Automating Photo Editing

Copilot is a proprietary content management system used by Condé Nast editors. One of the team’s primary missions was to create an application that allows editors to write once and publish anywhere. My role was the UX Lead. Deliverables included experience maps, prototypes, wireframes and high-fidelity designs.

Service
SaaS
UI/UX
Expertise
Deliverables
User Journey, Low-Fidelity Prototype, Wireframes, High-Fidelity Mocks

Challenge

Copilot is a proprietary content management system used by Condé Nast editors. One of the team’s primary missions was to create an application that allows editors to write once and publish anywhere. The digital landscape was evolving too quickly to build yet another system that allowed brands to just build web pages. Brands needed the ability to quickly and effectively create world-class content that is portable across different media.

I was the UX Lead for the team that built the application from the ground up. One of our goals was to help editors more efficiently produce image renditions required for responsive designs and an endless number of distribution channels.

The number of images that needed to be produced for one story was continuing to grow. One photo editor was cropping 300 images a day.

Solution

This project was a true win in that it took a complex, inefficient task and almost completely automated it saving hours of time for each photo editor every day.

reaper.gif
The Copilot Reaper interface.

The team developed the Vulcan and the Reaper:

  • The Vulcan: a service that defines versions for your configured renditions or aspect ratios. By default, it crops top center. Vulcan is dynamic. If you add a new rendition tomorrow, it will backfill. It will automatically convert png to jpeg. It handles alpha transparency. If we detect an alpha channel, it’ll remain a png.
  • The Reaper: The in-app cropping tool editors use to make decisions about crops made by Vulcan. If an editor never touches Reaper, Vulcan’s defined versions are used. If an editor uses Reaper to define the crop, Vulcan respects that editorial decision to update the version of that crop

Together, the Vulcan and the Reaper, 

  • Resulted in amazing visual presentation expected from Condé’s world class brands
  • Good performance -- page speed + traffic 
  • Improved editorial efficiency, saving editors entire days of production work
  • Prepared the brands for the future -- No longer defining images by pixels but rather by aspect ratios

Approach

Discovery Sprint

​​As the UX Lead, I kicked off discovery with a discovery sprint. There was a 100% committed, multidisciplinary team in place and ready to get started.

Before the sprint, I conducted a design audit, a competitive analysis and worked with our research coordinator to schedule user interviews. The product manager and engineering lead researched technologies and came prepared to discuss opportunities and risks associated with different approaches. 

A few surprises were uncovered: 

  • A few people were handling the majority of images.
  • The problem space was slightly bigger. Beyond cropping, photo editors also spent a lot of time searching for images in Copilot, adding metadata to photos and adding credits to photos. There were also a lot of additional fields on the photo page that were not important.
  • “The BIGGER problem is being able to delete.” Editors also could not delete photos which was a problem for various reasons including legal reasons.

We used what we learned in the discovery sprint to create a story map and write user stories.

Crazy 8’s and Zen Voting

Then, I facilitated sketching sessions based on the user stories. A cross-functional team came together for the workshops.





Prototyping

We still had questions we wanted to resolve before moving forward. 

  • Do editors value control over cropping to automation?
  • What information will help editors better organize images so they can find them later?

We were also torn between two approaches:

  • Allowing editors to first set a focal point; then create image renditions based on the focal point. 
  • Always creating the image rendition with a top center focal point and allowing editors to adjust if needed.

We took low fidelity concepts to the editors to get these questions answered.

The reaper: embedded in the media bar, a feature that would allow you to easily edit image crops using a focal point or manually crop images you upload right from the reaper media editor. 

We were able to uncover that the best path forward was to automate rendition creation with a top, center focal point. This covered most use cases given the lifestyle brand's focus on fashion and food photography.

The Team

Laura Cochran, UX Lead

Laura Carroll, UX Researcher

Gustavo Medina, Engineer

Ann Kim, Engineer

Christina Kung, Engineering Lead

Nadia Rivadeneira, Product Lead


Case Studies

Learn More About My Work

A curated collection of diverse projects to illustrate the depth of my experience and impact of my work.

A Holistic Vision for Planning
Northwestern Mutual wanted to increase client engagement between advisor check-ins and better communicate its protect and prosper value prop. My role was Design Director. Deliverables included a vision prototype for the mobile app and six features to increase engagement.
Furnishing WeWork
The development team at WeWork created a proprietary design application called Furnish. My role was Sr. UX Researcher. Deliverables included a Service Blueprint, generative UX Research insights and low-fidelity concepts.
Building a Leading Consumer Digital Bank
Valley Bank online account opening experience had a 85 percent drop off following the first page. We formed a cross-functional team to optimize the onboarding experience. My role was Design Director. Deliverables included all design artifacts, content strategy and UX Research.
Tracking WeWork's Real Estate Deals
This project was a zero to one effort to design software to support the WeWork real estate team. Deliverables included personas and experience maps. My role was the UX Research lead.
Automating Photo Editing
Copilot is a proprietary content management system used by Condé Nast editors. One of the team’s primary missions was to create an application that allows editors to write once and publish anywhere. My role was the UX Lead. Deliverables included experience maps, prototypes, wireframes and high-fidelity designs.
Improving the Refugee Experience
I joined USDS as a lead UX Researcher directing field research in SE Asia focused on better understanding the refugee admissions process end-to-end. In 2015, President Obama increased the annual refugee intake from 70,000 to 85,000, with a commitment to accept 10,000 Syrians. Our team focused on understanding how technology could help the president meet this goal without adding more people or impacting the integrity of the process.
What Guides Me

Leadership Principles

My passion for human-centered design and ability to merge human factors with business considerations allows me to make significant contributions as a design leader and partner to product, engineering, data and marketing teams.

Together is better than alone.

Embracing collaboration over working in isolation not only enhances productivity but also enriches personal and team development. This is particularly evident in the realms of research and design, where shared insights and creativity can lead to extraordinary outcomes. Let’s celebrate the power of teamwork!

Balance autonomy & alignment.

My aim is to illuminate the path the company intends to take, empowering the team to align their priorities and plans accordingly. I wholeheartedly champion autonomy and creativity within our cross-functional teams.

Optimize for inclusion.

Enriching your circle with individuals who offer diverse perspectives can significantly enhance your abilities as a researcher or designer. This diversity, stemming from our collective experiences as a team, is a treasure trove of insights and ideas.

Remember the human.

This is the glue that holds us together. Human-centered design puts people at the center of everything. It doesn’t matter if you are designing for a stakeholder, colleague, user, buyer, merchant or any number of other descriptors. What is important is that you stay grounded in human factors throughout the design process.