworks.

AS: What are your perceptions of stock images, and do you think the perception is changing?

Seb: My perception is that all means are good to produce efficient and appealing art in an industry that wants things in a minimal time with the best quality. So I don’t consider using stock images as cheating, it’s a technique like many others. Some would use 3D instead. So yes I think the perception is changing indeed.

AS: What artists and designers should we be following?

Seb: Those you want badly to be like (laugh). The question is to know your own art path first and what you are the best at. Follow the artists who inspire you so much that it’s a natural source of inspiration for you. Don’t feel crushed by the level of the artist, on the contrary take it as a target and a challenge to take.

AS: What features did you most like the most about using Adobe Stock?

Seb: The synchronization of the stocks you saved on the internet and Photoshop. Having access to Adobe Stock directly from Photoshop is a great tool and time saver. The pre-visualisation of the images you did not license is great as well. You can quickly do some roughs with those and then license the stocks you will actually use in the end.

AS: What’s been your favorite project to work on to date?

Seb: My favorite project is the one I am currently working on. I am concept artist in a French studio specialized in TV shows and live performance graphic layouts and screen animations. I’m working in-house with 3D modellers and motion designers on the next tour of a very famous rock pop French band from the 80s. It’s a big project in which I do concept designs and concept arts, I can’t wait to see it live In Paris Bercy next year.

AS: What music do you currently listen to whilst working (if any!)?

Seb: It depends on my mood but the music does not really influence my painting. It goes from metal music, score music, blues, pop and classical music. What is certain is that I barely work without any music playing.

AS: What design trends should we be looking out for in 2018?

Seb: Honestly I try not to follow too much of a trend that would influence my work. I simply hope that the trend to produce sci-fi games, films and art covers won’t be running out of breath.

Follow more ofSebastien’s work on his website, on Behance, Facebook and on Instagram 

Launching New Trust Indicators From the Trust Project for News on Facebook

By: Andrew Anker, Product Manager

In early October, we began to test a new feature to give people additional context on the articles they see in News Feed. For links to articles shared in News Feed, people can easily tap an icon to access more information, including a description of the publisher, trending articles or related articles about the topic, and information about how the article is being shared by people on Facebook.

Starting today, we will begin to test displaying new publisher Trust Indicators through this module, established by the Trust Project, an international consortium of news and digital companies collaborating to build a more trustworthy and trusted press, as part of our ongoing efforts to enhance people’s understanding of the sources and trustworthiness of news on our platform. This work was informed by direct partner feedback, as part of the Facebook Journalism Project.

Learn more about the Trust Project and the Trust Indicators

We are initially testing these Trust Indicators with a small group of publishers, with plans to expand more broadly over the coming months.

Publishers may now be able to upload links to additional information through their Brand Asset Library under their Page Publishing Tools — including information on their ethics policy, corrections policy, fact-checking policy, ownership structure, and masthead.

These indicators will then be eligible to display for people as additional context on the articles they see in News Feed. We decided to start with these initial Trust Indicators based on direct feedback from publishers and will look to expand this set over time.

We believe that helping people access this important contextual information can help them evaluate if articles are from a publisher they trust, and if the story itself is credible. This step is part of our larger efforts to combat false news and misinformation on Facebook — providing people with more context to help them make more informed decisions, advance news literacy and education, and working to reinforce indicators of publisher integrity on our platform.

We’ll continue to work closely with publishers to scale these efforts and to improve the experiences people have on Facebook.

Identifying credible content online, with help from the Trust Project

Every day approximately 50,000 web pages filled with information come online—ranging from the weird, the wonderful and the wacky to the serious, the subjective, and the spectacular.

With a plethora of choices out there, we rely on algorithms to sort and rank all this information to help us find content that is authoritative and comes from credible sources. A constantly changing web means we won’t ever achieve perfection, but we’re investing in helping people understand what they’re reading by providing visual signposts and labels.  

We add clear labelling to stories in Google News (e.g., opinion, local, highly cited, in depth), and over year ago we launched the Fact Check tag globally in Google News and Search. And just recently we added information to our Knowledge Panels to help people get a quick insight into publishers.

Today, we’re announcing a move toward a similar labeling effort by the Trust Project, which is hosted at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. The Project, which is funded by Google among others, has been working with more than 75 news organizations from around the world to come up with indicators to help people distinguish the difference between quality journalism and promotional content or misinformation.

In a first step, the Project has released eight trust indicators that newsrooms can add to their content. This information will help readers understand more about what type of story they’re reading, who wrote it, and how the article was put together.

These eight indicators include:

  • Best Practices: Who funds the news outlet and their mission, plus an outlet’s commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections, and other standards.
  • Author Expertise: Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis, and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions in a news story.
  • Methods: For in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced: Lets people know that the story has local roots, origin, or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: A newsroom’s efforts to bring in diverse perspectives.
  • Actionable Feedback: A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, and ensuring accuracy.
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The publishers involved in this work include the BBC, dpa, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, Hearst Television, Mic, La Repubblica, La Stampa, The Washington Post, the New York Times and more. (Photo courtesy of the Trust Project.)

News publishers embed markup from schema.org into the HTML code of their articles and on their website. When tech platforms like Google crawl the content, we can easily parse out the information (such as Best Practices, Author Info, Citations & References, Type of Work). This works like the ClaimReview schema tag we use for fact-checking articles. Once we’ve done that, we can analyze the information and present it directly to the user in our various products.


Our next step is to figure out how to display these trust indicators next to articles that may appear on Google News, Google Search, and other Google products where news can be found. Some possible treatments could include using the “Type of Work” indicator to improve the accuracy of article labels in Google News, and indicators such as “Best Practices” and “Author Info” in our Knowledge Panels.


We believe this is a great first step for the Trust Project and look forward to future efforts as well.

How girls see the world: Girlgaze and Pixel 2

Girlgaze is a multimedia company that highlights the work of female-identifying creatives and is dedicated to closing the gender gap by providing paid job opportunities for its global community.

Girlgaze’s inaugural zine, out today, was created primarily using Pixel 2, and today we’re also releasing a collection of Live Cases featuring Girlgaze photographers. We spoke with the creator of Girlgaze, Amanda de Cadenet, about the origins of the initiative and their work with Google.


The Keyword: Tell us about why you started Girlgaze. Why is it important to you to have more women represented behind the lens, not just in front of it? 


Amanda: When we began the #girlgaze initiative we realized quickly how many girls were eager to have a platform to share their perspective on the world. Within a matter of a few months we had close to 1 million submissions. When there is a need for something—in this case, a community for girls to connect on activism, creativity, and the challenges young women face—it will grow quickly. We’ve now had over 2.8 million submissions of images.


We felt it was our responsibility to not only draw attention to how the female perspective is so underrepresented in media, but also try and create a solution. It’s not enough to say, “Yes, the female perspective is hugely marginalized in these creative industries.” We also wanted to create a platform where we could showcase the incredible talent that is out there and create tangible jobs for our global community.


How did you get involved with the Pixel team? 


Girlgaze’s audience is made up of digital natives—they’re mostly Gen Z. With the launch of our inaugural zine—which is 100 percent digital—it was a natural fit to partner with Google.


Tell us about how you used Pixel for the new Girlgaze zine. What was different about this project?

Well, this being our inaugural issue of the zine makes it unique from any other! But also, shooting it almost entirely on the new Google Pixel 2 was pretty extraordinary for us. Although our community is very in-tune with using smartphones day-to-day, shooting industry-standard work on a smartphone was a first for us. We’re thrilled with the outcome!


Has the internet opened up new opportunities for women 
photographers/creators to gain more visibility? If so, in what way? 


The fact that we all have our phones on us at almost every moment, giving us access to technology to take and edit images at a whim, gives everyone a platform, without necessarily having studied or trained to become a photographer.


And social media has created a global platform for photographers around the world, some in very remote areas, to create and exhibit their work. In an industry that is heavily dominated by men, the internet has given the opportunity for female-identifying photographers to create their own community to share their point of view.


Tell us a little a bit about the Live Cases. How did you select which photos to turn into 
cases? Was there a particular aesthetic or theme you wanted to express?

We selected images from girls in our community whose work translated well to the wallpaper format, but not necessarily in a traditional sense. We wanted the imagery to be uniquely Girlgaze, images that strongly conveyed how our girls see the world.

What advice would you give to women who are interested in pursuing a creative career? 


Surround yourself with a good support system and community and utilize those you connect with to help you in your pursuit. I’ve always had an incredible female support network to see me through not only the struggles but also to celebrate the achievements. And the more you help those around you, the more you will realize how willing people are to help you. So don’t be afraid to reach out.

Turning Tech into Artistic Inspiration

This month we’re considering the many ways that technology shapes the arts, whether it’s as tools or inspiration. So, we couldn’t resist a chance to check in with Sebastien Hue, a digital artist whose dark and epic creations are inspired by video games and the rich imagined world of sci-fi technology.

“My artistic inspirations go back to my childhood. I grew up on Star Wars and the emerging special effects that were happening in feature films and video games at the time,” says Sebastien. “I witnessed the growth of video games as a gamer myself, so I’m conscious of the fantastic evolution that’s happened. On top of that, I come from an industrial and technological background, which makes me love futuristic, techy things even more.”

Sebastien explains that as a muse, you can’t beat tech because it’s all about creating and imagining. “It’s thrilling because it has no boundaries.”

In his work Sebastien communicates a sense of depth and visual coherence, so that the viewer can project him or herself into the frame. He also aims to tell a story with each piece, but to keep it open ended enough that viewers can make up a narrative of their own, too.

The Tech Behind Techy Art

As a lover of high tech, Sebastien stays up-to-date on new creative tools like VR painting and 3D. But true to his nature as a technology watcher, he’s patient. “I’m not the person jumping in and trying new stuff. I like to observe first, see what comes up, and then have a try.”

His favorite tech tools are Photoshop and digital painting. “Photoshop is always in the pipeline for me because I really like to directly create digitally into it, or do post work with it,” he explains. “I consider myself mostly a 2D artist, even though I use 3D renders, so Photoshop is the perfect tool. ”

Advice for the Tech-Inspired Artist

We asked Sebastien what he’d tell a young artist and sci-fi and tech fan about starting out. He laughed as he gave his advice: “I’d recommend listening to Rihanna’s song, ‘Work.’ You know: work, work, work, work, work…” On a more serious note he adds, “Just be passionate and spend countless hours on your work. Practice and get inspired by what you like the most. Observation is key, so watch and then learn by doing it yourself.”

More Thoughts About Tech and the Creative Life

Follow us this the month as we consider the role of AI in the arts and our everyday lives, and talk to photographers whose work captures complex machines. And don’t miss our dedicated gallery of Adobe Stock exploring how tech is changing our world.

Adding Highlighted Shares to Video Insights for Pages

Today we’re adding Highlighted Shares to Video Insights for Pages, a new feature that will give publishers and creators more information about the top Pages that are re-sharing their videos.

Available to all Pages globally, Highlighted Shares showcases the top five Pages that have re-shared a video, ranked by views. The video publisher will also be able to see associated insights from re-sharers, like post engagement and average watch time.

Video publishers have requested more information about where people are watching and engaging with their videos to help inspire future collaborations with other Pages. We hope this update will better inform video publishers about how their videos are performing across Facebook, and enable them to connect with other Pages to build community.

Highlighted Shares

Google Maps gets a new look

The world is an ever-evolving place. And as it changes, Google Maps changes with it. As roads close, businesses open, or local events happen in your neighborhood, you’ll see it on Google Maps. When you schedule an event using Google Calendar, get a reservation confirmation in Gmail, or add a restaurant to your “Want to Go” list, Google Maps reflects that too. Now, we’re updating Google Maps with a new look that better reflects your world, right now.

First, we’ve updated the driving, navigation, transit and explore maps to better highlight the information most relevant to each experience (think gas stations for navigation, train stations for transit, and so on). We’ve also updated our color scheme and added new icons to help you quickly identify exactly what kind of point of interest you’re looking at. Places like a cafe, church, museum or hospital will have a designated color and icon, so that it’s easy to find that type of destination on the map. For example, if you’re in a new neighborhood and searching for a coffee shop, you could open the map to find the nearest orange icon (which is the color for Food & Drink spots).

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We’ve created a cheat sheet of the new colors and icons to help you get acquainted with the new look:

You’ll see these changes over the next few weeks in all Google products that incorporate Google Maps, including the Assistant, Search, Earth, and Android Auto. Over time, the new style will also appear in the apps, websites and experiences offered by companies that use Google Maps APIs as well. 

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So no matter how or where you’re using Google Maps, you’ll have the same consistent experience.

Defending access to lawful information at Europe’s highest court

Under the right to be forgotten, Europeans can ask for information about themselves to be removed from search results for their name if it is outdated, or irrelevant. From the outset, we have publicly stated our concerns about the ruling, but we have still worked hard to comply—and to do so conscientiously and in consultation with Data Protection Authorities. To date, we’ve handled requests to delist nearly 2 million search results in Europe, removing more than 800,000 of them. We have also taken great care not to erase results that are clearly in the public interest, as the European Court of Justice directed. Most Data Protection Authorities have concluded that this approach strikes the right balance.


But two right to be forgotten cases now in front of the European Court of Justice threaten that balance.


In the first case, four individuals—who we can’t name—present an apparently simple argument: European law protects sensitive personal data; sensitive personal data includes information about your political beliefs or your criminal record; so all mentions of criminality or political affiliation should automatically be purged from search results, without any consideration of public interest.


If the Court accepted this argument, it would give carte blanche to people who might wish to use privacy laws to hide information of public interest—like a politician’s political views, or a public figure’s criminal record. This would effectively erase the public’s right to know important information about people who represent them in society or provide them services.


In the second case, the Court must decide whether Google should enforce the right to be forgotten not just in Europe, but in every country around the world. We—and a wide range of human rights and media organizations, and others, like Wikimedia—believe that this runs contrary to the basic principles of international law: no one country should be able to impose its rules on the citizens of another country, especially when it comes to linking to lawful content. Adopting such a rule would encourage other countries, including less democratic regimes, to try to impose their values on citizens in the rest of the world.


We’re speaking out because restricting access to lawful and valuable information is contrary to our mission as a company and keeps us from delivering the comprehensive search service that people expect of us.


But the threat is much greater than this. These cases represent a serious assault on the public’s right to access lawful information.


We will argue in court for a reasonable interpretation of the right to be forgotten and for the ability of countries around the world to set their own laws, not have those of others imposed on them. Up to November 20, European countries and institutions have the chance to make their views known to the Court. And we encourage everyone who cares about public access to information to stand up and fight to preserve it.

The Biggest UX Design Trends of 2017

Design is one of the key elements that define a product’s success. Design is everything, from the way a product looks to the way it makes people feel when they’re using it. Each year we learn something new about design. Now, with 2017 almost over, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the most influential UX trends of the year.

In this article, I’ll overview 14 of the most significant changes in both the visual and technological aspects of design.

1. The Rise Of Minimalism

In 2017 many big brands switched to a simpler, minimal design. Clean lines, generous whitespace, and minimal graphical elements became the basic characteristics of many apps and services, and it’s not a coincidence. Minimalist design aims to address user’s problems through clear visual communication, by bringing forth what’s really important: the content. This design emphasizes content, and a minimalist user interface combined with great usability is really impressive in action. If it’s easy to navigate, a simple app or website can be a very powerful form of communication.

Simplistic layouts became a mainstream trend both for websites:

Web version of YouTube (2015 vs 2017)

And mobile apps:

Facebook for iOS (2015 vs. 2017)

2. Video Everywhere

Sight is said to be the strongest of all human senses. Imagery has long been a staple of user interface design, but in 2017 we saw that its success had slowly paved the way for its natural successor: video. They say a picture paints a thousand words, but a video does that tenfold and there’s a good reason for that– while traditional imagery is static, video is dynamic. By 2017, online video will account for 74% of all online traffic.

Video became a popular option for landing pages. The video showed on the page can be short and broadcast in a loop, displaying a product in a way that will keep the viewer interested in the story.

Video serves as a means of visual storytelling. It’s able to bring a sensual notion of a product or technology that still photography struggles to match. Tesla gives customers an idea of what it feels like to drive an electric car by using video.

Video’s natural ability to attract visitors’ attention right from the start made it a preferred method of content delivery for many information resources. In 2017 many popular news sites started using embedded videos for their articles.

Video can be a desirable addition to text information. Image credits: CNN

Last but not least, 2017 saw a lot of video content generated by users. The fact that a decent video camera now lives in every pocket made live streaming (Facebook Live, for example) and creating micro-videos (through Instagram Stories and Snapchat Snaps) accessible for almost for every user.

Instagram Stories. Image credits: Techcrunch

3. Tailored Images And Illustrations in HD Quality

Tailored imagery is a powerful form of communication–it’s able to clarify messaging by boiling down concepts into easily-understandable visuals and establish a stronger personal connection between a product and a user. This year we saw much more interesting photos and illustrations in digital products.

An increased number of devices with high-resolution screens (Retina) forced designers to use only high-quality images and illustrations in design as imperfections will now stand out.


In 2017 users expected to see pixel-perfect images and illustrations. Image credits: Basecamp

Image credits: Shopify

4. More Functional And Delightful Animations

Focus on details was really important this year. Animations now play a vital role in UX design, especially on mobile devices where users engage in thousands of interactions and micro-interactions every time they use an app. Carefully choreographed animations are used to increase simplicity in digital experiences and enhance digital interactions.

Functional animation generates engagement, making interactions exciting and meaningful. Image credits: AntonSKV

5. Emotional Experience Beyond User Interface

In 2017 we saw a turn towards emotionally intelligent design. Emotions play a significant role in our decision making; they guide every single decision we make. All experiences create emotions, whether or not you design for them, but emotional design consciously tries to create an emotional connection between the product and the user. Emotional design has come to mean humanizing technology with delightful micro-interactions.

Great design isn’t just about making products that are attractive and usable; it’s about facilitating human-to-human communication. Image credits: Snapchat via Wired

6. Vibrant Colors and Gradients

2017 was the year when bold, bright colors and gradients made a comeback. Designers used vibrant hues to make design more memorable:

Image credits: Method

To breathe new life into flat design:

By using one of the bright, saturated colors associated with material design, designers evoke a feeling of modernism. Image credit: Ramotion

Or to focus people’s attention on important elements:

When a visitor arrives on the Airbnb homepage, the brand name and the “Search” call-to-action button immediately catch their attention.

7. Gamification

Gamification was one of the most important UX trends in 2017. The term ‘gamification’ stands for the technique of incorporating game mechanics into a non-game environment. Some apps used simple elements of gamification such as challenges that encourage users to interact more with an app. But for some apps, gamification became a natural part of the user flow. For example, Duolingo, a language-learning website, and app, makes the user feel as if they’re a real player starting a personal journey of product usage.

Gamification is poured into every Duolingo lesson.

8. Personalization

Just a few years ago, the vast majority of apps presented on the market were static in their design and content. They offered the same experience to everyone, regardless of how the user interacted with them.

Recent progress in Machine Learning and AI made it possible for apps to learn about their users’ preferences. This made it possible to deliver the most relevant content to each individual user. Today, users expect to have individual experiences when they interact with products. Users want apps that seem to know them.

There are a few great examples of personalization on the market. One of them is Spotify. Spotify has proven how good machine learning can dramatically increase user engagement. Not only does the app store and play music that a user likes, it also helps that user find new songs or artists they may have missed related to what they’re listening to right now.

We’re all different, so why should the apps we use behave the same towards everyone? Personalized content from Spotify is based on a user’s preferences.

Some apps take personalization beyond just tailored content. One perfect example is the Nike+ Run Club app for iOS. It allows users to choose a workout plan, which then adapts automatically depending on the progress the users makes. Basically, users choose what they want to achieve and the app tracks their progress, tailoring the workout routine for best results. It feels like a real fitness instructor living in your pocket.

Nike understands that each body is unique, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all workout routine.

Personalization will remain an important trend in 2018.

9. Mobile Payment and Data Security

The mobile payments space has been touted as the next big thing for some time now. Industry experts have predicted that the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices will lead to the end of the traditional wallet. In 2017 we saw increased evidence suggesting credit cards will soon be replaced by mobile payment systems. Some regions around the world have switched almost entirely to mobile pay. For example, cash is already pretty much dead in China as the country lives the future of mobile pay. Chinese stores and services are increasingly centered around mobile pay apps like WeChat Pay and Alipay.

Cash and credit cards will soon give way to new technology embedded in our mobile phones. Image credits: Apple Pay via Gizmodo

A large number of online payment methods has made security an important trend in the mobile app world. Security in mobile apps will definitely remain an important trend in 2018.

10. Wearables

In 2017 wearables became even more sophisticated. With the recent release of Apple Watch Series 3, users are able to make a phone call using wearables alone. This means that wearables have the full potential to replace smartphones for some groups of users in the near future.

An Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE has the potential to be a true iPhone replacement. Image credits: thenextweb

11. Conversational Interfaces

Both 2016 and 2017 were standout years in the development of conversational interfaces (user interfaces that mimic chatting with a real human), driven by developments of chatbots and voice-interaction interfaces.

Chatbots have found popularity in mobile apps, with popular chat clients such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat. There is lots of opportunity and interest in creating holistic conversational solutions. A study by ComScore reveals that the average smartphone owner typically uses only three apps frequently, and at least one of them is a messaging app. Chatting is a very natural interaction to people since that’s how we primarily interact with each other. This makes the use of chatbots much more intuitive and easier than clicking a bunch of buttons and navigating complex menus in user interfaces.

Facebook M is using this seemingly natural approach to make everyday tasks as easy as sending a few text messages.

Voice interfaces became popular with virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. Voice interaction technologies are slowly but fundamentally changing the way users interact with interfaces–instead of relying on touchscreens, mouse clicks, and keyboard commands, more users are gaining an appreciation for hands-free computing for everyday needs such as getting the weather forecast or finding a recipe.

Amazon’s Echo, a voice-controlled system. Credits: ibtimes

Both chatbots and voice-interaction systems will continue to grow in 2018. Conversational interfaces have the possibility of becoming the major type of interface people interact with.

12. Augmented Reality

Besides conversational interfaces, another direction which promises to completely change the way we’ll use apps in the near future is the emergence of augmented reality (AR). In 2017 both Apple and Google released augmented reality platforms for developers–ARKit and ARCore. New frameworks allow developers to easily create augmented reality experiences for both iOS and Android.

While both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are promising new mediums for development, one factor that will put AR ahead of VR is the practical value of it. The biggest benefit of AR technology is that it allows seamless integration of a digital product into a user’s life. The possibilities for integrating the virtual and real worlds are endless. For example, one of the most impressive, useful tools on the AR platform released in 2017 was Measurekit–a simple AR app that can be used to measure almost anything using just an iPhone or iPad camera. It can be helpful for almost any user.

Image credits: Measurekit via TheVerge

13. Virtual Reality For Entertainment

VR is fast becoming the future of entertainment. In 2017 we saw a few great VR experiences such as Beauty and the Beast in VR. It’s predicted that the number of active VR users will reach 171 million in 2018 (almost double the number of users as 2017). However, the vast majority of users will be KT&T and gamers.

Disney brought the magic of Beauty and the Beast to VR. Image credits: Disney

Beyond games, we’ll certainly see VR creep into other aspects of everyday lives in 2018. The fact that VR can now be experienced in the browser means that e-commerce giants like Amazon, eBay and Shopify will be acutely aware of the need to diversify their platform and embrace VR when it comes to online shopping.

14. Design Sprints And Boom Of Prototyping

In 2016 and 2017, design sprints became increasingly popular among product teams. Championed by Google Ventures, the concept has been adopted by design teams all over the world to improve their UX design processes.

A design sprint gives teams a shortcut to learning without building and launching. Image credits: Google Ventures

As well as working together on design sprints, many creative teams realized the importance of prototyping when crafting digital products. New prototyping tools significantly improved the workflow for designers, enabling them to spend more time thinking about end users rather than starting from scratch every time.

Adobe XD allows designers to go from wireframe to interactive prototype in seconds and test the design.

Conclusion

It’s clear that 2017 was as much about the technology as it was about interface design. In the tech world, 2018 will continue to see many changes day by day. As designers and developers, we must adopt these trends if we want to create good user experiences.

#WeekofIcons – Prepare SVG icons for icon fonts

What are icon fonts and why use them?

In the history of the web, designers have tried a variety of methods to use icons on websites. That was for many reasons: scalability, performance and ability to recolor them without maintaining a large amount of image files. Since using non-standard fonts has become commonplace in web development in recent years, this has also lead to the rise of icon fonts, that are simply fonts containing symbols instead of typical characters from the alphabet. 

Implementing icons as a web font has many advantages compared to SVGs:

  • It’s easy to apply CSS properties without editing the icon itself (color, gradient, shadows, etc.);
  • You can use the same icon in different sizes and colors to save time and space;
  • Better page speed performance (i.e. fewer http requests);
  • Icon fonts load faster than background or inline SVG’s (see this experiment).

But to be clear, there are some disadvantages too. Icons from an icon font can only be a single color and, due to differences across browsers, rendering and font smoothing can be unreliable. Nonetheless, icon fonts are, in most cases, a great solution for adding resolution-independent graphic assets to your website.

Now, let’s create an icon font. To do so, we need some icons. The icons have to be consistent and in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format. You can also download my free icon set from Iconfinder.

Let me walk you through the steps of creating an icon font.

Using Illustrator’s artboards to easily export a bunch of icons to SVGs

Imagine you have a bunch of vector icons, in different dimensions and styles, each one in its own document and you want to create a consistent and unified icon font. To manage and keep track of a large amount of icons and exporting them to various sizes and formats can be a Sisyphean task. 

Adobe Illustrator has a pretty perfect solution, called ‘Artboards’, to keep up with large amount of icons in one place and being able to export all of them to SVG, with just one click.

Artboards are canvases included in a single document. Each Illustrator document has at least one artboard (the main canvas), but you can add more and have them in a single document. 

So let’s start with a new Illustrator document with 200 artboards, each sized 24×24 pixels, that will be used as the base document for our icon set/font. With the release of Illustrator CC 2018, you can now, instead of 100, create up to 1,000 artboards in a single document. 

If you want to skip to manually copy/paste hundreds of SVG’s to artboards, you can use this handy Illustrator script “Ai Merge” by Iconfinder, which will import your folder with SVG, AI, EPS, and PDF files and place one icon per artboard. The script also creates a new artboard named according to the file name (minus the file extension), places the file contents, centers the object, and aligns to the nearest pixel.

So once we have filled up our new document with icons, artboards will allow us to have a perfect overview and organization for the complete set. The basic rules of creating a consistent and unified icon sets are to set up visual rules and apply them to all icons.

What’s also important is the naming of each artboard. When exporting, the artboard names will not just become the names of our output SVG files, they will also be used for the CSS class naming in the icon font. Take some time and name them appropriately – you will be grateful later on when maintaining the HTML code.

In our example, we will create an icon font with outlined icons. We will select all icons in the document (Ctrl + A) and apply a unified stroke weight (1 px), corner and cap style of the stroke (rounded). If you have downloaded icons with converted strokes, try to use icons from the same collection or, at least, the same designer.

Once you have your icons in place, you can use the ‘Export for Screens’ feature accessible under ‘File’ > ‘Export’ > ‘Export for Screens’. This is the best part of using Artboards. You can export all icons in different sizes and formats. Another great time-saver is that you can export your formats and sizes to subfolders.

On the left side of the export window select all or just few of the artboards you would like to export, and name them, as those names will be used for your output files.

On the right hand side you can define multiple formats and dimensions you would like to export to. To create an icon font we just need all icons as SVG files. 

The files will be exported to the location you choose, named by the pattern you defined in the export window. The filenames will start with the prefix (if set; optional) and followed by the artboard name.

Once you have your desired icon(s) exported to SVGs, the next step is creating the font. 

Creating an Icon font

Fortunately, there are plenty of free and paid online tools that you can use – among them are icomoon and Fontello. We will use icomoon for our demonstration.

Step 1: Drag & drop selected SVG’s and create a new set

Step 2: Select all the icons you wish to include in the font

Step 3: Generate the font

Step 4: Rename all the icons and define a unicode character for each (optional)

Step 5: Download the generated files

Congrats! If you completed all the steps, you have created your first icon font.

To use your icon font on a website 1) copy the CSS code that came in “style.css” to your own CSS file and 2) copy the “fonts” folder to your root website folder. Make sure that the uploaded fonts are linked from the imported CSS and properly placed in “fonts/”.

An icon can be inserted with the following HTML code:

<span class=“icon-write”></span>

The class name “icon-write” is generated from the title you gave each icon when creating the icon font. The classes are referred to styling definitions in the included CSS file:

.icon-write:before {
content: “\w61”;
}

The styling can be applied either inline or to the class in style.css. Here is an example of how to set the size, color, and the hover style of an icon:

.icon-write:before {
content: “\61”;
color: #c0dfe8;
font-size: 72px;
margin-bottom: 24px;
}

.icon-write:hover::before {
color: #000000;
}

Icon fonts are a great solution to integrate icons into your site and style them without using any vector editor. With CSS, the possibilities are almost endless. 

Adobe Illustrator has a pretty perfect solution to keep up with large amount of icons in one place and being able to export all of them to SVG (or other formats and dimensions), with just one click. It also makes it easy to apply style changes to all icons and re-export in literally few seconds. In terms of time savings, Artboards is the best feature ever for icon designers for sure. 

I encourage you to use icon fonts for your next project. And if you want, you are more than welcome to use my free icon set, which includes a handpicked selection of 200 outlined icons from the Picons Thin collection.

Got something cool to share about icons? Share it with #WeekofIcons and we may retweet your work on Twitter!

Developing for the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge at Microsoft Connect(); 2017

Today we’re kicking off Connect(); 2017, one of my favorite annual Microsoft developer events, where over three days we get to host approximately 150 livestreamed and interactive sessions for developers everywhere — no matter the tools they use or the platforms they prefer. Today at Connect(); 2017 I’m excited to share news that will help developers build for the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge. It’s never been a better time to be a developer, as developers are at the forefront of building the apps driving monumental change across organizations and entire industries. At Microsoft, we’re laser-focused on delivering tools and services that make developers more productive, helping developers create in the open, and putting AI into the hands of every developer so they unleash the power of data and reimagine possibilities that will improve our world.

Any developer, any application, any platform

In previous years at Connect(); we announced the open-sourcing of .NET Core. Last year we announced Microsoft joining the Linux foundation and shared SQL Server on Linux. This year we’re continuing to deliver on our commitment to the open source community and making sure we can support customers no matter their platform of choice.

Azure Databricks — preview: Built in collaboration with the founders of Apache® Spark, Azure Databricks is a fast, easy and collaborative Apache® Spark-based analytics platform optimized for Azure. Azure Databricks combines the best of Databricks and Azure to help customers accelerate innovation with one-click set up, streamlined workflows and an interactive workspace. Native integration with Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Storage, Azure Cosmos DB and Power BI simplifies the creation of modern data warehouses that enable organizations to provide self-service analytics and machine learning over both relational and non-relational data with enterprise-grade performance and governance. Customers inherently benefit from enterprise-grade Azure security, compliance and SLAs, as well as simplified security and identity control with Azure Active Directory integration. With these innovations, Azure is the one-stop destination to unlock powerful scenarios that make AI easy.

Microsoft joins MariaDB Foundation: Today we’re excited to be joining the MariaDB community as a platinum member of the MariaDB Foundation. As part of this membership, we’re committed to working closely with the foundation, actively contributing to MariaDB and the MariaDB community. We’re also announcing we’ll be delivering a preview of Azure Database for MariaDB, which will bring the fully managed service capabilities to MariaDB. Developers can sign up for the upcoming preview for Azure Database for MariaDB.

Azure Cosmos DB with Apache® Cassandra API — preview: With this preview, developers now get a Cassandra-as-a-service using the Cassandra SDKs and tools they are familiar with using the power of Azure Cosmos DB. Developers re-use existing code they’ve already written and build new applications using the Cassandra API against Azure Cosmos DB’s globally distributed, multi-model database service. Azure Cosmos DB has been designed to scale throughput and storage across any number of geographical regions with comprehensive SLAs and with greater consistency levels for more precise data latency management.

GitHub Partnership on GVFS: With GitHub, today we’re announcing Microsoft and GitHub are partnering to bring GVFS to GitHub’s 25 million users. GVFS is an open-source extension to the Git version control system developed by Microsoft to support the world’s largest repositories.

Helping developers be more productive

At Microsoft our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and developers are no exception to this. We have a strong set of new announcements to help developers, as well as whole development teams, be more productive as they move into a world of continual innovation and continual development of their apps. At Connect(); we’re announcing:

 Visual Studio App Center — general availability: The most comprehensive app development lifecycle solution for Objective-C, Swift, Java, Xamarin and React Native, Visual Studio App Center helps developers automate and manage the lifecycle of their iOS, Android, Windows and macOS apps. Developers can connect their repos and within minutes automate their builds, test on real devices in the cloud, distribute apps to beta testers and monitor real-world usage with crash and analytics data, all in one place.

 Visual Studio Live Share — first look: Visual Studio is delivering the next major advancement in developer productivity with Visual Studio Live Share, which enables true real-time collaboration within both Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code. It lets developers seamlessly and securely share their project with other developers so that they can collaboratively edit and debug in real time together without having to sit in front of the same screen or in the same room. Rather than just screen sharing, Visual Studio Live Share lets developers share their full project context with a bi-directional, instant and familiar way to jump into opportunistic, collaborative programming.

Visual Studio Connected Environment for Azure Container Service (AKS) — upcoming preview: Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code will now use the Connected Environment for AKS features, making Kubernetes development a natural for Visual Studio developers. Developers will be able to easily edit and debug cloud native applications running on Kubernetes in the cloud with the speed, ease and full functionality and productivity they’ve come to expect from Visual Studio.

Azure DevOps Projects — preview: Available in the Azure management portal, Azure DevOps Projects will deliver a guided experience, helping developers easily explore the many Azure platform services available to help build their apps and in the process, configure a full DevOps pipeline powered by Visual Studio Team Services.  In less than five minutes, this feature will ensure that DevOps is not an afterthought, but instead the foundation for new projects and one that works with many application frameworks, languages and Azure hosted deployment endpoints.

Take a look at how Columbia Sportswear is leveraging Microsoft’s developer tools and DevOps platform to drive their own digital transformation.

Putting AI in the hands of every developer

As AI becomes more pervasive and developers are able to harness the vast amounts of data being created every day, coupling with the power and scale of the cloud, we want to make it easy for developers to create the next generation of intelligent applications. We want to put AI in the hands of every developer with the tools and platforms they are most familiar with. With the announcements below, we’re delivering new AI tools and bringing machine leaning and intelligence to the edge.

Visual Studio Tools for AI — preview: This is an extension of our popular Visual Studio IDE, which will allow developers and data scientists to create AI models with maximum productivity. Visual Studio Tools for AI delivers debugging and rich editing, with the support of most deep learning frameworks such as Cognitive Toolkit, TensorFlow or Caffe. With this addition, developers and data scientists have a full development experience at their fingertips to create, train, manage and deploy models locally, and scale to Azure.

Azure IoT Edge — preview: Today we’re making available the preview of Azure IoT Edge, a service that deploys cloud intelligence to IoT devices via containers, and we’re introducing a new set of breakthrough cloud capabilities to run on IoT Edge, with Azure Machine Learning, Azure Functions and Azure Stream Analytics. Azure IoT Edge enables developers to build and test container-based workloads using C, Java, .NET, Node.js and Python, and simplifies the deployment and management of workloads at the edge. Azure IoT Edge can run on IoT devices with as little as 128MB of memory. As part of this announcement, we’re also releasing Azure Machine Learning updates, which enables AI models to be deployed and run on edge devices through the Azure IoT Edge service. Additional updates include easier AI model deployment on iOS devices with Core ML, as well as updates to the Azure Machine Learning Workbench tool.

Every year at Connect(); we get to share new tools and services that we hope will empower and inspire developers to build great apps. I encourage you to tune into Connect(); 2017 to learn more about all of the new innovations we’re announcing today, and to see what you can reimagine.

 

 

 

The post Developing for the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge at Microsoft Connect(); 2017 appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

Quill.org: better writing with machine learning

Editor’s note: TensorFlow, our open source machine learning library, is just that—open to anyone. Companies, nonprofits, researchers and developers have used TensorFlow in some pretty cool ways, and we’re sharing those stories here on Keyword. Here’s one of them.

Quill.org was founded by a group of educators and technologists to help students become better writers and critical thinkers. Before beginning development, they researched hundreds of studies on writing education and found a common theme—students had a hard time grasping the difference between a run-on sentence and a fragment. So the Quill team developed a tool to help students identify the different parts of a sentence, with a focus on real-time feedback.

Using the Quill tool, students complete a variety of exercises, including joining sentences, writing complex sentences, and explaining their use and understanding of grammar. The tool relies on a huge depository of sentence fragments, which Quill finds, recognizes and compiles using TensorFlow, Google's open source machine learning library. TensorFlow technology is the backbone of the tool and can accurately detect if a student’s answers are correct. After completing the exercises, each student gets a customized explanation of incorrect responses, and the tool learns from each answer to create an individualized testing plan focused on areas of difficulty. Here's an example of how it works:

More than 200,000 students—62 percent from low-income schools—have used Quill. They’ve collectively answered 20 million exercises, and Quill’s quick, personalized writing instruction has helped them master writing standards across the Common Core curriculum.

Teachers have also benefitted from introducing Quill in their classrooms. Each teacher has access to a customized portal, allowing them to see an individual student’s progress. Plus, by using machine learning, teachers have been spared hundreds of hours of manual grading. Laura, a teacher at Caswell Elementary School in California said, "Quill has been a wonderful tool for my third graders, many of whom are second language learners. We especially love the immediate feedback provided after each practice; it has definitely made us pay closer attention to detail.”

Quill’s most recent update is a “multiplayer” feature, allowing students to interact with each other in the tool. They can see their peers’ responses, which fosters spirited classroom discussions and collaboration, and helps students learn from each other.

While students aren’t using quills (or even pens!) anymore, strong writing skills are as important as ever. And with the help of machine learning, Quill makes it fun and engaging to develop those skills.

The Importance of Design in Business Strategy

Consumers care about aesthetics. Steve Gustavson, executive creative director at Adobe, reported during the MAX session “Making Sure Design Has a Seat at the Strategy Table” that 50 percent of companies surveyed claim that design plays a huge role in how they achieve success. Companies that focus purely on data-driven strategies, without considering how design influences consumers’ impressions, run the risk of turning people away.

With design holding such importance in modern business, it needs to be an integral part of your decision making process. Design culture and thinking should be heavily involved in every business strategy, and that requires making sure your design teams and professionals have a say in company decisions.

Evolving your company mindset from a sole focus on numbers to a joint focus on design and data takes some work. Communication is key. Using resources like Creative Cloud for teams can help your company get on the same page and facilitate design conversations throughout the business. The sooner you start incorporating design principles, the easier it will become to shift your focus. The following tips will help.

Understand the purpose of design.

Good design tells a story. It unifies your brand and drives innovation. Simone Cesano, senior director of design operations at Adidas, shared the story of his company at Adobe MAX. Adidas was founded in post-World War I Germany due to the rising popularity and accessibility of sports. Its founder worked hard to figure out the design for the best possible athletic shoe, and it paid off. Jesse Owens was wearing Adidas when he won his four gold medals in track and field, and professional athletes continue to perform well wearing Adidas spikes.

Adidas found success because it started with a good product, and has continued to build on that product. Rather than stagnate, it hires designers to explore new options for shoe material and design to help propel the company into the future. Designers help Adidas remember its story and traditions, which pushes the company to seek high-quality products, and they also help the company stay ahead of the game. If given the chance, your designers can do the same for your business. Recognize that designers have the power build on the past and control the future.

Encourage collaboration.

Your employees may not realize the role design can play in helping your company succeed. The designers may feel like they operate in a silo. And product managers or marketers may assume the designers have nothing to contribute to strategy. The first hurdle you must overcome is getting your teams to understand that the whole company is working toward a single goal.

Creative teams crave information. And the best creative solutions are formed when they have access to the right information like demographic, psychographic, or other audience insights. When teams are armed with these strategic insights, they’ll produce better work, and you’ll spend less time doing revisions for work based on incomplete or incoherent briefs. When marketing, product, and design teams collaborate to create delightful experiences for customers, brand loyalty and love will increase.

Collaboration can also help you avoid redundancy and harmful competition. And collaboration requires trust. Pitting your internal creative team against an outside agency — based on who’s better, cheaper, or faster — is the exact wrong way to build it. When treated like a commodity, trust is lost and communication suffers. Leading brands are building amazing in-house creative teams because they want design leaders who can play a strategic role in building content and products. Know when to use external agencies for fresh insights, but involve your internal team in the process.

Get everyone involved.

Many designers — and employees in general — don’t want to take orders. Cesano noticed that his team often received a lot of pushback when they made requests, so they changed the way they approached their employees. “We stopped thinking of the organization as an army where the general speaks and things are done. We started looking at the organization as a bunch of people that we had to convince.”

They started listening to their employees more, asking everyone in the organization for insights on how to do things better, and keeping all employees informed of company developments. As a result, the company began inviting everyone to regular meetings to discuss information, as well as to receive training on new tools. These breakfast meetings evolved into opportunities for employees to learn how other departments operated and for everyone to learn new skills and share ideas. It improved company culture and allowed all employees to have a say in business development.

Give your designers the best tools.

Digital technology is constantly changing and improving, and training your designers to use new resources will not only ensure you get state-of-the-art content, but will also drive creativity and employee satisfaction. Improving digitized processes also means the work gets done faster, while remaining high quality and allowing for innovation.

Provide the necessary resources and training. Any time lost learning new skills will be paid back with improved efficiency.

Put design to work for your company. Invite your design leaders to be more involved with your business strategy so you can deliver better results. Because when you give design a seat at the table, your customer’s experience will improve — and so will your bottom line.

If you’re looking for more ways to build collaborative teams, start with Creative Cloud for teams.

New tools to make your job search simpler

To help the millions of people who turn to Google to start their job search, we worked with leaders across the industry to introduce a new experience earlier this year. Since then, we’ve seen 60 percent more employers showing jobs in Search and connected tens of millions of people to new job opportunities.

Now, based on feedback from job seekers, we’re introducing some new features to help make the process more efficient. Directly in Search, you can access salary information for job postings, improved location settings, job application choices, and in a couple of weeks, the ability to save individual jobs.

Salary is an important factor in finding the right job—but by our estimate, this information is missing from over 85 percent of job postings in the U.S. today. So to provide this essential information, we’re showing estimated salary ranges right alongside many jobs, based on the specific job title, location and employer. These are drawn from sources across the web like Glassdoor, PayScale, LinkedIn, Paysa and more. For those jobs that do have a salary listed, we’ll show a comparison to the estimated range for that job, if available.   

salary

Many job seekers tell us they want more control over the geography Google uses to find matching jobs for a search. To help, we’re now adding an easy way for you to tell Google what search area to use when finding jobs that match your query. Just click the “Location” filter, and you’ll see a range of distances, from two miles up to 200 miles or “anywhere” if you’re a bit more flexible. Once you select the distance that works for you, we’ll display postings only from the area you’re interested in—whether that’s walking distance from your home, or across the whole country.

location

Once you find a job you’re interested in, we want to make it easy for you to apply. However, jobs are often posted in multiple places on the web, and most job seekers have a preference for where they apply. If you’ve already put in the time to build out your professional presence or profile online (on Monster or CareerBuilder, for example), you might prefer to apply to future jobs on that same site. Now when we find the same job in multiple places on the web, we’ll give you a choice of which site you’d like to visit to view the job.

apply

Finally, finding the right job for you can take time. That’s why in a couple of weeks, we’re adding the ability to save jobs right inside Google Search. With a bookmark button alongside each posting, saving is as simple as a single tap. Then that job will appear in your “Saved jobs” tabs on Google, which is accessible across any of your devices.  

saves

We all know the job hunt can be stressful, so Google is here to help. We review every piece of feedback we receive (to submit click the “Feedback” button beneath the feature), and we’ll continue to add tools to help make the job search easier for you.  

[Interview] Accessibility Matters: Relumino and Digital Inclusion with Robin Spinks of RNIB

Robin running as a torchbearer for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the streets of Busan, South Korea, on November 5, 2017

 

After a year of hard work, a project team of C-Lab, Samsung Electronics’ in-house incubator program, has officially launched their visual aid application for people with low vision: Relumino. Since its release, people with low vision who have tried Relumino – and their friends and families – have offered words of encouragement and appreciation, and suggested ideas for improvement. Coming from real users of this solution, their valued insights will continue to help the developers of Relumino refine their application.

 

One of these users is Robin Spinks, Principal Manager for digital accessibility at the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). As a long-time partner and adviser on accessibility for Samsung UK, Robin recently visited Korea to participate in the Torch Relay for Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Himself a person with low vision, he is also passionate about digital technology. Robin Spinks shares his excitement about and anticipation for changes Relumino will bring to people with visual impairment.

 

 

Q. Please tell us a little about yourself and the RNIB.

 

RNIB is the UK’s leading charity for blind and partially sighted people. At almost 150 years old, RNIB has a long history of designing and developing solutions to aid independence and mobility for blind people. The organization is also a key player within the World Blind Union (WBU) representing the interests of 285 million blind and low vision persons worldwide.

 

 

Q. The RNIB and Samsung have been working together for several years. Could you elaborate further about the partnership?

 

RNIB has worked extensively with Samsung to embed accessibility into products. Most recently we have worked with the television division to create an accessible user interface for the Tizen platform. Through the provision of technical guidance, User Interface insight and real-life user testing, a genuine breakthrough in television accessibility has arrived for blind and low vision customers.

 

 

Q. How would you define accessibility and why is it important?

 

Essentially accessibility is about ease of use by persons of all ability. A product or service which is accessible will be seen as well-designed and fit for purpose by almost all users. Good design is good design no matter what the use, case or operational context. To recognize the importance of accessibility is to recognize the fact that users need change as they move through life.

 

 

Q. How do you predict Relumino will change the experiences of its users?

 

Relumino is an application which clearly has great potential. Given some additional functionality and features, the app could be massively helpful in situations where a person wishes to spectate at a cultural or sporting event. Or indeed at a theatre performance or live stage show. I’m very excited to see where the application goes next.

 

 

Q. The RNIB is conducting user tests of Relumino with volunteers who have reduced vision capabilities. What feature of the application do you hope to see developed in the future?

 

A voice assistant and Relumino need to get together! The combination of high quality voice control and artificial intelligence could combine to enable Relumino to deliver some of unique experiences such as the enabling of custom filters across specific sections of the visual field. The possibilities are enormous.

 

 

Q. When using technology, what is the most important concern for people who are visually impaired?

 

Personalization is without a doubt the paramount consideration. Having the ability to customize fonts, colors and other components of the user interface is critical to ensure an optimized user experience. Voice control is also another key enabler for persons with vision impairment.

 

 

Q. As an expert in digital accessibility, what do you hope that large corporations like Samsung Electronics keep in mind when developing technologies to enhance the accessibility of the disabled?

 

Customer technologies must keep user needs front and center in all planning and development processes. Accessibility needs to continue to be an integral part of product design, development and sustainability. Regular user testing, product research and inclusive product road mapping will ensure a continuing focus on inclusive design.

 

 

Q. You took part in the Busan leg of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Torch Relay with Samsung UK. What did you enjoy most about your trip?

 

This was clearly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I could not have been more excited. I met lots of great people, sampled South Korean culture for the very first time and was part of one of the most amazing global events.

Strengthening our culture of inclusion

Three years ago, we began a journey to evolve our culture at Microsoft, and in so doing redefine our relationship with employees, customer and partners. This journey started by grounding our aspire-to culture in a growth mindset focused on three attributes:

  • Obsessing over our customers;
  • Operating as a unified company (One Microsoft); and
  • Becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization.

We recognized then, as we do today, that our culture is critical to attracting and retaining talent, enabling our strategy and achieving results for our shareholders. It is also critical to our success as an employer with a sense of purpose and mission to make a difference in the world. To achieve our mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more, we know we need to be unwavering in our efforts to build a diverse and inclusive organization. While we define diversity broadly, with intentional action plans to support all dimensions, our data today reflect specific areas in  need of progress across the tech industry.  We also know that for our employees to realize their full potential, each and every person needs to feel like they belong – and be able to contribute with their full and authentic selves.

Photo of Kathleen Hogan
Kathleen Hogan, Chief People Officer at Microsoft

Today, we are releasing our annual workforce demographic numbers, which is just one milestone along our path toward building a more inclusive culture. You can get a comprehensive look at our most current information (through Sept. 30, 2017) on this site.  LinkedIn, which Microsoft acquired late last year, is also sharing diversity demographics today and they can be accessed here. (As you will see below, I am also sharing combined percentages for Microsoft and LinkedIn in a couple of key categories.)

The top-line: Based on intentional efforts, we are starting to make important progress when it comes to attracting and retaining women and minorities to work at the company, and we are also making progress in expanding talent across roles within the company. That said, we are not content, and we know there is much more we can and will do.

 


Combined demographics at Microsoft, including LinkedIn:

Given that it has been 11 months since we finalized our acquisition of LinkedIn, we are providing a combined summary view of two key diversity demographics: women globally; and racial/ethnic minorities in the U.S.  It is important to note here that LinkedIn’s leadership and commitment to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) progress is equal to that of Microsoft’s, and is a strategic business priority for both companies.

As of Sept. 30, 2017, women represent 27.3 percent of Microsoft’s and LinkedIn’s combined global workforce. This compares to Microsoft’s number alone last year of 25.8 percent. The addition of LinkedIn’s workforce served to increase female representation overall.

In the U.S., our combined representation of African-American/black employees is 3.9 percent. Representation of Hispanic/Latin employees is 5.6 percent. These compare to last year’s numbers for Microsoft alone of 3.7 percent and 5.5 percent respectively. In these categories, before the combination of the two companies, Microsoft’s representation was slightly higher than LinkedIn’s representation.

 


Women at Microsoft:

Outside of the LinkedIn acquisition, the percentage of women employed at Microsoft globally is 25.9 percent, a slight increase from 25.8 percent last year. Excluding the phone manufacturing business wind-down where female representation was higher than our average, female representation in our global workforce increased by 0.9 percent, reflecting much of the emphasis and work we’ve placed on diversity and inclusion.

Underneath that top number, we are seeing important progress in some key areas. We continue to see growth in the representation of women being hired into Microsoft across all levels, as well as the following key indicators:

  • The percentage of women in technical roles increased from 17.5 to 19.0 percent;
  • The percentage of women in leadership positions at the company increased from 17.9 to 19.1 percent.

Racial and ethnic minorities at Microsoft:

Over the past year, we also saw increases in the representation of African-American/black (from 3.7 to 4.0 percent) and Hispanic/Latinx (from 5.5 to 5.9 percent) employees at Microsoft in the U.SWe are also seeing slight increases in representation for leadership and technical roles. Specifically:

  • The percentage of African-American/black employees in technical roles increased from 2.4 to 2.7 percent.
  • The percentage of African-American/black employees in leadership roles increased from 2.1 to 2.2 percent.
  • The percentage of Hispanic/Latinx employees in technical roles increased from 4 to 4.3 percent.
  • The percentage of Hispanic/Latinx employees in leadership roles increased from 4 to 4.3 percent.

Board of directors representation:

Our board of directors continues to be among the most diverse of any company in technology today, with women and ethnic minorities nominated on this year’s proxy representing six of our 14 positions.

Our philosophy and approach

While today we are sharing certain information about our workforce, we know that diversity and inclusion are so much more than gender and race demographics. It is about different cultures, religions, ages, political affiliations, education and sexual orientations, just to name a few. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion means creating an environment where everyone feels included and valued. Fostering this sense of inclusion and community will, in turn, create an environment that can help us fulfill our company mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. This is an ambitious goal, but one we are very much committed to achieving.

To accelerate our progress, we have an end-to-end global D&I strategy comprised of five core pillars, with support from our CEO and senior leadership team. Below are examples of what we are doing to improve in each area. We share this today as we continue to learn from our own efforts, from what other companies are doing to improve in this area and hope to continue to learn from others as we continue our cultural transformation.

  1. Expanding our pipeline of talent

We are committed to building and expanding the pipeline for diverse technical candidates. From our work in DigiGirlz, which has offered more than 40,000 girls the opportunity to participate in STEM, to our partnership with NCWIT Aspirations in Computing for women, to our TEALS program where we have embedded volunteer computer science teachers in 349 schools across 29 states, to our expanded  Microsoft Software Systems Academy military program on seven military bases worldwide, to Year Up, serving urban adults with skill development, we are investing in many programs to build a more diverse pipeline of talent.  We will continue to seek meaningful ways to encourage and cultivate our future workforce.

  1. Driving an inclusive recruiting process

In addition to building and expanding the pipeline, we want to look outside our traditional recruiting practices to become more expansive in our sources and more inclusive in our processes. Great talent is everywhere. We have expanded the scope of universities where we recruit, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Our Autism Hiring and Engineering Acceleration Program (LEAP) programs are examples of how we are actively seeking non-traditional sources to help make us stronger. We are focused on diverse slates and taking the time to ensure we find the best talent, and require managers to take our Inclusive Hiring training. We will continue to hire exceptional people, but with a wider aperture through which to view talent and profiles before making hiring decisions, while ensuring the process is inclusive for everyone.

  1. Empowering and retaining our people

Equally important to recruiting more diverse talent is our ability to retain great talent. We know that people go where they are invited, but they stay where they are welcomed. Our managers play an important role in the development of talent, and we are investing in them to help be better coaches and advocates. As we continue to invest in our Employee Resource Groups (LGBTQ, Disability, Parents, Asians, Blacks, Hispanic/Latinx, and Women) to build community and create opportunity, we are partnering closely with them to identify, discuss and address the unique needs surfaced by each community.

  1. Delighting our customers through diversity       

Building a diverse culture is a critical element to spark innovation and allow unique perspectives and insights to surface. Focusing on a more inclusive design process enables us to build products for a broader set of customers, and appeal to their unique needs. For example, technologies like Seeing AI, a vision-to-language technology that assists the visually impaired community, and Eye Control, which empowers people to use a mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech with their eyes, are two examples where our focus on employees with disabilities has helped us innovate for everyone.

  1. Transforming our culture

Building a culture where each and every employee feels valued, has the opportunity to grow, and is empowered to fulfill their own sense of purpose is foundational to what we are doing. Yet to activate and sustain this culture, we have challenged our employees to embrace changes, big and small. From redefining our performance and development approach, to launching 10 inclusive behaviors that include everyday acts – such as not interrupting each other – every employee is part of the change we’re driving. This includes our senior leadership team, who must model the culture we aspire to have, and where a portion of their bonuses are tied to progress on diversity and inclusion within their respective organizations.

Looking to the future:

Our journey to build a more diverse and inclusive culture continues, and when it comes to our diverse representation, we know that we still have a long way to go. We are committed to improving and learning. We will continue our efforts to attract, develop and retain diverse talent and embrace each  person with appreciation for their uniqueness as individuals.

I want to close by recognizing and honoring the entire employee population at Microsoft. While today I focus on representation of women and ethnic minorities, the need to feel included applies to everyone. And given our broad ambitions and mission, we need everyone. I want this to be a company where all of our employees feel they can thrive, have great careers and can be their authentic selves. That is the true definition of inclusion, and what we aspire to have.

The post Strengthening our culture of inclusion appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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