Alex Pineda

About Alex Pineda

Alex is the Creative Director at Matrix Group. He manages the design team and collaborates with clients to turn their ideas into visual realities. He is a Gemini who enjoys travel and World of Warcraft, to which he considers himself completely addicted.

The Inflection Point

As I write this, I’m currently watching the live event of Apple’s latest iPhone 8 event. They just announced an update to the Apple TV set top box, with support for 4K, because, according to Tim Cook, “TV is at an “inflection point” with the mainstream adoption of 4K.”

This made me ponder the implication of this term “inflection point”. By definition, in math terms, it’s “a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs.”  In Tim Cook’s reference, it’s when a technology reaches a certain critical mass in terms of how many people use it, hence Apple’s new product.

In larger, cultural terms, an inflection point represents a fundamental change in how people live, do business, communicate.  On the NY Times website, there is a video of all the things the iPhone “destroyed”, in terms of how it disrupted whole industries, and changed how we interact with each other:

The list of disruptions engendered by the rise of mobile technology is enormous, including the taxi industry, alarm clocks, cameras, etc. Every organization is faced with the potential of disruption, with the inflection point. The key is to anticipate this disruption, and embrace it, to evolve, rather than die. History is littered with industries and companies that could not embrace change and fell by the wayside.

Since I’ve been with Matrix Group (1999), there have been a huge number of inflection points, both culturally and technologically. Every time there is a major fundamental change, we’ve had to adapt our design process, business practices, and offerings to clients. From desktop to mobile, cloud computing, content management systems, these new technologies have all had huge impacts on our business, and how we help our clients.

Some of the new potential inflection points include the internet of things, virtual reality, screen less experiences etc.  As a company that designs interactive experiences for our clients, it’s imperative that we stay on top of these changes, embrace these changes, and think about how we can apply these inflection points to help our clients evolve and thrive, and not die.

Design Trends for 2016

It’s that time – time for me to pull out the crystal ball and predict what will be the big trends that are going to hit the design world next year. 2015 was quite a year, and as we all know, the pace of change only accelerates. So here is my forecast for what we will see, design-wise, in 2016:

Mobile First

2016_trendsTraditionally, given that we are predominantly a web design agency, the very first thing we design is the homepage desktop view. The responsive and mobile user interface (UI) was something that usually came towards the end, after we had addressed the desktop experience. This has been how the industry as a whole has always done business, even though all of us have been talking “mobile first” for some time now.

But lately, we’ve been receiving projects where our clients are getting in on the trend and want us to consider the mobile experience first. Based on analytics analysis, we are seeing an exponential growth in mobile traffic, even from what we could consider a more conservative, office-bound audience. So now we have the data and the mandate, we need to switch gears as an agency and carefully consider the needs of our customers in a mobile context and design accordingly.

More Video Content

After the redesign of our company website, we again took a look at our analytics to see what people were clicking on. What we learned is that people love our Matrix Minute videos more than our static content by a pretty big margin.  We also learned that video content does not have to mean slick, well-produced motion reels, but rather, small, intimate, focused clips. The rise of video usage on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc., certainly points to an audience that would rather watch a video than read five paragraphs of text.

So for our clients, rather than thinking of all the copy you will need to write for your next website or blog post, think instead of what video you will shoot.

Wearables Are Here

The wearables market has been around a few years, with early adopters being Pebble, Fitbit, Nike and others. But now that Apple jumped into the wearables market with their Apple Watch, a lot more attention has been paid to what is still a fairly untapped, undeveloped space. What does this mean for our clients?

In the same way that smartphones have changed the way in which customers interact with brands and services, wearables will soon have a similar impact. The way in which your content is constructed will have to change and adapt to this new, and very intimate, platform.

Micro-Interactions

Somewhat related to the wearables trend, there will be an even greater focus on micro-transactions. We do micro-interactions all the time, when we “like” something on Facebook or even turn off the alarm on our phone. Apps, and now wearables, are designed for multiple “touches”, where we:

  • Communicate a status
  • Give feedback
  • Manipulate anything to trigger an action

While we tend to do these actions somewhat automatically or even unconsciously, they are important interactions with your services and brand.

So, rather than thinking of a user engagement as a long, involved session that lasts for hours, think of these micro-interactions as “touching base” with a user on a constant, consistent basis.  We need to plan for, and design, these “touches” with care, and integrate them into an overall engagement strategy.

Natural Motion Interactions

We have lived with the keyboard and mouse for decades now, and we have suffered the consequences: carpal-tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injuries, and the like. Hopefully for not much longer! With VR headsets like Oculus Rift, hologram-based systems like Hololens, and gesture-based controllers like Leapmotion finally getting ready to go mainstream, we hope we can finally toss our keyboards into the recycling bin.

What this means is that now we have to take into account and design for new ways that customers will interact with content. From full, 3D, immersive environments to speech and natural gesture based systems (think Iron Man and Jarvis!), our user interfaces will be even richer, more complex, and engaging.

Animation to Strengthen Brands

Animation is going to become ingrained in more and more brands and their respective style guides. Many major brands like Google, Microsoft, and IBM already have strong animation rules in place – IBM’s animation library is a great example. We’re going to start seeing these practices trickle down to a wider range of companies now that they’re more accessible and easier to develop.

Adding simple animation transitions is a great way to add more personality to an already established brand, strengthening the message you’re trying to convey. Say you want your site to feel friendly and welcoming; you might want to add a subtle bounce effect onto page elements as they load. Or, if you want a calming, tranquil vibe, perhaps you’ll have images slowly fade in and drop down. At Matrix Group, we’ve been making heavy use of animate.css on our client sites and can’t wait to take things even further in 2016.

What design trends do you think will take center stage in 2016?

The Future of Life, Lived Online

One of my favorite books of all time is “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. As a child of the 80’s, I loved all the 80’s nostalgia that the novel revels in, from John Hughes movies, Atari video games, new wave music, etc. As a long-time player of MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online, I was intrigued by the book’s vision of the near future, both good and bad, in terms of the evolution of our online virtual lives. Ready Player One cover

In that future, with a planet so devastated by environmental degradation, income inequality, and corporate greed, the vast majority of Earth’s populace spend their time in OASIS. OASIS is a virtual world where kids go to school, everyone plays games, and all wanting to escape from real life.

This future, which the futurist Ray Kurzweil, predicted in 2003, seems that much closer to reality. A large number of companies are developing holographic or augmented technology with the aim of realizing this new way of “life lived online”.

With Microsoft’s announcement of HoloLens, Facebook’s $2 billion dollar acquisition of Oculus Rift, and even Google’s now defunct Glass, this future where the either our lives are lived almost entirely online, or at least the divide between the physical and the virtual are blurred, is getting very close indeed.

What does this new future mean for companies like Matrix and our clients?

man in front of screens

image courtesy Microsoft http://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

As designers and crafters of these virtual experiences, we will need to integrate new modes of interaction. Currently, we factor in keyboard+mouse, touch, and gesture into the experiences we craft. In this holographic future, we will need to design for new biometric interactions, fully 360 degree views, and more of the body’s natural motions into our interfaces. There will also be much more of a deep integration into our physical environments as well, as these new interfaces react profoundly with location, surface, and the whole digital net. Lastly, our whole semiotic relationship with digital experiences will evolve, and we will need to understand what this means for us and our clients.

For our clients, we will need to work more closely in terms of the kinds of experiences they want their customers to have, the context in which these interactions occur, and how their brand are expressed in this new virtual world.

As a designer, a gamer, and a human, I’m so excited at the potential this technology has, and in how it can enhance our lives, that I can’t wait for it arrive. I’m player one, and I’m ready to go!

Top 5 Design Trends for 2015

With 2014 coming to an end, what can you expect to see in 2015?  Mobile device usage will continue to grow and expand into wearable tech and appliances. We’re already seeing it with TVs. What’s next?  red letter a

Here are some trends to keep your eyes out for:

  • Responsive typography:  You’ve heard a lot about responsive design, but the next thing will be typography. Rather than having fixed type sizes, or relying on users to increase the font size manually, responsive typography will adjust itself to the resolution that’s detected.
  • Responsive design will expand to devices beyond tablets and smartphones. With the explosion of more platforms and devices, responsive design will evolve even further.  Whereas before, responsive design meant taking into account smartphones, tablets and desktops, now it’ll have to include smart watches, TVs and appliances, and more!
  • Parallax, animation and scrolling effects: More and more sites, including Google and Apple, are using parallax techniques, animations, and scrolling effects to feature new products and services. We expect to see more of this in the next year!
  • Bigger Images and videos: With larger resolutions for desktops and tablets, images and even video are scaling up as well.  Airbnb and Flipboard are two examples of sites that use full-width video to great effect. Check them out!
  • Flat Design evolves into Material Design.  Many of you may be familiar with flat design, a design philosophy that removes stylistic elements from websites, giving them cleaner, simpler looks.  Google recently unveiled “Material Design,” a new direction for mobile (and design in general) that uses very subtle gradients, layering, and animation, to keep a sense of the tangible world (physical space and objects) while still achieving all the advantages of flat design.

These are some of the trends we believe that we will see in the coming year. Do you agree? What do you believe we’ll see. Share your thoughts.

The Gentle Art of Persuasive Design

Every day each of us engages in some form of persuasion, whether its:

  • Getting that man/woman to give us their phone number at the bar
  • Convincing your husband/wife that it’s their turn to take out the garbage
  • Or coaxing your kid to eat their vegetables.

women said, woman listening to gossipIn advertising, of course, we are very familiar with the goal of getting consumers to buy products, support causes, etc.

At Matrix Group, we persuade our clients to follow a user-centered design process.  This means that we take the goals/needs of users as the basis for all design decisions.  Taking this process a step further, we also need to ensure that these decisions that customers make align with our clients’ strategic goals.  How do we do this?  How do we entice, cajole, convince, PERSUADE, visitors to do what we want them to do?

Principles of Persuasive Design

There are a few principles that we adhere to, that make this decision-making process successful:

1.  Clarity

The first thing we need is clarity from our clients as to what are the most important goals of the organization.  We ask them to list, in order, what the most important success metrics are:  is it gaining new members, selling more products from the store, increased donations?  With this list in mind, we convey a clear value proposition that supports these calls to action.  For example, if the main goal is to sign up new members, we make sure that potential members are presented with content that shows the benefits of membership, are enticed with discounts that are only available to members, testimonials from current members.  We also make sure that the membership signup form is no more than one click away from every page of the site/app.

2. Simplicity

Related to the first principle, simplicity is all about presenting content and calls to action in an easy to digest form.  Rather than loading a page with 5 million links, present just one, or at most a handful, with the most important one easily picked out.  Give content and actions breathing room.  Make their path to conversion an easy to one to follow, with as few steps as possible.

3.  Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy, in design terms, is the order in which the human eye perceives what it sees.  This means making the really important things stand out in terms of color, size, contrast, and placement.  If there’s one thing you want a user to click on, put it closer to the top of the page, make it stand out, and make it very clear what it will do.

By following these basic principles, the art of persuasive design can be used to gently guide your users to where you both want to be, that happy place where the needs of your customers and the goals of your organization both come together.