While hunting for artwork to decorate my new office, I came across the “Drive-thru Gallery” by Thomas Barbéy (see Figure 1). I was immediately drawn to it. Several of Barbéy’s photomontages (created without any editing software!) now adorn the walls of the office reception area and manage to surprise me every time I walk by. These surreal images, together with their clever titles, inspire me to use my knowledge in new ways and apply it to new domains. My most recent obsession: the world of Big Data and the opportunities that it presents to UX and vice versa. (If The Human Face of Big Data by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt is not on your coffee table yet, you should order it now.)
I’m not the only one in search of inspiration—that was quite apparent to me during UXPA’s annual conference in July (see Figure 2). The most raved about presentations didn’t discuss new tools or methods, nor did they reveal any breakthrough research findings. Rather, those speakers talked about things we already know, but in a way that revealed possibilities and made us pause and think differently about what we do. Katherine Campbell’s session titled “Afternoon at the Museum” was one of those talks that transported us somewhere else (to the Smithsonian Institute) to uncover an exciting area in need of our skills.
As our field matures, more and more UX knowledge is accessible online and in print (we here at the UX magazine cannot keep up with book reviews—so many UX books are being published every year!) It is therefore understandable that practitioners are looking less for “how-to’s” as they are for things that move them and stimulate their creativity.
We tried to deliver some of that inspiration in a number of articles in this issue. Carl Beien’s story about his experiences in Kyrgyzstan provide a powerful example of user research and service design applied to growing fruit trees (yes, fruit trees), with an outcome that made a difference in the lives of many people on a very fundamental level. This is the first article in the history of the magazine that made me shed a tear. Even though it was the kind of tear that doesn’t quite roll down your cheek (it only makes you want to blow your nose), I still think it counts.
Another article that particularly resonated is Chad Driesbach’s report on how he increased his productivity by making changes to his environment and approach to daily tasks. Chad’s words encouraged me to reflect on my own work habits, identify areas for improvement, and determine how to get better. While finding problems and solutions is our bread and butter, we typically don’t do it when looking in the mirror. It’s invigorating.
I hope this issue of the UX magazine, in addition to conveying important and interesting content, also refreshes your perspective on UX.