Image of Anna Cook and the text “Ask Me Anything w/ Anna Cook. AIGA DC Diversity & Inclusion Slack. January 29th Noon-1pm”
Image of Anna Cook and the text “Ask Me Anything w/ Anna Cook. AIGA DC Diversity & Inclusion Slack. January 29th Noon-1pm”

Introduction

At the start of 2021, I had the amazing opportunity to partner with AIGA DC to offer a virtual Ask Me Anything (AMA) event. We did this live via their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Slack group (which anyone can join)! With the permission of the AIGA DC programming directors, I am publishing the main session so that anyone can access the Q&A, even if they don’t use Slack or happened to miss the event! All of the questions were provided by Nick Fabiani, and answers by myself.

Q&A

Nick: I first got to know your work by reading your blog, where…


A person holding their phone preparing to put together a story on Instagram
A person holding their phone preparing to put together a story on Instagram
Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

“Stories are the slot machines of social media.”

This week, I laid out an argument on Twitter about how I believe stories are the slot machines of social media. However, due to this thread’s spread, I feel it is necessary to expand on this statement to clarify some of the details. Why would I make such a sweeping statement about a pattern adopted on so many social media platforms? If I were a reader looking at this thread, I might think the author used hyperbole to make their claim seem more valid, a fair concern. …


How my food sensitivity led me to realize the risk of search suggestions.

A stylized search for “gluten-free pizza” with results showing “Mario’s Pizza,” “Luigis Pies,” and “Pizza by Peach”
A stylized search for “gluten-free pizza” with results showing “Mario’s Pizza,” “Luigis Pies,” and “Pizza by Peach”

For the past eight years of my life, I have had to deal with varying degrees of food sensitivities. It wasn’t until a year ago that I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

It was my first semester of graduate school when I began to experience ongoing severe symptoms associated with celiac disease: vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, exhaustion, and anemia. The lack of control over my body made it impossible for me to predict when I would need to miss a class, work from home…


Defining the line between dark patterns and winning experiences

A screencapture from the Webtoon native app showing a Fast Pass popup on the comic Lore Olympus
A screencapture from the Webtoon native app showing a Fast Pass popup on the comic Lore Olympus

Many designers are familiar with the tactics that companies use to create addicted users, but how often do we use these patterns ourselves? How are we evaluating the difference between a dark pattern and a winning experience? To understand these methods, we must assess experiences in-depth to see how we could be manipulated, or in the case where we are the designers, manipulating others. As an exercise in evaluating dark patterns, I took the time to evaluate the tactics of one of my favorite apps: Webtoon.

Line WEBTOON is an online comic publishing portal launched by Naver Corporation in 2004…


It was just another Thursday evening, in which I found myself checking my Twitter to relieve the pressures of the day. Usually, I see anywhere from 0–2 notifications, but that day, there was one that caught my eye in my inbox. The message was a question I’ve received many times: “What inspired you to become an accessibility advocate?”

The question had been asked politely, conversationally. Certainly, it was intended to engage in a more in-depth topic with me. However, I’ve been asked this question so often that I need to clarify the true inspiration that led to this path.

Although…


As we enter another semester with the looming presence of COVID, many of us are preparing our classes to be online or as blended as possible. Last Spring, many of our schools and businesses moved online within days, but many of us weren’t prepared for that to happen. Even for this Fall, many of us have had to scramble to get our classes made for online environments.

However, the silver lining to this dark year is that many of us are learning about the benefits of accessibility in our online classrooms. …


Doctor and patient with Cochlear Implant reaching out to each other through their mobile phones with captions on
Doctor and patient with Cochlear Implant reaching out to each other through their mobile phones with captions on

Recently, accessibility in tech has been a hot topic. We are currently at peak popularity for terms like “WCAG” and “A11Y” in search engines. Certainly, the rise of web accessibility lawsuits plays a part in this increased interest, but with COVID-19 we are faced with using more online tools now than ever before. As UX designers, it is our responsibility to make our experiences as usable as possible, which also means considering inclusive design needs.


I have been a UX designer since 2012, and over that course of time, I have mostly focused on web and app experiences. But as a part of my master’s program, I found myself in a class called Design Methods. In this class, we focused on design from a broader point of view. It was an exceptional opportunity to explore design theory and discover how practices as a digitally-focused user experience designer can apply to any design, including physical products.

I mention this to preface that this post diverges from my usual content and my specialized approach as a UX…


Illustration with character filling out profile and selecting “non-binary” as gender option
Illustration with character filling out profile and selecting “non-binary” as gender option

Last updated on September 10, 2020

Something I’ve been ruminating on for a long time is our lack of gender options when users register for products and services. I’m not the first one to notice this, but it’s still happening, and it’s more prevalent than we realize. Even if you identify as cisgender, this is a need that affects many of your users, as well as friends, family, and colleagues.

Max Masure wrote a great article on why cisgender people should be normalizing pronoun usage that I would recommend for cisgender people to help educate themselves. In this article, they…


Continuation of part 1: The State of Diversity in Tech

As we learned in part 1, we know diversity gaps exist in the tech industry, we know they affect our organizations and due to the reach of technology in this era, we know that the gaps affect a broad population. The effects of our cultural biases, from parents, teachers, schools, employers, and society as a whole are a huge reason we are dealing with the diversity issues we currently are. It will take time for these social norms to change, as all societal changes take time. So what can we…

Anna E. Cook

She/they. Senior Product Designer focused on accessibility, inclusion, and ethics.

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