7 Questions with Associate Director, Digital Experience David Kief

Whether you’re designing digital experiences for adults or toys for kids, people of all ages have needs that UX-ers must account for. Associate Director of Digital Experience David Kief understands this better than most. It was his background designing toys and gadgets for companies like Disney, Nickelodeon, and Marvel—striving to make products both kids and their parents could use—that led him down the path to user experience design. Learn more about Dave, including how he “UXes” his house from kitchen to play area, below.  

Describe what you do at U.Group in 3 words or less.

DK: Advocate for users people.

How did you discover your passion for user experience?

DK: My background is in industrial design, which has a rich history of using human-centered design methods to solve problems and create usable products and services. In the case of real-life products, physical form factors are a major consideration. Are we accounting for a diverse set of user needs from this product and do we know who our primary audience is? Will everyone be able to hold this comfortably in their hands? Who will most likely be the person using this? Is it easy to press the buttons based on their location on the product? In my case we were designing products for children but there was a high probability that adults would be in control of the settings, so buttons had to be sized and placed accordingly.

In addition to user needs there are also other real-world considerations that had to be accounted for. Will the size of this product be large enough to accommodate all the electronics needed? How many of these will fit on the shelf space we have at retail? Will the number items that fit on the shelf work with our price point and profit margins?

The primary driver with all those decisions, including constraints and trade-offs, is the need to make something that people will want to use and keep that top of mind. Otherwise, you make something that no one wants even if it meets all the requirements.

Do your user experience skills/preferences trickle into other aspects of your life, besides work?

DK: Absolutely. I’m a stickler for how everything in my kitchen is organized. How easy is it to reach the spatula from the stove? Are the spices in the cabinets organized in a way that makes sense (at least to me)? Are the items that I use frequently easy to access? These are things that everyone has their own way of doing. Anyone that has used someone else’s kitchen will be keenly aware of the differences between how that kitchen is organized from their own. Why did they choose to put the pots there? Where is the cutting board? Assuming silverware is in one of these drawers.

In the past few years, it’s been UX-ing my 3- and 5-year-old’s toys. From an ever-shifting organization schema trying to reign in the chaos of Magna-Tiles and Legos, to trying to fathom why someone would fail to include an off switch or volume control on this toy or that. Seriously, there should always be an off switch.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen or read lately?

DK: Children’s books comprise most of my reading lately which I’m completely OK with. There are some amazing children’s books out there, the best of which are like poems. Able to capture and distill some complexity or unique view of the world down to 32-ish pages of words and pictures. A few that have been in heavy rotation lately are Oliver Jeffers’ Here We Are, Matthew Cherry’s Hair Love; the “Mercy Watson” series by Kate DiCamillo and the “Dog Man” series by Dav Pilkey.

The last “adult” book I re-read was Spillover by David Quammen, which I hadn’t read since it came out. I gave it another read given everything happening this past year.

Before working at U.Group, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

DK: This is a hard one. I’ve had a few interesting jobs over the years, including this one. My last job in New York before moving to DC was as a product designer (in the creating physical goods sense) for several years working for a company that made licensed clocks, watches, and toys. I designed products for Disney, Nickelodeon, and Marvel among others. I used to joke that I got paid to draw cartoons all day. While there was some truth to that, there was also a lot of experience I gained on that job and had the good fortune to work with some incredible people. Through that job I got to travel to China, which was amazing both in terms of experiencing a different culture and with regards to understanding how real-life products are made and sent around the globe. Ultrasonic welding is both a fascinating process and potential awesome band name.

What is something few people know about you?

DK: I’m deaf in my left ear. I just asked my wife this question and she said this one because she forgets this all the time.

Where is your favorite place in the world, and why?

DK: For the day-to-day it would be at home with my family, even when going stir crazy during quarantine. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting back to the beach this summer and eventually start traveling again to show the world to my kids.

Want to learn more about our UX team? Check out their thoughts on everything from cognitive bias to the lost art of pen and paper sketching.

Get alerted to new job postings, events, and insights by registering for our monthly newsletter.