Hey, Products. Mind Your Manners.

Image is from the movie,  Marie Antoinette .

Image is from the movie, Marie Antoinette.

“Don’t put your elbows on the table.”
“Chew with your mouth closed.”
“Don’t interrupt someone when they’re speaking.”
“Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You.’”

Ugh. Manners. Raise your hand if you remember being groomed through your adolescence to recognize and mimic the behaviors of the world, to blend in, and do away with the very notion of being free and unbound to authority. I’m raising my hand if you can’t see it.

As an adult, manners are such a fine-tuned concept and they creep up on us in subtle ways. They are the blueprint of how social groups move around and also how people identify themselves (and determine their comfort levels with others). We don’t like to admit it, but if someone actively does something counter to what you were taught not to do, we become confused… and then uncomfortable. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable.

While we all like to say things like, “Be yourself!” or “You do you,” there are overarching human behaviors that fall in the range of feeling wrong, disrespectful, and impolite. Small gestures help us determine pretty quickly upon meeting someone whether or not they grew up around the same social rules, care about the same values about people in general, and if s/he is someone they would like to continue having additional social encounters with in the future. These are the small ways we define what is rude, what is acceptable, and what are gestures of kindness. This is the fabric of how friendships begin, relationships spark, and even how businesses create partnerships.

So, what does this mean for the digital world? Why should I care about digital manners when working on your project?

When we look at how products are built, how website UX flows operate, and how interaction designs behave, users eventually recognize whether or not they are being manipulated for good or for evil. They then determine what your main objective as a business is, and even farther down the line, decide whether or not they feel it is ethical to keep engaging with us.

As designers, we are no strangers to business folks dropping in and giving an ultimatum that money must be generated above anything else. We are also used to then proceeding to discuss what kind of “design” would make a client comfortable about their deal. To be clear, this is not fun for us but we do know that it is a necessary discussion. Designers will argue because of the holistic experience of what is at stake but also because, most of the time, the changes requested feel really aggressive and rude to put in front of users.

Let’s think about the everyday stories we hear when people meet/get together. The minor casualties of behavior that turn us off from continuing to interact with others can be analyzed to find parallels in the digital world to help us define and understand digital manners.


1) Put effort into your look. You should at least show that you came to impress.

If you do this:

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People feel this:

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There’s a reason why the fashion industry exists. No one is asking for haute couture on every screen but show that you care. It may sound shallow, but in 2019, it’s the name of the game. Find a designer, pay to get groomed, and be the attractive content you know you are.

2) Take ownership over your mistakes and look at it as an opportunity to gain some trust

If you do this:

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People feel this:

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Hey – we’re not all perfect. We all make mistakes. But when you make a mistake, how will you respond? Will you be apologetic? Or defensive? Will you be honest and create dialogue while you work through your issue? From a relationship standpoint, this is foundational to future interactions so don’t avoid it. Set the stage and, hey, have fun with it.

3) Serve your customers the way you would want to be served

If you do this:

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People feel this:

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I mean really. It’s insulting to expect that responsibility falls on one side if the stars aren’t aligning quite nicely. For example, if you’re out on a date and it doesn’t seem to be panning out the way you’d like it to, you would expect the other person to at least offer to pay dutch, no? This is no different.

4) Hire a copy editor, check your content, and don’t gaslight people

If you do this:

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People feel this:

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The worst thing you could do to someone is make them feel crazy when they’re not. Coordinating promotions and timing advertisements will inevitably raise a lot of content alignment issues so make sure to tighten up what you want to say before you publish/deploy. When your content doesn’t align, it’s confusing and makes people question their sanity. Ultimately, you won’t achieve what you’re set out to achieve. QA QA QA.

5) Don’t be passive aggressive with your CTA’s

If you do this:

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People feel this:

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This is all over the internet right now. It’s so frustrating for people to have to click on a CTA that is passively insulting. If you have a product that has sustained a longer user base and are continuing to evolve your product as time goes by, remember that you still have to be respectful throughout the relationship. Just because you and your user have been together for over 5 years doesn’t mean you can take that relationship for granted. Don’t take jabs as small as they may be. If you do it too much, the forgiveness can wear off and you could be looking at a deactivation.


Old habits die hard, and there’s always room for improvement and change, but the reality of it is that these small ways in which we interact with one another are the ways we keep our relationships going. It’s hard to grasp the idea of what it really means to design for humans, but we have found that thinking about interactions between machine and human as manners is a good start.


What other digital manners, good or bad, have you seen out there?


To get your team to start thinking about digital manners, try starting a slack channel like this and see what comes up.

Hi, there! It's me again. After 3 years.

giphy (11).gif


So… I really dropped the ball there. But, what’s the use in looking back?! I’ve got updates.

In the past 3 years since returning to work from my sabbatical, I’ve done a lot. I’ll list them off for you (as chronologically as I can) so you can catch up.

  1. I started the workforce as a Design Director for a company called DevMynd

  2. I continued to teach Letterpress 1: Metal and Wood Type classes as Spudnik Press

  3. I got a new bike. It’s a Linus.

  4. I was an AIGA mentor and was proud of my mentees who all were able to achieve their goals within the 12 weeks they were on a journey with me

  5. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of process operations between design and development at my new gig

  6. Cut off all my blonde hair

  7. Traveled to Iceland

  8. Went through a lot of drama at work

  9. Had the privilege of speaking at a few events about things that I am passionate about

  10. Became the Head of Design of my department #yass #boss

  11. Lost 2 dear friends who were very close to me

  12. Really tried to move abroad when Trump was elected

  13. Traveled to Italy, Japan, and Korea

  14. Struggled a lot while learning so much about managing, directing, and collaborating with my colleagues and employees

  15. Re-dyed my hair blonde

  16. Stayed strong through #14

  17. Won some design awards

  18. Help rebrand and change the name of our company from DevMynd to Tandem

  19. Watched all of the “Great British Bake Off” and started to bake (whoa.)

  20. Went through a 6 month training to receive my yoga teacher certification

:)

Now that you’re caught up, let the writing begin!

30 Days of Yoga

Pictured here is Maile, owner of Tula Yoga Studio in Logan Square. (Photo from  tulayoga.net )

Pictured here is Maile, owner of Tula Yoga Studio in Logan Square. (Photo from tulayoga.net)

I've been practicing Yoga for about 10 years (on and off), and from the moment I stepped into my first yoga class, I knew I had found a component of my life that was going stay with me forever. I've moved around to several cities during these past 10 years and I have found yoga studios that I loved but have had to move on from. Since coming to Chicago, I tried out several Yoga studios to see where I felt at home - there were a lot of trial and errors, Groupons that allowed me to speed date studios with no commitment, referrals from others, but it wasn't until I found Tula Yoga Studio that I knew I wanted to commit to learning from the teachers who communed in its space.

Before I write about the 30 day challenge, I'd like to tell you a bit about why this studio is so special, and also why it captured my yoga spirit from the very first class I attended. 

Yoga is a spiritual activity to me, and my yoga mat is my personal sacred ground. It is during this time where my body becomes aware that it is breathing, alive, and able to reconnect with the fact that, at the end of the day, I am me. The reason I tell you this is because it has become increasingly more important to me to be around people who are spiritually aware of the universe, and my yoga practice is my highest priority to achieve this kind of surrounding. 

I have found the instructors at Tula studio to be extremely spiritually aware of their surroundings while thoroughly emotionally intelligent at the same time. It is a rare skill to be able to meet spiritual states with an appropriate emotional response, and Tula, I believe, has achieved that. I haven't encountered every single instructor just yet, but the ones I have communed with all possess this rare skill - and I make an extra effort to attend their classes. And let me tell you, it is a wonderful encounter with every single class. 

Maile, the owner of Tula, is also someone who I look up to. Her heart and vision for opening up a studio tailored to students who want to learn and grow in their yoga practice is unparalleled and she has single-handedly pushed forth a growing organism that Logan Square cannot ignore. Not only did she collect Tula's great instructors, but this lady has thought of everything when it comes to servicing yoga students, and I finally discovered why. She shares this on Tula's website:
 

"I purposely chose not to pursue a yoga teacher’s certification or training program before opening the studio because I wanted to make sure that I built the studio through my naïve eyes of a student, still open to many ideas and interpretations."
- Maile Wicklander


Many yoga studios have changing areas, cubes for personal storage, yoga storage, etc. but Maile also thought about the little things that make all the difference. The bathrooms have bobby pins and hair ties, the common area is always stocked with complimentary tea, there are spray bottles to clean your mats after class, complimentary towels and mats, and so much more - all of which I have used when needing them the most, and it is because of these things that make Tula so great. Could she be a service designer?! I'd say, "Yes."

Over the course of a few years of attending this studio, I saw students in past years take on the "30 day Challenge." Yoga every day for 30 days. "Are you crazy?" you ask? That's what I said. My mind couldn't grasp this idea and I had the utmost respect for those who I saw take on the challenge. "I could never do that," I thought. But in the 3rd year of watching students conquer their 30 days, something gave me the courage to want to try. So, I took the plunge. If not now, then when? Right?

"Alright, I'll do it," said I.

The first 5 days were really tough. My body was exhausted and I couldn't even think. On the 5th day, Rhiannon (the resident Yoga teacher), asked me how I was doing and I told her that it was pretty difficult - that my body was exhausted. She kindly told me that with every yoga class, I didn't have to push myself like I normally do, and that it was ok to rest - and then it hit me. I had been approaching every class like I usually do - by giving it my all. Except going everyday as opposed to 3 times a week should be entirely something else, right? This tidbit of wisdom set the stage for the next 25 days and I am so happy that I had that talk with her. It gave me a larger perspective of what I was trying to accomplish and that my body needed to be heard with more sensitivity than usual. So, I did as she said and it set me up for better game plan.

I could talk about the yoga itself but to tell you the truth, that part is the least interesting component of this experience. Yes, I had to make it to class every day. Yes, my entire schedule ran around making it to class. Yes, I had muscle cramps every now and then - but, these are all things we experience when we put our physical bodies through something like this. 
 

What was more magical to me than my body becoming freakishly strong was the community that was brought forth to me by just showing up.


Here are 10 beautiful moments that occurred during the challenge:

1) Re-encountering a friend who I had lost touch with for about 2 years.

2) Finding out that one of my Letterpress students is the roommate of one of the yoga instructors.

3) Re-connecting with an artist who I had worked on a project with a year ago and hadn't seen since.

4) Spending quality time with Tula's fellow yogis while putting together care packages for Syrian refugees during my first yoga happy hour.

5) Demoing a pose for the first time which made me panic inside but I accomplished without fainting (whew!).

6) Discovering the most wonderful camomile tea blend that Maile brings in from the Logan Square farmer's market. It is that good.

7) Understanding what "Restorative Yoga" is and realizing how much training my mind needs while practicing yoga. (I found another favorite yoga teacher because of this class!)

8) Learning about Maile's vision for the studio when creating it - which made me appreciate it even more (you can read about it here).

9) Miraculously accomplishing yoga poses I have struggled with for years.

10) Communing with the people of Logan Square.


I've mentioned this before but I am an extreme introvert who has learned to survive in an extrovert world, and part of what I've been learning to do is to just go and be. During this challenge, I had to go and be, and the universe graciously met me there. Overall, this challenge opened my eyes to see more than what my body can physically handle - and to focus in on what it's trying to tell me everyday. It let me see the beauty of a community space that encourages communing with each other on the premise of just existing. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 

I'm now back to my schedule of 3-4 times a week but it's different now when I go to Tula. Each class is more intentional. I have a better understanding of what I'm doing and what my body requires of me. I also feel more confident in my yoga practice than I have ever been while knowing that there is still so much more to learn - and I think I'm ready for it. For this I am extremely grateful.

I chatted about this challenge to some folks I work with and conversations began to arise about micro-challenges - which is the idea of creating little 30 day challenges for yourself that are small, but are still based on commitment. I'm wondering what I should do for that... tweet everyday for 30 days? I'm so bad with social media... maybe I'll just stick to just writing more. :)



UX Notes: I'm going to mention a little bit of a feedback engine that was given to us 30 day yogis. We had a calendar on the wall where we could put a colored star every day we participated. So small and tiny but such a great way to feel accomplished everyday. No wonder this works in a classroom setting with kids, right? I cannot stress how important it is for product designers to make sure that small rewards are given towards users while completing a task. Make it as cheesy as you want but it will keep your user fueled to achieve their end goal. 

Service Design Notes: How might we learn from what Maile created in her yoga studio? It is clear that her empathy for a yoga student stemmed from her own experiences, and it is this empathy that drove creative solutions and services that builds loyal students who keep coming back for more. Let's make sure we participate in the services we are designing so that we can have this kind of empathy for the users who use our designs!

The Sabbatical that Continues to Give

My yellow boots that could.

My yellow boots that could.

I promised a post for what I would be doing when my Sabbatical was over and this is long overdue. For starters, I spent all of January at an artist residency in North Carolina which I will write extensively about later, but I'd like to announce that I am now working full-time for a small start-up in Chicago called DevMynd. Am I happy? Yes. Oh-so-happy. :) I'll write more on that in detail soon.

I haven't written for a while and to be fair, a lot has been going on. I have several posts coming up because I've had time to think, process, and also experience new things that I'd like to share. For those of you who read this, I want to thank you for all of your support and encouragement - and your patience. It really means the world to me that you're interested in the adventure I've been writing for myself, and I hope that I am able to write more about how I'm applying what I've learned during my sabbatical in my non-sabbatical life.

A few of the encouragements that have really floored me throughout this process are the amount of people who have shared with me how they were inspired to make changes in their own lives. To describe a few, a woman I had met in Detroit during my Design Residency told me that she left her job, cleaned out her space like I did, and is redirecting her life with the intention that she wants. Another friend shared that she was inspired to pursue another job where she cared more about the work that she would be doing. Another colleague shared that it inspired her to pursue a job that she had been wanting for quite a while - and that she got it, packed up her things, and left Chicago to follow her dreams.

It's strange for me to share these things with the internet because it feels unreal. Is it true that my actions were inspiring? I am utterly overwhelmed by the kind of responses I've been receiving and all I can say is Shine Theory! I don't shine if you don't shine ;) (If you don't know what that is, you can read about it in this post.)

I was recently asked to give a talk to an undergraduate design class at SAIC regarding my career and recent sabbatical. I gave the talk and reminisced about the past 6 months I had given myself to breathe, recalibrate, and refocus on what I was doing with my life and career. It was during this talk though that the intentions that I felt were manifesting within me really came to light. 

A student asked me, "So what exactly will be different when you go back to work?"

I thought about it and I let myself tap into the unspoken learnings and resolve I had within me. I answered by saying this: I now know that every single day, regardless of what I'm doing, is to be appreciated and met with a larger perspective of where I want to go. Yes - it will get hard at times. Yes - I can't really even predict what will change for me even in the next few months. Yes - I will miss freelance work and complete independence. But, I know how to appreciate work with a greater appreciation than I've ever experienced. I can choose my battles with a greater perspective that involves trust and sincerity. And most importantly, I can stay strong in my beliefs in any given situation - even if that means I need to re-pivot things again in order to stay grounded. I have resolved that these things are of utmost importance to me when it comes to my career and I plan on acting on them wholeheartedly.

I'm writing this with already almost 2 months of working in my new position, and I can safely say that all of the above is being applied in almost a daily basis. A lot of this has to do with the actual company I'm working with and, again, I promise to write more on those details soon. There are a lot of details.

I would like to share something, though, that a dear friend of mine in Detroit pointed out to me during my visit out there, the week before I began this position. I was sharing with him how excited I was to start working with this new team and that I'm happily getting out of bed with the curiosity of what will happen next. He said, 
 

"That's exactly what you wanted when you started your sabbatical. You wrote that in your first post."
- Adam Selzer


I had completely forgotten about my first post until he reminded me of it - as well as the fact that what I had been wanting to achieve was exactly what had come to fruition by taking this time of rest. Thank you, Adam, for reminding me that this leap of faith has accomplished what I had set out to do.

I'm ready for my next chapter.

 

A New Year = Clear Your Cache

Our traditional New Year's Day meal. (Photo courtesy of my sister, Ashley Cho)

It begins. A new year. A new outlook. A new life... blah blah blah. It went from a Thursday to a Friday - but somehow, the last digit of the year changed, which will inevitably beckon weeks of crossing out 5's to replace with 6's. Ok, World. Let's do this.

Although I was born and raised in California, I have participated heavily, and sometimes not so heavily, in Korean traditions. In Los Angeles, you will be able to find a huge Korean population. My family, along with others around us, became pretty Americanized early on and therefore began to pick and choose from both cultures what we wanted to participate in. The one tradition that was never on the table for discussion was New Years Day. 

This tradition occurs on the first day of the year (Captain Obvious...) and it consists of traditional bowing rituals to elders who then beckon/proclaim the things that I, as a younger individual, should focus on for this upcoming year. The main phrase said repeatedly throughout the day sounds like this, "Sae Hae Bhok Man Hee Badh Uh Sae Yo." It means, "Many blessings for you this upcoming year!"

So, this is what happens.

You wake up, get dressed, and depending on your family, you either begin the day with the ritual or you can wait until the evening. Extended families are encouraged to get together to participate as one unit and the cycle begins. For my family, there are a handful of relatives who live in Los Angeles with us and the rest are in Korea - for this, you send digital blessings (such that of my adorable nephew in the video below). Kakao is the application of choice for this type of communication. I kid you not, the entire Korean population in this universe runs on this app. 

The eldest is the first to receive the ritual bows, starting from the second oldest down to the youngest, and then the second oldest is next to receive bows from those who are younger than her/him. If you're married, you receive them together as one unit. If you're around the same age, you bow towards each other at the same time to show respect and there is usually no exchange of wisdom and wishes for the upcoming year. However, there is a cut off point - even if there are little kids flooding the room, you can't just receive these bows until you're either married or at an age (generally around 35-40) where you would have some wisdom to impart. Those are the rules. They have never changed. 

My adorable niece who is second to last when it comes to order of birth.

My nephew sending digital, adorable blessings. 

Technical things you should know:

1) Females and Males have different bowing positions, and the performance of these bows are carefully watched throughout the experience. You can either bow really gracefully or clunk-ily. Elders never hold back on how one has performed and even note your progress based on years past. You must perform well - while everyone in the room is watching and ever so silent. 

2) After your bow, there is a position you must take in front of the elder(s) you are showing respect to. It is basically a kneel with your calves and feet tucked in to show humility. You must sit in this position until the elders are finished speaking to you. This is where they evaluate the life you led this past year, and then proceed to give you their blessings and hope for the upcoming year.

3) Once they are finished, they give you money. Yup - that's right. They give you cash which is rationed out based on your age. The older you are, the more money you get. This fact is partly why children look forward to this day because you start out the year with the prospect of what you could do with that cash. More often than not, it is used for candy. (Sometimes, cash is replaced with a gift designed specifically for the recipient.)

4) After everyone has cycled through, you eat Dduk gook (rice cake soup) that seals the deal. One of my favorite meals. Ever.

After all of this, I began to wonder...

... who the heck thought of this system? How is it that everyone knows and understands the rules even without ever explicitly writing them down? What would happen if we introduced another bowing schematic to throw the entire thing off? Will this last past my lifetime and beyond?

I guess time will tell whether or not this ritual lasts but I'm pretty sure it will. There is so much deep rooted history in the Korean part of my culture that I can't deny its existence nor can I reduce my level of participation even if I wanted to. It actually makes me happy that I'm part of a tradition that I can partake it year after year - that's what makes us human. This is what gives us culture. It also gives us something to do, right? 

This is all to say, "Sae Hae Bhok Man Hee Badh Uh Sae Yo!" (Many blessings for you this upcoming year!)

Happy New Year, everyone. There will be no digital bowing rituals between you and I but my wisdom to impart to you would be to clear your cache. You'll thank me later.


Service Design Notes: When designing services, benchmarking off of traditional rituals may be a great idea for innovative services. There are so many rituals out there that have vast ecosystems supporting its existence. Perhaps we should educate those interested in Service Design by teaching the theory and practice of traditional rituals. Immersive education is, in my opinion, the best way to teach anything. Think about it.