The Stor(ies) Behind the Paper

Quickly after joining the Interaction and Experience Research lab at Intel Labs, I found myself diving deeper into the roles that influence UX. I was learning about all kinds of design, research, and development roles in the product space, while working with colleagues with various design titles of their own. Even then, I still couldn’t understand the differences in their work, or what motivated them to describe themselves as “Interaction Designer,” vs. “UX Designer,” or even “UI Engineer.”

Knowing that there had to be a better answer, I set out to find answers to this mystery which I was sure only existed in my inexperienced mind. To my surprise, in asking many others in the field, I often found no clear answers about the vocabulary used to refer to roles and aspects of the field. This really baffled me for a while, largely because it seemed like an unspoken confusion that most experienced professionals also struggled with – yet for some reason wouldn’t bring up.

It was then that I randomly discovered two wonderful podcasts by Radiolab: “Words,” and “Colors.” I can’t recommend Radiolab or either of these episodes enough. (Disclaimer: I have been known to be a Radiolab addict.)
“Words” explores a few stories that expose the power of language over cognitive processes and understanding. It uncovers examples where sophisticated language reflects a more complex understanding of a subject, through our ability to describe and build on ideas. Shortly after “Words” I listened to “Colors,” which described the way in which our minds can very effectively learn to categorize ranges of hues (e.g., “blue”) when we have the vocabulary for them.

Both of these podcasts immediately connected in my mind and led me back to the terminology mystery in UX – and its worrisome consequences. Combining those perspectives made it clear that not having the right terminology would actually hinder our ability to quickly identify, understand and build on experience concepts. It was time to dive into the problem and try to make sense of the messiness. It was then that I found my partners Dalila Szostak (a UX researcher) and Miroslav Bojic (a UX designer and developer). They were equally excited to tackle this topic, and I was incredibly lucky to learn from their experience in helping to craft the research process, develop our proposals and write the final paper.

We proudly presented the work in Paris (through skits! and a talk) during CHI2013.

Original Podcasts