My favourite word currently is “unaware”. 

I recently started thinking of people being unaware when they do something that I could easily think of as unreasonable, rude, idiotic. I like the momentary sound of the word unaware. People unaware of something in a specific moment.

Someone on the bus speaking loudly on the phone: They are unaware of the social environment around them. A cyclist who crosses the red light: They were unaware of the danger they are putting themselves and others in. Someone says something rude: they are unaware that what they said hurts me.

What I like about giving a momentary state to the situation, instead of labeling people, is that it helps me create empathy with them and believe in the change of behaviour. All of us from time to time for a number of reasons can be unware of the circumstances around us. By giving a momentary state to the person, I know I’m further away from creating preconceptions about them and instead I’m keeping my mind open to the possibilities of the good things they can do.


Attributes of successful designers

“I see different qualities in different people, but there are three attributes that all successful designers seem to have. The first is tenacity; this is the ability to keep working at a task until it is right rather than settling for the first idea that appears. The second is boldness, or a willingness to risk failure. And finally, cussedness. This sounds paradoxical because most design tasks require empathy and objectivity, but no great design comes without a dollop of selfishness and bloody-mindedness”

Adrian Shaughnessy in an interview for the FuelRCA


UX is team work

My talk at the Bulgaria Web Summit 2015:

UX is team work!
To get the whole project team involved in the UX process is essential to achieve a great quality product. No matter if it’s an Agile or a Waterfall process, UX and development must be working collaboratively: developers meeting users and attending usability testing, designers and developers sketching together, clients actively participating in the design process. This talk provides practical UX tools and techniques to integrate UX and development and get the whole team involved: users, developers, managers and clients.


My slides from my talk at BrightonSEO

How good UX can improve SEO
This talk is about how usability, hierarchy of information and good page design can improve SEO. By improving how users find the content and navigate on your website, you’re improving their overall user experience as well as improving SEO. But what makes a good web page design? From a UX designer’s perspective, you’ll learn practical techniques to help improve the UX of your websites to engage your target users.
BrightonSEO 2015


Sprint 1: Giving and receiving feedback

The first topic I’m going to research and write about for my book is: giving and receiving feedback on designs and creative work.

How to communicate in a way that is constructive, get your point across and motivate individuals to do better work? How to deal with mindless feedback? And how to ask for feedback so you can get the best out of people?

Tell me your story


The plan


My plan is to write a short practical book for designers. The idea is to research about certain topics, collect stories and experiences through a series of interviews, review drafts with early adopters (colleagues who kindly offered to help) and write about practical techniques and examples that help designers in their day-to-day communication.

I’m planning to commit 6 hours/week. This doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s probably realistic to do aside a full-time job. I hope this helps me focus. After talking with a couple of authors, I’m confident I can make this work. We shall see and I’ll be reviewing this plan at the end of every sprint.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 16.28.51

Any ideas or comments, do drop me a line by email or Twitter (@marianamota).


The backlog

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’m starting researching and writing a book in an Agile way, with sprints, user feedback and iterations. I’ll share my plan later. With that, it comes the product backlog with epic topics.

Help me prioritise the backlog of topics. This will help me understand what people would also find interesting and what topics to start with:

Survey: What topics do you find interesting?
(it will take only a minute)


I’m going to write a book, and I need your help


I’ve decided to start writing a book about verbal communication and leadership skills for designers. This is a subject I have been researching for the past couple of years, giving talks about it and experiencing in my day-to-day job. Now I’ll get deep down into research, do interviews, get contributions and write a book about it.

Inspired by Leo Babauta’s blog post on the iterative way to write a book, I’ve decided that I will write it in small chunks and I need your help. If you are a designer or work in the creative industry and you fancy giving feedback once every couple of months on parts of a chapter, please, get in touch! I’m looking for a handful of designers to give me feedback on the content.

A brief introduction about my motivations and of what you can expect:

I’m an introvert. I love silence.
My whole professional life so far has been focused on communicating visually.
The industry I am in is predominantly men. I’m a woman.
The language I speak everyday is not my mother language.

I’m highly interested in verbal communication. For me, it’s the most challenging part of my job and life in general. And when get it right, it’s highly gratifying.

The designer is fundamentally a visual communicator. To get that right, though, we need to be able to receive a good brief, have stakeholders understand our rationale behind our design decisions, sell our ideas, talk to users, facilitate workshops, lead client meetings, have developers understand what we are trying to do, give constructive feedback to other designers and get team members to buy in. These are all verbal forms of communication that come with visual support (sketches, flow diagrams, mock ups).

The role of designer today is not only to communicate visually but also to facilitate conversations and provide clarification to a whole project team. I find designing the easiest part of my job, not saying it’s easy, but it’s the peripherals of my job that I find most challenging everyday. No design will go anywhere without good verbal communication.

Some topics I’m planning to write about:

  • The role of a designer and how it has changed in the past few years
  • Leadership vs facilitator languages
  • Introducing design to a well established company
  • What account managers can teach us about talking to clients
  • What project managers can teach us about getting the team’s buy in
  • Communicating with designers
  • Communicating with developers
  • Gender differences when it comes to verbal communication in workplace
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Facilitating user interviews
  • Leading UX and stakeholder workshops
  • Leading multidisciplinary team meetings
  • Presenting your design ideas to clients and doing pitch presentations
  • Networking for introverts

Which of these sections above would you be most interested in? Take this quick survey.

If you fancy helping, get in touch by email or through Twitter.


The iterative way to write a book, by Leo Babauta

This is an interesting application of the MVP (minimal viable product) and Agile approach.

I particularly like the idea of having alpha testers.

“Write a minimum viable book for alpha testers. I wrote each chapter for a group of 10 alpha testers who generously agreed to read early versions of the book and put it into practice. Because I was writing for them, I was more motivated to write regularly.”

Read blog post: Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book, by Leo Babauta



pianoOnce in a restaurant* in Brussels my mum and I sat at a table next to an elderly couple who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. Our tables were close enough that the interaction between us happened naturally. I say naturally because my mum is incredibly interactive and communication with strangers is not uncommon for her.

By seeing that we were impressed by how long the couple were together, the man gave us a piece of advice:

“Hobbies! That’s our secret for staying together for so long. You need to have hobbies. Hobbies that you can do together and, most importantly, hobbies that you do on your own. Because when it all goes, jobs, kids, that’s what you’ll have and what will keep your minds sane.”

This kept in my mind and I believe it has directly influenced me to start a few hobbies like learning to play the piano. Sometimes it can be difficult to fit hobbies in our day to day, when we’re so busy, but it’s worth the effort (for these reasons). Who knows, when we’re celebrating our 50th anniversaries, we can then pass on the advice.

*If you like mussels and you go to Brussels, check out the restaurant Leon de Bruxelles. They are also located in London and in Paris, but if you can, go to the original.


Beautiful Reykjavik, Iceland

We went to Reykjavik for 5 days. It is absolutely beautiful and I totally recommend a visit.

One day we hired a car and did the Golden Circle tour, which includes seeing the huge Gulfoss waterfall, Geysirs and tectonic plates. They are super impressive! On another day we went to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal lagoon.

We tried a few traditional Icelandic foods. The main one was Hákarl, a fermented shark. The smell of ammonia is so strong that the tiny pieces of shark come in a small closed jar. I hope I’ll never have to eat it again. After this experience we tried other traditional “safer” foods like their famous tasty lamb, the lamb hotdog from the most famous stand in Reykjavik and Skyr which is a no-fat type of yogurt. More about Icelandic traditional food.

We went to a the Reykjavik 871 +/-2 The Settlement Exhibition which gave a very good overview on how Reykjavik was settled and formed.

For a more complete blog post about this trip, check out my husband’s blog post.


Running out of patience

Running has been a good exercise for me not only for the physical aspect of it but for the mind. Besides being a good way to release stress, running long distances (10k, 15k, 20k) has been a great exercise for patience and determination. The former I find the most challenging.

In our day to day, we are constantly connected and being distracted. We are not used to feeling bored anymore, we change subjects, we change channels, we pick up our phones. Being on your own with your own thoughts for a long period of time, whilst struggling, can feel boring. Oh, so very boring at times! “Why am I doing this? I want to stop.” but you just keep going.

While running, you hit the famous “running walls”. For me these are around 3k, 5k and 10k. When you hit these walls, you are aware of how much more there is ahead of you. This is not an easy thought. Boredom is a big part of running but you just learn to be more patient and you keep going because you know that at the end you’ll feel awesome because you made it!

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Photo copyright: Photo by Glen Carrie (Licensed under CC0 1.0)