Some say strategy is what we are going to do, this only tells part of the story. What we will not do also is an important part of your strategy. Exactly the same goes for design. What is smart design, from a user perspective, or even a user experience perspective? What is in scope for an interaction, an interface? And also what is not in scope… What is not smart for this user? Who is the user not. Not can be quit powerful, is it not?

If we talk about strategy, we usually state what we are going to do, to deliver. It’s usually what we choose to do. I like to add that what we are not going to do is at least as important for your strategy. Choosing what not to do is sharpening your strategy much more than just a bit. Picking what not to do in addition to what you will do makes a much more complete strategy to execute.

Creating creative ideas in design also takes a huge leverage on the use of not. In the practical problem solving method for innovation, known as TRIZ, it is also a great tool for taking new perspectives. Thinking not on what you might consider essential in a current solution or offering, can help create a whole new direction  read disruption – in a service or even a whole sector. Some examples: The best hotel is not a hotel, the best taxi is not a taxi and the best interface is no interface. Does sound familiar, not?

Recently we created a great set of personas, scenarios and user stories for an interface on an iPad (primarily and secondary on a mobile phone). Being new in their respective area of operation (confidential, sorry), we didn’t quite get all the personas and accompanying scenarios and user stories spot on, so to say. To be honest we were quite off on some of them…

This user will never use the interface, “This is not what they will use this solution for”. Not quotes we were expecting to hear. This felt a bit wrong, at first. As it turned out it massively helped our discussion around focusing on the user behavior and the demands for this interface. This “not a user” and “not a valid scenario” helped us scope the interface much more than just seeing what would supposedly be in scope. It sharpened the dialogue as well as the interface.

So besides writing user stories, use cases (and possibly abuse cases for security), we can add ‘not’ user and ‘not’ use cases for sharpening the dialogue and by such scoping the interface and interaction with the users even further This thought us a very valuable lesson using ‘not’ in design. A handy tool that is easy to us to create a sharper scope and an even more logical interaction on any touch point.


Would you use not on your next design?

(*) This post was previously featured on


Creative business technology management consultant with a major drive and passion for people value. Innovator with broad business and technology knowledge based on over twenty years of experience in IT and more than fifteen years of management. Known for explaining complex things in clear, understandable visuals and language for both business and technical oriented professionals. Extensive experience with workshops, presentations as well as training and coaching colleagues. Highly motivated, reliable, pro-active and always willing to listen and learn.


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