Spotlight on: Cone Johnson


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?


Most recently, it was the Big Read Dallas iPhone app that I worked on with Justin Léger, Mike Townson, and Joan Chalkley for a 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:

(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 >>

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

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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