Michigan Women in UX: Diane Bowen Feature

Photo of Diane Bowen

Interview by Katie Oeschger, May, 2021

Tell us about yourself (e.g., hobbies/interests, etc.).

I love spending time with family and friends. It’s especially fun when we are solving a problem or tackling a project. Game nights with friends and family are fun, too.

What are your Michigan roots? Why do you live and work here in Michigan?

My father’s family were long-time Detroiters. I grew up and met my husband here. Much of our family still lives in Michigan including our adult children. We live in farm country now.

To you, what makes Michigan great?

Michigan has a rich history, unequalled lakes, and a good standard of living. The forests of the UP are gorgeous and the farmlands in rural mid-state pastoral. But the people are what really make this state great. Michiganders are hardworking, responsible, celebrate diverse heritages, flexible, creative, and resilient.

How did you get started in UX? Tell us about your UX career journey.

At the Michigan State University lab I studied behavior modification techniques with pigeons. After graduation I became an intervention counselor for at-risk youth. My personal guiding mission statement developed at that time: Help people improve their lives. When my husband and I started our family, I stayed home to raise our children full-time.

When I re-entered the workforce, I began in Customer Service at a Tech company focused on behavior change. Since I was working with customers to address concerns and answer questions, I had a unique opportunity to design solutions for everyday issues. I would share these designs with developers and the UX Team, eventually joining the User Experience Team. UX was a perfect fit for my personal mission statement. I earned a Masters in UXD from Kent State University in 2018 and am grateful for the many authors, mentors, and others who have invested in me on this journey.

Where do you work and what is your role there?

I am a Product Designer at Covenant Eyes. I define and solve problems, match business goals with user needs, engage in user research, and prototype solutions through information architecture, interaction design, information design, and interface design.

What is a typical day (or week) like for you?

I may be engaged in user research, creating UIs in Sketch, animations in XD, building information architectures, or interaction designs. I might be writing up design documentation so that implementation matches intent. I could be facilitating a day-long workshop or preparing a presentation. Although each day is different, the focus of my work remains the same: provide an exceptional end-to-end experience.

What do you like most about your work?

Every day I get the chance to make a difference in the life of someone battling addiction.

You worked in UX research before transitioning to product design. How did a research background help you become a better designer?

I am so grateful for the opportunity to focus on research before moving to a role in product design. Research, and customer service before that, allowed me to hear first-hand the jobs real people were trying to accomplish, the pains they experienced, and the gains they hoped to achieve. This was fantastic ‘insider information’ for a product designer.

In addition, a background in research makes me painfully aware when I am asked to design from assumptions rather than the needs of real users.

What’s your favorite part of UX? Why?

The activities surrounding matching user needs with business goals.

  • Defining problems through stakeholder and user interviews
  • Collaboratively identifying and proposing solutions
  • Testing solutions and building the winners.

Building products born from a business goal starts with understanding customer needs. Testing designs with customers ensures designs meet those needs.

But if I had to pick a single activity, it’s probably information architecture.

Where do you go for UX design inspiration?

For design inspiration I turn to the apps I use, Pinterest, pttrns.com, my colleagues, and Google searches. I also subscribe to several industry email newsletters and blogs.

What are your favorite UX tools? Why?

  • Adobe suite is a powerful, integrated set of design tools.
  • Sketch is lightweight and easy to use.
  • WCAG color contrast checkers for basic accessibility checks.
  • EZTexting for communicating with interview participants.
  • Usability Hub for super-fast unmoderated testing.

To you, what has been your greatest career accomplishment thus far?

A technical team was updating code infrastructure to ensure security for the user-facing account management portal. At the same time, the Customer Service team had a goal to reduce contacts related to user account management such as update credit card, update email address, and reset password.

Both goals could be addressed by reworking the account management portal. I was one of two product designers on an agile development team. While my colleague collaborated with development to build a design component library, I coordinated and executed requirements gathering and user research to craft a new information architecture, interaction designs, and UI design.

The information architecture and interaction design revamp were critical to meeting the project goal to measurably reduce contacts to Customer Service within 3 months of deployment.

A surprising and delightful result was the breaking down of silos between Customer Support, Development, QA, Marketing, Accounting, and UX.

What is something that people might be surprised to know about you?

We homeschooled our children from 1998 – 2014, an incredibly rich experience.

Is there something you wished you’d known or a skill you wish you had when you started out in UX?

I wish I would have had a better understanding of how various user experience activities work together and why.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in UX?

How have you benefited from and/or contributed to the MiUXPA Community?

MiUXPA has been a presence in my UX journey from the beginning. There was always someone from MiUXPA present at any UX meetup or event I attended, encouraging us as professionals, providing opportunities for networking, offering resources, and sharing information about other UXPA events.

Moving forward, what would you like to get out of the MiUXPA Community?

  • An opportunity to mentor or be mentored to guide through the career development process
  • Events to discuss and discover career interests, goals, new industry stuff, recognitions, and friend-making
  • A support system of advocates

This interview with Diane Bowen is a part of our new Michigan Women in UX series. If you have a story you would like to share in our series, contact us at michiganuxpa@gmail.com.

March 2021 Newsletter

This morning, the March 2021 email newsletter went out with the following sections:

If you would like to receive our newsletter directly to you inbox in the future, sign up.

Michigan Tech Hiring 1st Professor of Practice in UX/UI

What do you think of when you think of Michigan Technological University? Hockey? Snow? Engineering? In addition to all of those things, Michigan Tech is also home to a well-established Graduate Program in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors and Undergraduate Program in Scientific and Technical Communication. The University sees great value in these areas of study, and now their user experience presence continues to grow up in the Upper Peninsula!

Michigan Tech is currently developing a proposal for a new Bachelor’s Degree in Human Factors. To support this initiative, the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences and the Department of Humanities are looking to hire a Professor of Practice in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design.

What is a professor of practice? Universities hire professionals with strong industry experience and knowledge to teach the next generations of professionals. These professors of practice usually act as a bridge to connect industry and academia. Professors of practice are more commonly seen in business and engineering programs. Based on our research, this is the first position of its kind in the state of Michigan in the field of user experience.

Michigan Tech is looking for someone with seven or more years of UX industry experience, has served in technical lead or leadership roles, and is actively involved in UX professional communities. Some of the main responsibilities for this full-time faculty position will include (1) teaching multiple, small upper-level courses related to UI/UX (e.g., 14-25 students per course) and developing other programs; (2) establishing and collaborating with industry partners, and (3) helping support student’s academic and career success. If interested, the Professor of Practice may also engage in interdisciplinary research with faculty across campus.

Interested in teaching? Want to be part of Michigan UX history? It’s not too late to apply! To learn more about this position, check out Michigan Tech’s Professor of Practice, UI and UX Design job posting. The position will begin in August of 2021. (And yes, you will need to live in the UP.)

Ignite UX Michigan, 3/16 & 3/23

Mike Beasley at Ignite UX Michigan 2015

Caption for image above: Mike Beasley, one of the Ignite UX Michigan organizers, doing his best airline steward impression: pointing to exits, in 2015.

Ignite UX Michigan has become a staple of our community over the years, with people traveling to Ann Arbor from Detroit, East Lansing, and Toledo for an evening of fascinating talks and an overall good time. It was canceled in 2020 but is going online in March (of 2021). We thought it was a good time to check in with the Ignite UX Michigan team and get the scoop on what is coming up later in March.

For people who have never participated in Ignite UX Michigan before, what is it all about?

Ignite UX Michigan is normally a free, in-person, evening event in an informal setting where you can see 10-12 lightning talks on UX and UX-adjacent topics. The lightning talk format we use puts speakers in front of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds, for a total of 5 minutes. This format gives speakers a way to deliver a clear, punchy point and it brings a lot energy to the talks. Our goal is to give people that you don’t normally see speaking at UX events an opportunity to get experience, and ultimately improve the diversity of voices in the UX community. Our speakers mainly come from Southeast Michigan and nearby areas, although we occasionally have people travel from further away. We get a mix of speakers and attendees, from students to experienced professionals. Our event has happened once a year from 2013 through 2019, but last year we ended up cancelling and are experimenting with a virtual format this year.

Yes, this year will be different! What will be different because it will be virtual?

The biggest difference this year will be that you don’t have to drive to Ann Arbor in the snow! More seriously, a big difference is that Ignite UX Michigan previously took place at bars where you could mingle with other UX people before and after the talks. Although we want to use breakout rooms to give attendees some space to meet our sponsors and have a separate space for chatting, ultimately the virtual format just isn’t set up for 1-on-1 interactions. On the other hand, we hope it’ll be easier to see and hear the talks: no bar background noise! There will be a more structured QA session after the talks.

Attending is fun: what about speaking at it?

We encourage people to use the event as a way to get experience speaking. You also get a video of your talk, posted on our YouTube channel.

Watch past Ignite UX Michigan talks on YouTube.

What sort of topics can people expect to hear this time?

Our speakers this time will be talking about accessibility, UX and Agile, industrial manufacturing, and career development, to name a few topics. As usual, we’ve got a mix of topics!

How do people register?

This year, along with the virtual format (using Zoom), we are also experimenting with splitting the event into 2 evenings. You can register on Eventbrite for March 16 or March 23 (or both). 6:30-8:30pm with 5 talks, both nights. Free!

“What we can learn from Bubble Tea Shops in Taiwan” by Blair Shen, at Ignite UX Michigan 2019.

Check out igniteuxmi.com for more about the event. See you there, even if we cannot hang out at a bar this time.