D&T Special Edition #9

The Dire Importance of Context in Design

Hi there!
This is the ninth edition of D&T Special and our first in the new year! As you know, the special is a more in-depth view of topics that interest the Canvs team, but before we get into that, we wanted to share a retrospective that the team had come together to make which you can check out on this fun FigJam board with some thoughts from the team through 2022.

Now back to our regular programming.

Today’s topic – Context and it’s role in building understanding and trust with humans.

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✍️ From the Canvs Research & Editorial Desk

Always Design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.- Eero Saarinen

This week the Canvs R&E team has spent some time pondering this concept, let’s dive into some details.

Consider this, if you were to write a letter to a friend, you would write in a friendly and warm tone, with maybe less thought on the corners of your thoughts and thus writing. However, if you were to write an article for a newspaper, you would want to consider the whole situation, the hard facts, the exact numbers, the statements, and the audience. The crucial difference between the 2 writing styles becomes the context within which you would operate.

Context is a term used in design to refer to the circumstances, background, or environment in which a person, thing, or idea exists or occurs.

Key takeaways from this read:

1. Sociocultural context

Cultural symbols are vastly different. UX leaders Elisa M. del Galdo and Jakob Nielsen point out in their book International User Interfaces that “it is no longer enough to simply offer a product translated in ten to twenty different languages. Users also want a product that acknowledges their unique cultural characteristics and business practices.” This quote suggests that translation is only a small part of adapting websites to be culturally appropriate.

2. Visual context

A nearly hilarious misunderstanding in Amazon’s early days in India – research from Amazon’s product team found that Indian users mistook the magnifying glass for a ping pong paddle, for which a deeper context (textual labels, in this case) was needed in order to drive the point home. Don’t always rely on visuals, they can and will fail you.

3. Cognitive context

For as little as we like it, Jakob’s law still prevails, people have a tendency to work through the lens of their broad understanding of products from what already exists in the market, try to design with enough harking on the past without lacking the ability to try something new.

Context building not only helps you get a user to have an easier (and hopefully happier) time in the world of your product, it also helps you achieve the user’s trust more effectively – check the next article to understand a little more about user trust, and how to build it.

📚 What we were reading this week

One day, that could be normal. Here’s what we need to do about it.

Piotr Jakubowski, co-founder of Jakarta-based Nafas, on clean air and career pivots.

Just in time for your return to office, a new omicron subvariant is causing concern among public health officials.

The CEO of Proton says new competition laws have finally given him a voice in Brussels, even as he fights the EU’s anti-encryption campaign.

Layoffs, lawsuits, delays, Twitter chaos, stock in free fall, factory shutdowns — What happened to America’s favorite electric car company?

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted – and even reversed – progress on improving living standards globally, but it did not extinguish the potential for further gains. With a more granular understanding of how past progress unfolded, we can put ourselves on a path toward fulfilling that potential – and even chart a more efficient course.

Bankman-Fried appeared before a judge in the U.S. District Court in New York City on Tuesday with his lawyers, Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell. Criminal charges against the 30-year-old former billionaire include wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to misuse customer funds, among others. The former FTX CEO is also facing suits by the SEC and CFTC over similar charges.

Some highlights from the past month of D&T

And that’s the lot! Thanks for checking out what we had to share with you this week, we shall catch up with you next Wednesday. Incase you aren’t subscribed to the newsletter, you could subscribe here.

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