Each year the rallying cry “Show us your best!” is heard throughout our desert land, and creatives from near and far submit their latest work. Last October, we captured the year’s efforts of Arizona designers in a virtual showcase during Phoenix Design Week 2020. Our annual “Best Of” design showcase is unlike traditional shows: there are no judges or juries — in a “people’s choice” vote, attendees (virtual or in person) vote for their favorite projects each day during Phoenix Design Week (PHXDW). The entry that receives the most votes earns Best Of accolades for the designer(s) along with a pass to the next year’s PHXDW and a feature article (like this one).
For 2020, we received 70 submissions from designers all over Arizona, and when the 1,313 votes were tallied, the winning submission was the engaging website design work of Quan Long and her team from User10 for Noms Cookies
The site design uses a scrumptious, fresh palette of mint and periwinkle, with circular fields of color to serve as a spot backdrop to the rich, outlined photographs of the cookies. The sophisticated typography echoes the simple geometry of the flat and photographed discs, and the light and playful illustrated elements guide the reader towards the action of ordering. The visual design flows from an intelligent user architecture that precisely solves the problem the client posed to the agency: How can we increase our business customer conversion without all the necessary customer service? By first splitting the customer segments into individual and business bulk orders—offering two different checkout paths—Long and her team created a seamless journey for corporate bulk ordering of cookies.
I had the good fortune to speak with the delightful Quan Long about her winning design, and the work she is doing at User10.
You are obviously talented both at visual design as well as analytical research and technical strategy. . It’s pretty impressive how you surveyed designers on LinkedIn and found that UI seems to be more prominent than UX here. (I just love how you conducted the same UX research methodology you use for product design to help you decide whether to move to Arizona!) After working at User10 for almost two years now, how do you feel about the balance of that working dynamic?
“I wanted to see what the design culture would be like here in Arizona, and if there were any special preferences that emerge from my survey of designers on LinkedIn. There is so much to UX that is specialized in the Bay Area, for example, with different people and teams each doing interviews, research, or testing. Here in the Phoenix area, it is more fluid, and there is way more of a focus on UI—almost 70% from my survey. Working with User10 has shown me there is a fine line between UX and UI here. Once I touch UX, then I also touch UI. There is no one, right dynamic between the amount of time spent on one or the other. It just depends on the product, the problem, and the preference of the client. Yes, the structure of the design must serve the business problem, but also, people have the need for an aesthetic—they want to see beautiful things. We all want to make every decision based on data, but in reality, we must deal with budgets, timelines, and ambiguity—we have to stop the science at the right time and create that product, and it must be beautiful.
We all want to make every decision based on data, but in reality, we must deal with budgets, timelines, and ambiguity—we have to stop the science at the right time and create that product, and it must be beautiful.
Speaking of too much research, your team may have had a worry about the result of eating too many cookies during your work for Noms Cookies! You must have just had a good time with this project—how could anyone escape having fun working with cookies? Tell me about the experience you had with your team, and any particularly informative or entertaining moments you had during the project.
Quan and her cat, Gray
It was very exciting that, after the launch of the website, and without any marketing or advertising, the customer conversion rate was five times higher. We learned through our work that, although it seems like it should be a simple thing to order and reorder, people just do it differently, and in ways you may not expect. The challenge was to allow for customization of orders while retaining the ease of the automated components in the bulk ordering process. I sketched many comps with different ways to solve the problem, and testing was done on my co-workers. Turns out a simple dropdown, with just the right language, solved the problem in the best way.
It was very exciting that, after the launch of the website, and without any marketing or advertising, the customer conversion rate was five times higher.
I kept showing the black and white wireframe sketches for Noms at each of our weekly reviews. When I began to introduce the full color images of the cookies, the only comment in the room was: “I’m so hungry…”
Tell me what’s happening at User10 this year. What projects are hot right now at the agency? Does User10 have any plans to move into a certain direction as far as type of clients or projects?
Noms is still our star right now, and we are working on an additional business page for them at the moment. I did more research on the usage since the launch, and found that although the ratio of individual and corporate customers is the same, the quantities are wildly different. Think of the difference between one person ordering one box and one person ordering 200 boxes. So it’s logical that we are now working on a new page on the website just for corporate customers.
One project that I consider hot is an app we created at User10 that we were calling “incentive pilot.” It started as just this whiteboard idea to basically keep us motivated through gift cards—for example, a sales agent reaches her monthly goal and gets a gift card—that kind of thing. One day, one of our clients was asking if we knew about a product that would facilitate incentive programs for employees. Since we already had this prototype that we had developed for ourselves, we said, “why don’t we just build it out and sell it to them?” We had already done a lot of analysis and strategy and structure. So we developed incentivepilot.com, and there are now over 5,000 users all over the world—in the United States, China, Japan, Canada and Singapore. The platform has distributed over $2 million in gift cards.
Sounds like User10 is a smile of a place to work—what else is fun about the culture there?
Every Friday during our review and critique sessions, we also have a “bad ideas” show-and-tell time and it’s generally pretty fun. This sketch turned out to be my big, green, bad idea for the same project—incentivepilot.com:
My bad idea for incentivepilot.com
Have you ever noticed all the random American holidays? There are so many! Another of my favorite things we do for fun at User10 is design greeting cards for all the weird American holidays. We picked 12 of our favorites and created a set for 2021 on sale at smoliday.com. My favorite, for National Listening Day…
Greeting card for Static Electricity Day (left) and National Listening Day (right).
Design and illustration by Quan Long.
I have to say that, in general, the experience at User10 is very positive: we work to create joyful experiences and beautiful things.
ABOUT THE BEST OF AZ DESIGN ARCHIVE
The annual “Best Of” design exhibition is a great opportunity for Arizona’s creatives of all levels and disciplines to show off their best work, and for AIGA Arizona to demonstrate and document our own state’s talent. It’s an ongoing labor of love led by AIGA AZ board member Kathy Morgan who curates the exhibition each year.
Kathy, tell me, how did the Legacy Archive become a thing?
In 2014, as the most “legacy” designer on the AIGA AZ board, I took on the task of rounding up 25 years’ worth of design artifacts from the Arizona community. I sent out countless emails and made phone calls to everyone I knew in the field, and many I hadn’t met yet, but knew because their impact on Arizona’s design history needed to be included in such an effort. With help from Jim Nissen, Cesar Chaves and Ward Andrews, we created and debuted the first AIGA Arizona Legacy Exhibition at Phoenix Design Week 2014. It was so well-received that AIGA AZ has continued to build the archive by hosting a best-of-that-year call for submissions as part of every PHXDW since. We added the voting element to the exhibition in 2015, and it’s been tremendously popular with conference attendees, too.
Voting in person for the Best of 2017 at the Method & Madness conference during Phoenix Design Week 2017.
Being a rather nostalgic pack-rat myself, I’ve loved seeing the submissions come in each year and connecting with so many people out there in our creative community. My own career has spanned print-only through the digital age, and there’s just nothing like holding and savoring a beautifully crafted printed piece. I also thought it was important to collect and preserve physical samples that viewers could pick up and interact with, especially all the real-life collateral that we designers devote so much of our lives to that often gets thrown away. After seven years now, suffice it to say that the AIGA AZ storage facility has quite the hoard going on! We did bring the entire exhibition out once in 2016 for the Mad Men & Unicorns event at the Tempe History Museum and always envisioned at the very least a permanent online archive, or even in my grand dreams, an Arizona design museum.
Best of 2019 Exhibition on display at Phoenix Design Week.
One of the limitations we’ve always had with an in-person popup exhibition was a satisfactory way to display all the amazing digital work such as websites, apps and animations. The physical pieces have always ranked highest in the voting. Our 100% volunteer team had never had the bandwidth to solve this digital dilemma, along with everything else it takes to mount the Phoenix Design Week conference and week of events. Enter the pandemic, and a lunch (when that was still a thing we did) with my friend, Andrew Phelps, who graciously put his team at User10 at our disposal. I can’t express my gratitude enough for their monumental contribution. They totally built out the Best Of 2020 Gallery along with the voting functionality that made the first-ever virtual exhibition possible. Now we have the framework to create future years’ archives, as well as retroactively build out the previous years with the content I’ve already collected. The galleries will eventually have a permanent home on the new AIGA Arizona website once it’s launched later this year.
What makes the AIGA AZ Best Of show so special is the authentic community flavor that emerges through this mutually supportive celebration of creative work. Three cheers to all the participants and voters—thanks for sharing your best of 2020!
Top 20 countdown:
- GetNoms.com Web App UX/UI Redesign, Quan Long
- (tie) Marmas Packaging / Branding, Bridge
- (tie) PHXDW 2019 EVOLVE Conference Velociraptor Poster, Steffan Stewart
- (tie) Organic Vines Branding, Bridge
- (tie) High Fliers Branding + UI/UX, Bridge
- Red Sea Beauty | Brand Identity, Banna Tesfay
- Razzle Dazzle, Aarti Thamma
- Starbucks College Achievement Plan Redesign, Amanda Gulley
- Sonoran Desert Naturals Product Line, Katy Geary
- Axolotl Biologix Bifold, Katy Geary
- The Wealthy Stylist Workbook, Katy Geary
- AZ Sticker Project, Jason Boesel
- 25 Questions and Answers for Financial Institutions Adapting to the New Normal, Matt Lu
- 2020 Vision (Digital Signage Survey), Matt Lu
- Shortleash Hot Dogs 10th Anniversary, Bob Case
- Creating a Retail Environment, Matt Lu
- Diamond of the Desert, Alison King
- Reign Drink Lab: Cold Brew Label, Matt Lu
- taylor.wtf Brand Identity & Album Cover, John Huber
- Loft Film Fest 2019, Matt McCoy
You can access the entire Best of Arizona gallery here. And, be sure to watch for the Best of 2021 call for submissions later this summer!