The designer is present

Half day workshop. Wednesday 27 August 2014, afternoon


The notion of presence is a critical idea for those of us in user experience. At the risk of sounding like Yoda, presence is tied to self-knowing. During ten years of writing, lecturing and coaching on ‘interviewing users’, many of the questions that I’ve received are about controlling or influencing another person’s behaviour. Yet these interactions with others are really about ourselves, what’s inside us and who we are.

Therapists, as part of their education, must go through therapy themselves. They are expected to achieve a certain level of insight about themselves – their biases, their discomforts, and so on. While we are not therapists, we go out and study people without that level of self-insight!

A lack of self-insight sometimes manifests itself as passion, commitment, or being driven by a mission. While those have their place, it’s easy to become blinded by what we can’t let ourselves see. Sometimes this shows up as discomfort at the micro level, when we react to something a user might tell us about themselves; sometimes it’s a macro issue, when we’re uncomfortable with people who hold different values, preferences, or beliefs than ourselves. And it crescendos as know-it-all douchebaggery, when we think our job is to tell other people what’s best for them – when phrases like “frictionless sharing” fall from our lips as naturally as “what time is dinner?”

What you’ll learn

This workshop will help you develop more awareness of the concepts of presence and mindfulness and develop an understanding of how this informs how you engage with the world around you, as a designer and a professional but also as a person.

You’ll learn:

  • A meaningful definition for ‘presence’
  • Why mindfulness is a hot topic, in technology and in UX
  • The value of softer skills like empathy, improv, noticing and listening
  • The use of reframing, found in mindfulness practices, as a divergent creative thinking tool
  • Applications of these tools to contemporary design and user research practices

Workshop structure

This workshop will be a guided, facilitated discussion.

Unlike other workshops where the instructor is an all-knowing expert there to teach, this material is very personal – the room will be set up to allow discussion and sharing.

Target audience

This workshop is suitable for anyone working in UX who would like to develop themselves in the broadest way, to do the hard work of looking at yourself rather than at everyone else around you.

What you’ll take away

You’ll receive a pack with further reading and a copy of the slides.