UIEtips: Hunkering — Putting Disorientation into the Design Process

Jared Spool

April 7th, 2009

Today’s projects can be big and they can be fast. It’s easy to push forward, creating design documents, wireframes, prototypes, and screens, just to get through it on schedule.

But, at some point, we need to check to see if we’re going in the right direction. Are we creating what we are striving for? Is what we want actually buildable?

Our research shows that teams that don’t take time to ask and answer these questions get themselves into trouble downstream. They come to the end of the project with something that isn’t fitting together and not meeting the users or businesses’ needs.

In today’s UIEtips, I talk about a simple trick we discovered when we were out researching in the field. It’s called hunkering and it provides designers a check-and-balance system for ensuring the design they’re creating turns out great. I think you’ll find the article, Hunkering: Putting Disorientation into the Design Process, interesting.

In just a few weeks, the UIE Web App Summit will start, showcasing some of today’s most effective techniques for designing web-based applications. You’ll want to catch great full-day workshops, such as Dan Brown’s Communicating Design: Essential Deliverables for Highly Effective Design Teams or James Box and Richard Rutter’s Wireframing and Prototyping for Highly Interactive Web Apps. Read about all the amazing sessions.

Do you have your own hunkering tricks? Do you have other techniques for staying in touch with your design ideas? Share your methods below.

7 Responses to “UIEtips: Hunkering — Putting Disorientation into the Design Process”

  1. Andrew Schechterman Says:

    Jared, Wonderful post, should go without saying, a must, yet seems rarely done. Have noticed that when I’m on smaller teams (IMHO, much more effective), we are more likely to do so (or maybe it’s that I can convince everyone to do so). With clients, of course, absolutely priceless. In our rush to throw the design on the wall and see if it sticks, we risk the larger picture, the value of the macro (in tandem with the micro). Thanks for reminding us again of this stepping back and hunkering down, and disorientation. Kudos. – Andrew Schechterman

  2. Bobbyf Says:

    A-hunkering we will go… I use numerous methods to “hunker.” Whitebboarding is my most common method. I do a lot of storyboarding on the whiteboard and then refine it on paper tablets I use for sketching. I also do paper-prototyping and, when possible, HTML prototypes so I can click through and anticipate issues- even if it’s just unsong image mapping on jpeg mock-ups. One critical part of the hunkering process is collaboration. When I can present a design idea to a colleague, they will often see issues I’ve overlooked and raise valid questions or concerns about the design. We never run head-long into development without doing our due share of “hunkering.”

  3. Ed Schlotzhauer Says:

    Great article; very valuable information. It’s great to see similar powerful techniques adapted in unrelated creative fields. To me, the label doesn’t fit, though. “Hunkering” implies digging in, taking a firm position, more of a defensive position. How about a word like “reconciliation” (Reduction to congruence or consistency; removal of inconsistency; harmony) to describe this? You used the term in the article and I think it fits.

    I often sit back with my feet up and play through scenarios of using a design I am working on. Maybe now I can convince my boss I’m really working!

  4. Archie Miller Says:

    When I was an art student, I used to hold my drawings up to a mirror so I could see them backwards. The minute I reversed the design, I could see things I wanted to change.

  5. Ken Douglass Says:

    Wow. It’s like identifying a part of myself I always knew was there but maybe did not understand.

    Being more of a functional designer than a graphic designer, I spend a lot of time hunkering over other people’s beautiful work in order to get a mental understanding of what my mind, well, has in mind for a design.

    Once I have something visual created in Photoshop, I then spend a good amount of time hunkering over the image on the screen while running through the functionality I wish to implement, constantly cross referencing how the functionality will affect the visual design. I then make tweaks and start over.

    Thanks for great article.

  6. JGarrido Says:

    Please PLEASE don’t try to coin this phrase, for two reasons:

    1) It doesn’t fit the original definition very well, so it’s inaccurate

    2) It just sounds horrible

    To ‘hunker down’ means to either concentrate on something, or brace against something (like in preparation for a tornado or hurricane). So in relation to design or development, it would be more like putting your head down and going fore bore in solving a problem or working on a project. Getting in ‘the zone’, so to speak.

    Not visualization, or progress-checking.

  7. AnnaMarie White Says:

    Definition of Hunker: Squat. *cough* Hold stubbornly to a position. This will not cross my lips as I believe its the opposite of the process that is going on here. Disorienting? Could not be less accurate!

    What has been described here is a technique used frequently by better Artists all over the globe. Its natural. We step back from our work, cross our arms and lean back on one leg, and then we squint. We do that for awhile, pondering and examining the work from afar. It isnt taught anywhere, its just what we do. When you step back and squint, things look different. It changes the focus of the eye, and reduces the drawing or painting to more basic values, and shapes. We are pondering, evaluating, and planning our next step. This has been useful when Ive been lettering signs, because it helps avoid spelling mistakes about to happen. Or when Im painting a mural, because when you are up close you cant see the forest for the trees. It helps us regain our sense of direction.

    When designing, and in life, its always advisable to take a step back and ponder. Its nothing new. Its keeping things in perspective. Many thanks to Jared for reminding us the critical importance of remembering to do this on a regular basis. It can quickly be turned into a valuable habit that will assuredly help keep things on track.

Add a Comment