“What’s essential is invisible to the eye.”
– The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
As designers and creatives, a great deal of our work is done behind-the-scenes, invisible to the outside eye. Countless hours are dedicated to brainstorming, conducting research, collecting data, nurturing big ideas, using your imagination and discussing endless possibilities – all in the pursuit of the perfect user experience.
But how do you explain this process to a child?
Here is our creative answer to the age old question, “Mommy (or Daddy), what do you do at work?”
The Fox, The Prince & The Pursuit of the Perfect Gift
Once upon a time, there was a Fox who lived in a field of wheat and his best friend was a Little Prince. And on this day, it was the birthday of the Little Prince and the Fox was desperately in search of the perfect gift.
So while the Little Prince was away, the Fox began his quest to town. Along the way he encountered a little shop filled with shiny things. There were silver dishes, plates and spoons, golden candlesticks and mirrors framed in jewels. The Fox looked at his reflection in the splendor and though, “Oh yes, this would be fit for a Prince.”
Suddenly, a large Crane walked towards the Fox, introducing himself as the shopkeeper. His slow, snobbish tone seemed to drip from his polished beak.
“May I help you,” he asked, while looking down on the little Fox.
“I hope so,” said the Fox. “I need the perfect gift for a Prince.”
The Crane waved his wing as if dusting the air around the golden things and boasted, “We have the finest objects in all the land. Any Prince would be glad to receive such a gift as any of these.”
The Fox looked around. “My Prince likes to draw. Do you have anything like that?”
The Crane laughed, “No, but you’re welcome to look.” And with that he walked away.
The Fox looked at each and every precious item in the glittering shop, but none reminded him of his friend. And, to be honest, the Fox didn’t feel comfortable in the Crane’s shop. He wasn’t having any fun at all. So he left without saying a word.
A little further down the road, the Fox came upon another shop being run by a large family of rabbits who made beautiful clothes. The Fox wandered into the shop and asked, “I’m looking for a gift for my friend. Do you have any clothes fit for a Prince?”
The main tailor Rabbit looked at the Fox suspiciously. “All of our clothes are fit for a Prince,” he said. “In fact, all of our clothes are good for everyone. Each outfit is made from the same fabric in the same style in the same size. It would be perfect for you or your friend or anyone.”
In fact, all of our clothes are good for everyone. Each outfit is made from the same fabric in the same style in the same size. It would be perfect for you or your friend or anyone.
The Fox thought it over. My friend might enjoy some new clothes made by such fine tailors, he thought. And he knew the Prince would love it in blue, so he asked, “Can I get it in any color?”
The Rabbit smiled, revealing his two long front teeth, “As long as it’s brown.”
This deterred the Fox. He thought to himself, my friend isn’t like anyone else, so why should he dress the same as anyone else? That didn’t seem right to the Fox, but while he was thinking his decision over, the Rabbit grew impatient. “Are we getting the clothes or not? I’m very busy,” he snipped.
“No,” said the Fox. “I’m afraid it just isn’t what I’m looking for. Thank you.” And with that, the Fox wandered out of the door.
Now, the sun was starting to set and the Fox was running out of time to find the perfect gift for the Prince. It all seemed hopeless.
Luckily, an old, jovial Bear was driving his wagon down the dirt path, singing old songs and slurping honey from a jar. He saw the sad Fox wandering down the path and hollered, “Hey you! What’s the matter?”
The Fox looked up and sighed, “It’s my friend’s birthday and I don’t have a gift. I haven’t been able to find the right one.”
The Bear slowed his fat ponies to a halt and let loose a mighty laugh, “Well you’re in luck, Fox. I happen to be a designer. An inventor of sorts. And I’d love to help you create the perfect gift. Tell me more about your friend.”
I happen to be a designer. An inventor of sorts. And I’d love to help you create the perfect gift.
The Fox was elated to hear such an offer and began to tell the Bear all about his friend, The Little Prince. How they became best friends. About their games and favorite colors. How they sometimes played with the sheep who lived outside of the wheat field. About the Prince’s travels and favorite foods.
The Bear wrote everything down on a small notepad with a pencil that looked like a tree branch. “Let me just consult my notes,” he said while looking up at the Fox from his bright orange reading glasses.
Together they walked around to the back of the wagon, which was filled to the brim with books and colored pencils, clay and papers. To the Fox it was an explosion of colors, possibilities and information.
And with the Bear, they designed the perfect gift for the Prince – a set of colored pencils that always stayed sharp, a notepad with pages that changed color in the sun, and a bright blue tin to keep it all in. The Bear even painted the perfect image of the wheat field on the front.
They designed the perfect gift for the Prince – a set of colored pencils that always stayed sharp, a notepad with pages that changed color in the sun, and a bright blue tin to keep it all in.
And to make an extra special birthday surprise for the Prince, the Bear & the Fox made it so that when the Prince opened his present, confetti of all colors would jump out and a homemade card would say in big letters, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
The Fox was overjoyed and thanked the Bear. “I never could have done this without you! Thank you so much for your help!”
The Bear just smiled, “Sure you could. To do great things, all you need is your imagination. Don’t forget that you’re a designer too!” With that, the Bear drove away, singing and slurping with honey and reins in hand.
The Fox raced to the wheat field, excited to see the Prince’s face when he opened his gift. And he knew it was the perfect gift because it was perfect for his friend, made with love, a touch of creativity and fabulous design.
This post was originally published on the Motivate Design Blog.
About the Author
Mona Patel is CEO of Motivate Design and UX Hires, a user experience recruiting firm. For more than 15 years, Mona’s ability to strategize quickly and customize solutions has set her apart in the industry. She has delivered user experience strategies for hundreds of clients through training and consulting. Her core expertise is in understanding why people do what they do and helping people find creative ways to solve problems through user research and design thinking.
A 2015 member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and instructor at Parsons The New School for Design, Mona is an accomplished speaker on user-centered design and innovation, experience strategies, usability, lean startups, and business management. Her writings are featured on Forbes, Fast Company, TIME Business, and The Huffington Post Blog. She holds a M.S. in Marketing Communications from Boston University and a B.S. in Engineering Psychology from Tufts University.