Mission Statements: Why You Might Want One

I recently started a new job. The group I manage is new and all the people on my team have recently been transferred into this group. Additionally, each person has spent a lot of time in the recent past working on individual, solitary projects, and has not regularly been part of a collaborative team.

Coming into a new company is difficult. Joining a newly-formed team can be even harder. Not only are you new, but the group dynamics are new as well. This is exciting and scary at the same time. There is no shared history or knowledge base to draw from in terms of how people will work together or be successful. On the other hand, the slate is clean and there are fewer possibilities of being compared to what was done on the past.

In an attempt to bring this group together quickly and create a sense of shared purpose, I decided that we needed to develop a mission statement for the team. This is important for a couple of reasons. One, it taps into the “shared vision” (see Christina’s article) mentality and it creates a statement for the rest of the department and company to understand what you are all about. Because the group is new, what we do is still somewhat undefined, and through several conversations with peers and other design staff, I came to realize that the perception of our purpose and place in the overall organization was varied.

Writing a mission statement for a team or department is a challenge. (Shoot, it�s hard to write one for yourself!) But it is a great exercise to go through. Most companies have mission statements, as do many large organizations–they can be equally useful for small teams. The mission statement is deceptively simple-looking. It’s important to try to distill the essence of your message of what you are about down to two or three sentences. The mission statement should tell the story of your ideals. The challenge lies in not to getting caught up in the “we are so great” type of language.

To create my team’s mission, I decided that one of the best methods to bring this team together was a group brainstorm. Together we would try to distill the core attributes that speak to the values and goals of this team. To use the mission both as an internal team building tool and external message that the team believes in, it is important to do this exercise as a team. The conversations and brainstorming and contradicting and negotiations over what is important and what isn�t is key to ensuring a shared sense of purpose.

I approached the session with three questions to the team:

  1. “What are we doing now?”
    (What has each individual person been responsible for and how does that fit into this new group?)
  2. “What should we be doing?”
    (Trying to think big and capture the sense or purpose and longer term vision.)
  3. “What are we not?”
    (What misconceptions are out there that we need to dispel as far as the role of the group in the organization?)

More formally, these questions translate into:

  1. Who we are.
  2. What we do.
  3. What we stand for.
  4. Why we do it.

A working session was spent discussing these questions and a whiteboard of lists created. From this raw material, I sat down and tried to draft a coherent mission statement. The statement is about three sentences long and touches upon these key points. I sent the draft out for review and feedback from the team, and went through several rounds of revisions based on their comments.

About halfway through the process, I realized that part of the mission was too specific. So I pulled out a few key phrases and used them to create a set of goals, and specific objectives toward reaching those goals. By pulling the more specific, tangible information out, the mission statement became a high-level, inspiring statement of what this team is, wants to be, and should be responsible for. It is something we can believe in, that expresses our ideals. The mission also sets the stage for the long-term development and growth of the team. Through the mission statement, we are able to reach ahead and put a stake in the ground about higher-level strategic opportunities the team will aspire to.

The mission, together with the goals and objectives that evolved out of the brainstorming session, satisfies the tangible aspect of what we do now as well as the loftier, more strategic aspirations of the team that establish what we stand for and why we do the work we do. It’s a good start, and the team and I will be sharing and evangelizing the message to the rest of the organization over the coming weeks.

Erin Malone, editor in chief for Boxes and Arrows, is currently Director of Design, Platform group at Yahoo! Her team is currently responsible for developing tools, brand guidelines, cross-network research and a knowledge management system for Yahoo! Design Standards and Best Practices for the entire User Experience group.

Planning your future

“It’s not the plan that is important, it’s the planning.”

—Graeme Edwards

I have been thinking a lot about career growth lately, and as a manager, have been generally concerned with making sure there are growth opportunities for my staff, regardless of their level or the point they are at in their career.

This often means rearranging teams so that a staff member might be stretched to grow in a new skill—as a designer, as a mentor and leader, or just in a new domain (i.e., moving from a music product to a mail product). In addition, I am always looking for networking, conference, and classroom opportunities that would benefit not only me, but my staff as well.

But not everyone has a manager that is concerned about her career growth, and there are even times when day-to-day work concerns are a priority and career growth needs are far in the back of my mind. As a matter of fact, for most of my career, I never had anyone watching out for me. For the first part of my career, I don’t even think I thought much about my long-term career. I just seemed to happen into new opportunities that taught me new skills and kept me growing and challenged. But there was no plan, no goal other than to stay challenged.

The point is, in the big picture, no one is going to look after your career for you, but you.

A few years ago, a manager of mine gave me the assignment to work on a five-year career plan. I had never created a career plan before (not even to plot out goals for the coming year), so I was completely unprepared for how and why I should do this. Luckily, she shared her own plan as a guide, but I still agonized through the exercise. Over time I have become aware of how important this was for me to do. Looking and assessing where I was at the time, really thinking about what I wanted to be doing in the future, gave me the tools to make the right decisions to make things happen.

After I was done, I realized that most of what I put down for a five-year plan could be done in a year. But it took writing it down to see that and to make it happen. This also was a good tool for working with my boss to craft training and work opportunities for me to meet my goals. I also made sure that these goals included life and personal goals as well as career goals. The older I get the more I realize that these are intertwined and success in one space brings success to others. Work/Life balance matters.

In an effort to make this anecdote meaningful to you, I’d like to share the steps and some resources I used to help me prepare my five-year goals.

The Template:

  1. Your Name
  2. Today’s Date
    This is important as you reflect back on this document. This will become a touchstone for your growth and a reminder of who you were as you look back at what was important to you in this point in time.
  3. 3–6 Months
    • Start small.
    • Think about short-term goals that are easily achieved but will also help move you towards the longer-term goals.
    • Include some tangible goals (i.e., ship a product that I acted as lead designer for).
  4. 6–12 Months
    • Start thinking bigger here—this is planning for a year out.
    • What new skills do you want to learn?
    • What new ideas do you want to share with others?
    • What changes do you want to make? Put them down here along with the steps needed to take to make them happen.
  5. Beyond 12 Months
    • Capture specific plans that you know may take more than a year to get to or accomplish. For me, it was to work on my Dr. Leslie book. I discussed the idea with a writing partner 3 years ago, but it is only now coming to fruition with an actual proposal in hand and a potential publisher.
    • Be realistic but not afraid to reach. Visualize success in areas you may have little control over. Don’t be afraid to write down a desired goal that may be a stretch.
  6. Longer-term Goals
    • This is the area to think out for the next 3–5 years, including life beyond the company or situation you are currently in. For me, I listed “teaching again” as a goal. This reminds me that I want to do this and I need to make certain decisions and changes in order to make it happen.

      If I decide at a later time, that I don’t really want to do this, I should remove it off the plan.

  7. Opportunities to Explore at Your Company
    • List all the training and coaching opportunities relevant and currently available at your company.
    • Note relationships that need to be cultivated at your company in order to meet success.

      Note: This obviously may not apply if you are an independent consultant. Think about other opportunities that might be available through professional associations and networking instead.

  8. Skills to Develop
    • Project what skills you need to develop to reach the goals you listed in the first part of this exercise.
    • What other skills do you need, besides the ones you have now, to attain your goal?

      Since I am a manager and this is the area in which I have been growing, I listed things such as Confidence and Effectiveness—along with ideas on how to master these more intangible skills.

      Over the last couple of years, I have purposely put myself into situations to gain confidence—especially when giving presentations. Think about starting slow and building on your successes.

      In addition, I also listed skills of associated/allied roles that I would like to learn in order to make myself a more well-rounded and effective manager in my company.

  9. What I Care About in a Work Environment
    • This may seem frivolous or not important to the task at hand, but it serves to remind you of the values you need to share with the company you work for. As you grow or the company changes this can help guide you when you need to make a change.
  10. Personal Goals
    • Don’t forget the personal goals that you need to weave into your life. It never hurts to write these down as a reminder of work/life balance and of the things that are really important to you as a person.

You can use the finished plan as a tool when working on performance goals with your boss. Letting her know what you want out of the job is as important as your manager being clear on what is expected of you. Reminding her regularly of your goals is also important, as we tend to fall into patterns of behavior that may not be best for our long-term career plans.

I pull my career plan out periodically to check off what I have accomplished, and have begun adding to the long-term section. I see how I have grown and what areas I still need to work on in order to reach the goals I have set. I can also see that some things that were important to me three years ago are no longer important, and that there are new areas of growth I am cultivating.

The point of this exercise is to come up with a realistic plan within the framework of your interests and career path. The list should be visited regularly and modified as you reach goals or when goals are no longer important to you. The plan should help you shape a vision towards reaching a future destination and remind you that success does not happen by chance.

  • Creating a Career Plan
    http://www.lmabayarea.org/pdf/LMA Career Planning.pdf
    Sugarcrest.com. This PDF from a career training firm offers some good exercise questions to answer about your values, strengths and current situation. A nice companion to the template detailed in this article.



Erin Malone is currently a Product Design Director at AOL (America Online). She has been a practicing interaction, interface and information designer since 1993. She is editor in chief of Boxes and Arrows.

Looking Forward and Back

“I resolve to spend less time worrying about educating people about what I do, and more time doing what I do—designing websites people can use.”

—Brenda Janish

Reflections on 2003 and resolutions for 2004

Looking back

This time last year, Boxes and Arrows published a few predictions. We promised that at the end of 2003 we would take a look back and see how insightful these predictions were. As expected, many of these predictions were ahead of their time and I expect that it may a couple more years before these come to pass.

Here are a few of those predictions and their outcome:

Dan Brown predicted:

The number of books specifically on information architecture (a la Polar Bear and Blueprints, et al) will double.

B&A: Well, they didn’t exactly double. An Amazon search reveals 14 books with Information Architecture as a phrase in the title with only four coming out in 2003. On the other hand, we know that many usability, information design and design books that are relevant also came out in 2003 so collectively there are a lot of good resources available.

There will be at least one course on information architecture in every major university in the world.

B&A: Mmm, how to check this one out. There are a lot of new courses in IA showing up in universities around the world. However, finding consistency in curriculum or even in the type of department offering the class, cerificate, degree is hit or miss at best. We still have some work to do here.

Earl Morrough predicted:

I predict that in 2003 the subject of the emerging profession of information architecture will be picked up and reported on by at least one of the major television news networks. The report will include clips from an interview with either Christina Wodtke, Peter Morville, or Louis Rosenfeld.

B&A: Well, maybe this year.

Jeff Lash predicted:

2003 will be the year of wireless. Wireless networks in homes, businesses, and public and common spaces will be increasingly popular, and cheaper service plans for mobile phones and PDAs will drive the development of usable and useful wireless-based applications.

B&A: Close. We are getting there. I think 2004 will actually see the cheaper prices and free common spaces. Where folks dabbled in 2003, 2004 will see wireless become commonplace.

Christina Wodtke predicted:

“Findability” will begin to be part of the business vocabulary along with “usability” and “understandability,” but not until the end of 2003, where it will be mentioned in a magazine such as CIO or Fast Company.

B&A: Well, I couldn’t find, findability mentioned anywhere except here and Peter Morville’s site. But CIO has a couple of articles, from the latter half of the year, about using audience to drive website design. Sounds like UCD to me.

And Dan Saffer successfully predicted:

Several IAs will get drunk in Portland.

B&A: I think he hit the nail on the head there. Any predictions for Austin?

Here are the rest of last year’s predictions. Boxes and Arrows invites you to add more of your own and comment on the success or failure of these to come to pass.

Looking forward

To ring in the new year Boxes and Arrows asked our staff and members of the IA, UX, and Design community to share some of their professional resolutions. We have seen this community grow, fracture, and come together as we all share common goals. And I think our collective resolutions reflect our continued growth and search for excellence in our work.

Brenda Janish:

I resolve to spend less time worrying about educating people about what I do, and more time DOING what I do—designing websites people can use. And—if I’m lucky—designing websites that contribute to the general good.

Liz Danzico:

Whether inside or outside of work, I’ve fallen into an accidental pattern of using certain tools to avoid voice communication. I communicate with colleagues in the next cube via email. I keep up with family members through instant messenger. I have to depend on friends’ blogs to know where they are.

As an information architect, my job is to communicate ideas. Whether the communication takes place between my client and me or between my team and an outside vendor, how I communicate those ideas is important not only in content but in format. For 2004, I intend to communicate directly: I will use the telephone more and without hesitation; I will approach people’s desks unabashedly and without warning. I will depend on the typed word only when these more direct forms are not available.

Erin Malone:

Continue to practice work-life balance and put my external community efforts into initiatives that will really make a difference—like AIFIA and Boxes and Arrows.

Write more.

Nick Finck:

Well, I have made a new year resolution to start extending my efforts within and outside of my own publication.

Part of this is joining up with Boxes and Arrows as a web developer. The other part is going things streamlined in my publication internally so I can invest more time into writing and contributing to other sites and publications.

Another part of this is just getting more in-touch with other individuals within the web community as a whole. Individuals from various backgrounds such as IA, publishing, UX, usability, accessibility, web programming and more. These are people who I already know and talk with from time to time. I am hoping that this year I can get to know these people even better and build more open communication between all of us as professionals.

As far as IA techniques, I can say that I hope to implement a new taxonomy for my publication within the year. It’s actually something I have been meaning to do for a long time but haven’t been able to
gain enough momentum to make it really happen. Along with this I plan to implement several other IA related strategies that will help improve the findability, usability and user experience of my publication.

Marko Hurst:

My mantra in life is “balance in everything.” In my now 8 year career I’ve worked for nearly every sized company from myself—several thousand, worked on projects that have lasted a few days—2 1/2 years, worked with too many technologies to remember, and played the role of nearly every person in a web development cycle from designer-developer, PM-business owner, and of course an IA.

Other than for myself I have never been a “technical” architect. So, in keeping w/ my mantra I feel the one of the greatest assets I bring to projects as an IA is my well-rounded skill-set. I feel that having been in everyone’s shoes has allows me a special insight to their cares and concerns, which in turn I can take into account and “translate” to others. So, this year my resolution is to understand System Architecture & Design.

And let’s not get crazy now, I don’t plan on selling myself as a Technical Architect by any means. The same as I do not claim to be a Developer because I can code a few JSPs or create a JDBC connection. The point is to simply to become familiar enough with another integral part of the web development cycle.

Jenifer Tidwell:

In our next design cycle, I’m going to try to keep a “design notebook” for the project. It would be, in a sense, a collective memory for the design team. From the inception of the project through the final touches, I want to keep track of design decisions made, the reasons for those decisions, all design documents, and “paths not taken”—alternative designs, features we want to implement but don’t have time for, etc.

Why? First, our design documents tend to be scattered in different places. We’d like them pulled together into one place so we can all have easy access to them. Second, our product release cycles are long—over a year in many cases—and we always end up asking ourselves questions like, “Why did we decide to do X? Did we ever consider Y? There was a good reason not to do Z, but what on earth was it?” Third, it gives us something to look back over at the end of the project; we can use it to evaluate our process, and help decision-makers “connect the dots” between our high-level goals and the features our team actually delivers.

I’ve never done this before, and I’ve never heard of it being done. It just seems like a good solution to the problems our project teams have had!

Lou Rosenfeld:

My resolution is to write a book on enterprise IA. 🙂

Keith Instone:

I resolve to actually read B&A this year! “Too damn busy working” is not a valid excuse anymore.

[We like to hear that, Keith, and we’ll be checking our IP Address logs to see if you follow through…just kidding. —Editors]

Julianne Bowman:

Finding ways of using captology in interactive marketing that are useful and engaging to the user as well as smart for the marketer.

Convincing marketers to harvest customer profile data over the course of several user visits, thus creating several “value-exchanges” for the user instead of one big, alienating registration form.

To continue trying to focus my clients on the big usability changes that really matter. They are so focused on piddling quick wins it can be difficult to get them to see the wood for the trees.

To use Visio’s new XML output facility a lot.

And finally,

Cynthia Hoffa:

I think, like me, many IAs are still stranded on the lower end of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Therefore my short list might look modest, but it encompasses the primary things we fight to conquer in our quest for “self-actualization.”

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Demonstrate how I add value.

Extricate myself from crazy delivery cycles.

•••••

Good words to live by.

I invite you, dear readers, to add your resolutions to the list and wish everyone a prosperous and effective 2004.

Erin Malone is currently a Product Design Director at AOL (America Online). She has been a practicing interaction, interface and information designer since 1993. She is editor in chief of Boxes and Arrows.

The Power of Process, The Perils of Process

“The power of a well-defined process is the creation of order amidst chaos. When it works, it can be like a fine-tuned machine, and our design work is better for it.”Traditionally, information architects and designers (UI, visual, ID) are creatures of process. We generally work in prescribed ways—discover, design, validate, repeat. We sketch first, then create rough flows and then finetuned detailed wireframes and mocks. This usually works well, once accepted, and most companies—whether in-house teams or consultancies—work along similar lines.

In my experience, I have found that creating and documenting process has been a good exercise to help institutionalize ways of working, to help educate new team members as well as to unveil the mysteries of what we do for executives, product folks, and development teams.

In my currrent situation, an agreed upon process has helped teams working in multiple time zones and across several locations to get their work done. The process — discovery and exploration, concept UI development, review, creation of wireframes and user interaction flows into a draft UI, review, finetuning into final UI and then creation and finetuning of a functional spec — is the same no matter who is working on the project or what country they sit in.

There is a lot of comfort in this shared way of working. There are fewer concessions that need to be made. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and everyone knows what they are going to receive at each point in the schedule. The framework within which we all work allows us to be creative, but also keeps teams on track.

The power of a well-defined process is the creation of order amidst chaos. When it works, it can be like a fine-tuned machine, and our design work is better for it.

On the flip side, problems happen when people get complacent about the structure they are working within. Expanding phases excessively, becoming rigid about the order or duration of each phase, or even over-documenting the elements within a phase can backfire on a team. There are also problems when one team decides to work in a totally different way than another within the same group. Suddenly, no one knows what to expect, what the level of thinking or quality of the product will be, and internal fighting over whose process is best ensues.

There can also be credibility issues surrounding process and how teams work with it and within it. No one wants the reputation of being so bound to a way of working that they lose sight of the reason they are working in the first place.

I was recently called out for rigidness about process by a client who went crazy over a proposed schedule. The client didn’t understand why some of the work couldn’t be done in parallel, and why certain phases of the project couldn’t be shortened. Ultimately, we were under a tight deadline to ship, and to make the deadline we all (design, product, and development teams) had to make compromises. I assured this client that we generally needed to “ask for the moon” at first, and then would pull back to something more realistic given the circumstances.

The conversation got me thinking though about how we work and how structure can overpower the actual needs of the project. If a group is not careful, the process can take on a life of its own and make demands that exceed the requirements of the situation.

For all the benefits a well-documented and richly detailed process has, it should also be a framework that is flexible, that can be adjusted at a moment’s notice to fit the situation at hand, and shouldn’t exist for its own sake.

I like to think of design process as a grand buffet. One that has discrete sections—discovery/early user research, exploration/concept, draft, final—and review checkpoints throughout. I generally like to think of each section as being collapsible or expandable depending on the needs of the project and the time allowed. Ideally, no section would be collapsed down to nothing, but sometimes it might feel that way. I also see each section as having a buffet of tools and techniques available to help solve problems, keeping in mind that just because a tool is available in a particular section doesn’t mean it must be used every time. That’s the beauty of the buffet: the framework and structure are there, but usage of the tools is flexible and can be fine-tuned for the needs of the team and the project.

Thinking about your work process in this way, getting your team or company to agree upon the framework and toolsets, and then remaining flexible within the overarching process structure will ultimately free you up to apply your skills to the tough problems—the design problems—and not the process.

Erin Malone is currently a Product Design Director at AOL (America Online). She has been a practicing interaction, interface and information designer since 1993. She is editor in chief of Boxes and Arrows.

DUX: Five Lessons Learned

“Great things can happen when you move beyond the bullet point.”Normally I would write a traditional conference overview to inform people about the recent Designing for User Experiences conference (DUX) held in San Francisco, June 6-8. But the format of the sessions was set up in such a way that my overview would be even further distilled from the panels, which were 8-minute distillations of the papers. So, instead, I would like to impart a few of the impressions I came away with and recommend that everyone go to the AIGA Case Study Archive to read the papers that were accepted.

We are a like-minded community.
The attendees of DUX—members of AIGA, SIGCHI and SIGGRAPH—while having different professional emphases, are a rich and robust community with much more in common than we generally think. This blended community is curious and vibrant and surprisingly interested in sharing personal stories of our work. The conversations in the breaks and at the receptions were as rich and informative as the dialogue during the panels. There was no “us vs. them,” or academia vs. real world—research and practice blended well together. As a matter of fact, unless someone explicitly pointed out that they were from one space or another, the conversations were incredibly similar.

There is a positive undercurrent in the community as a whole.
My impressions, after three days at the IA Summit in Portland this past March and two days at DUX this past weekend, is that the atmoshpere of the field is looking up. Yes, I know many people are still out of work, but it seems to me that more folks are working and less are whining; people seem genuinely excited about their work. The challenges within organizations are still there, but the stories told show that design (this includes all the flavors—IA, visual, interaction, etc.) is engaging in productive partnerships with the other organizational disciplines. Engineering and marketing are collaborative partners. I heard less “They don’t take me seriously, how can we be heard and involved?” than “What else can we do to make improvements?” and “Where else can our skills be used in the process?” this time around. Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is definitely a shift happening.

Great things can happen when you move beyond the bullet point.
I was excited to see that many of the presenters moved beyond the traditional PowerPoint deck of bulleted items and actually spoke to the audience conversationally rather than reading their slides—which we can all do ourselves. It makes it harder to take notes, but as an attendee, I appreciated the effort and the conversational nature of it. Jess McMullin chaired a panel that focused on constraints. He challenged his panelists to create their presentations without any bullets and to include more images and fewer words. This challenge worked. For the most part, the presenters were more lively, the slides were illustrations of the points rather than lists of the points, and overall, the collection of presentations was more interesting and entertaining. I challenge the rest of us to try this at home — er… work. What if we began to give presentations at the office that followed this logic? Would it help elevate the status of design within the organization? It definitely makes the presentation more challenging to give, but it forces people to listen since they can’t take away a list of bulleted items to throw into the shredder bin. Try this and let us know how it worked. One presenter reminded us that while a “constraint is a factor identified as a barrier,” an “opportunity is a factor identified as a liberator.” Liberation within design. Liberation within an organization. Liberation from the bullet point. This is a pretty cool way of looking at things.

Design can have great impact, and shoulders great responsibility.
This community is having an impact. We “design” the products people are using every day. We create new behavior and change behavior. We have a responsibility to be smart about what we do and how we do it. One of the presenters reminded us that it is our responsibility to understand the communities of practice that already exist as we design products and experiences. These communities of practice contain deeply embedded structures and processes, and in understanding these, we can create more effective experiences. Several presenters reiterated this theme, and I think it’s good to continue to remind ourselves that it is more than the user that we need to understand; often it is a collection of people within a community that will give us the insight we need.

Mentors can be found in all sorts of places. You might even be one.
One of the closing plenary speakers on Saturday was a woman named Sara Little Turnbull. She is 85 and has worked for six decades in the realm of strategic design development. She is still working, currently at the Process of Change, Innovation, and Design Laboratory of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. As I watched her converse with Richard Anderson and relate some of her experiences, I realized that I personally was in desperate need of mentors. I try to mentor my team at work, and am always open to answering questions from colleagues in the community via email. I hope that as I share my experiences I am mentoring those coming behind me, but I sense a lack of knowledge about those who have paved the way, of those who I can learn from. What this speaker reminded me of was that we have leaders in the field who may not be recognized, yet have much to offer. I believe there is a need for more formal mentoring structures to help get people together. There are many of us—particularly females over 35—who don’t necessarily have a lot of role models to learn from. We have a lot of great peers, but the women who have gone before us are unsung heroes, women who haven’t been recognized and are still trying to get by in a corporate culture that is predominately male. This speaker reminded me that mentors are out there, and we all should seek out one or two, as well as remembering to be one ourselves.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this conference, and for being a ”dot two” release (dot one was the Forum at SIGCHI last year) the organizers did a good job. The days were interesting, I feel like I learned a few things and, most importantly, I felt excited to be a part of this vibrant, rich, and curious community, particularly at this point in time. I would love to hear how others felt, and welcome your thoughts and feedback. I’m sure our feedback will be welcomed by the organizers as they plan the next version of DUX.

    AIGA Case Study Archive As of this posting, the DUX cases had yet to be posted but keep checking back.

Some other conference thoughts can be found from other attendees here:

There is also discussion going on at the AIGA Experience Design [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AIGAExperienceDesign] list about the conference and other attendee’s thoughts as well as a few posts on SIGIA-L (archives) [http://www.info-arch.org/lists/sigia-l/0306/0077.html]Erin Malone is currently a Product Design Director at AOL (America Online). She has been a practicing interaction, interface and information designer since 1993. She is editor in chief of Boxes and Arrows.