This month, meet Adie Margineanu, a UX and visual designer with a special interest in accessibility and inclusive design. Before moving into the field of user experience, Adie combined her creative talent and passion for science when she earned her Masters in Biomedical Communication.
What area of design or sector do you specialize in or enjoy working in the most?
My preferences are fairly sector-agnostic as long as the work is ethical and our realized designs will help people in some way. One of my favourite projects was working on the user experience of the Shoppers Home Health Care website. While the site was designed to be a retail platform, I really enjoyed taking a universal design perspective and ensuring the experience worked for everyone – my colleague Heather Moore really helped with this aspect, ensuring all visual design was fully accessible.
Ultimately I’m much more interested in design as a process than as a solution targeted at specific sectors. I like projects that flex my design research muscles and that help me to hone specific techniques. Working in more nebulous problem spaces for brand new products or nascent strategies for services is really interesting and appealing to me from a professional development perspective.
Are you involved in any side projects?
Design fosters a culture of continuous learning. It’s not exactly a side project, but I’m in the middle of a certificate program at Ryerson that focuses on accessibility from legislative, social, cultural, and philosophical vantage points.
I think applying a design lens or design criticism to some of the established legislative mandates as well as the way culture is or is not inclusive has been incredibly valuable and potentially unique in my course work.
Being cognizant of the way social structure and hierarchy is designed to exclude, oppress, or marginalize people has helped me reshape and rethink how I approach my own design practice.
How important is taking a break from working on a computer to you? How do you do this (ie. Brainstorming with post it notes, sketching etc).
I don’t believe that design can happen on a screen without lo-fi, scratchy iteration. I always sketch out ideas in my notebook (grids or dot grids are my bffs). I also do a lot of sketching on post-its for easy affinity mapping and rejigging things. No matter how far along in the design process, it’s good to step back and question what you’re doing – be your own designated dissenter and don’t get too attached. Lo-fi keeps emotional attachment low!
When you begin a new project, how do you get inspired to create the best solution?
Generative research and talking to real users or representative users of the thing we are designing is the most important thing to me at the beginning of any project. Inclusive design should not be limited to designing accessible experiences – it should be a mandate for any new initiative.
One-on-one interviews with representative users that tease out the gaps between current solutions (or lack thereof) and their actual needs are so valuable for truly understanding the problem space and how to design something for real people with unique challenges.
What designers do you find interesting or inspiring? Why?
Leveraging design to fuel social and infrastructural change on a large scale is the kind of work I find most inspiring. In a recent lecture, Susan Goltsman (an environmental designer specializing in planning and designing inclusive environments for children and families) said “Everything affects everything – if you focus on one thing, you’re missing the point.”
I think as designers we are uniquely equipped to hone in with incredible attention to detail on the micro-challenges we aim to solve, while maintaining perspective on the systems, social forces, and complex challenges in our culture that we affect.
I recently read Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s book Design for Real Life and found it pretty inspiring. They do a great job of advocating for users and their context in the solutions they design and point out how devastating design decisions can be when they are made in a vacuum apart from the greater social and emotional context.
What are some common challenges that you often face in your work?
One of the most common challenges I face is a lack of understanding or empathy around an inclusive design process, which manifests in lack of time and resources allocated to robust design and user research.
What tends to happen is we design in a bit of a vacuum and rely on latent usability testing to uncover issues on a fairly finalized product. This can often lead to insights that the conceptual model of the product is flawed or that users have no motivation to use the product. These insights could be pivotal in the early stages of discovery if given the license to explore.