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February 1986 - Now
ABOUT SAAR BYRNE
T.C.O.B.

I work hard. I'm a pre-post post-modernist absorber of pop culture and multimedia man. If you want a proper overview I'm on linkedIn, or if you want the private after hours directors cut email me at byrne.saar@gmail.com - if even just for a chat.

  • 10. Research

    I have been taught academic research methods (Media Production Degree & Msc in Multimedia), journalism research methods (Journalism HND and Media Production Degree) and design user research (Human Computer Interaction and IBM Design Camp in Austin). The need for researching is key to driving a proper understanding and creating a true competitive advantage. I'm well versed and experienced in conducting research.

  • 9. Human Centred Design

    Those of us who see the analytical aspect of understanding people as being at the core of what we do as designers, instead of the product, which is there to serve the needs of the person, are moving far beyond those who still see design as a finishing touch.

  • 8. Interaction Design

    The Interaction Design field is new and juvenile, but already there are trends and conventions. Gone are the days of acceptable poor interactions and UI's. Today the computer has so much power and can provide a better and more responsible life for everyone, the problem being that power is mitigated by the quality of the interaction. If a person can't access the computers capabilities via the interaction it's a failed opportunity.

  • 7. User Experience

    User Experience Design is properly delivered when full control is given to the design team to understand and design for every touchpoint around a product or service. Whether that is the actual product or service, to the website promoting it, to the sales deck and pitch delivered by the sales team, to any events or on boarding delivered. That’s User Experience Design. It’s designing the full gamut of experience related to a product or service. Anything else is not User Experience Design.

  • 6. Design Thinking Methods

    In IBM Design Camp in Austin and on the HCI course at IADT we learned a number of methods which can be used in relation to Design Thinking and help deliver a great product experience. These methods are mainly constructed to either help the design team and product owners to understand the problem or issue. Then a number of methods are specifically for collaboration to ideate and design solutions for the problem.

  • 5. Design Thinking Workshops

    I have had the chance to run a number of Workshops around Design Thinking, for IxDa and for DIT at https://productcampdublin.com/, along with roles at Offset and internally at IBM. What makes a great workshop is the fostering of a non judgmental environment, allowing for a rich and diverse range of ideas and concepts to flow out of the workshops.

  • 4. Web Design and Develop

    I learned HTML, PHP, CSS and Javascript a number of years ago, in college and then more afterwards. I wanted to have full control over how I style and design websites. I’m not a purist, and the actual code is a means to an end. An electrician buys a toolbox because he or she needs it all the time. I just got a screwdriver so I could put my Bargaintown furniture together.

  • 3. Editorial Print Design

    For me tone is the most important part. The tone of the publication, branding, advertising, production design or any service or product, aligns all aspects of that offering. In relation to a publication, from the tone of the articles to the feel of the visuals, all of which, if done properly, deliver a harmonious experience for the reader.

  • 2. Enterprise Software Design

    Having worked for the past 2 years for IBM I have a very strong understanding of Agile and Design Thinking methodologies, theoretically and in practice. Watson Health Care Manager was a new product which grew from an initial product purchased by IBM and then amalgamated with several other offerings over time. The road map to release the product on the cloud with a team constantly shifting and learning was challenging but enjoyable.

  • 1. Project Management

    From my first to my latest project I have understood the necessity of having a project managed properly. Having it drilled into me at college and then being exposed to the need when freelancing and at IBM, not just for my own needs but for any other stakeholders and to keep everyone aligned.

Design Process

In short, I like to understand the issue, challenge the problem, sketch solutions and test what I’ve designed before I produce a full version.

'DONT MAKE ME THINK!', 'People don't read online they scan'. I wouldn't disagree but, I love detail. And there's a lot of detail below, and I can actually talk and write about process for weeks, but I think detail is important. So read on if you will.

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My design process changes depending on the situation and the overall goals of the project. In general I enjoy interacting and challenging all aspects of my process with a willingness to try new methods.

I like to begin by understanding the problem, and making sure that the identified problem is actually the fundamental issue. In doing so I am trying to look at whatever issue has been put before me from as many different perspectives as possible, understanding, or at least attempting to understand, as many variables at play. I do this because it is easy to reduce an issue, or create a simplistic conceptual model, to a basic cause and effect, in doing so it makes it easier to understand, but this can often give a reductive and narrow view of the issue. If this narrow way of looking at a problem is formed, more than often, it will result in a failed solution. So, as a first step, I try to look at any given issue from as many different perspectives as possible, understand the variables and define the problem.

When analysing an issue, essentially I’m looking for pain points but, also, I’ll throw into the mix my own views, political, religious, ethical, moral, using these topics, along with historical, geographical and culture perspectives, as a prism for understanding. Thus, understanding the issue or issues via these perspectives I am attempting to get as holistic an understanding as possible. It’s that depth of knowledge and understanding which constantly guides and breathes life into the ideation and concept generation. Essentially I am looking for evidence to build a theory and propose a product which solves an issue, to some extent - in practise a perfect solution is very hard to achieve for a number of different reasons.

Concurrently, whilst looking at defining the problem, I will be working on solutions. I find that many people, as I have in the past, try to compartmentalise each step of the design process, distinctly separating understanding the problem and finding the solution. I find mixing both an analytical approach, researching the issue in the way described above, with working instinctively, meaning I’m reacting and designing solutions as I go, is much more beneficial and can lead to a richer design experience and engagement with the topic, it also leads to a greater quantity of diverse solutions.

Sometimes, depending on my mood, I may spend time simply sketching concepts as a method for understanding the details. I don’t give my self a rigid timeframe of how I approach designing, it’s important that when ideating early on I’m not focused on results and solutions, instead approaching the issue with an exploratory aim. Sketching, however rubbish I am at it, gives me a better understanding of what’s involved and what could and couldn’t work as drawing each aspect makes me think about the details and also sparks my imagination. It’s important to say that I have spent a lot of time researching how people conceive of ideas and how best to work, it’s something I find fascinating, where ideas come from.

Something I do a lot of now and really enjoy is working with users, apologies if you hate this term I don’t mean it in a derogatory sense it’s simply conventional to use, and asking them about workflows and day to day occurrences. Budgets generally dictate the level and type of research conducted, if no budget is available I have no problem doing Guerrilla Research, often this ad hoc style leads to great understanding simply due to it’s less rigid relaxed nature.

Secondary research is another major aspect of my overall research approach. Looking at best practices, in relation to software and web, Norman Neilson and UX Matters are great resources, other resources include academic research, which I dip into now and again, if I need a thorough understanding of a complex issue I’ll happily read a book, my interests at the moment are Cognitive Science along with Urbanisation.

I would see myself as a social scientist to some extent, as I see every designer being. Due to the nature of design, essentially you are making something for someone, you have to understand all aspects of them, including the environment they live in, from many different perspectives, to the internal workings of their minds.

It’s important to note I have in the past spent long periods trying very hard to understand the issue, almost to an academic research level, as I have matured and developed my style I find there comes a point where so deep an understanding leads to design block, like writers block. I find this is from over focusing on parts of the issue which have limited impact, and loosing focus on the main issue. This is something I actively look out for on any project I’m working on.

Design, unlike science, is a solution based practice, studies have shown the difference between a scientists analytical approach versus a designers solution based approach. And from my perspective I would like to think both approaches are important when designing, a scientific approach when defining the problem and understanding the issue and the people, and a design solution based approach for the ideation and concept phase.

I have talked abstractly about my process, if you’d like to see how I have applied my process to some projects have a look at the projects.

I have a great appetite for understanding other peoples process and I’ve read a number books on this, ones I’d recommend, ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson and ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. I’d also recommend the Coursera course ‘Creative Thinking’. As designers you generally get taught methods to help ideate, but I find having an in depth knowledge on how the mind works helps design for it and utilise your own abilities. Another good writer who crosses over between design and psychology is Susan Weinschenk, who has a number of books and articles I’d recommend.

In short, I like to understand the issue, challenge the problem, sketch solutions and test what I’ve designed before I produce a full version.

SAAR BYRNE UX / UI DESIGNER & RESEARCHER