Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences

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Do relationships between brands and consumers arise naturally, or are they designed? If the goal of design is to influence, modify, and drive behavior, shouldn’t we explore the meaning of those underlying interactions?

The idea that designed elements must be easy to interpret has greater potential for consumers and brands than just ensuring that a website or web application is usable. Designing interfaces that are usable is important, but what if there is more to designing a successful user experience than merely ensuring that it is usable?

At FutureM in Boston, on October 25th, 2012, Roundarch Isobar hosted a panel discussion titled “Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences: The Semiotics of UX,” which explored these ideas along with questions such as:

- Do relationships between brands and consumers arise naturally, or are they designed?
- If the goal of design is to influence, modify, and drive behavior, shouldn’t we explore the meaning generated by those underlying interactions?
- How do evolving paradigms such as gestural and natural user interfaces (NUIs), wearable tech, and pervasive social media affect the relationship between consumers and brands?

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Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences

  1. 1. CREATING MEANINGFUL #UXsemiotics #FutureMDIGITAL EXPERIENCESTHE SEMIOTICS OF UX
  2. 2. WELCOME #UXsemiotics @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 2-­‐  Thank  everyone  for  coming,  especially  like  to  thank  our  hosts:  FutureM,  event  sponsors-­‐  As  the  session  <tle  states,  we  are  going  to  spend  the  next  hour  and  a  half  talking  about  Crea%ng  Meaningful  Digital  Experiences  through  the  lens  of  semio<cs.
  3. 3. Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences Agenda • Initial presentation • Speaker presentations (45 minutes) - Josh Glenn - Thomas Wendt - Katie McIntyre • Panel discussion • Q&A @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 3We  have  a  liCle  less  than  90  minutes,  and  our  plan  is  to  spend  the  first  half  or  so  listening  to  our  panelists,  maybe  spend  a  few  minutes  kicking  some  ideas  around  up  here,  and  then  open  the  discussion  for  ques<ons  from  you.
  4. 4. Creating Meaningful Digital Experiences First Presentation• A bit about Roundarch Isobar• What is semiotics (briefly)?• Why semiotics and UX?• Why it matters• Our panelists@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 4
  5. 5. ROUNDARCH ISOBAR@roundarchisobar@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 5
  6. 6. We are an agency of 3,000 creatives and creators bringing people and brands together like never before… …with offices in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New York, and 34 countries around the world. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 6Roundarch  Isobar  is  the  North  American  incarna<on  of  what  is  known  globally  as  Isobar.
  7. 7. What we do — Roundarch Isobar conceives, designs, and builds digital experiences for the world’s largest organizations. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 7-­‐  We  work  with  companies  like  adidas,  Fidelity  Investments,  HBO,  and  Motorola-­‐  OK,  so  thats  that.  Here’s  a  segue  you  don’t  hear  everyday:  let’s  talk  about  semio<cs!
  8. 8. WHAT IS SEMIOTICS? (BRIEFLY) @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 8Emphasis  on  briefly.
  9. 9. What is semiotics? se•mi•ot•ics: the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation“ Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign.” – Umberto Eco • What is a sign?@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 9
  10. 10. Not a sign, but a sign system Pierce’s Semiotic Triad Meaning Object Symbol @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 10Let’s  illustrate  this  using  a  treeSymbol  -­‐  The  word  or  image  represen<ng  the  treeObject  -­‐  The  tree  itselfMeaning  or  Interpreta<on  -­‐  The  idea  of  a  tree  (which  in  itself  can  become  a  symbol...the  tree  of  life,  tree  falling  in  the  woods,  and  so  on)-­‐-­‐-­‐Great  for  studying  language  and  communica<on,  but  what  about  UX?
  11. 11. WHY SEMIOTICS & UX?@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 11
  12. 12. Why semiotics and UX? Beyond the merely usable, to the meaningful Usable Intuitive Valuable @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 12A  semio<c  view  of  user  experience  is  not  new,  but  it  is  not  o]en  discussed.  Don  Norman  popularized  the  idea  with  his  use  of  “affordances”  in  his  1988  book  “The  Design  of  Everyday  Things”-­‐  At  the  level  of  tac<cs  and  implementa<on,  the  greatest  aspira<on  for  any  user  experience  is  usually  “value.”
  13. 13. Why semiotics and UX? Beyond the merely usable, to the meaningful Usable Intuitive Valuable Meaningful Memorable @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 13For  both  brands  and  users/consumers,  aspiring  to  have  merely  usable  experiences  is  sefng  the  bar  low.  Consumers  may  not  ask  for  meaningful  and  memorable  experiences,  but  they  do  appreciate  them.  For  brands,  providing  memorable  experiences  is  cri<cal  to  standing  out  from  the  compe<<on  and  for  engendering  long-­‐las<ng  rela<onships  with  their  customers.
  14. 14. Why semiotics and UX? Beyond the merely usable, to the meaningful “ Meaning is at the heart of consumer behavior. Yet meaning is not a manufactured, concrete given. Meaning is up for negotiation and interpretation, and the role of the individual in the creation of meaning is a very active one.” – Mark Batey, Brand Meaning (2008) @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 14Which  gets  us  back  to  brand  and  the  role  of  UX.  If  user  experience  is  by  its  very  nature  INTERACTIVE  and  if  meaning  is  generated  during  interac<ons,  the  beCer  ques<on  might  be  why  NOT  a  semio<c  approach  to  UX?
  15. 15. WHY IT MATTERS@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 15
  16. 16. Why this topic matters This is important…this means something. Copyright  ©  1977  Columbia  Pictures @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 16For  some  reason,  I  couldn’t  kill  this  darling.  At  one  point,  I  even  considered  basing  my  en<re  presenta<on  around  Close  Encounters,  given  all  the  themes  around  communica<on,  interpreta<on,  signs,  and  even  the  difference  between  interac<ons  and  experiences.  Only  the  movie  s<ll  remains  (thank  goodness).  But  the  key  point  here  is,  even  if  my  pursuit  of  a  semio<c  approach  to  UX  seemed  to  lose  focus,  the  several  thoughts  kept  bringing  me  back.  The  following  three  slide  spell  out  why  I  think  this  topic  is  important.
  17. 17. Why this topic matters This is important…this means something.• Digital experiences aren’t just tools or services, they are media; they are means of communication. As media, they should be studied and understood in that way.• The medium is still the message...but what is the meaning?@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 17
  18. 18. Why this topic matters This is important…this means something.• Because a brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization,” brands are defined by the experiences they engender…and those experiences are increasingly delivered digitally.@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 18
  19. 19. Why this topic matters This is important…this means something.• More and more, digital experiences are personal and intimate. The “relationship” between consumer and brand is becoming less useful as a metaphor and more of a reality.• As marketing and design professionals, it behooves us to understand the effect we have on that relationship.@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 19
  20. 20. OUR PANELISTS@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 20
  21. 21. Joshua Glenn Semiotic Brand Analyst, King Mixer LLC @HILOBROW • Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based editor, publisher, and a freelance writer and semiologist. Hes worked in commercial semiotics, as a U.S. cultural and brand decoding expert, since 1999. • A former Boston Globe columnist and editor, he is cofounder of the cultural criticism blog HiLobrow and the international culture and brand semiotics website Semionaut. • Hes written and edited several books, most recently Significant Objects and Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. In the 90s Joshua was co-producer of the DIY and social networking startup Tripod.com, and he published the zine Hermenaut. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 21Born  and  raised  in  Boston,  Josh  is  here  today  because  he  likes  a  challenge  —  and  cracking  the  semio<c  codes  of  user  experience  is  an  increasingly  important  one.Josh  works  frequently  with  agencies  and  consultancies  like  Fresh  Squeezed  Ideas  (Toronto),  Space  Doctors  (Brighton,  England),  and  Consumer  Eyes  (New  York).  Non-­‐disclosure  agreements  prevent  him  from  gefng  specific,  but  he  has  consulted  on  dozens  of  brands  —  from  chocolate  milk  to  beer,  from  automo<ve  to  credit  cards,  and  from  womens  razors  to  erec<le  dysfunc<on  pharmaceu<cals.  He  also  decodes  cultural  and  communica<ons  themes  like  "powerful  relief,"  "healthy  food  pleasure,"    and  "super-­‐premiumness."
  22. 22. Thomas Wendt UX Strategist, Surrounding Signifiers @thomas_wendt • Thomas Wendt is the founder of Surrounding Signifiers, a UX strategy and product development shop in NYC. He works with startups, agencies, and large corporations to define strategic product vision and user experience design. • With a background in psychology, cultural studies, and comparative literature, his interests include contextual design, semiotics, and the future of the interface. Find him on Twitter or visit his website at surroundingsignifiers.com. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 22Thomas  was  born  in  Niagara  Falls,  NY,  went  to  school  in  Minneapolis,  MN,  and  has  lived  in  NYC  for  about  a  year.  He  joined  our  panel  because  the  interplay  between  UX  and  semio<cs  has  been  on  his  mind  for  a  few  years.  The  two  fields  complement  one  another  so  well,  and  he  wanted  to  be  part  of  facilita<ng  more  discussion  around  them.Clients  and  accounts  have  included:  IBM,  Capital  One,  DIRECTV,  LensCra]ers,  and  many  startups
  23. 23. Katie McIntyre Brand & UX Strategist @mcintyrekm • Katie combines technology and an understanding of everyday human behavior to craft more natural, intuitive digital experiences. • She has worked in branding, advertising, and digital agencies with clients ranging from start-ups to organizations such as General Motors, the Department of Defense, and Microsoft. • Katie holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University and an M.A. in Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 23Hickory,  NC  is  Ka<e’s  hometown,  and  she  has  lived  in  Washington  DC  for  six  years,  which  is  an  eternity  for  such  a  transient  town.Ka<e  joins  us  today  because  she  thought  the  blend  of  linguis<cs,  branding,  and  user  experience  was  unique  and  intriguing.  She  is  interested  in  contribu<ng  to  and  learning  from  our  panel  as  well  as  thinking  more  about  how  the  different  disciplines  could  help  each  other.  She  has  worked  with  brands  like  General  Motors,  Microso],  Synchronoss,  Defense  advanced  Research  projects  agency  (DARPA),  Great  American  Restaurants
  24. 24. DISCUSSION TOPICS@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 24
  25. 25. Discuss Pop Culture References Copyright  ©  1997  Columbia  Pictures Copyright  ©  1999  Warner  Bros. Copyright  ©  1939  MGM  (Warner  Bros.) Copyright  ©  1977  Columbia  Pictures @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 25Josh’s  pick:  The  1997  French  science  fic<on  movie  The  Fi]h  Element,  in  which  Bruce  Willis  and  Milla  Jovovich  have  10  minutes  to  crack  the  code  of  an  instruc<on  manual  —  wriCen  in  ancient  hieroglyphics  —  for  a  weapon  capable  of  saving  the  Earth  from  total  destruc<on.Thomas’  pick:  The  Matrix,  of  course  (yeah,  Im  gonna  be  that  guy  who  picks  The  Matrix).  It  illustrates  the  difference  between  experience/reality  and  representa<on/interpreta<on  beCer  than  any  other  I  can  think  of.Ka<e’s  pick:  The  Wizard  of  OzMy  pick:  Close  Encounters  of  the  Third  Kind,  for  the  reasons  men<oned  earlier.
  26. 26. Discuss Mediated Relationships @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 26If  the  first  introduc<on  to  a  brand  is  through  Google,  if  the  next  fi]y  are  through  the  brand  page  on  facebook  or  Amazon,  what  does  that  mean  for  your  brand?  What  are  the  differences  and  similari<es  for  each  of  these  media/technology  intermediaries?
  27. 27. Discuss Locating the Experience UI UX vs. @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 27Even  if  we  examine  the  defini<on  of  the  terms  user  interface  and  user  experience,  we  can  see  that  there  is  a  difference:  the  interface  is  *for*  the  user,  but  the  experience  must  be  *of*  the  user,  at  some  level.  
  28. 28. Discuss Representation & Metaphor @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 28Thinking  about  how  informa<on  is  displayed  to  the  user  and  the  metaphors  used  in  representa<on.  Is  there  something  worth  talking  about  there  with  regard  to  UX  and  how  brands  communicate?
  29. 29. Discuss Natural User Interfaces @mbadger | #UXsemiotics 29Rather  than  look  at  the  companies  that  mediate  our  rela<onships  and  interac<ons  with  brands,  what  about  the  devices  that  enable  ever  more  natural  and  personal  interac<ons?
  30. 30. THANK YOUContinue the discussion at #UXsemiotics@mbadger | #UXsemiotics 30

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