Hi there... Welcome to
Dana Smith Designs, home of User Experience Strategy and Interaction Design consulting for services, mobile, desktop, web, and products.

Recent design clients include Stimulant, Enact Global Consulting, Logitech, Fathom, and Adaptive Path

A little about me... Prior to independent consulting, I designed mobile, web, and desktop experiences for Flip Video, was a design consultant with Cooper, and clarified complex systems and stories for infographic design at XPLANE.

I approach design from a human-centered perspective. I ask a lot of questions. I think analysis and intuition are equally good reasons to make a decision. I get to the point. I design because it’s fun, and because it matters. And I still believe that design can and will enable us to lead better lives.

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Design Work


The Genentech interactive Pipeline Explorer design and large-scale installation launches at ASCO 2014.

Logitech just launched a new & improved product suite, Logitech UE.

This includes a refreshed version of their internet radio device, UE Smart Radio, with its updated device website, uesmartradio.com

Stratus Air: Service design for business travel

With Stratus, travelers can now count on having the latest information at their fingertips in a single location. The travel pass brings together itinerary, boarding pass, update/delay information, parking location, baggage, and personal identification. Because the travel pass automatically checks travelers in when they arrive at the airport, and confirms their identity at security and boarding areas, lines and waiting are reduced or eliminated. Since notifications are delivered directly to the travel pass, noisy announcements that are relevant to a small portion of people are also eliminated. The travel pass helps provide a tailored in-flight experience by remembering entertainment and dining preferences and even makes it easy to begin a movie on one flight, and finish it on the next.

Stratus Air travelers receive a small, electronic travel pass and set of bag tags as part of the program. Together these provide up-to-date information, guide and identify travelers throughout the airport, and track luggage. Stratus is able to delivers this service through inexpensive technologies like e-Ink, RFID, and existing cellular networks.

Read the full article, originally published in the Cooper Journal.

According to one reader: "The only thing wrong with your Stratus Air design is that it does not exist! As if air travel was not bad enough these days, now I am going to have to consider constantly how much better it would be if the Cooper design was implemented. And it is not as if Stratus Air is blue sky wishful thinking; it is eminently achievable."

New York Times App of the Week: Flip Videos on the iPhone

Fast Co.EXIST featured my photo of the under-construction Beijing Bird’s Nest (from 2006) in an article on the impact of the driving ban to improve air quality. “What better reason to ride your bike to work?” Now that’s an idea I can get behind!

CrunchGear highlights an early Flip Channels version in our, “popular and surprisingly useful” desktop software.

Objectified: Shiny objects and fortune telling


Update: Now streaming on Netflix.

On Tuesday night, San Francisco had its first peek at Objectified, the new documentary about products and the people who design them. The film weaves together the core narrative of product design with evolving topics such as sustainability, meaningfulness, and humanitarian opportunities in a concise, engaging, and at times lucid story. Setting aside for a moment the full-audience guffaw when Karim Rashid came onscreen, the movie is just what I hoped it would be.

Today, however, I’ve seen some tough (but valid) criticism of the film emerge from the SF design community.

Sure, I agree, the film is rife with lofty, idealistic statements. Yes, there is sparse coverage (at best) of the day-to-day topics that weigh on the minds of IDs and IxDs toiling in the trenches. And, alright, maybe a few designers come off a little self-important in the film.

But that’s ok… 

Read more

Congrats to Kim on the amazing new book, Designing for the Digital Age! We had fun lending a helping hand, and just as much fun celebrating!

Brainstorm without snapping branches

Originally published in the Cooper Journal.

Ah, the rumble of an impending brainstorm. In some organizations, it is a prized tool that puts a sparkle in the eye and wind in the sails. In others, it’s a feared term and a necessary evil.

And what exactly is a brainstorm anyway? Many disciplines, whether design, business, technology, or otherwise, have their own brainstorming voodoo, though it can seem like this vision is transported via secret handshakes and smoke signals. Everyone knows something is going on, but no one really articulates what. After all, it’s really just the time when we get together and come up with stuff (hopefully of the clever variety), right?

I’ve found myself brainstorming to many tunes over the years, from industrial design rock-fests to a modern interaction design synthpop, a visual design rumba to a change management cha-cha. And this often little-understood microcosm of society has an uncanny way of pushing buttons and exposing long-held beliefs right when they’re on the way to the chopping block. It’s the place where the skeletons come out, and can remain fraught with quicksand no matter how long you’ve been doing it.

So why bother? Sure, they can be challenging. But they are also where the magic happens. Where the mish-mash of life experiences come together to create something from nothing. And the principles that make this magic happen don’t change.

This is what I’ve learned along the way…

Be present — Put it away.

A single person checking their email or starring out the window can have a ripple effect on the whole room. This is your time! The time for the great idea. Be there for it.

Be the dynamic — Say it, show it, repeat.

Make explicit the desired group dynamic alongside the goals for the session outcome. Discuss the goals with the room, get agreement, and then keep those goals in sight. While focusing on a new idea, people can easily forget themselves and relax into old (sometimes less constructive) habits; it’s only human. So stick up those dynamic and outcome goals (to your forehead if you have to) as an ever-present target.

Be a good citizen — Build a community with your bricks.

A highly-functioning brainstorm participant is both an individual contributor and advocate for the group at the same time. Each of their ideas serves a dual purpose - to contribute to the output of the session, as well as to act as a springboard for someone else’s next idea. Do both with intention.

Be positive — See the good, and say so (and don’t throw those bricks.)

See the good in your own ideas, and articulate the positive in the ideas of others. This is how the momentum gets started, and how to keep it going. Make “Yes, and also…” your favorite phrase.

Be safe — Keep the wolf at bay.

Ask clarifying questions if you need to, but keep those ideas away from judgment or analysis; Try setting aside a separate time for processing later. One wacky idea is all it takes to ignite the twinkle of the idea in someone’s eye. Analysis and judgment are the big-idea-stealers in disguise, and guarantee discord will break the momentum before you ever get to the REALLY BIG idea.

Be flexible — Keep the energy up.

Once you have the momentum going, be flexible and go with the flow. And don’t forget to pause for the occasional office Nerf gun battle if you’re stuck. (You do have an office Nerf gun, don’t you?) Sometimes there’s nothing better to shake loose those brain cells or energize the room than a little silliness and a good laugh.

So what’s the result of all this? You’re ready to…

Be highly generative — Have more and better ideas, and have them fast!

Brainstorming is as much about intuition and free-association as it is about brainpower or knowledge. Speed and quantity help break through the ‘low-hanging fruit’ ideas, and get the brain-juice flowing. The result? You push through to new combinations and insights that will surprise and enlighten you, pointing the way. You’ll get to better places than you ever thought you’d go, and I bet you’ll win the day.

So what brainstorming voodoo have you picked up along the way? What works for you? What doesn’t?

"Let the Walls Do the Talking"

An article on the insights we gain from physical artifacts during user research, published in the Cooper Journal.

An experimental visual summary of skills, methods, and perspectives to pair with a traditional resume.

Tech Crunch asked for some visualization insight, while I attempted to read Korean.

An IT Conversations podcast of a Meshforum visualization session that Dave Gray and I conducted in 2006.

A concept map visualizing the rules of baseball within the context of the field. This was my first foray into information architecture, and is one of the main reasons that I’m an Interaction designer today.

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