Creative thinking is an integral part of survival in the IT industry, especially if you find yourself in a solutions consultancy such as Retro Rabbit, and even more so should you be an UX or UI designer.

Even giants like Google harnessed internal creativity with their ‘20%’ rule, where employees were urged to spend twenty percent of their time on side-quests, resulting in some of the company’s most successful products such as Gmail, Google maps and Adsense.

The Retro Rabbit UX design team regularly level-up on creativity by brainstorming innovative solutions to fictional problems. For each exercise the team is given 30 minutes to sketch out their ideas on a piece of paper and then present the proposed concepts, resulting in some mind provoking conversations.

The quest

This week our dragon to conquer was to design an innovative interface for a smart watch app, to effectively tell the time of the day, without utilising the conventional time system of dividing a day into 24 hours.

The first candidate used the position of the sun around the earth as a starting point and divided day and night time into four quarters. The Watch interface the displays a horizon view with day as the top half and night as the bottom half (both split into four intervals). As the day passes, the sun icon moves on a circular path around the middle of the screen, similar to the activity monitor on Apple watch. Alarms are activated as appointments and wake-up calls come up throughout the day.

Sun dial watch interface

The second solution was a game-like Level system for the day. You divide your day  into a list of tasks that you need to complete, rather than timestamps reached. For example Level 1 represents wake-up, Level 6 could be a work task you need to complete with Level 7 your daily exercise regime. With this system you will get a sense of accomplishment every time you level up, and could actually result in a very  productive day. Gamification is almost always a win.

Level system watch interface

Another bright idea was to simply show a percentage completed, as the day progresses. Wake-up will be 0% and as time moves through the day your percentage goes up. The illustration above would represent a late morning watch face.

For the more fun loving individuals one could simply reverse this idea of completion  and apply it on an image such as a flower, with the petals falling off as the time passes. You could start with a full pizza and have the slices disappear through the day. Another idea is to visually represent minutes and hours as coins falling into your piggy bank – almost representing your bank balance growing as the billable minutes ticking away at work. 

Visual countdown for the day

Fuel your productivity with a tea-counter, that tells you how many cups of tea you need to drink before you can go home after work.

Another creative idea was to visualise your day in terms of the songs on your playlist. As your day passes you can see how many songs are left before you can go on your next break or leave for home. This is a fun way to motivate productivity and keep track of time.

My playlist timer

One might even be able to populate notes on a score sheet through the day to end in a composed song that plays as its time to prepare for bed…

I believe that you should always try to approach a problem from all the possible angles, before we committing to a single solution.

Here are a few handy tips you can easily apply, if you are in need of a creative spark at work: Always carry a notepad with you, because inspiration can hit any time, any place. Give yourself a break if you are stuck; go for a walk or chat to a co-worker at the coffee station. Ask yourself a lot of questions and don’t settle for only one idea that you believe will work best. Pay attention to what others are doing and most of all, try to be random.

Go forth and create.

Ida Van Os

Author Ida Van Os

Senior UX designer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in responsive web design, art direction, photography, and graphics. Strong arts and design professional with a BA (BK) Information Design, focused in Graphic Design from University of Pretoria/Universiteit van Pretoria.

More posts by Ida Van Os

Leave a Reply