Richard Caddick is a founder of Bristol’s CX Partners, and author of Communicating the User Experience. He tweets at @richardcaddick.

  • Don’t focus on the idea, but the process of imagination/problem solving
  • Imagination can be thought of as a Venn diagram: What has been, What is, What could be — in UX, this maps to Insight, Empathy, Creativity
  • Creativity. Compare Turner’s paintings from the start and end of his life; what happened in between to change him? He was apprenticed (learned from experts), thought about colour theory, using new technology (new colours became available, tubes of paint were invented), travelled (UK, Italy, France, Switzerland) to learn about differences in light/location, produced over 19,000 works.
  • The baker Christina Tosi: started with lots of experimentation and lack of constraints.
  • Showed a picture by Felix Baumgartner aged 5 of himself falling from the sky; he had a focus, having a vision is powerful.
  • Becoming imaginative isn’t passive, it’s something we can consciously do. We can practice what we do to build up our skills. Teaching helps us learn how to communicate our ideas to other people. Observation shows us what is going on in the world/people around me. The ability to Experiment/prototype; asking questions/debating and reflection – what can i learn from what i’ve done so far. Vision – know the direction in which you are heading.
  • Insight + Empathy = Deep understanding, which comes from better research. It’s very easy to get into the habit of doing a little bit of regular research, which then just sits there. You’re not getting any value or understanding out of research.
  • mobiserve.eu is a project investigating how we can keep the elderly population more active/mobile in their own environment. Involves a robot that interacts with a person. Researchers used disposable cameras, 2 per person, with a sad and happy face drawn on them. Users were asked to use the cameras to take photos of things that made them happy or sad. These photos (and the explanations behind them) increased designers’ empathy towards their users. Interviews are important to reduce assumptions about users’ feelings.
  • How about our own experiences? Richard talks about having testicular cancer. Moved from basic empathy to deep understanding of what it feels like to have that kind of illness. Sometimes we forget users in research have multi-faceted lives. Imagination draws on your own experiences to heighten feelings of empathy and decisions you make.
  • As designers we create and think we can solve problems.
  • Arthur Fry worked for 3M and sang in his church choir, but he often lost his place in his hymn book. He wanted to invent something to keep his place, and the Post-It note was born.
  • As humans we have the incredible ability to feel for people we don’t know. Need our stakeholders to have empathy for their users. Case study: a local council site with problems. It would have been easy to just make the buttons and text clearer; instead used empathy mapping techniques to go through planning application process. Natural empathy makes people build more detailed picture of user than just listing facts.
  • In the 90s, a virtual reality experience was used to give doctors an experience to encourage empathy for patients suffering from fatigue. 60% of doctors said they would change how they would treat their patients.
  • What about our projects? Treat projects as several periods of open imagination closing in on solutions/answers. Consider the dynamics of projects, the context/level of detail, and activities to stimulate creativity.
  • Someone to encourage, someone to challenge – we need people that fulfil these roles for us.
  • Constraints vs freedom. As designers, constraints are more useful – they make us more innovative (e.g. car design has improved within the constraints of legislation around emissions).
  • New and familiar – the temptation is to be really creative, but sometimes customers need familiarity. You need both.
  • Play. The people we are designing for are also imaginative and playful people. They want freedom. If we try to constrain people when they’re in their decision-making process (when all the things affecting their decision are jumbled up as if in a washing machine) it feels unnatural.  There is a massive experience gap between what people are trying to do and what technology is letting them do. Computation doesn’t fit with people’s imagination/individuality. We want people to think and imagine.
  • An example of a dull product put across in imaginative way: an old Union Carbide ad.
  • User research involving mobile devices gets much better/truer responses when users can use their own device instead of being given one.
  • Book recommendation: Computers as Theatre by Brenda Laurel
  • Story of the invention of the Brooks bike saddle. John Brooks was a leather manufacturer. His horse died, he couldn’t afford a new one, so he borrowed a friend’s bicycle, which back then didn’t have saddles (instead they had wooden planks). So Brooks patented the leather bike saddle. Bike saddles are interesting technology, because they get better with time (becoming more comfortable). How can we create stuff like this?
  • “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Sketchnotes of the session by Jenny Willatt:

Sketchnote of Richard Caddick talk at UX Cambridge 2012