Preview: Choice Architects: Design for Humanity’s Best Self


Elayne Safir is a Senior UX Designer at XO Group, a company that emphasizes being there for you through life’s biggest moments. They collaborate with a few different companies, including The Knot, The Nest, The Bump, How He Asked, and GigMasters. These companies help couples navigate their way through life’s stressful and enjoyable moments, whether it’s getting married, starting a family, or planning an event. Safir will be speaking at the Choice Architects: Design for Humanity’s Best Self panel at SXSW.

Photo provided by Elayne Safir

Tell me a little about yourself!
I started out in digital in the Web 1.0 days of the late 1990s — back then, “webmaster” was still the only job title in the industry! I was designing and making websites as I was studying Liberal Arts at the New School University in New York and then Illustration at the Ontario College for Art & Design in Toronto. Since then, I’ve worked on projects for non-profits, digital agencies, entertainment start-ups, an international research institute, the US government, the Winter 2014 Olympics in Russia, and Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie.

What got you into the career you have now?
At some point I realized all my human-centric digital experience “special projects” have a name — UX Design, which didn’t exist when I got started — and officially focused my career within the user experience and product design field. I love it because it requires the perfect combination of empathy, curiosity, and strategic + tactical problem-solving — I never get bored!

You’re part of the XO Group. Can you tell me a little bit about the company?
XO is the parent company to several awesome brands, but our biggest is The Knot wedding planning platform. We help couples (and everyone who loves them!) navigate and enjoy life’s biggest moments together. Our apps, websites, and magazines provide information, connections and services to engaged couples, newlyweds, and first-time parents.

Is this your first time at SXSW? If so, what are you most excited for?
I was at SXSW last year and was incredibly inspired by the energy and enthusiasm in the air. It almost felt like being back in school, but in the best possible way — every “class” or activity was attended by people who truly wanted to be there and make the most of the experience.

What is the main focus of your panel?
My panel is all about design ethics — basically, how every decision we make when designing and building a digital interface can have a huge impact on our users and society as a whole.

On the positive side, apps and websites are connecting people around the world and making so many things in our lives easier. On the negative, meaningful communications and social relationships are breaking down, addiction and dependency on our devices is on the rise — and it’s affecting everything from the global and local economy to politics to love and friendship. This is a relevant and timely topic, and would be valuable for anyone working in tech or interested in product design, management, or development.

We have a group of super-smart, creative, and passionate people on the panel — a UX Design Lead, a Director of Strategy, and a Product Management Lead — so it’ll be a well-rounded discussion from very different points of view.

What made you want to speak at SXSW?
I was in the audience of several interactive panels on design last year, chatting with the other attendees, and we all expressed a wish for a more advanced conversation about what’s going on in UX and product design — so I started one! To me, this is an opportunity to connect with others who are thinking about the same issues and to challenge the community to put our joint efforts toward creative solutions.

What connections can be made with the XO Group and this panel?
Everything we do starts with our users — and how our decisions are affecting them. It’s such a refreshing way to work! I love it when we talk about specific initiatives and our leadership reframes each opportunity with “…but why is this good for our users?”  It’s empowered me to focus on the bigger picture and made me want to share our best practices with the larger product design community.

What do you want the audience’s biggest takeaway to be from this panel?
We hope to educate the audience about the common product design traps and organizational issues that can lead to dark patterns — and explain why choice architecture matters, even in the smallest of digital projects. But we’ll spend most of our time on solutions: best practices in the industry, and how anyone can advocate for designing ethical, positive experiences which make our lives better — and how they can inspire their team to get on board.

What is your main piece of advice when it comes to designing for humanity?
Start from a place of empathy! The world is getting more and more connected, and our design decisions are affecting people in faster, bigger, and alarmingly unexpected ways. We can’t afford not to care — and it’s easier to affect positive change than it seems.


Friday, March 9
JW Marriott – Salon E/110 e 2nd St

Find out more: Choice Architects: Design for Humanity’s Best Self


Featured Image: SXSW

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