If you are using dark patterns then you need a rethink: Joao Simoes on dark UX in design.

We sat down with Joao Simoes — Head of Design at SPREAD — in Berlin to discuss experimentation, dedication and dark patterns.

“While guidelines are important — they can sometimes stifle creativity.”

What are some of the ways that your eye for detail infiltrates your life?


I'm pretty OCD in certain aspects. When I need to research furniture for home, I have to create massive Excel sheets with comparisons of prices and so on. 


I'm always looking for ways to improve the user experience, and I'm always thinking about how I can make things look and feel better. 


How would you describe your style of design?


My style as a designer — in terms of leadership — I would say is more democratic, with the style per se being more minimalistic and futuristic.


I like to create designs that are simple and easy to use, and use modern and futuristic elements in my designs as it's important for them to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and I like to think my style achieves that balance.


What led to your style of design?


The fact that my design school was very demanding. There I was taught all about the importance of detail and precision — which is why I'm very detailed in the work I do. I also grew up surrounded by art and music, which I like to think influenced my sense of style.


What advice would you give to people looking to get into UX design?


Start by learning the basics. There are a lot of great resources available online and in libraries and once you have a good understanding of the basics, start practising and keep practising. 


The good thing is there are a lot of great ways to practise UX design like building wireframes and prototypes, conducting user interviews, and usability testing. 


And finally, don't be afraid to experiment. The best way to learn is by doing. So get out there and start designing!


What projects excite you most?


The projects that excite me most are probably the ones related to sustainability and complex systems. They're very challenging but also very rewarding, and it's important for designers to use their skills to create products and experiences that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

What would you like to see improve across the industry?


Accessibility is great and we should always welcome it. However, I would love for designers not to lose their craft just because they need to standardise things. 


For example, there are a lot of accessibility guidelines that dictate how things should be designed. While guidelines are important — they can sometimes stifle creativity. It's important for designers to find ways to follow the guidelines while still creating something that is visually appealing and user-friendly.


How do you find the right balance between design and accessibility?


It's a delicate balance, but the key is to be flexible. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things and be open to feedback from users. If you're not sure if something is accessible, ask a user to try it out and see what they think.


What design fail irritates you in everyday life?


When you work so hard to create the solution and you test it but then in real life, it really doesn't work. The users might try and go through another flow entirely and then you need to go back to the drawing board.


This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as users not understanding how to use the product or the product not meeting their needs. It's always disappointing when this happens.


What's your biggest gripe for UX?


My biggest gripe is poor UX. I hate it when I have to use a website or app that is difficult to navigate or use. It's frustrating and it can be a real turnoff. It's important for designers to put the user first and make sure that their products are easy to use.


Do you see UX design as more of a science or an art?


I see UX design as a combination of both science and art. On the one hand, UX design is based on research and data — we need to understand how users think and behave in order to create products that are easy to use. 


On the other hand, UX design is also about creativity and innovation — we need to come up with new and innovative ways to solve problems and make products more user-friendly.


If you are using dark patterns, which mislead people into doing something they don't want to do?


I don't think it's ever appropriate to use dark patterns. They are manipulative and they can lead to users making decisions that they wouldn't make otherwise. If you are using a dark pattern then you need a rethink. There are always better ways to achieve your goals without resorting to deception.


And finally, are there any designers you look up to and you wish you could do what they're doing?


There are a lot of designers that I admire, but some of my favourites include Jony Ive, Naoto Fukasawa, and Konstantin Grcic. These designers are all incredibly talented and have created some of the most iconic products of our time. I would love to be able to do what they do, but I know that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.


Thanks Joao!




Joao Simoes

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