Five Simple Questions with Robert Mills

On the eve of his book publication next week we thought we would get Rob Mills to shed a little light on his past and future using our trusty Five Simple Questions.

You might be considered the new guy on the block. Tell us about yourself:

My background is in research and writing. I'm a journalism graduate but a lot of my roles have involved research. The first was with the local Government which led to becoming part of the audience research team at BBC Wales. My 'web career' started with Mark Boulton Design where I was Studio Manager and also production manager on the very first Five Simple Steps book! From there I went on to work with the Carsonified crew and then onto another agency in South Wales, again as Studio Manager. My current home though is at Bluegg. In other news, I lived in New Zealand for a year where I trimmed fish, graded apples and picked kiwis. I once helped Timothy Dalton get into his room when I worked in a hotel and my Great Great Aunt was a passenger on the Titanic, none of which are relevant to my book of course!

A Practical Guide to Designing the Invisible. What's that about then?

Well the title is a bit enigmatic I suppose, but simply put, it is a book that looks at the ways in which we can tell stories online which allow us to talk to our audiences effectively and efficiently. 
I think the word 'efficient' is key to the content, because it basically explores ways in which we can use typefaces, colours, brands, tone of voice and icons to tell more of our story in a less literal and more subconcious way. Audiences these days are super adept at reading between the lines and digesting content because we are constantly exposed to messages in our busy media saturated worlds. Designing the Invisible looks at how we can use this to our advantage, communicating with audiences on 'invisible' levels. The topics within the book are, admittedly, very broad but by designing stories we can improve our audience's user experience.

What inspired you to write A Practical Guide to Designing the Invisible?

Lots of things really. I'm fascinated by the media and how much influence it has over us (whether we like to admit it or not) and I'm also interested in psychology and the reasons behind the decisions we make, and the things that we like or don't like. I've studied the media for years so I really wanted to look at some of the more traditional theory and apply this to the web. A less obvious form of inspiration came from travelling, and that's why there is quite a lot in the book about cultural meanings and symbolism. I love how one colour can have completely opposing meanings depending on where you are in the world.

You're not a Designer but you've written a design book. How so?

True, I'm not and nor am I pretending to be. It is a book about design, of course, but I'd like to think that it is approaching the topic from a different perspective. It's very focused on targeting audiences which relates to my practical experience. In the past I've facilitated persona generation sessions and been heavily involved in user research and testing, and on a daily basis I am communicating design decisions and rationale to clients. Where as some of the project team are focused on how something works or how something looks, I'm thinking about storytelling and how this can be incorporated into projects. I firmly believe that user experience isn't the sole responsibility of a designer and as a Studio Manager it is a huge part of what I do.

Where else can we find you on the web?

I have previously written for Think Vitamin so my articles are still live there, I am currently finishing articles for Smashing Magazine and UX Booth. .Net Magazine have been a great support to me, I'm currently writing another opinion piece for them and I'm part of their monthly big question expert panel. For the second year in a row I am also on the .Net Awards judging panel. I write content for the Bluegg studio blog and as soon as the book is released I've promised myself that I will be blogging regularly on the Designing the Invisible blog too!

Grab your copy of Rob's book from Five Simple Steps from the 19th July.