Critical Thinking for UX Designers (or anyone, really)

Stephen P. Anderson (PoetPainter), Russ Unger (18F)
Workshop 2001
Please note: to attend, your registration must include Workshops.
Presentation: external link
Average rating: ***..
(3.85, 26 ratings)

Love creative problem solving, but need something more practical— something specific to User Experience? Russ and Stephen will share with you the exercises they use to solve the REAL problems.

You’ll flex your critical thinking muscle through a series of jump starter activities. Even better, attendees will be encouraged to participate, if not embarrass themselves in front of a room full of their peers as they challenge themselves to see past the first, obvious—and often incorrect—answers, and start to flip problems on their heads to see solutions from a different view.

Audience Level – Intermediate

Session Takeaway

  • Gain a better understanding of what critical thinking is, why it is important in the world of User Experience Design
  • Identify ways to evaluate the visual and verbal messages in your work
  • Spot artificial constraints to focus on the root problem(s).
  • View problems from a different perspective and remove yourself as a consumer/user.
  • Learn how reframing problems can lead to radically different solutions.
  • Dissect problems to uncover solutions you may have previously overlooked.

Questions This Presentation Will Answer

  1. What is Critical Thinking, and why do I care about it when I just want to solve my problem quickly and get to work?
  2. How do I make critical thinking exercises a part of my work routine?
  3. How can critical thinking be used to remove unessential constraints and introduce artificial constraints to improve your design process?
  4. How can I invoke another persona to help me solve a design problem?
  5. How can a problem be reframed in order to help identify radically different solutions?
Photo of Stephen P. Anderson

Stephen P. Anderson


Stephen P. Anderson is a speaker and consultant based out of Dallas, Texas. He spends unhealthy amounts of time thinking about design, psychology and leading intrapreneurial teams— topics he frequently speaks about at national and international events.

Stephen recently published the Mental Notes card deck (, a tool to help businesses use psychology to design better experiences. And, he’s currently writing a book on “Seductive Interactions” that will explore this topic of psychology and design in more detail; he also teaches a workshop on this same subject.

Prior to venturing out on his own, Stephen spent more than a decade building and leading teams of information architects, interaction designers and UI developers. He’s designed Web applications for businesses such as Nokia, Frito-Lay, Sabre Travel Network, and Chesapeake Energy as well as a number of smaller technology startups.

Stephen likes to believe that someday he’ll have the time to start blogging again at

Photo of Russ Unger

Russ Unger


Russ Unger is an Experience Design Director in Chicago where he leads teams and projects in design and research. He is co-author of the books A Project Guide to UX Design, Designing the Conversation, and Speaker Camp for New Riders (Voices That Matter). Russ is also working on a book on guerrilla design and research methods that is due out, well, sometime.

Russ is co-founder of ChicagoCamps, which hosts low-cost, high-value technology events in the Chicago area, and he is also on the Advisory Board for the Department of Web Design and Development at Harrington College of Design. Russ has two daughters who both draw better than he does and are currently beginning to surpass his limited abilities in coding.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Chad Neilson
04/15/2011 6:11am PDT

Will do Russ. Thanks.

Picture of Russ Unger
Russ Unger
04/13/2011 3:35am PDT

Chad—would be happy to discuss. Feel free to email me at russ at userglue dot com. We’ve done the workshop more than once, and would love to get some clarity from you, especially since anything even slightly risque was vetted prior to putting into the deck.

Your additional feedback is definitely welcome and appreciated.

Chad Neilson
04/13/2011 2:53am PDT

Thumbs up for Stephen. Nice job. You carried the presentation. Russ, not appropriate. What were you thinking?

Picture of Jeff Hackert
Jeff Hackert
03/31/2011 3:39am PDT

Really nice presentation. I liked the tension between process friendly Russ and constraint averse Stephen.

Picture of Marianne Schwerdtfeger
Marianne Schwerdtfeger
03/31/2011 2:36am PDT

Hi – thank you for some good information. I did think some slides and some stories shared were inappropriate for venue, audience, and purpose of the presentation. Perhaps consider not including those next time…

Roger Hampton
03/30/2011 8:53am PDT

Left with lots of food for thought!

Alice M.
03/29/2011 4:29pm PDT

I really enjoyed this session. I have more than enough ideas/activities to lead our development team in a UX workshop during one of our Friday Developer Happy Hours. I think the hands-on approach you took will work great with them.

Thank you for making the presentation slides available to us.

Picture of Russ Unger
Russ Unger
03/28/2011 11:25pm PDT

Hi Emmanuel,

Both Stephen and I made an effort to do that with almost every question—I’m really sorry if you felt we were not attentive enough to that. If you have additional questions, we would be happy to answer them for you.

Emmanuel Becerra
03/28/2011 5:59am PDT

When people asked or answered questions, some of us couldn’t hear it. It would have been nice to repeat what they said or give them a microphone so everyone can hear.

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