Spotlight on: Cone Johnson

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Cone Johnson is an interaction designer and information architect in Dallas, Texas. She has worked for a number of agencies (The Richards Group, Temerlin McClain, Luminant, and Brierley+Partners, to name a few). I originally met her through a friend at imc2, when she was working on the Big (D)esign Conference. She is also an avid TEDster.

How long have you been doing usability/user experience/information architecture work?

I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years… I started as a designer and art director, and then got into project management and eventually found my way to information architecture and all the associated tasks/skills. I am self-taught and learned IXD, IA and UX all on the job, which of course I think is sometimes preferable to academic work.

What is your current company/title?

I’m working as a freelancer on a multi-month contract – doing customer experience and user experience support for a company in the financial services, working on US + international websites and mobile properties, as well as architecting a kiosk.

What app or website that you worked on was the most memorable, and how did it do something innovative with design or functionality?

slider-iphone-app

Most recently, it was the Big Read Dallas iPhone app that I worked on with Justin Léger, Mike Townson, and Joan Chalkley for a BigReadDallas.org event this past April. For me, there were three innovative things on this project:

(1) It was my first opportunity to work on a smart phone app from start to finish;
(2) Working remotely on a team of four who all had day jobs, which led to our doing the entire project via email and Google hangouts on nights and weekends;
(3) this was the very first time I worked on a project with full and total creative freedom. We had a deadline, but beyond that, the team members were solely responsible for deciding the strategy, the interaction, the design and the execution. It was truly an amazing experience, and I hope to experience that kind of collaboration again sometime soon!

Is there a particular design technique that you like to use consistently?

I’m a fan of purposeful typography and using fewer arrows and icons. I admire progressive disclosure like in the Simple UI below:

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(Source: flickr)

What do you think is a very under-utilized process or navigation element?

I like the hello bar – but only for quick alerts or messages. It seems like it was everywhere for a while and now lately, I don’t see it. Maybe it was annoying for some folks, but I like getting pertinent info (but only when I need it). It’s transient information — it’s there; I read it; then it’s gone.

If there was one book you would recommend, what would it be?

The one book I’d recommend is whatever book I’m reading at the moment. ;) I’m currently reading several from here >> http://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/

If pressed though, my one recommended book would be Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, by Steve Krug. I love to give this book to my clients. It’s an easy read and really does a wonderful job in helping me make a point about usability, user centered design and accessibility.

It’s still often an uphill battle convincing clients and colleagues of the benefit of smart UX practices. I believe that they just don’t realize how many times a day they are confronted with elegant solutions to problems which are so simple that they’re seemingly effortless. It’s a matter of taking those experiences and applying to the work-at-hand.


Cone Johnson is currently a freelance UX designer and can be contacted at http://about.me/conej.

She is also actively involved with (and can be found at) DalMob, the user’s group for mobile developers in Dallas/Fort Worth.

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