Digital Designer

Shifting from reactive help to proactive help

One principle I like to follow as a designer is, “Let humans do what humans do best, and let computers do what computers do best.” I’m typically suspicious of trying to hand too much to digital solutions, especially for soul care that I would have theorized need a human touch.

But it’s also hard to ignore that our little computers are always with us, for better or for worse. They’re there when no human is. So when Jason Mathew asked himself the question, “Could an app help me be proactive in my fight against digital temptation?” …


Creating a digital and analog experience

This is a project that has literally been a decade in the making with lots of stops and starts. Some of the hold-up was a lack of a student database. With the recent move to Salesforce, the door was finally open to create an app for student leaders that could enhance campus ministry.

Greek Ministry, a focused ministry of InterVarsity’s, had been spearheading these efforts to have a digital app alongside the “Greek Box”: a kit containing everything a student leader needs to lead a small group, including a spiral bound leader’s guide.

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Exploratory Workshop

Previous efforts had included user research with developed personas that I could draw from. …


In teaching UX, I start with diagrams, not personas.

In Summer 2020 I ran a bootcamp on user experience design with some colleagues who manage websites but are not experienced designers or developers.

As I thought about the curriculum and started piecing it together, the obvious first module was personas and user research, right? Understanding your users is #1 right?

But, a thought came to me. When I’ve given talks and seminars in the past at work, no one’s barrier was not believing that understanding your user was important. …


How InterVarsity made the leap

Setting the Scene

InterVarsity is not a tech savvy organization. After all, why should we be? We’re not a technology organization. Our mission is to disciple students and faculty and to create witnessing communities on campus.

InterVarsity campus work almost exclusively operates on word of mouth and physical proximity- discipleship meetings in coffee houses, flyers in the campus quad, people walking around with 1 foot of each other, worship in dorm rooms: all of them in-person, physical meetings.

You don’t need an app or website or anything digital for that. …


Because you’re a designer, not a writer

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Spend more than a few months as designer, and one of the first things you will realize is that a far larger portion of your job turns out to be writing content.

I have learned over the years that when people say they want a website, or brochure, or infographic, whatever it is they’re asking for, what they mean is they want you to both design it and come up with the content, and it can be like pulling teeth to get what they want to say out.

“We need a website!”

“Awesome — happy to help”

“Can you just put something together? Something simple, clean.” …


While you may not become Picasso, you can learn creativity

Honestly, I squirm a little bit when someone compliments me with, “You’re so creative!” I used to respond with, “I just follow instructions really well.”

This was not false modesty. The things I knit, paint, play music with, there are instructions. A knitting pattern, a reference picture, music notes on a page– I followed instructions with technical skills I’ve developed.

I’m the type that marvels in art museums because I couldn’t fathom my brain coming up with those things — even if I had the technical skill.

Now — many will say that it’s because I’ve lost my creativity; after all, children are very creative! While that’s true to a certain extent, when I’ve looked over old notebooks…I doodled the alphabet a lot. Not pictures. The alphabet. …


A mildly controversial philosophy

I’ve read several articles about how to get great feedback out of people. One method is you give them a template “I am suggesting we do [x] because [y]. Another is to be very specific — most slightly seasoned designers know the framing:

“Hi everyone, we’re going to take a look at [this thing]. At this stage, the most helpful feedback is knowing if the functionality makes sense to you. We’re not looking for comments on style or exact wordsmithing.”

Right? In theory it makes sense — we don’t want to waste time with feedback coming at the wrong stage; it’s frustrating to deal with feedback that isn’t helpful; feedback that is uninformed; and even worse is the unsolicited feedback, right? …


Remembering the human on the other side

The circles in my life are big enough that I’ve accumulated people that hold a variety of viewpoints in my social media feed. All of them I know enough to say that I believe their heart is in the right place.

As more and more people feel the urgency to use their social media as their platform, I have sometimes found myself surprised at beliefs that pop up from people I know who are Christians — and I would never question their salvation, not that I should be judging it to begin with. I found myself pausing and thinking,

“I can’t believe you believe…


It is simpler than we make it seem.

When you think of UX, you probably think of tech. In the past, I’ve struggled to describe what exactly UX is — because from my tech background, I could get lost describing content, strategy, marketing, etc.

Then I saw something that reminded me of what the core of UX is.

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Person:

Thank you for putting me in contact with the interim executive director of The [redacted] Pantry. Today she offered me the opportunity to come speak to her and the director of operations about the needs of diabetics. We went around and looked at the foods going in each box today, and I talked about which were and which were not good choices for diabetics. …


“How do we decide?” “What do we do next?” are common questions I hear in co-creative meetings. It gets especially common in innovation spaces and there is so much unknown.

Competing Values as Action Steps

Some time ago, I was introduced to the Polarity map, which helps you talk about your values and how they help you decide what to do next. You should go read the entire article yourself, but here’s a tldr;

  • Sometimes you are problem solving and sometimes you are working through competing values.
  • Problems have solutions. They may not be easy to implement, but you can choose something that is best.
  • Competing values do not have a ‘best’ solution. There is a limiting factor (time, money, resources, mutual exclusion). They instead must be balanced. …

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