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How to design a personality in 12 days: Part 1

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I’m a Designer, first and foremost. So, in addition to making things look better, my job entails crafting positive digital experiences for Canadians. As a minimalist designer, I like to get to the bottom of things. I like to strip away at designs (tastefully) and understand their essential elements. And it’s these elements that I try to make shine.

As a Designer, one of my favourite stages in any design process is getting to flex my visual design muscles. As the lead Designer on this project, which resulted in being about designing a voice-first conversational interface, I had to accept the possibility of there not being much visual design muscle-flexing. While there’s a vast spectrum of voice user interfaces (VUI), they all share a set of common UX fundamentals that drive usability. What would set our VUI apart from the hundreds of other similar voice apps, was simple: a good design…a good, inclusive design. And just like that, I rediscovered my super powers [queue muscle-flexing 💪🏾]. I began realizing just how instrumental the voice designer’s role is in the construction of a well-oiled, conversational experience. You might say, I discovered my voice designer voice.

Throughout this process, I learnt a lot about voice technology, the biggest takeaway being that when designing voice-enabled technology, you’re designing more than a voice. You’re designing an entire personality. We were designing a small fragment of someone’s day; a piece of their daily, weekly, or monthly routine. We were designing convenience, ease of use, enjoyment, satisfaction, pleasure. I discovered my super powers, as the sole designer on this project. I could use and apply the same user-centric design principles to which I’d been accustomed, to crafting a seamless, pleasant piece of someone’s daily interactions, in an impactful way.

But first…

I owe a great deal of my life-altering experience with VUI design to the Digital Academy. The Digital Academy is a digital skills training program offered by the Government of Canada’s (GC) Canada School of Public Service. The purpose is to build digital skills and mindsets across the public service by empowering individuals and teams with integrated, practical, and multidisciplinary in-depth learning. It also exposes learners to new ways of thinking around problem solving that are agile, collaborative, and user-centred.

For a total of 3 months, over 100 learners from four specialized streams (Inclusive Design — my stream👋🏾, DevOps, Machine Learning/AI, and Data) are placed into multi-disciplinary teams of 6–8 and work together to tackle a cross-channel government problem.

The first 7 weeks of the program consist of part-time specialized stream learning as well as problem-based assignments and peer learning through weekly learning circles.

During this time, we also met weekly with our teams, gathered data and conducted interviews and research for our business problem.

Following the 7 weeks of training, we entered what is called Practicum: 2.5 weeks of full-time, intensive brainstorming, ideation, prototyping sprints and pitching clinics. And by the end of the 2 and a half weeks all teams had developed a working prototype.

Learning outcomes of Digital Academy

  1. I redefined my Design specialty. ✅
  2. I designed ethical and inclusive services in a GC context. ✅
  3. I applied Design Thinking practices and theories to design problems. ✅
  4. I developed an inclusive, digital solution to my design problem. ✅



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