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Divya Mathew, Director of Marketing sat down with Nathan Tia, Creative Director at Velir to discuss the intersection of data and design. Nate also shared his thoughts on how data can spur innovation and creativity in the design process.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What the different types of data are, and how to use each type during the design process to get a more complete picture. (0:49)
  • Instincts versus data: How to know what to rely on when they don’t match up. (2:45)
  • How to choose between designs when the data shows two concepts that are both equally well-received. (3:41)
"There are often misconceptions about what data is. A lot of times we tend to think of data as just numbers, but it can actually be much more informative than that. Quantitative data can tell us how often something happens while qualitative data can tell us why it happens."
Nathan Tia Creative Director, Velir

Video Transcript (Edited for Clarity)

Divya Mathew: What’s up everyone? Welcome to another episode of public interface by Velir. I'm Divya Matthew and joining me today is our very creative, Creative Director Nathan Tia. Today we're going to be discussing the intersection of data and design and how data can really spur innovation and creativity in the design process.

[Public Interface Intro Music]

Velir Presents

Public Interface

Nathan Tia

June 2018

Divya: Nate, thanks for joining us today.

Nathan Tia: Thanks for having me today, Divya

Divya: At the moment there's a big push to leverage data in design—can you speak to what that really means and whether data can either spur or limit the creative process?

Nate: Sure. I think there's some misconceptions on what data is. A lot of times we tend to think of data is just numbers, but it can actually be much more informative than that. When we think of quantitative data, which tells us how often something happens, we also use qualitative data, which tells us why it happens. For example, we might want to know how often the button has been clicked but not only that, we want to understand why it's being clicked. Using qualitative data will tell us that maybe a button is too small, or the placement is off, or it's just not appealing so I think when we're using different types of data during the design process, it can give us a more complete picture.

Divya: That's really interesting. Because I don't think a lot of people really know to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative data especially when it comes to design, so can you speak to how we use these different types of data in our design process?

Nate: At Velir we actually use data and research a lot for some of the more subjective design decisions. So, things like use of color and typography, for example, which tends to be very subjective in nature, can now be backed by some research and data. To be able to use these different types of data not so much to get to a solution but to actually uncover the barriers and the challenges can be really powerful so if you think of the design process as a timeline, I'd like to think of data being used upfront to uncover challenges and being used later in the process to validate some of our design decisions. And we'll use that multiple times as we iterate design throughout the process—so we may use that during concepting, use that during actual page design, and also during beta testing as well.

Divya: Have you ever had moments or experienced situations where the data really tells you something that goes against your instincts as a designer and you have to sort of choose to go with your instincts versus what the data is telling you?

Nate: I think that certainly happens. As a designer I think, we do rely on instincts a lot and I think that part will never go away. Data tells us what has happened in the past, what is currently happening today, but it can’t always tell us what will happen in the future. So being able to rely on past experiences and instinct and data to actually help us better predict future behavior is really important in the design process. And that tension that you create between using data and instincts is what really leads for innovation in design.

Divya: What about moments when the data just really isn't useful at all and you have to put it aside entirely? Have you had any situations like that?

Nate: We've had a recent example actually with a client where we tested two different concepts and unfortunately, the data that came back supported both concepts equally. Users didn't have a strong preference one way or another and that does create a challenge for us to choose a design to go into.

Divya: What do you do in situations like that because you have two comparative designs—the data is telling you that both designs were equally well received—how do you make the choice between the two?

Nate: I guess it all comes down to what the main message is that you want to convey as a business and also your brand goals. For this particular client each concept was actually well aligned to a particular brand aspect. One concept was more closely aligned to building a sense of community, whereas the other concept was leading with innovation. Ultimately, we came back with the client and decided that the idea of pushing forward with innovation was a primary message that they wanted to convey to their user. So the concept that conveyed innovation was the one that we ended up going with.

Divya: That's great. All right, we have time for one final question and this one is a more general one related to your process. As a designer and a Creative Director how do you find inspiration—how do you get the creative juices flowing?

Nate: I enjoy photography. Ever since my childhood I always enjoyed the visual arts, so to be able to spend time out in the streets photographing people and observing life is a great source for inspiration.

Divya: That's so great Nate! Thanks for sharing your insights today!

Nate: Thanks for having me!

Divya: That wraps up today's episode of Public Interface. Thanks for watching! Make sure to check us out next time as we explore more facets of our work here at Velir. In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or visit us online at See you next time!

[Outro Music and Closing Credits]

Producer: Velir
Director: Mark Stiles
Writer: Divya Mathew


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