The one who passed the river


The one who passed the river

As a UX researcher, I’m always looking for novel ways to present information to the different audiences I work for. My collaborators and clients aren’t limited to UX designers, software developers and UI visual designers.

I regularly conduct studies for executives who are responsible for business strategy, product planning, operations, sales and marketing, and professional education. At the conclusion of each study, my challenge is to create a final deliverable tailored to a specialized audience.

In the past, my user-research deliverables have consisted of short videos, concept feedback, games, workshops, competitor audits, strategy documents, customer journey maps and very detailed personas. It was only recently that I thought a comic book would make a fine user-research deliverable. Sure, it might seem strange to create a comic book in a staid corporate environment, where they are thought of primarily as light entertainment. But it’s not strange at all.

In 2006, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón wrote The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation to illustrate, “word for word the original report… even including the Commission’s final report card.” In October 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” to explain how to act in the face of a major “plague.” And in 2012, Kevin Cheng applied methods of sequential art to illustrate the process of planning for new technology products in See What I Mean.

In this article, I will discuss why I created a comic book to help a group of executives explore a business scenario that has multifaceted problems and is set in an imaginary future. I will also talk about how the comic book helped the executives experience the strategic and emotional impact of the problems and how it helped them noodle over possible solutions. Finally, I’ll provide some guidelines for UX designers who would like to use comics or sequential art to illustrate open-ended business scenarios.

Let’s start with a thorny concept most of us have heard of: cybercrime. It’s a mature industry with an extensive professionally run underground economy. As you might know, the cybercrime economy is based on the development and distribution of sophisticated tools to carry out large-scale fraud attacks, consumer-data breaches and politically motivated distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks on financial institutions, retailers and governmental agencies result in the loss of billions of dollars every year.

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