Closing out 2013: Our Wedding Movie

In August, a small caravan of close family and friends made our way to Davenport, IA so that Tomomi and I could get married. It was a small, private event and, I can easily say, one of the best days of my life. This is what we wanted to share with you guys.

Special thanks to Kate Webbink for making this video.

Most people reading this post know Tomomi, or at least have heard me speak fondly of her. In the autumn of 2012, we (quietly) decided we wanted to get married. At the time, marriage was not legal nationally, nor in either state where we live (Tomomi still lives in Michigan, but I live in Illinois). Since then, DOMA has been repealed (woo!) and my state has voted to legalize same sex marriage. It’s still banned in Michigan, but we can share our story and advocate with the hope for change.

All of this is to say that 2013 has been a huge, marvelous year on the personal front and we’re happy to finally share this with you. It’s amazing how quickly things can change for the better if people pay attention when things aren’t right. We want to express our gratitude to the many of you who helped lift us to a place of access. We plan to do our best to embody that spirit in 2014 and beyond.

Posted in Blog, Michigan Love

Chevrolet MyLink Pandora featured in Top UX Trends of 2013!

It’s always a little surreal to see something I worked on pop up in a piece of media. The Chevrolet MyLink Pandora app was one of my first projects as an interaction designer. And it’s a feature that unfortunately, my 2010 Chevy doesn’t have. I hope that if you are driving a GM vehicle somewhere, it’s treating you well (though if you are reading this while driving, put me down)!

Anyway, I’m a passionate UX practitioner so I’m proud that my work on in-car connectivity made it into UX Mag’s list, along with the likes of The Internet of Things and Tile.


Check it out here: UX Mag’s The Top UX Trends of 2013.

Posted in Blog, User Experience

Home from Midwest UX

I try to make a point to attend professional conferences now and again to stay inspired and in practice. In the past, I’ve attended South by Southwest Interactive and Adaptive Path’s UX Week. However, when I found out that Midwest UX was going to be hosted in the town where I was born, I knew that’d be my conference this year.

The conference’s theme was subtly woven throughout each panel and activity, about making place through the practice of user experience design. The remarkable character of the conference was Grand Rapids itself, with repurposed spaces like SiTE:LAB showing how art and technology can reshape a place like Grand Rapids, which I as often as not consider home.

I also really, really liked the small size. The tone of the conference was warm and open, but with the serious charge ahead of creating worthy future spaces as UX designers. The activities were set up to get us exploring interesting spaces around town (a popular excursion was the breweries tour, which I didn’t attend because that’s what I do when I go home over holidays).

The conference’s highlight for me was a closing keynote by Karl Fast, who delivered an impassioned talk about how the limitations of what we can do in the future with data, big and small, have merely to do with our own imaginations. I left re-charged to go do UX, and looking forward to attending the 2014 conference in Indy.

For the still curious, I “liveblogged” some of the panels I attended over at Premium Value, my team’s conference blog.


Posted in Blog, HCI, Michigan Love, User Experience

The Visceral Web

Whew; summer is certainly upon us. I’m currently trying to drink a pint of lemonade before it warms up while still trying to savor it. It’s a balancing act.

Summer is a sticky, sensory overload in the city. Even sound travels better in the hot, humid air; on top of which, all my windows are open. Maybe that’s what leads me to this get particular topic down on paper.

At work today, I got into why video autoplay on websites is generally a bad idea. In sum, when a site initiates actions that may interfere with the listening/watching/viewing conditions of the visitor, that’s inconsiderate on the site’s part. Unexpected sound and movement can be intrusive. It’s best to offer clear visual cues that a piece of media is playable or listenable and allow the visitor to steer that bus.

However, that’s only a segue way into the meat of this post, which is EXCEPTIONS. I want to talk about a term that popped into my head the other day. I’ll call it “the visceral web” and define it this way: the elements of a web experience that animate or play without the express initiation of the visitor.

My thesis is that, when elegantly executed, using elements of the visceral web leads to visitors with a deeper connection to the site. Why is that? Because sound and motion engage us cognitively in a way that’s different from seeing and choosing. It takes us out of that egghead zone and into the world of dynamic content. It turns a page into a back and forth conversation. It’s more intimate than cold data on display.

We could talk further about what “deeper connection” means in business terms, I suppose (deeper engagement, more customer loyalty) and then try to test or measure that, but I don’t think we’re to that bridge yet. I’m still thinking about finding the language to describe how to do it well.

Okay, so what are some examples?


The Path UI has been well lauded at this point, but I think it’s a great example. Specifically, when you press the button in the lower left-hand corner of the application, you expect a menu of some sort. What you don’t expect is the finessed flyout of the buttons. It’s something that “surprises and delights.”

gif watering holes

tumblr – Oh, tumblr. You beautiful, disgusting animal. In full disclosure, I could have started this post out as “the art form of the gif”, and tumblr is the universal gif watering hole.

(via mr gif)

Notice what having this gif in this post has done to your attention. I’m fairly certain it pulled you out of whatever you were doing and into this page. Watering hole sites have propogated many autoplay elements across the web, and I love that. Using motion on your page can direct attention in powerful ways, but overdo it and you’re using a hand grenade where a handshake would do (I’m mixing my metaphors; blame the heat).

Vine is killing it on the visceral front. But even as watering hole, it understands that visceral attention can easily become overtaxed, and the default sound view is off.


Stumbling across the airbnb header is what got me thinking about “the visceral web” in the first place. It’s currently only available in Safari, but I found it such a delightful little element that I actually looked forward to visiting the site to pass my mouse over the header.


In short, there’s a lot of value to studying and cautiously exercising design elements like motion and sound that are outside the intended initiation of the visitor. They will create stronger relationships and connections to your site. But I’m definitely saying be careful with this; a little goes a long way. And doing it right will be hard.

What a visitor can control and how sound and motion intersect with that is also critically important to the execution of awesomeness. If you have thoughts on this, catch me on twitter.

- @annakjonsson

Posted in Blog, HCI, User Experience

Fencing in 30 Minutes

Hiya! So we have these weekly creative meetings at work where we share things; kind of a show ‘n tell for grownups. As I told the group, I fenced for about a year and a half in college: enough to get serious about it. This week I brought in some of my gear and bought some foam swords and got us up and running with a little bout at the end.

Here’s the presentation. Some incentive to check it out (you’re here, after all): there’s a picture of me in my gear on the third slide.

Posted in Blog

Five Seconds on a Bus in Mexico City

A few weeks back, my colleagues and I challenged ourselves to make a five second film. It happened over my vacation in Mexico’s DF, so here’s what I came up with.

This was on a charter bus on the highway. I was impressed with the brightly colored highway paintings on the overpasses. When we came to a stop, a guy got on and got out his guitar. He played us a few songs, collected some change from us and got out a few stops later. This is what happened in five seconds.

Posted in Blog, Transportation

Back from Mexico City and Ecobici

Hello beautiful people!

A few days ago I was in Mexico City, enjoying warm weather, bright colors and the company of great new friends. Now I’m back in Chicago, dealing with the rain and grey everything as best I can.

This was my first visit to Mexico to see where Tomomi grew up. I didn’t really know what to expect, but one of the things I got to see (we didn’t use it; instead we got stuck in rush hour traffic) was the Ecobici program; that is, the little red bikes lining various places around the city that are free and available to use for one half hour– enough to get you from one station to the next.


In addition to the available bicycles, last Sunday we took a walk along Juarez avenue, which the city had closed down to traffic and opened to cyclists. Cyclists could take the Ecobici bikes, or their own, and hundreds of families rode down the open roadway. This program is free and accessible to the city’s residents.


Last year in Vancouver, I became more aware of the impact that a comprehensive bike program can have for a city. Then, living in Chicago and having bike friends like Levi, it was easier for me to keep paying attention. Before I had moved to Chicago, I was very wary of bicycling in a busy, urban environment because I perceived it as dangerous– suicidal, even. I have no way of knowing how the people riding the bikes along Juarez felt about riding in the federal district before 2007, when the program was introduced, but I saw many people using them now. The red Ecobici bikes dotting the roads were great biking city finds!

This Atlantic article talks more about Muévete en Bici, the program that closes the road down for traffic so people can ride.

Posted in Blog, Transportation

The Cataloging of Touch Gestures

People who have poked their nose in from time to time will know of my fascination with affordances, cues in the physical world that in some ways inform our relationship to the digital world. Gabriele Meldaikyte put together an exhibit that I caught wind of on Fast Company, that manifest pinching, touching and swiping in the physical world.

Have a look:


Pinch to zoom:


Posted in Affordances, Blog

2012 Recap: Year of Gratitude

A theme that’s been with me the past maybe 10 years or so is that there are two ways of learning things: learning them intellectually, and learning them intrinsically. In 2012 I learned more about gratitude, which I’ve understood intellectually since I was little, in the more intrinsic sense.

I turned 30 this year and I am grateful for all the goodness that pervades my life: close family, great friends, an amazing partner, a good job that I enjoy waking up to go do. I moved to Oak Park about a year ago, and I like where I live. I don’t drive much anymore and I’ve been reading instead. I feel enriched by the relationships with people in my life, and feel truly happy.

2012 has felt like a year of big societal problems and a sense that peoples’ hearts and minds can expand, including my own. While we face seemingly insurmountable global problems and resistance toward solving them, we face vast amounts of inequality in living standards from things like access to clean drinking water and education to unequal platforms of expression. We live according to the dogmas of those who insist there are winners and losers, and the only way to survive is if someone else is losing, which in my mind seems to only display a lack of imagination about how living among each other works. The world’s problems seem big, unfair and unsurmountable.

But this past year I’ve become more sensitive to the virtues of expressing gratitude, that though we are much different across the world, we are all connected, and that our successes as a planet will be collectively achieved or not at all. It seems that taking pause and feeling grateful for what’s in front of me is kind of a healing balm for the overwhelming nature of being a human on the planet today and has increased my quality of life. I’m starting to realize that I was overthinking gratitude and happiness for the first part of my life. It seems to be more about spending time with others, being a passionate listener and approaching every second of life with love and compassion. I’m learning it from the ground up.

The challenge for 2013 will be about putting my gratitude into action.

For the rest of 2012 I’ll be rolling around Southeast Michigan visiting my friends while Tomomi’s in Japan. May the remaining days of your year be filled with good people, good food, love and compassion.

Posted in Blog

Premium Value at UX Week 2012!

I’m writing this post from San Francisco, where I’ll be merrily UXing for the rest of the week. In the past, I’ve used the occasion of a trip away from home to rent a car and drive something I wouldn’t get a chance to otherwise, but this time I decided to rent a bike for the week. Already it’s been a great way to explore the city, and I’m impressed by the number of bike lanes the city has to offer. I’m getting less and less timid about biking in heavy traffic, while continuing to think about what makes and keeps bikers (and drivers and pedestrians) safe.

Anyhow, UX Week! This is my first time in attendance, and it’s thanks to the good people at Maddock Douglas who let me do some work for them that I’m able to attend. I’ve been posting my notes to the team conference blog, which you can visit to see what I’m up to and learning.

Premium Value, baby!

Posted in Blog, Transportation, User Experience