The Carrot Blog

Design is everywhere. It's not just in the usual places anymore---desks, web browsers, bookshelves. It influences how we shop in a store, spend our nights out on the town, or plan our financial futures. Experience design has always been around in some shape or form. Only now, however, has it become an operating priority in creative industries.

Some of the Brooklyn tech industry's best and brightest gathered to discuss what they're doing to shape this new reality at last week's "dd: IMPACT -- The Design Edition." Although a number of discrete devices and contexts were discussed by the panelists, the distinctions between them matter less and less. What does matter is the sum of experiences people have while using them. Of course, it's helpful to tease apart pieces of that experience to understand how people are working at the edges with different experience formats, physical products and content to construct that whole. With that in mind, here are some highlights:

Experience Formats

Why call devices experience formats rather than, say, mobile or desktop? The mobile/desktop binary is disintegrating. Indeed, the first panel of the day laid waste to the notion of "mobile" within mere minutes of starting. Joe Minkiewicz, Director of Product Development at Prolific Interactive, thinks "mobile" will mean more than just our phones. Mobile will be absorbed into the variety of connected objects that increasingly surround our everyday lives: smart monitors, to iBeacon, connected appliances and more.

People are experiencing content on the devices they want, regardless of size. This is particularly true for video and editorial content. Jake Katz, VP of Audience Insights & Strategy at Revolt TV, asserted that companies no longer need to operate under the assumption that the content's level of immersiveness should be proportionate to the size of the device people experience it on. Buzzfeed's finding that its long-form content outperforms on mobile compared to desktop is compelling evidence of this sea change.

It's also apparent that apps are becoming the dominant way of interacting with the most important of our devices---our phones. Aaron Schildkroudt, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of howaboutwe, envisioned that elegant single-purpose native apps, that solve real human problems, would be the primary interface. To keep pace with this accelerating trend, he suggested that a company with a more feature-laden app may eventually unbundle it into a group of smaller experiences that could potentially be deep-linked. Schildkroudt also noted that an unbundled constellation of native apps give a company multiple touch points in the App Store, creating a new kind of SEO.

Physical Products

In an afternoon keynote, Mark Pommel, Design Director at PENSA, talked about the role of physical objects in a rapidly digitizing world. Pommel discussed how our electronic devices not only shape our physical objects and spaces, they also shape how we create them.

For instance, the unbundling phenomenon is not only affecting apps, but physical objects. We may rely on our phones less and less as Swiss Army knives, with a network of connected objects that make small, intuitive changes to our environment. As we continue to imbue objects with smart functions, Pommel urged the audience to be one step ahead and consider the unintended consequences of our design choices on people and on the planet. Not only must products provide compelling experiences, the products must be created with a more expansive design ethics in mind.


Carrot's own RG Logan moderated a discussion on designing content for today's news landscape. He not only had a lively panel, but had the best walk-on music hands down (provided by our intrepid Director of Communications, Gabrielle).

One of the most interesting tensions to emerge from the panel was how people will be consuming it. Lauren Rabaino, a Product Manager at The Verge, had a first-person perspective on the rise of the explainer news site through Vox, its sister company. Vox delivers its content for a given topic in a number of formats---traditional articles, infographics, video---that is accessed through cardstacks that fit individual updates into a larger narrative whole. The intent behind cards is for anyone to understand what's happening in a story without needing any previous knowledge of the overall topic. She acknowledges this approach is essentially Wikipedia for the news, but thinks it's a new and, critically, a better way to help people learn what's happening in the world around them.

This approach contrasts with the "stream" format championed by Mike Chmiel of Code and Theory, who had a large hand in the redesign of the Los Angeles Times website. He believes the infinite scroll way of delivering the news (done to great effect by web properties like Quartz) since it truly presents the news as it happens, in a way that people are used to as a result of Twitter and other real-time social platforms.

"dd:IMPACT! -- The Design Edition" offered a heady afternoon of debate and fortune telling. Only time will tell whether the predictions made will be realized, but one thing is for certain---the experience, regardless of the media or device, comes first.