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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.

Questions I ask & try to answer
  1. What is this person doing?
  2. How is this person doing what they are doing?
  3. Why is this person doing what they are doing?
  4. What things are blocking this person from doing those things better?
  5. In what way could we possibly make it easier for them to do those things?
  6. 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.

    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