Levain Map

This week in UX ideas

My typical Instagram uses are scrolling through my feed of my friends’/favorite fashion bloggers’ pictures, liking those, and seeing how many likes I get on my most recent picture. Just recently though, I added a new use, finding new things to do or places to eat. So far, it’s gone great. I’ve had some awesome meals. I also found a sunflower field. I then Instagrammed, tagging the location so that some other lucky soul might find it the same way I did.

Sunny days call for sunflowers 🌻🌻

A photo posted by Katherine Boliek (@katherineboliek) on

However, right now I have to look at the location on Instagram, then open up Google Maps and save the location there. I’ve heard from several friends that they also have started using Instagram to find new places. They said that they don’t use Google Maps as aggressively as I do to save locations. They have been screenshotting pictures to save the location of any place they want to be able to find later.


This is not the ideal solution since it wastes their storage space and is disorganized. My solution is also not ideal because I still have to type in the name of the place and find and save it in a separate app.img_4573

The Idea

My idea is to have a location saving feature in Instagram. I love the idea of a zoom-able map with all your saved locations pinned on it. When you click on a location, it returns you to the feed of the most recent Instagrams at that location. Alternatively, you could sync your Instagram with Google Maps so that when you save a location in Instagram, it automatically saves to Google Maps if you would like.

This is just a UX (user experience) idea right now. With no real evidence to back up the idea that it would be worthwhile other than a good number of dinner conversations. I plan to conduct some potential user interviews and create some user maps, then make some wireframes of what this could look like. Keep your eye out for these updates!


Noticing the little things

It’s not every day that you move to a new place. There’s just a lot of new things going on. Depending on your perspective, it can be exciting because of all the new adventures you can have or scary because of all of the new situations you have to adjust to.

But whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, this is a rare opportunity to notice the little things. Soon I will stop noticing the little things that New Yorkers do differently than anyone else. I will stop noticing the magic of trying new foods and seeing these new places.

So for right now, I’m going to work on documenting all of my new experiences and impressions and let the creativity take me where it may.

Here are a few quintessential New York moments I’ve been having so far:

New York Cartoon

Food Publications

Food Publications Galore

Beautiful food photography is everywhere now. Instagram and Pinterest are plastered with it. I love that the internet has popularized this trend, even if it is linked to overeating. All the amateur, easy access food content is great, but I have to admit, I am a sucker for a gorgeously designed cookbook or other food publication.

Print design by its nature is read at a much slower pace than anything published on the internet. Most of our time on the internet is trying to grab information quickly. We have 17 tabs open at once, switching from article to article, always assuming there could be something better out there. With print, you can take your time, you have one thing in front of you at a time. The information is linear.

In the same way, an excellent meal causes you to slow down. You savor the taste you have in front of you presently. You may be excited for dessert, but you first work your way through the other courses. With a well planned meal, you aren’t wondering if eating a different meal might be better, you are enjoying the meal and the company around you. Because print design and food have these traits in common, they are a match made in heaven.

With both, there is a focus on presentation. There is hierarchy of significance and all the parts must tie together to make one greater product. A publication that can achieve these ideals in both design and content will hold my attention for hours. I have a few favorites that I must recommend.

Firstly, Remedy Quarterly is amazing. There are recipes and stories paired with illustrations and photography. All the articles are created by various writers, chefs, and designers. Yet, the final product feels cohesive in the design and the theme.

Next is Bon Appetite. I love both their print and online content. The online content is perfect for recipes. The print magazine is full of beautiful photography and great layouts throughout.

As for cookbooks, I recently bought my mom Twenty Dinners, a cookbook full of full page images and text design with plenty of white space. The recipes are planned seasonal and seem very cool, but truthfully it was the design that sold me.

I also have been pining for a few other cookbooks I would love to get my hands on. Fire + Ice, Hartwood, and Mexico – The Cookbook are on the top of my list. As always, I am hoping to find a perfect combination of style and substance and can’t wait to check them out!


Design girl v. me

Most professions have stereotypes about them. As for designers, we’re artsy and it can show up in a variety of categories. I like to think that I’m very much my own person, but I will say that my designer friends have a lot of the same tastes as I do. So today, I’m going to take a look at these stereotypes and find out how I actually stack up.

Clothing ⅖

designgirl1Stereotype design girl is wearing some trendy outfits. She’s got a lot of layering going on and a bunch of unique accessories. She also totally wears some cute glasses and is rocking chic booties. Her bun and her look can both be described as stylish mess.

I am wearing a tshirt dress because it is comfortable and easy. I have the same booties, but my only go-to accessory is my watch. My look is simple and put-together so as not to be an actual mess.

Music ⅘


Design girl likes cool music that does not get played on the radio. She goes to those bands’ secret shows. Truthfully she knows way too much music because she listens to music all day.

I have yet to go to any secret shows, but I do listen to music all day long and have found that my music taste is most similar to other creative people’s. You can check out my favorite summer playlist here.

House Decorating ⅘


Design girl’s house is chic but with an edge of boho. Basically, Anthropologie copies her looks. She totally has some cacti flowering on her window sill and has the coolest prints hanging on the wall. She has artfully mismatched furniture and yet it still looks modern.

Going into an Anthropologie makes my heart race a little with excitement. I do have cacti and succulents lining my window. My main decorations are books and maps, but I also have a happy desk wall to keep me inspired when I’m working. My furniture doesn’t match, but that’s mostly because I’m a broke college student.

Activities ⅗


Design girl is always doing cool things. Basically her Instagram looks like a Kinfolk magazine. She loves drinking craft beer at music festivals, traveling to places like Peru and Vietnam. On a slow weekend she hits up a yard sale after brunching at the hippest new restaurant in town.

With my busy schedule right now, I really enjoy a good book in my free time. Craft beer is great and I do love travelling more than just about anything else. I’m more a farmer’s market type of girl, but I am all about a new restaurant even if I won’t be up in time for brunch.

So, maybe the stereotypes aren’t totally wrong. I’m going to go put in my headphones and water my succulents now.


On personal branding

In the age of social media and the internet, it’s pretty easy to find anyone. Because of this, you might might as well take control of what the world knows about you.

A lot of people take the approach of making their accounts private. They use fake last names, hoping that employers don’t find their embarrassing photographs. Or they are careful to only post pictures of themselves with little kids or doing charity work, trying to look wholesome.

The age of personal branding is here. Instead of the tactics above, what if you made at least part of your profiles public. Make sure anyone can find you. Use the same username and profile pictures. Connect all your social media.

The other day, I friended a coworker on Facebook. Within a few minutes, a flood of notifications hit my phone. He had connected with me on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc. When you’ve curated your social presence to tell the world about yourself, this is pretty great! It means that you can tell whoever you connect with exactly what you want them to know about you.

Obviously you can keep some parts of your life private on social media, but also take advantage of your public setting on social media. If you can, make yourself a content curator on whatever you want to be an expert on. Share articles you find interesting. Connect with other experts in the field.

For my Branding of Me class, I’ve done all this and then some. I blog about design, technology and development. I share these blogs on my public facing social media because these are the things I want to be known for.  In addition, because I am a designer, I needed a portfolio site. I took time to figure out my story as a designer and created a site around that. It matches my personality on social media and in real life. If someone wants to get a taste of who I am, they can come here or my social media and know pretty immediately what I care about. If you feel like you know me a little bit better after reading this, I’ve done my job.


Blank Slate

Today, I bought my plane ticket to return to Italy for a post grad trip. I’m obviously pretty thrilled. I loved living there and can’t wait to go back. I studied there for a semester my junior year and have missed it ever since.

Now I know that everyone comes back from study abroad saying these things and I don’t want this to be cliche. This isn’t about seeing a new culture or having to figure out things on your own. Those are amazing parts of the experience, but this post is about something different that happened for me abroad.

When I moved to Bologna, I knew one person in my program and no one else. To understand why this mattered so much, you need to know that I went to school with more or less the same people from kindergarten until senior year. Then, I went to UNC. I met tons of new people, but there were still 20+ kids around campus who had known me for a good while. This meant that Bologna was the first time since I was 5 that I was starting from scratch with friends. They didn’t have any presuppositions about who I was supposed to be and knew nothing of my past.

The other important piece of this puzzle is that I had just changed my major to graphic design. In Chapel Hill, I felt awkward telling my old friends. I was always qualifying my decision. I found myself saying, “I know I’m not artsy, but..” and “I don’t know that I’ll end up doing this, but…” It wasn’t that I was unsure about the decision, I just thought it didn’t match the reputation that I had built up for myself in the past 20 years of my life. I wasn’t cool enough to do design. I wasn’t artistic enough to do design. I was book smart. Probably going to be a psychologist or a lawyer or something else reasonable sounding. I didn’t think my friends or old classmates would take me seriously as a designer.

So when I moved to Bologna, I made all new friends and got to tell them who I was and what I wanted from life, on my own terms. It was amazing, The more people I told I was a designer, the more I really believed it. Being there, building up my confidence for a semester, allowed me to return to Chapel Hill and tell people this was what I was going to do. I got home and really dove into what I was learning, knowing that it was okay for this to be what I wanted to do.

It’s important to note that I wasn’t misleading my new friends, creating a new self and abandoning an old identity. I was just changing and the new environment let me feel comfortable claiming these new parts of my identity.

The human brain doesn’t stop forming until you are 25. This means that I had time to change my plans, habits and myself to better match who I wanted to be. It means that I still have time to keep doing that as I find what I love.

The confidence I found in being able to start over and tell my own story allows me to try new things now and to continue to refine myself. For me, this is what Italy symbolizes. It’s a blank slate and my starting point for chasing what I want.


But, why?

Okay, but why? This is the first question that jumps to my mind. Knowing that something is true isn’t good enough, I have to know why.

The way I see it, there’s no way to win a game unless you understand the rules. For instance, when I first started looking into coding, my first questions were who creates coding languages and what makes them work? Technically, I don’t need to know the answers to these questions to write good, clean code, but I wanted to be able to understand the context my code exists in.

In high school history class I had a pretty solid go-to formula for a thesis statement. It went like this, “Although statement 1, statement 2 and statement 3 are true, because statement 4.” It’s the fourth statement, the why, that gets you the extra points. Being able to analyze a situation and pull out the underlying causes is one of the best skills I learned in high school.

From a marketing perspective, we all want to know why even if we don’t realize it. Simon Sinek’s Ted talk is about how the best leaders inspire people by telling them why first and then how and then what.

Taking the time to ask and explain why makes you think critically about the subject. If you can explain the underlying concept, you’ll be able to use your knowledge more widely and pull in other ideas, knowing how they connect.

So even if it means it will take a little bit longer, next time you learn a new skill or interesting fact, take time to ask “why?” It will serve you well in the long run.


Wes Anderson, I love you

I am obsessed with Wes Anderson films. His movies have an astonishing level of attention to detail and brilliant sense of design. He attacks design on so many different levels to make his films as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

Scene still from "The Grand Budapest Hotel"(Credit: Martin Scali)

Scene still from “The Grand Budapest Hotel”(Credit: Martin Scali)

The first, most obvious design elements are the costume and set design. Always beautiful and flawlessly uniform, anyone watching one of his films will absolutely notice this. They’re whimsical and colorful, setting the tone for his playful stories.

Screenshots of Futura used in the signage in the movie backgrounds.

Screenshots of Futura used in the signage in the movie backgrounds.

Next, the details I gush over, the careful graphic design throughout. He loves using Futura (the font I use on this site); he had Jessica Hische create the typeface for Moonrise Kingdom. Annie Atkins got every designer’s dream job as the graphic designer for The Grand Budapest Hotel where she created every document, sign or prop with insanely beautiful detail. Basically Wes Anderson takes the time and consideration to make sure the little props add to the movie rather than merely passing as part of the made-up world.

The last, least obvious level is in concepts such as camera angles and symmetry. In particular symmetry is one of his trademarks, but wow, when I saw how frequently he really uses it I was blown away. The reason this doesn’t seem repetitive or overused in his films that that humans want to see symmetry since we ourselves are symmetrical. It makes the shot feel more stable and easily creates a hierarchy of information on the screen.

In regards to design alone, Wes Anderson films are each a masterpiece. My top three must-see films by him are 1. The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2. Moonrise Kingdom, and 3. The Royal Tenenbaums. But honestly, you can’t go wrong, even his commercials are cool.


To trend or not to trend

In the design world, the word trendy comes with a lot of different connotations. Sometimes it’s good because it means you’re not behind the times, but no one wants their design to look cool for a year or so and then look like something from a time capsule of the past. Considering both sides of this is important when talking about design trends. They are essential to know about, but imitating them exactly can be a mistake.

Disclaimer aside, trends tend to reflect what new technology and techniques have been discovered to make design more effective. Here are my top design trends happening now:

Bright Colors

I love that color is being used fearlessly in a lot of designs these days. A lot of the time it balances out the minimalistic design used with it. Plus it allows for some really fun color combinations.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is about to be everywhere. Every tech company has their own version. But what I’m interested in seeing is how designers approach what users see and interact with in the virtual reality worlds. This is going to be an opportunity for designers to take on a new sort of medium and make the most of the new technology.

Material design / Flat 2.0

As the descendent of flat design, material design marries the simplicity of flatness with more depth and context to pieces of the design. Basically this makes the web page feel like it’s three dimensional using light and shadow.

Subtle animations

Little animations when a user interacts with something on the page makes the page feel extra alive. This comes in the form of loading screens, menu buttons or page transitions. There are a lot of ways to incorporate this with CSS3 animations and SVG capabilities.


It’s always exciting to see what’s big for the year in graphic design, web design and technology since it helps you figure out what might come next. That being said, trends do fade as evidenced by this April Fool’s article.

Disney and Pixar Present the Shining

What the Shining taught me about teamwork

Disney & Pixar present The Shining. I’ll bet that’s a phrase you never expected to hear. Well my friend, teamwork can bring out the unexpected. It can result in something one person couldn’t make.

In this case, it was an assignment: mash up 2+ movies into a title sequence. My partner loved Pixar and I wanted to add something classic. We started with the title sequence from “Monsters Inc.”

As we talked about it, we realized there were a lot of ties between the two movies. The monsters in “The Shining” were less obvious, but no one can say “Here’s Johnny!” without a slight shiver. The doors in the hotel also paralleled the doors in Monsters Inc. We decided to keep the theme as light hearted as any Pixar film.

It was definitely fun to work on this project, but I also got to learn a lot about teamwork in the process. Since you want the motion graphic to look like one piece of art, you really have to work well together. The main takeaways I got from this experience are:

Teamwork is pretty amazing when everyone involved is excited about the final product.

The cool thing about the Journalism school is that most everyone in it is as excited to be there as you are. Everyone cares about what they produce. This is the ideal situation in the professional world as well. If you can join a team who really cares about what they are doing, everything is going to be more fun. Extra hours don’t seem to be a problem if it means the end product is going to be awesome!

You have to come to a joint vision and then put aside your ideas that don’t contribute to that vision.

Honestly, Pixar movies aren’t my thing. I’m more into Wes Anderson, Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. Being part of a team means that you’ll get to work with people with different interests that will push you out of your comfort zone into something you wouldn’t think to create otherwise. This does mean though that sometimes you have to push back against your own tendencies if they don’t match the vision of the overall group.

Everyone will have a strength to add to the team, use it to your advantage.

In this project, I didn’t mind doing the detail work of the faces and my partner took the time to figure out how to imitate the iconic blood scene. We divided up the work so that one of us wouldn’t waste our time struggling through a section the other person felt comfortable taking care of. It doesn’t mean you should avoid trying new things, but it does require you to put the needs of the client before your own.
It’s funny to think about what a different movie “The Shining” would be if Disney and Pixar had teamed up with Stephen King to make it, but you can check out a little preview with our title sequence.