User Experience Design

Time, Perspective and the Impact on User Experience

History, empathy and perception all have significant impacts on our experiences. We can design better user experiences by keeping these things in mind.

by Julie Gibbs

I recently attended three events: SingleStone’s holiday party, a Creative Mornings session, and a Carbon Leaf concert. Yes, seemingly unrelated; but follow me on this little journey.  


Our Holiday party was held at the Valentine. I’d heard of the place before, but really had no idea what it was about. I knew that it was a museum and that it’s a popular wedding and events venue here in Richmond, VA.


Creative Mornings is new to Richmond and just a really cool outlet for the creatives, whatever the medium, to interact and be inspired. It’s a “breakfast lecture series for the creative community” and each month a theme is followed internationally. This month’s theme was “time”.


Carbon Leaf was a mainstay from my college days. While I haven’t heard much of their stuff since my senior year, they’ve been out there making music. I won free tickets to their homecoming show, so of course I went. It was a welcome flashback and it was awesome.

At my FIRST event I learned that the Valentine is about the story of time, the history, in Richmond. At my SECOND event William “Bill” Martin, director of the Valentine Museum, spoke on the month’s theme in a photographic lecture titled: “TIME - Your Most Valuable Asset, Right?“ And at my THIRD event the Carbon Leaf song that nearly moved me to get a little misty was, “The War Was In Color” about a grandson who found a black & white photo of his grandfather in war. Connections. Linking all of these events is both a visual history of time and a mental perception of time.

Before I go on, I should mention that my degrees are in psychology. Humans, and in particular perception, have always fascinated me.

Martin spoke about the disillusion of history as time passes and the “re” illusion of history as time passes; about telling the full story. But I challenge whose story? It was such a thought-provoking notion for me to ponder over my creative morning coffee. Images capture one truth, then we as humans put our own spin of perspective into the same image based on our personal truths. Over time, our perceptions can change, again altering the truth of a single image. Fascinating how that works.

Carbon Leaf’s song features a black and white war photograph. To a grandson, this photo is simply like the black and white war movies, but to a grandfather it is a vivid, colored moment in time including smells, sounds and emotions. After hearing stories from his grandfather, I have no doubt the grandson’s perspective of the photograph changed and his truth about war changed too.

Time and perception.

In user experience work at SingleStone we utilize personas and journey maps. These tools are used to visually illustrate who our customers are and what our customers need (want) at the present time in anticipation for the future. Going beyond the current perception and the current need, I encourage anyone linked to user experience to design with history in mind and with empathy for the user. Understanding someone’s history is one thing, but understanding their perspective opens doors and better equips you to meet their needs.

Julie Gibbs
Julie Gibbs
Senior Consultant
Contact Julie

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