UX Observations #2: Harry Potter in Concert

On Sunday night my boyfriend Karl and I got dressed up in our finest and headed to the Spark Arena to watch the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra perform the score to ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, as the film was screened on a big screen. The highly acclaimed composer John Williams composed the music to the first three Harry Potter films (as well as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars, ET, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and soo many others!) The music was beautiful and the audience, including tons of kids and adults in their Hogwarts fancy dress, was enthusiastic and vocal!

While I imagine most people don’t immediately associate ‘Harry Potter in Concert’ with UX design, I did find myself thinking about the user experience of the event at a couple of points during the evening.

Excuse me, that’s my seat!

The first time was at the very beginning of the night when Karl and I tried to find our seats. We had the cheapest tickets so they were a good hike up to the top, and we actually sat in the wrong row for 5 minutes or so as we were excited to see seats 732 and 733, before realising we needed row SS. I thought it would just be us that struggled, until I noticed it happen over and over again as the seats began to fill up.
We had used the sticker at the beginning of the row to find our seats. It was stuck on the steps near the first seat of the row, with seat numbers on the seats themselves.
(Apologies for the terrible picture!)


Possible solutions

  1. Repetition: Add the row alongside the seat number to the label on the bottom of every seat ie. SS 732
  2. Colour: Colour code each row – ie. Green row SS, seat 732, with a green row being easy enough to spot in amongst rows of varying colours. Although this would pose accessibility problems (including colour-blindness) and would not work if the lights were dimmed.
  3. Wayfinding: Create very clear wayfinding signage before you get to looking for your row so yo have a good expectation of where you should find it. Ie. you know this set of stairs will take you to Rows PP to ZZ.
  4. Digital labels: Each row and seat could have digital display signs on the floor for the row and then the seat, like the little digital price tags in some supermarkets. These could glow faintly so could still be visible when the lights go down, but not be distracting. Or be dark when the performance starts but glow when someone steps beside it.
  5. A wayfinding app: You could create a wayfinding app that pinpoints where the customer is in the arena and where their seats are so they can use it as a guide on where to go. The people I saw struggling were using phones as torches anyway. However I think creating an app to solve this problem is clunky, involving too many process steps (ie. get phone out of pocket, unlock, close last app use, close last app folder used, scroll through app icons to find seating finder app, open app, log on to app, find location…) I would try to find a more elegant solution.

Grab and Go Space

My second geekery into UX thinking for the night was during the intermission as I headed down to the food & beverage area to get a bottle of water, and found the ‘Grab and Go Space’.

Spark Arena 'Grab and Go Space'

Spark Arena ‘Grab and Go Space’

The food and beverage folks at Spark Arena had attempted to tackle the usual problem of the intermission mile-long line for drinks with the Grab and Go Space. It was a system where customers were directed through a marked off area, past fridges and tables stacked with snacks, to help themselves and pay on their way out of the area – more like a canteen design than a traditional theatre bar.

UX Observations #1: The supermarket bulk food aisle

You’re hungry, it’s been a long day at work and you’re keen to get some food supplies so you can go home, get the dinner on, put your feet up and watch another Rick and Morty episode.

Sound familiar? I’m sure you’re actually much more productive than me in the evening, but this was my state of mind when I ducked into my local supermarket to pick up some last minute supplies. I headed to the bulk bins to get a bag of almonds and a bag of dried dates for my breakfast muesli and thats when I came to face to face with…

The date scoop

The date scoop

Scooping forwards

Scooping forwards

Scooping sideways

Scooping sideways

The Date Scoop

The bulk bins all have the same type of plastic scoop to use to fill your bags. From dry, solid almonds to squishy, sticky dates. While scooping up a bagful of almonds is easy, scooping up even 5 dates proves to be a messy and frustrating process.
The dates stick to the scoop, the scoop smooshes the dates, and when you finally have enough dates or had enough of trying, the sticky date scoop goes back into the plastic slot to pick up whatever fluff or supermarket dust is tucked inside.


A set of tongs would do the job much better and surely more hygienically!

UX takeaway

Give users the tools they need for the job – not one tool for all purposes.

User testing the supermarket

This 1st July 2017 article from the NZ Herald discusses a new Auckland supermarket chain being launched in Auckland by Foodstuffs. “A new small-store chain in the Auckland region with an emphasis on selling fresh produce.”
The article shows some views of the prototype store developed to test the store layout and concept. As the article states: “Supermarkets are being challenged by ready-to-go meal options including My Food Bag and many other home-delivered meal solutions.”
In order to compete with these other options it is important for supermarkets to develop new strategies and creating a prototype is a great way to get stakeholder feedback!

NZ Herald article – Foodstuffs launches new Auckland supermarket chain
Title photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash
Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash


The Creative Process of a Graphic Designer

The creative process can be a bit of a mystery to some clients. They might imagine there to be a muse whispering in the designers ear or that innovative solutions jump onto the page after swilling cold brew coffee and spinning on expensive ergonomic chairs. (Watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk on ‘Your elusive creative genius’ here).

While this might be the case for some lucky (and hip) designers and other creatives out there, I find that while I move intuitively towards solutions on some projects, on others I need more of a structure to spark ideas. Over the years I have developed my design process, and more recently have compiled a toolkit. This is a resource for problem solving and idea generation techniques that I can use as a starting point. If you think this could be useful in your design process you can download it here for free.

It refers to ideas from a number of sources which I would recommend to anyone hoping to fine-tune their own process (see list below). Over the last month I have started to explore the human-centred design model as developed by, and am taking the Acumen+ course ‘Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design’ (found here). I plan to bring this thinking into my process so hope to update this document in the future. Stay tuned!

Download Toolkit


Some recommended reading:

Creative process:

Essential Graphic Design Solutions – By Robin Landa

Creative thinking tools:

Presenting: – Four ways introverts can get heard in meetings


Design Inspiration from the Henry Ford Museum

Last weekend on a road trip from Toronto to a new skatepark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we stopped off in Detroit. From beautiful art deco buildings to the exhibits in the Henry Ford Museum – there was a lot of design inspiration.

Here are some of my Pinterest boards from the trip:

Toronto TTC Typeface & Colour Palette

Since moving to Toronto in April I have been continuously impressed by the public transport system within the city! Although I mostly rely on my trusty (if rusty) bike, when I’ve had the occasion to use them buses, streetcars and subways seem to be regular, fairly fast and affordable compared to transport in New Zealand.

However if I’m honest, it’s not the reliability of the TTC that I’ve remarked upon the most, but the typeface used in the majority of the subway stations. It’s a beautifully clean sans serif design, and the more I’ve looked into it the more facinated I have become.

Here is a look at signage and colour palettes of the subway stations. Most of which use the geometric Toronto subway typeface, and some use an inconsistent mix of fonts.
(This is an ongoing project so I’ll be adding pics as I explore the 74 stations.)

Bloor – Danforth Line
(West to East)

Kipling (one of the signs that uses an alternative typeface)
TTC Kipling Station

Stamps arrived!

The stamps of my illustrations arrived from Peddlars Pack and I think they look great! I use pretty skinny pen work in the drawings but they come out really well in the stamps.
They are available from The Peddlars Pack Stampworks under ‘Stamps’ in the ‘Nicola Brady Collection’ (:

Doodlers Anonymous Colouring Book

Doodlers Anonymous
Doodlers Anonymous
Doodlers Anonymous
Doodlers Anonymous

I’m pretty excited to have one of my illustrations included in the Doodlers Anonymous Colouring Book…
Their website describes the colouring book like this:

You’ve never seen a coloring book quite like this! Vintage icons, comic strip throwbacks, and intricate graphic details by 60 artists — a hodgepodge of cosmopolitan hand-drawn goodness begging you to get down and dirty with a crayon stub or a squeaking marker. Color inside the box or outside the lines – we won’t judge.

The colouring book is available to buy from their Big Cartel shop – I’ll be sending one to my Mum of course! (:

Peddlars Pack stamps

I had a really exciting letter from Joyce who owns and runs Peddlars Pack. They make and sell rubber stamps to arty folk in the States (based in Oregon) and are now stocking some stamps made from my drawings!
Here is a photo of the advert in a stamp collectors magazine. I’m hoping to work on more illustrations for them this year, and can’t wait to see how the stamps turn out.