June 17, 2019
Content Matters Podcast: A Better Way to Think About Design with Claudio Guglieri
Claudio Guglieri Ingeniux Content Matters Podcast Interview Blog

The Ingeniux User Conference is around the corner, and we thought it would be great to catch up with one of our keynote speakers, Claudio Guglieri.

Claudio Guglieri is a designer and the Group Creative Director at Huge, a full-service digital agency headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, with offices across the US and the globe (Guglieri works out of the San Francisco office). He has worked with some of the biggest tech companies, including Apple, Adobe, and Microsoft (where he led the visual direction of Fluent Design, Microsoft's own design system).

In our chat, Guglieri said that he didn’t formally study interactive design. It started as a hobby, spending time on the computer creating “choose your own adventure” programs and drawing. His formal background is in advertising. Fortunately, his hobby became his job.

How We Think About Design is Changing

In the past few years, design has become a buzzword, Guglieri said. And that’s a good thing because it’s getting to parts of the company it wouldn’t normally go. In the field of design there is a tension between crafting and selling, he said. The more you move towards a management path, you lean toward selling, and the more you go into an individual computer path, you focus on the craft. This divergence often results in tensions among teams and the company itself.

Guglieri said that design is now more about how you approach problems than the craft of the work necessary. Today, anyone can create a website that looks good. Pixel perfect is no longer an in-demand skillset because everything is pixel perfect. The baseline is higher. Companies can’t differentiate on the visuals (although they are still very important); they must differentiate on how they are solving a problem or delivering an experience.

Design Mistakes

Everything is a balance. Everyone bootstraps their website and solutions, and everything is becoming more streamlined and that, Guglieri said, facilitates and democratizes access to good design. But that doesn’t mean you should overlook the power of having a clear differentiator and getting back to the craft of design.

He described the wave of illustrations used by many Silicon Valley startups. They are all starting to look the same: they use a fun, vector-based approach to humanize the technology. But it’s becoming hard to tell one company from another.

Then there are other companies coming up with a different look, feel and experience. Guglieri said there is still value in the unique craft of your brand.

Designing for Emotional Experiences

The work Guglieri did on Fluent at Microsoft was related to emotional experience design. He said he was very lucky to be part of the team and lead the direction. He talked about this idea of a natural user interface (coined by Bill Buxton). The idea is that if we could leverage everything we know about how we use technology today, then there would be knowledge we don’t need to re-learn.

It’s a broad statement that many interpret wrong. Guglieri explained that the nuances of our sensory perception could be leveraged in a system that would facilitate learning that system.

This is especially true for new generations that aren’t jaded by twenty-five years of computing history and using a mouse or working with Windows.

Guglieri said these could include sensory like showing depth with shadows, or sonic – leveraging what we know about language at an international level. He said empathy comes through tonality; how can we use language in a sound system to try to make that system more natural to someone just starting to use it?

“Everything is linked to your emotional relationship to an interface and how efficient and transparent it is.”

These ideas work for applications that have utility, which is why it makes sense for a big company like Microsoft, which builds many apps.

Getting Started with Human-Centered Design

There are two ways to get started with experience design: the sensorial aspect and the behavioral. For a new company building a product, you will be dictated by the brand you are pushing forward, and that makes a sensorial approach difficult.

There is more opportunity with a fresh take on the behavioral approach. Guglieri said human-centered design is about creating something of utility to someone without disrupting their normal flow.

He mentioned a study that found that people hate learning. Finding users where they are and leveraging what they know is more useful than giving them a steep learning curve. Many products fail because the learning curve is too high compared to the benefits of the product.

The Relationship Between Content and Experience

Content is still king, Guglieri acknowledged. It makes a website or an application a destination, and it is the most important driver of every platform.

Content has also changed over the last few years. The amount produced is increasing, but the quality is decreasing. Guglieri said that users are trying to find content they can trust. The focus must be on creating quality content in the right format.

For example, Guglieri said that studies around the travel industry have shown that video content is the best type of content to create. But video content is proving to be very difficult; getting people to engage with a ten-minute video is hard. It’s critical to get people’s interest and trust, so you need to look at creating content in pieces and how you would organize those pieces.

Conference Keynote: How Far Can We Push It?

Guglieri’s keynote at the Ingeniux User Conference is a follow up to his TedTalk, Making Technology More Natural. He believes and will prove that leveraging and building on our existing capabilities will improve the content and the experiences users have online.

He said he would show the most important human abilities we use when interacting with digital content and how each can be used to improve the experience. These abilities include physical (like VR), vision (how we visualize and layout content) and cognitive ability (how we influence people and the experience). And he’ll provide plenty of examples.

Posted by Barb Mosher Zinck