Driving Holism in Cross-channel Projects

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Show Time: 29 minutes 29 seconds

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Podcast Summary

Today on Boxes and Arrows, Chris Baum talks with Patrick Quattlebaum, Design Director at Adaptive Path. Patrick has some interesting insights and tools that designers can use to develop experiences across channels. Quattlebaum explores the difference between atomism and holism, and how designers often struggle with making parts of an experience that really needs to be thought of as a whole. He also discusses how he navigates relationships in large organizations across teams building different parts of the experience. Finally, he talks about how he brings those teams together using the “rough cut” from film to show the whole context of the experience and find “bridges” between channels that might be missed if the parts are developed separately.


“[As designers,] we did research and strategy, and draw great concept diagrams, and try to sell a vision. Many times it didn’t play out, or would play out, but was missing those crucial elements that really made it what it was. It’s never going to be the way you thought it would be on paper.

More lately, I’ve been thinking about atomism, about how companies break things down, and work separately and how that makes thing harder. It’s not something we need to say, ‘Well, that’s just how companies are,’ and just give up or do the best we can with what we can control with digital or the touchpoint that we own and not worry about the other things.”

“I personally can’t stop worrying about the other things and the big picture what i wanted to do is encourage people to communicate that with everybody that they work with. That’s what everyone is trying to do. It’s easy to get lost in your area of responsibility and what you can control, but that’s not going to get us where we know that customer experience and user experience needs to go.”

“What designers and IAs do is find those connections across the work stream that is going to be the experience in the design. They make sure there’s the right balance or consistency among all the diff’t touch points, without being a slave to total consistency.”


  • Follow Patrick on Twitter “@ptquattlebaum”:https://twitter.com/ptquattlebaum
  • Find “his presentation”:http://t.co/gHFKTN8a from the IA Summit on Slideshare


  1. Thanks Patrick, Chris and B&A, for making this interview. Patrick, I really like your thoughts and approach for a holistic, cross-channel information architecture and user experience design.

    Just a few week ago ago I came across three interesting articles. In this context they are worth mentioning.

    Cross Channel Design With Alignment Diagrams by James Kalbach:

    Cross-Channel Blueprints – A tool for modern IA by Tyler Tate:

    Swim-lane-diagram a great tool for alignment and process planning by Holger Maassen

  2. Some very valid points on the changes in approach to UX design its processes and the surrounding real world business culture, many practitioners seem to yearn for, but few have the guts to express. I’m not sure if there is a need to adopt the new terminology Patrick uses in this discussion, but perhaps this language suits the denim crowd better than the original academic terms. All core aspects of this methodology were captured by Simon Bell in “Rapid Information Systems Development – Systems Analysis and Systems Design in an Imperfect World” (my fav title from the university days) back in 1992 and revised a few times since.

    Atomism = reductionist approach, holism = systems thinking. Other significant constituents of this paradigm include; personal mastery – consciousness and reflecting on one’s role and influence on the design, mental models – mapping out the socio-technical plan, shared vision – facilitation of dialogue towards clarity and agreement on the desired transformation and the last and most important, the learning organisation – participatory team learning towards a consensus on the way forward. I’m sure you see the parallels between these principles and Patrick’s notion of UX reform expressed in plainer if somewhat wishy-washy lingo of the valley.

    One serious objection I have to elicit is the interchangeable use of User Experience and Customer Experience. I’ve come across this before and feel strongly that a significant difference exists and it should be recognised. Customer Experience work certainly needs to be brought into the fold and the realistic way to do this is to acknowledge that the marketing departments “own” CX and practice it as a function quite apart from other activities of the organisation, a gloss of varnish over the imperfect products and services, if you like, which got us where we are stuck now. This is precisely the problem that needs to be addressed as we promote the change towards a true orientation on the User Centred Design.

    This comment was cross-posted on a LinkedIn group forum Boxes and Arrows.

  3. Thanks Chris & Patrick. I found this inspiring and am acting on it. And thanks to @SteveShepler for those related links.

  4. Glad that this conversation was interesting and helpful.

    I’d like to second the thanks to @Steve Shepler for the links.

    Thanks also for your comments. I appreciate your passion around the distinction between UX and CX and would enjoy debating it with you. Or, if you prefer, write an article about it. Ping me at comments at boxes and arrows dot com, if you like. I’ll also check out the LinkedIn discussion you mention.

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