Can experiencing and understanding abuse and trauma make me a good user experience designer?

Posted by on Jul 30, 2018 in articles, Case Studies, Design, personal, UX Design | No Comments

Close up photo of blue butterflies in a museum exhibition case. The pins either side of their small bodies barely visible.


Are the abused, to whom it is second nature to subdue or even deny their own existence, the ones who also find it uncannily easy to become the ‘voice of the user’?

How might we better understand then how their own voices can be lost in the fray?

If, as a child or adolescent, you were forced into a role where your survival depended on anticipating a mental state and/or the emotional state of an adult ‘caregiver’, that led you to develop certain skills necessary for survival. Are you in a good position, as an adult to be designing user experiences. Especially for vulnerable people?

What an abusive environment can look like

A mountainscape at sunset in dark blues, oranges and yellows.

The thinking that follows to adulthood and into a profession

Another recent example shows how misinterpreting boundaries or limitations can send me into a rather panicked state. I mistakenly believed that I had built a level of trust with a particular project and asked to connect another person, interested in the developments into it. I was met with an incredibly reasonable response asking for caution and an understandable need to constrain the people involved. Yet, my heart races and my skin prickles with dread at the thought of misinterpreting and ‘not doing the right thing’. To most it would be a mistake, easily communicated and corrected, for me it’s that but with an underlying feeling of anticipating violence.

Close up illustration of eyes in black pen on a blue and brushed metal background

Conclusions and answers but with caveats.