Smashing Spotlight: Heidi Schindler, Strategist
Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Heidi Schindler, Strategist, to talk shop, how she’s educating the world one Star Wars infographic at a time, and why she’s really a rodeo princess at heart.
As a professional Strategist do you sit around all day playing chess or Battleship?
Ha! I wish! Strategy at SI works a little differently than most places. We are integrated into the process for almost the entire project. That means, we are working side-by-side with Design and Development to make innovative projects. As an example, when I create a project’s research plan, Design and Development are right there with me giving input with their expert knowledge. My role through this is to be the conduit for providing balance between achieving business goals and user needs. To be a little metaphorical in my description, I enjoy keeping my head in the clouds to push boundaries, but my feet on the ground to make ideas actionable. And like chess, I have many different game pieces I utilize, like design strategy, human behavior, pattern thinking, content strategy, aaaaand… the list could keep going.
We keep talking about how critical Motivational UX™ is to any project, for many reasons. But if you had to narrow it down to the top 5 reasons it’s guaranteed to make a project a success what would they be:
- We put the user first, creating an experience that feels like it was made just for ‘you’ which triggers intrinsic motivators.
- The strategic process goes a step further to better understand the business’ customers, which can impact additional areas of business, i.e. how marketing can approach their customer strategy and how varying levels of a company’s product portfolio can interact and grow.
- It’s science! Understanding triggers like the dopamine drip, emotional decision-making, and physical muscle memory allows us to create a highly addictive or habit forming digital engagement.
- It’s not just good UX! You start with good UX and bring in behavioral science and an extensive understanding of game design thinking (400+ games and counting) to appeal to the basic intrinsic and extrinsic motivators that result in lasting engagement and brand loyalty.
- It creates a personal attachment between the user and the product, aka brand loyalty.
You created a very popular infographic on the Top 10 Tips for Collaboration, as told via Star Wars. Infographics are becoming an increasingly popular medium to unite left and right brain information. As a trained graphic designer, why do you think they are so effective?
I see infographics as a visualized science paper around an idea. They filter disparate sources of information into one area to help make a decision or prove a conclusion/opinion, much like what we did for the infographic on the Anatomy of Motivational Design. Infographics can also serve as a great format to do a comparative.
It’s no secret you like sugar. So you’re walking to work, eating a Wonka bar as you do, and come across a golden ticket. But rather than visiting the chocolate factory, the ticket affords you a trip anywhere in the world – time and money are no object. Where would you go and why?
Hmm… I am almost sad it is not to the Wonka factory. I would have loved to see a creepy Umpa Lumpa show in person and swim in the chocolate river. But back to reality, I have wanted to go backpacking in New Zealand for a very long time. I would take months and slowly walk the backcountry, observing, listening, taking photos, and journaling. But, my husband would have to come with me and since we are daydreaming, I also want the weather to be perfect…thunderstorms when I have shelter, cool sunshine while I am walking, and high heat when I have a glacial lake to swim in.
Favorite piece of technology?
Well, technology is categorized into different uses for me, so I have multiple favorites. For a tech tool, I love my MacBook Air. For a tech toy, my Super Nintendo. For tech entertainment, my SmartTV… if I couldn’t stream or record stuff, I would have NO idea what is going on in the world.
As a Strategist you have the fun job of conducting user interviews for our clients. What’s the funniest thing that has happened in an interview?
Oh boy. Conducting user interviews is really fun. I get to see behind the curtain into people’s daily lives. I find people’s routine, habits, and desires supremely interesting. But the funniest thing that has happened? Hmmmm there are so many wonderful moments. This is more of an inspirational moment…while interviewing a young girl, she was so into the prototype I had in front of her, the interview turned more into a brainstorm. She had some beautiful and thoughtful ideas, which we ended up integrating a few into the final product. It was a great collaborative moment.
I am, hands down, one of the best__________that I know:
Chicken and cat whisperers…YUP! During the summer while I do yard work or hangout outside, I always have two cats and two chickens following me all over the yard… I am told it looks like a small parade.
Strategy and User Experience go hand-in-hand. What’s the difference between the two roles?
Well, it is a few things being mushed together. Strategy is about thinking big and then logically implementing that idea through different methodologies and tools. It is very ‘heady’ and intellectual, whereas User Experience is thinking through a person’s life and constantly keeping an open, empathetic ear. But with both you start with a blank slate, build your assumptions, and then test them. It doesn’t matter if it is a business goal or a user goal, both need to be tested in the market, so why not get both?
What was your last truly smashing idea?
Recently I decided that I needed to celebrate more. Not sure if that is ‘smashing’ but it has a daily positive impact on my mood and the people around me. And those daily habits can be extremely influential on your whole being.
What is something that Strategists do behind the scenes that clients aren’t even aware of?
At one point in my career, I had to choose a real-world avatar to explain who I was to my team. Even though several years have gone by, my avatar still holds true, which is Rodeo Princess. Behind the scenes she is collaboratively working with her team to create a seamless ride. She is setting new routes, in the hot sun or rainy weather, and practicing everyday. It is really hard work behind the scenes, but once the rodeo begins the horse and her look like a dance. My daily behind the scenes is deep diving into my client’s industry and product goals. Constantly discovering relevant information that feeds the product’s creation through research, user studies, design, or analytics. But when that product is complete, a customer only experiences the dance and not the callused hands.
Last but not least, the proverbial desert island question. You’re stranded, but can have one piece of technology with you. What would it be and why?
I would want a GPS backpacking tracker. You only get around 5 words to send, and normally it is “I am okay” or “I need help”. So I would say, “Bring the margaritas” because after being stuck on an island, what I am most likely going to need is a drink.