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As a kid, Spalter got hooked on design by reading Frog Design’s column in Audio-Visual Interiors magazine.

72. Ian Spalter

Director of design and UX, Foursquare

The Brainstorming Expert

Ian Spalter is constantly rethinking the look and feel of Foursquare’s app. He’s got a knack for inspiring creativity.

TRICK 1: Work backward
At interactive agency R/GA, Spalter used to create a product’s press release before his team started working on the product. The aim: Make sure the client and R/GA had the same goal. "I wrote it up as a Mad Libs, and they’d fill in the blanks," he says. "It helps nail down what’s important."

TRICK 2: Sketch your user
At Foursquare, Spalter asked designers and engineers to "draw a person who they’d want using Foursquare, along with a nickname and one-sentence description." They hung the drawings on the design-studio walls. Envisioning the user, he says, "helps people to focus."

TRICK 3: Map success
For another Foursquare exercise, Spalter gathered folks around a Monopoly board. "We remapped each position on the board to correspond with a different scenario—say, your first check-in at a restaurant," he says. "Someone would roll the dice, move the piece, and everyone would have to sketch what they wanted users to see once they checked in at that location." The result: "a simplified post-check-in screen that felt more gamelike."

[Photos by Axel Dupeux]

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  • Eddie

    "Envisioning the user, he says" Wow. And I thought the first rule of UX was: "Research thy user, don't think him or her up". Research shows you the REAL user. 

  • Spamless4ever

    Brilliant techniques for integrating left-brain and right-brain capacities!