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Rishma Hansil
Image of fox shaped statues at a shrine in J
Image of fox shaped statues at a shrine in J
Image by Luca Florio Photo of fox statues at a shrine

In a previous article, I wrote about what Japan can teach us about UX and Universal Design. However, Japan's product design is another area of ux design success; both in its approach to the aesthetic qualities and its functionality. Here are just a few things Japan can teach us about product design.

Japan has a long history of packaging and product design rooted in a tradition of gift-giving. Long before industrial materials like plastic and cardboard, gifts were wrapped in straw, bamboo, leaves, and paper. …

Image by Alain Pham

Morten L. Kringelbach, Associate Professor in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford explored the idea that “cute things” can somehow hijack our brain and make us more compassionate. As a UX designer working in Japan I can attest to the subtle and not so subtle ways this “kawaii factor” is integrated into seemingly mundane aspects of life; from using the ATM to ordering food at a restaurant. If you’re a designer planning to work with a Japanese brand or client, getting familiar with “kawaii” could make or break your next project.

The use of the word “kawaii” can be traced…

Exploring their unique digital landscape.

I received a question from a reader on my last article asking about the shocking contrast between Japanese product design and web design. On first glance it seems like these websites are stuck in the 1990's - low resolution images, stacked text boxes, narrow columns and banner ads flashing at you from every corner of the screen. As a UX designer I had to ask myself why something that seemed so flawed could be so prevalent in Japan?

I was reminded that UX does not transcend cultures and locations, it is connected to the needs…

Photography by Motoki Tonn

My love of matcha first drew me to the tea ceremony but I was surprised to know that tea was only the beginning. Attending a Japanese Tea Ceremony is one the best ways to immerse yourself in the traditional arts of Japan. It encapsulates many unique aspects of Japanese culture: lacquer wares, calligraphy, Zen Buddhism, Kimono, traditional desserts like "wagashi" 和菓子 and many others.

"...hand-made, beautifully-shapen and, as I confirmed later, nectar of Gods." - Yoneblogger referring to “wagashi” 和菓

The Japanese Tea ceremony 茶道, chadō, literally means “the way of tea” or 茶の湯, chanoyu. As with other "" (Judō…

Challenges in reshaping the digital classroom.

Computer Lab at a High School in Tokyo, Japan. Image credit: Hiroyukui Ito 2020

“The hope is that teachers will be more well-versed in online learning resources, schools will welcome innovation that drives enriched learning and students will demand more interesting multimedia and multi-modal learning experiences.” – Rebecca Winthrop

With global school shut-downs due to the 2020 pandemic; many students and teachers were taking notice of e-learning like never before. It might be surprising that in a modern city like Tokyo; education is still based on traditional learning methods and the teacher centered classroom. However with nationwide school closures teachers were left with no choice but to look…

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Design Thinking is a term adapted from architecture and engineering and is often refered to as a “toolkit for innovation”. Its framework can be applied across a wide range of fields and its approach adapted to suit the needs of the user. According to the Interaction Design Foundation it is defined as a “non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.”

It involves 5 key stages – Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. This approach is most effective when addressing problems that are unknown or ill-defined. In…

The simplicity and efficiency of Japanese products have been admired for centuries around the world. 思いやり (omoiyari, consideration) and おもてなし (omotenashi, hospitality) are values that are woven into the fabric of Japanese society and informs the way products and services are designed. Life in Tokyo has showed me some of the ways usability, efficiency and consideration are at the heart of the user experience and how they can inform new ways of experiencing the world.

First, what is universal design and ux?

According to architect Ronald L. Mace, Universal Design is the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be usable to the greatest…

Image of the Brain. Image Credit:

Educators and UX designers have to make certain predictions about their users in order to design the best experience. That’s where psychology plays an important role in shaping these experiences.

Lucas D. Writes about this in his article “20 psychological principles applied to product design”. I’ve chosen 5 UX principles and their application in the classroom as it relates to teaching and the learning process.

Recognition over recall –

“it’s easier to recognize things we have previously experienced than it is to recall them from memory.” – Mental Notes

In my TEFL lectures I’ve found this nugget of UX wisdom particularly useful in helping…

Redesigning the classroom for language learning.

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In her article on “Frustration is a design opportunityCe Manalang shares her insights into the principles of design and how the way we view the world can be the catalyst for change. Bad design can be frustrating and in the classroom is no exception. How we can use this as fuel for our creative fire?

Students faced with too many new challenges in the classroom can be overwhelmed and ultimate mentally check-out of a lesson. …

People s
People s
Photo credit: – People around a campfire.

Storytelling is a fundamental part of the human experience. It’s how we communicate complex ideas, feelings and concepts to each other. UX designers rely on storytelling to frame data in digestible ways for clients and users, in the same way teachers can use storytelling methods to help students engage with classroom material.

Oz Chen writes about storytelling as a way “to capture users attention, take others on a journey and build bridges of understanding.”

In the field of UX design, storytelling is told through deliverables that represent your target users and visualize the story of our product/service. These include:

  • User…

Rishma Hansil

UX Designer and Language Instructor working on Educational Technology in Tokyo, Japan.

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