Designing Cool, A talk at InfoCamp Seattle, 2012

Session 2, Aaron Louie @ajlouie

Saturday at InfoCamp, Aaron Louie asked his audience what is “cool?” People ask designers all the time, “make it cooler?” Or in the case of Seattle Central’s Marc Salverda “make it sexy?” We usually think “aesthetically pleasing” or worse, “trendy.” Cool is something others can say about ourselves, but if we say that we’re cool, it’s an automatic “not.” Can we have a definition, please? Aaron came to the rescue.

Polished Visual Design This is the relatively trendy part. Current polished design practices include a lot of white space, clean and minimal design, but we see this fashion come and go from Art Nouveau to Art Deco. It’s going to change again, but clean and efficient means polished these days. Example: Nike’s Website.

Making Something Work Better It’s our job as designers to throw away old things. This is not to say that we can’t keep important things and information that users want, but sometimes the assumption of “legacy” is incorrect. Focus your efforts. Do one thing really well, even it it means to segment your audience and become a bit more specialized. Example: Pair app. This is a social media app with a network of 2 people– it’s for couples to share their lives and their media.

Surprise and Delight Be unexpected and joyful. It’s not enough to do something that no one saw coming if it’s not a positive thing. This can be achieved by “easter eggs,” little secret bonuses that are there for your users to find and share to their friends like a secret treasure. Examples: List of Computer Easter Eggs

Amazing Experience: Awe The emotion of awe: beauty/flow/ social connection. What inspires awe? What is the evolutionary causes of the emotion “awe.” The collective movement of human beings, like a dance, relates to our identities as human beings. The interest in connecting with yourself and being in groups. We can create this sense of wonder by making things that are easy to share, that involve collaboration, that relate to our idea of self-improvement. Example: Arcade Fire, The Wilderness Downtown

interactive music video The Wilderness Downtown Arcade Fire

Engrossing Storytelling Suspense and mystery. In a way, an “anti-usability.” Hid information, create, mystique, intrigue, anticipation. This comes with constantly reinventing. You must develop a reputation for creating beautiful things, but not give it all away, let them imagine. Example: How Apple says they are going to release something but they don’t tell you exactly what.


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