Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
April 13, 2023

The UX of Sex with Nina McNamara

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#034 - Sex! It’s one of our most basic human interactions that also one that brings with it lots of complexities, unmet needs and plain awkwardness. What if you could approach it as a design challenge and simplify it a bit?

In this episode, Nirish Shakya talks with Nina McNamara, a design leader, entrepreneur, and activist, about the UX of sex. Nina is the founder of UX of Sex and is on a mission to help people consciously design their relationships and sex lives. Together, they discuss how to co-create a relationship and cultivate candid conversations about relationships, sexual experience, and desire. Nina also shares a tip on running a sex retro with your partner! Join in on the conversation and learn how to bring more intentionality, creativity and clarity into your relationships.

Key topics discussed:

  • Using UX design in relationships
  • The importance of communication, context and timing
  • Understanding one's motivations and desires
  • AI technology and dating apps
  • Co-creation and empathy
  • "Sex retro" exercise
  • Applying intentional structures and rituals in relationships
  • and more!


Get a seat at the table for the next UX of Sex event; ‘What can we learn from Kink?’

Connect with Nina

Turning People into Teams by Mary and David Sherwin

Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

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Nirish Shakya: [00:00:00] Let's talk about sex or the UX of sex. Now that I've got your attention, let me explain. See, relationships and sex are some of our most basic human needs, but they also bring a lot of complexity in the form of past baggage or mismatch expectations or just plain awkwardness when it comes to talking about them.
What if we could treat it as a design challenge and simplify some of that complex? And this is exactly what my guest today is trying to do with a venture UX of sex. Her name is Nina McNamara and she's a design leader, entrepreneur, and activist who's helping people design a more creative life by cultivating candid conversations about relationships and sexual experience and desire.
Keep listening as we talk about co-creating a relationship and also how to run a sex retro with your partner.
Shivaun: [00:01:00] This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya.
Nirish Shakya: Hello. My name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a human-centered designer, educator and coach. And this is a podcast for well, human-centered designers and innovators and problem solvers who tend to forget the human within the. The conversations you'll hear will help you increase your self-awareness and creative confidence so that you can make the impact that gives you the joy and meaning that you seek.
Let's get started.
Nina McNamara, welcome to Design Feeling. It's great to have you on the show.
Nina McNamara: It's really great to be here. Very excited to chat to you.
Nirish Shakya: So today we're talking about sex, well, more specifically the UX of [00:02:00] sex, which I have never heard of before. I heard about you so, Nina, tell us what is the UX of sex?
Nina McNamara: So the UX of sex is a little bit what it says on the tin really. So I'm sure that this audience is very aware of the meaning of ux. So short for years of experience and sex. We all know what sex is, although it means different things to different people. and the UX of sex is the combination of those two things.
So what is the user experience of sex? And we know that obviously, User experience, especially when you're a user experience designer, has many different facets to it. So the whole concept of bringing those two things together is how can we maybe apply some of the thinking that we have around ux? So just consciously designing something, understanding people, understanding a journey, simplifying complexity, and maybe apply that to something that generally people find quite complex and quite [00:03:00] confusing, and generally a bit messy, which is relationship, sex, and even desire and, and, and your relationship with yourself.
So yeah, it's a sh smushing together for one of a better word of two things, ux, which this audience I'll be super familiar with. and sex, which perhaps I'll be familiar with two. But the two together, it's just applying in a little bit of a different lens. So I
think differently and more
creatively about the
Nirish Shakya: And obviously you are a UX designer and a design leader. there there are so many things in the world that we can simplify as designers. Why sex?
Nina McNamara: So I think that for me, like the, a few, many, many years ago, I suppose this idea was born like, probably around 10 years ago. And I think the b the birth of the UX of sex was actually when I, myself was single and I was dating lots of people. It was. Earlier stages of Tinder. And actually Tinder [00:04:00] was amazing at that time.
And I dunno, lots of people report it is less good now. and I, I had this moment where I had this quite short term relationship with, with somebody and unexpectedly it, it ended very, very suddenly. And that was the kind of the first time, even though I'd been in lots of relationships, probably broken a fair few hearts myself.
It hadn't happened to me yet. So this is like in my mid twenties. and I just felt this kind of rush of just complete chaos and, and, and emotion and spiraling and confusion. And I just was like, I need to get out of this feeling like it's so intense and it's so confusing and messy and how do I make sense of it?
So, That initially the EU of sex wasn't just sexy, it was actually just about a personal situation that I wanted to make sense of myself. So I ended up, UX in that situation, which it didn't all have a name and it wasn't all polished at the time, where I just sort of took myself on a [00:05:00] mini retreat where I just sort of dissected each bit of that small three month-ish relationship and said, what are all the questions that I have for that person who I'm now not able to be in touch with?
What are all the things that they said that I feel like validated that it was something that was going to go somewhere? And then also what other things that I wanna kind of say, like understand a little bit more, and I sort of, I suppose like a ceremony, which we do a lot in UX where you kind of go through a process and the biggest revelation was kind of writing down all these questions and then sound like a CRE person really, but sort of saying, do I need an answer to all of these questions?
And seeing them in the, on literal post-its on a mirror like in front of me and then I kind of ceremoniously like screwed them all up and threw them in the bin and I was like, oh, cleanse. Like I don't need to know the answer to these questions. cuz I couldn't get the answer. That was the [00:06:00] most frustrating thing about that relationship.
And I think a lot of people when they're, when relationships end, it's this closure that you don't get and it's out of your control. So that was why the topic was that. And it initially, and then I guess like me personally, I just have a deep interest in people I find, This to be on the spectrum of the most, where the most interesting things happen and the most crazy things happen and the most unbelievable stories happen.
and then I guess for me, myself, like it was yeah, a part of my own sexual education, I guess, to sort of try and deeply understand like that part of myself too, and understand why maybe some of the relationships that I had an expectation about weren't, weren't going the way that I expected. Cuz some of it was about myself too.
so yeah, quite a long winded answer, but that was the of it. and then I was just fascinated by the fact that technology had such a huge, huge part to play in, I guess people's ability to meet people. so yeah, the UX of sex started as the UX [00:07:00] of dating. I did a talk about that and then I ju I landed on the UX of sex cuz I just thought sex is.
Can be seen as a narrow thing over that, that you do. But actually that's a very, very broad word that covers relationships, dating, pleasure, your own self. so yeah, that's
how it,
Nirish Shakya: Cool. So
you basically applied the UX process in trying to uncover like the, the challenges of the complexities within the relationships that you had experienced and tried to
simplify that. So what kind of, complexities did you find through that process?
Nina McNamara: So I think the main thing was the, I would say the, the three things in that is diff differing communication styles. So like what I was hearing and what the person was meaning or saying. We're not matching, but I didn't know at the time. there's the [00:08:00] complexity of I guess, context and timing. so, you know the, that particular relationship, there was two, yeah, we were living very, very different lives.
Like this person was kind of on tour in a band and I was like a junior designer in a tech company. So even just the re our journey throughout the day was like me getting up at
7:00 AM but him
going to bed at 7:00
Nirish Shakya: The user journeys didn't
Nina McNamara: there was a sort of, the user journeys did not align that all. Yeah.
So the communication style difference, the co the context, and also just that, the kind of understanding that at what stage we were at in our lives, I guess, cuz I had this overwhelming feeling that was like, I definitely wanna be in a serious relationship. But I didn't have any kind of definition of what that was for me.
It was more like I'm just getting to step one of a date, turning into a relationship, and I [00:09:00] had pretty much zero experience with a relationship longer than a year prior to that. So I was like, what? What am I even signing up for? Like, do I even want this that I'm signing? I'm signing up for this long-term relationship, which was quite like an unknown for me at the time, but in my head I was like, I definitely want it.
But I didn't know what that was. I didn't really have a definition for it. So this started to sort of tease out like kind of my motivations and my needs and my desires and my latent needs, I guess, which is something we talk about a bit in UX of the things you say you want, but not don't always match the things that you kind of, the behaviors that you ref that reflects what you really want.
So I found that dissecting that very interesting, as a learning curve about myself, but also. Opening a big can of worms of like, this is a gnarly, meaty topic
Yeah, There's a
Nirish Shakya: Yeah, it's not just about, getting someone to click a button to ch, check out of a process.
Nina McNamara: Yeah. [00:10:00] Yeah. I know. And thi I saw this reminds me of like, I saw there's a neat Tinder campaign that, I mean, visually I really like it, but it, the, the, tagline is like, it all starts with a swipe.
It's great tagline. Like, it, it does, but by the, the steps after the swipe is, there's so many steps after the swipe. It sound makes it sound very simple. but actually a lot of
things have
to make, to make
something happen, I
Nirish Shakya: And that is, that is certainly true when you know, for example, let's say if you're a designer on Tinder, how much of that post swipe journey do you care for? Or do you just, just let that happen
organically? Right. I think that's, I think swiping probably is the easiest part of that experience.
Nina McNamara: It's a hundred percent. I mean, I, I think about how, I mean when we're talking here about like how you would talk in an, in a coffee shop or how you would, like, how people just talk normally in real life. And I think if [00:11:00] some of the open one liners that I'd say in a chat to start a conversation with someone, I'm like, would I ever say this in real life?
Like, what am I say? I'm literally making myself cringe as I go through this. So how? And then I'm like, why are they not messaging back? Well, because you, you, you're not actually sounding like you here. Like you've, you're kind
like a Tinder bar who's just
like, got a few fixed starter,
Nirish Shakya: I was recently reading an article, what, I think it was a TikTok video, something where, you know, a lot of people are actually using, chat g p t to come up with like pickup lines that they wanna, they can just like, start off the conversation with on Tinder and all these different apps.
Nina McNamara: That is phenomenal. I ju I mean I, I, I've heard so much about G P T and the applications and that is one that I actually hadn't thought about, but it's genius in some ways because the admin is keeping it with your online, multiple online data
apps. I'm
sure it is very, very
Nirish Shakya: So maybe in the future, all these dating apps can [00:12:00] integrate with, AI technology to, I guess enhance our digital self to present ourselves as, I don't know, different or better than what we really are in reality.
Nina McNamara: Yeah. I mean, and I think that that is part of the, the, the, the, the puzzle now in the. the. pictures. I, I did an experiment once where I, I, youI initially was like, I'm gonna put the best pictures ever of me on this on, on this profile. And then I found like, actually, are people just gonna be really disappointed in just because the mismatch of expectation where I'm like, well, I look amazing at this wedding, but like, if I'm just going to the pub for this date, I'm definitely not gonna look the same.
And you're confused as to who this girl is who's entering the pub. And I think like, yeah, I, I wanted to do almost like an experiment of like, should I just put like the reality me, like me when I'm like just on the
couch, Like in my pajamas, like, should I
just put
Nirish Shakya: Like food crumbs all over
Nina McNamara: and [00:13:00] like, whoever's into that, I'm like, well, that's gonna be the long term relationship with me, so you better get used to it earlier rather than later.
but I just think the way that the psychologically, the app set up, I, I, definitely
got less.
Nirish Shakya: It's a d the hypothesis didn't work.
Nina McNamara: It did
work. Yeah.
Nirish Shakya: and obviously like, all this technology can add more complexity to our already complex relationships, cuz it is, setting higher expectations of people, which is then, which obviously has to be dismantled as the person more and more. and I think one of the things that, you talk about is around , how we can use relationship as a form of co-creation.
whereas an example that we just talked about, there's, it's not, there's no co-creation there. It's basically you creating yourself or manufacturing that self. So what does co-creation look?
Nina McNamara: That's a really, that's a really good, yes. Segue, because I do, you're [00:14:00] completely right like this, the individualism of the, of your profile that you curate and create that it is completely singular. And although you might have an audience in mind, you Yeah. The what you put out there is completely made by you.
I think what I mean by what, what I think co-creation means, and I think how it can be hugely effective in, in applying it to relationships or to, at, at whatever stage, for me, creation and the, and the way that we create, I guess within, within ux, within design, there's kind of a few different tenants of that, which is, Well, there's ideas.
So you, you've got ideas about, about, I guess if you applied it to a day, like where do you wanna go? What do you wanna do? What do you wanna see? there's this element of, of, of sharing those ideas. And then as we know, like any idea that forms is always very fragile and new and probably quite rubbish.
Like your first idea is always your worst idea. but by sharing it, it immediately enhances it. So, the fact getting, kind of having an idea and then sharing it already kind of makes it grow a little bit. And then I [00:15:00] think the other key bit is how you might communicate that idea or communicate the things that you, or your, the opinions you might have on, on something that you've talked about together.
and through those kind of things of sharing and communicating, you think of more ideas and you sort of, things develop. And we can say that, I don't know if we look at an ideation session, perhaps like in in work, or in a design role. You might do some kind of ideation process where you start with lots of like throwaway ideas and then three different rounds of sharing and communication and feedback you come up with, oh, this is a completely unexpected idea.
but it's actually quite good now. And we can, and we can kind of take that forward. So if we, I think if we applied that so a little bit more, like maybe there's less at the beginning it's like there's a date, like a, like, it's just like a prototype. It's like no big deal, really. Like it's the first ever meeting and there's so much pressure put on that when it's really an [00:16:00] intensely fragile meeting, I guess.
And, and there's a lot of weight on that, I guess even the first five minutes of that interaction. But actually going into it as a, with an, with as open mind as you might do with an ideation session, I think could be nice to think, well actually, where's this person at? Like, can I ask that? Can I ask some of those questions early on?
Can I say,
Why are you here on
Nirish Shakya: What are your
Nina McNamara: you know, like,
are you actually looking like, I mean, cause someone might be going into, I've had dates where people are genuine. I can sort of see in their head that they're checklisted me for like marriage material almost. And I'm like, I'm not ready to be like, tested for this.
And, and I used to also do it, like where I'd have, based on bad days, I'd had be like, I don't want somebody who wears skiing glasses. I don't want somebody who is like, this job. I don't. And it's like, okay, but the next plumber that you meet might be fine. Like, it's just that one in one interaction.
So we come, [00:17:00] I think, with a lot of baggage into, into these interactions and even in a, in a longer term relationship or friendships or things that you've been, like part of for a long time, they come with a lot of baggage. And I think in order to co-create and in order to kind of think a little bit differently, maybe see something from a different lens.
You first have to sort of shed that baggage and then make something new together. and I think quite
exciting things can happen in
that space,
Nirish Shakya: Yeah, that, I mean, that does remind, remind me of a lot of what we do in user research as well, where, a lot of the users and participants that we speak with, they do have a lot of, existing preexisting baggage that they bring into the product that we're designing. We can shape their perception and experience of the product.
and a lot of what we do is to understand those preexisting baggage, those preexisting mental models and expectations and fears and hopes and wishes. and I, I, I, I do find this idea of turning that lens onto ourselves. Very [00:18:00] fascinating.
Nina McNamara: so, absolutely. And yeah, like you say, like in the design process, like when the reason why we speak to our users or to the people who use our products, It is to try and understand them more and mitigate some of those fears or enhance some of the things that are good. And I think that, yeah, you can only really do that with speaking to people and most importantly, probably listening.
and, and not necessarily going into something thinking, this is what I want. Maybe thinking I do what they want and does that align with some of the things I want? Maybe it definitely won't always align with all of them, but it's so much to ask of a, of a very, a very first meeting
Nirish Shakya: So Manina, I've got so many questions there. I wanna unpick. Whilst I do agree in principle in terms of the value of, using the process onto ourselves, the difference that I might experience is, for example, if I'm [00:19:00] conducting, any empathy building exercise or any, research exercise with a user for a product, I am separate from that product.
I'm not emotionally, involved in it. So I can, have a, a neutral perspective into what's going on and what they say. Whereas, if I am using this model on, for example, my date and my relationship, I'm pretty much, intertwined emotionally in that and what they say or do might impact my emotional state. So I'm now thinking how can I, for example, do some co-creation or, ask my wife some questions. Well, now some of the answers might, might piss me off. do I separate myself from that conversation and treat it just as you would, treat a, a neutral kind of user research, exercise.
Nina McNamara: Yeah, [00:20:00] it's a really, really good question. And I think, certainly a cha a challenge because inherently there's gonna be, when your own emotions are at stake, there's, yeah, your responses might be unexpected compared to, maybe a more formal or professional setting or something that you're not emotionally attached to.
and I think the answer to that really is first and first and foremost, accepts in that insisting with that and knowing that it, that embarking on something like a piece of co-creation or embarking on a, design process, I guess, of your life. inherently, one of the constraints of that is that it's highly personal and if you are doing it in your own, in your, yeah, like you say to your wife, Just knowing that sometimes the expectation that you have about what somebody has, someone might respond, might be different.
and I guess for me, like some of the things that, I've learned I guess like from from it being immersed in, in this world is there's lots of, there's lots of different tools and techniques that you can use to, to look at this and I guess in any way that, in, in any [00:21:00] setting where you are trying to get information from someone and, and actually try and make them feel comfortable about giving you information or even sharing information with multiple people, part of that, the skill in that is how do you facilitate that conversation?
How do you set it up for safety? How do you make sure that we're aware. Know, whatever you say in this space maybe is different to how you might say it if you were just having a chat in the kitchen type of thing. So that's something that I've been exploring myself to just try and understand like what the barriers there are there for people.
And an example of a, of a tool that I made up, I guess, or tried, with my partner because I do always try all the things
with my own partner
Nirish Shakya: He's a prototype.
Nina McNamara: I have to try them myself first. Yeah. Uses the photo. Um, we, we did something called a sex retro. So a retro in a [00:22:00] normal work session for those who don't know, is something that you do as part of, with your team.
And it's a habitual thing that you maybe do every two weeks or so, where you talk about what went well, what didn't go well, what could be improved from, from, for the future. In, in the, in the way that the teams ran or the way that the people interact or the way that the product's being built or the design or any part of it can be brought up in a retro.
And I was like, I should just do this. I, I u I love actually, when I became more of a design leader, I was in way less, what I found was as in way less reflexive conversations like that with my peers and I missed it quite a lot because there's something in creating a safety within that space to say, well, after this 45 minutes or an hour that we're together talking about these things, it isn't personal.
The things we say to each other might be negative, but all positive, but it isn't really personal, it's just we're all in it with the shared directives to make things better and I think set it. [00:23:00] That's something that I brought into this idea of a sex retro where it's like, alright. We're not gonna enter into it or even start it if we don't both agree at the beginning that like, the point is to make things better.
It's not like an excuse to be like, this is my list of things that I've been annoying me for the last week. and I can't wait to get into it. Like, you have to like assess, I guess, and you'll know this the most about your partner. Are you both in the right frame of mind to, to embark on that and, and set some boundaries and premises to not do it if you're, if you're annoyed or if you're off the back of an argument or something like that.
And then we co-created the, the, the, I guess, workshop together because I said I think that we should do this sex retro. This is the idea, but I don't wanna be the facilitator cuz I'm like the co-creator. I don't wanna say like, this is the, these are the categories we're gonna cover. These are the topics we're gonna cover.
We had a conversation of like, which things would we like to cover? And I think when [00:24:00] we did it, we had. Yeah. Worries. wishes. no worries. Intrigues, puzzles and loves cuz we were like, those words feel like relevance to words. And, and the key to the whole thing was not doing it in bed and not
doing it like after
sex or in a
Nirish Shakya: mean the sex retro?
Nina McNamara: we, the sex retro. Yeah. So not doing that activity in the place you have sex or
in the place that
you're intimate. Just, just because it's too cl it's too close to the ego of, of kind of, this is where we have sex and now we're poten potentially criticizing or saying something constructively, critic, criticizing.
too close to that
kind of safe
space of where you don't wanna be. Then the next time you have sex, like,
I remember when you said this in bed
Nirish Shakya: Ah, yeah. So basically you're creating some
space between the, the vent and your, reflection on the
vent. [00:25:00]
Nina McNamara: Yes. So it's like absolutely. And I think that's a useful piece of advice for any of feedback you give. Like, if somebody's upset or they've just like tanked a meeting or they've just done a terrible talk, the worst thing is to straight after be like, wow, my God, what happened? That was awful. Cuz they're gonna be in such a heightened state of like, I can't, I literally can't deal with, I'm not ready to receive this feedback.
So yeah, with this sex retro at all, it's like, yeah, are you ready to be in that situation? Are you ready to receive feedback, positive or negative? Are you kind of both in agreement that the reason why you're doing it is for positive reasons and, and to make things better? And then together design? Like what are some of those topics that you'd wanna look at?
And to be honest, like at the time I was like, I'm not, I, in my head I was like, I don't know if I'm really gonna learn anything from this cuz I've made a big assumption that I already knew. Everything. It was, it was actually probably about a year into our relationship. I was like, everything's great. [00:26:00] Like, there's nothing to really address.
Like this is why I feel very safe doing this. And what I found was like, there was lots of worries. They weren't like bad worries, but they were just surprising worries. So it was just that sort of then unlocked a new level of understanding of like, of course that's not even something that I would even think about.
But you think about that and that's really interesting. And then you can start to have a conversation around that rather than sometimes when you have one-on-one conversations. I guess I, I would say the best way to think of it is like a structure to a conversation you might already have, but as we know with the messiness of, of a relationship and, and baggage and things that come in, sometimes that conversation is, goes off on a tangent or you get distracted or you don't, someone rings you and you can't finish it.
And it's just about putting that time in, having a bit of structure to say. At the end of this, we're gonna feel better, and we may have some things that we wanna take away to improve after we [00:27:00] leave. but it's given that structure to control, so you can slightly control that situation a bit more, but it's not, so
controlled that it's,
it's, too
Nirish Shakya: Hmm, because I mean that, that totally makes sense cuz you know, we, we have intentionally, introduced rituals in the way we work professionally. So things like standups and, sprint planning and retros and things like that. But a lot of, the, I guess the projects in life, for example, like relationships, we just let it just happen.
we don't bring that intentionality, the same kind of intentionality into that. Project or that piece of work. And a lot of times we don't know where it's going or it might not be going in the direction that our mind is expecting it to because we have not intentionally set that direction. And like you said, something like this can create that structure to guide, where the direction of that relationship my ship might be heading.[00:28:00]
Nina McNamara: Totally. And, and this is where like, lots of that at the beginning of starting the UX of sex and thinking, thinking it through, I, I was massively drawing on my own personal experience and thinking, well, what do I need? Let's design something for that. And what other thing did I encounter in need?
And let's design something for that. And now I'm at this point of. I really need to expand that out and go back to the research myself and say, Hey, look, Essex retro for, for me and my partner, will be completely different. For somebody who maybe has been married for 20 years, maybe there's like actual problems within, in their sex lives.
There might have been infidelity, there might have been grief, that might have been like, all these different things that can happen throughout the journey of your life, change your relationship to those same, same aspects. So yeah, at the moment I'm going broadening, going back to the research and speaking to other people about their needs.
And hopefully the, the tools and the new tools are the [00:29:00] new things that can, can, help simplify some of those things,
or com become
Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And I think one of the things that you also mentioned is around how our needs change and evolve as we go into like different life stages. How, how, how does that happen and what can we do in terms of like putting on a, a design lens for that?
Nina McNamara: Yeah, so really good question. I guess like one, one thing that, so as part of the, the work that I've been doing, one thing that worked really fun was trying to think about almost using the double diamond, which is like phases through a design system and saying, well, what are those phases across a lifetime?
and what states do you go into along that journey? So I think, the, the skeleton that I've kind. Identified is like, there's this find in it and discovering it. So maybe when you've never experienced anything like pleasure, you've not experienced dating or relationships, but you will have experienced [00:30:00] something but something's very young, probably like in, in school or even like your parents and relationships there.
So there, but there's definitely a first a lot of firsts that can happen for people and that's a whole different space to then to, so after that where I think most people or lots of people spend lots of time in that kind of what I'm calling, like getting it stage, which is probably like get going online dating, chatting people up, meeting people, trying to find that thing like I mentioned earlier of I want to be in this relationship.
I'm not sure what
it is, but I'm
trying to get to
Nirish Shakya: You were swiping hard.
Nina McNamara: Yeah. And then there's, then there's like, when you are, you've passed that stage and you are in it. So it's the keeping in it, the nurturing it. Like how do you keep desire alive in a long-term relationship? How do you,there's that excitement and like endorf in Russia at the beginning of a relationship that evolves over time and how do you kind of not get bored of that or like [00:31:00] see what you have as something to completely different and appreciate different things about the person that you're with.
And then finally there's that kind of what I'm calling losing it, which could be a breakup and that could happen, in a very short space of time as discussed. or it can be just losing whatever it is that you hold dare in that relationship. So the spark or like the relationship has changed in some way.
And I go, I guess like underneath that there's stuff like, having a child or, or experiencing grief or, yeah, something external from that relationship happening. Maybe it is like losing your job, like something big or small like happening that isn't in the relationship, but of course
just completely utter directs it impacts that relationship.
so yeah, I think that's my, so of course you can imagine that, the type of mindset or needs that somebody would have in the finding it in discovery stage, like actually education's super important at that time. Understanding, consent, [00:32:00] understanding, like what's okay, what's not okay. Like when you're maybe a, you could be more vulnerable if you've not got that education, I guess.
but equal, So many people end up in the, they may be in the keeping it stage, they're in a longterm relationship and they skipped a bunch of steps where they still don't know, like what they, they've still got those to discover. They don't know what they want. They find it really hard to branch out of maybe what they've always done in their relationship.
So yeah, there's a, there's a, as we always say in ux, like the journey is not all definitely hardly ever linear, although we like to draw it out as a nice, neat, linear path. There's a sort of, it's a bit of a sphere of like, these four states sort of happen intermittently and, and depending on, yeah, what lends you applied to it, they, they're ever changing.
so yeah, that'll be really, I'm looking to speak to more people about some of the ages that I've not yet experienced. Right. Because that's gonna be super important for me to have a balanced overview of everything.
Nirish Shakya: Have you, [00:33:00] have you like mapped out your own journey? Have you, like, if I walk into your apartment, will I see like a big, journey map of your.
Nina McNamara: so probably not on Post-its, but I have maxed out my, this was, I I wasn't self-directed actually. Like, so my coach, Nikki, who was amazing, like we, when I was Yeah. Speaking to her, like in, we even trying to figure out this stuff in, in deciding what I, who I wanna be as a design leader and everything, some of the stuff I was bringing into that was like, I can't be, I don't know if I can be the UX of sex woman if I don't know my own self sexually.
And so we did do that where I, it was a, a really long novel, like a lot of notebooks were filled with the journey, I'll say, where I try to really remember back to like my first, like experience with. I guess relationships are like robots, I guess. And, and when was my first experience with like a boy or like, whatever, and I was surprised that it was very [00:34:00] young.
It was like eight years old and I had this, I'm gonna say boyfriend, but we didn't speak. We had a boyfriend, this boyfriend in school. I made a magazine about our relationship, but like we went, we didn't speak. So I just remember having this sort of like slightly infa thing of like, I've got a boyfriend, but that had no, I didn't know what that meant.
I would just, would loved telling people that I did. So I went back to that and then drew out like, what are all the things that happened after that? Which helped me identify, I guess like, yeah, what limits and beliefs came up throughout that time that maybe would help me back from being in a, a good relationship now.
So very powerful exercise. but yeah, I think it would be too much if it was on the wall. I dunno if anyone would ever come around, they'd be like, she, it's like some kind matrix and they'd be like, wow,
she's really had a
Nirish Shakya: Maybe, maybe you could like create a, [00:35:00] template on, on Miro. Something that you can, give to people to be used for their sex retros and, and journey mapping.
Nina McNamara: Totally. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that'll be the aim for sure. Cause it's, it's always a fun experience if
nothing else.
Nirish Shakya: Yeah. I've, there's like board games, right? That kind of help couples have these kind of conversations.
Nina McNamara: Yeah. There's so many things like this is, I, I suppose like this is like anything when you're doing your. Yeah, market research or competitor analysis or, or whatever. Like I think in this space, there's so many people doing lots of interesting things. I have like a stack of cards, like things that, it's like conscious connections, like one's called like pillow talk, one's called, I can't remember, like they hidden cards or whatever.
Just, just to see like what all these things and in fairness to them, like they're all like these really beautifully designed games ultimately. And I think that one of the things that [00:36:00] I, thought almost as a user of those was like, yeah, when you are, when you are in a, in that like happy path right of your relationship, you are kind of all in on, you're like, yeah, hell, let's get the cards out.
Like this will be food. And it's all like, let's have glass of wine and drink and then like play with the cards. But when you are in like a not happy path, in a kind of where you really need support and help. The last thing that I wanna pick up is the card. So I'm trying to be like, what's the medium thing?
Like what's the easiest or the least frictionless path to snapping you out of the, of the, of the non happy path, I guess. so I don't have the answer yet, but
working on it.
Nirish Shakya: Cool. and when you are, I guess, diagnosing and analyzing a lot of these journeys and the challenges within it, obviously there are, there'll be a lot of things there that, for example, come from our own kind of past conditioning, our bringing, how we view the world, our [00:37:00] perspectives, and a lot of these things we, we cannot change or we can't expect the other person to change because that's just who they are and part of who they are.
So I think one thing I read from, from your writing was around controlling the controllables. So, What are, what might some of these controllables look like and how can you control them?
Nina McNamara: So I think, depending on what, depending on what you're applying it to, it changes. So what I would say is sometimes the kind of heat at the moment, like emotions, right? Like, the not controllables. So you've got that kind of. Just rush of adrenaline or rush of endorphins or rush of something that's making you feel some kind of way.
And there's just, we've all felt it. Like there's seemingly no way to sort of get on top of that in the, in the actual moment. but I think the controllables is almost like how we respond, like outside of [00:38:00] those kind of fiery moments. so the example I used earlier of that feeling of heartbreak, right?
Like that is, as many people will have, there's hundreds of songs of books if they read about it because it's such a powerful emotion. But it is like in while you are in it, like try and explain heartbreak to someone who's not in it. And they're like, yeah, like, sounds awful. But they can't really feel it because like they're not in it.
And I know that I've been like, I don't understand why people are up with me and this is like the end of the world, And obviously if you, you're not in it. I've also had people telling me about it and I'm like, yeah, I know, I remember, but I don't really remember because it's like an A now feeling that it's very difficult to remember.
So that kind of thing I would say is that uncontrollable. And I think the controllable is like how you show up after that or how you reflect on that and how you deal with it afterwards. So, yeah, whether it is something huge like heartbreak or whether it's an, an [00:39:00] argument or something that has blown up in, in your relationship or friendships or, or anything, it's almost like what can you do after that kind of emotion is calmed down.
To just reflect and unpack. And I think it goes back to the communication stuff, the sharing, being open to revisiting stuff. So one, one thing I've thought about a lot and, and part of that,the birth of the UX of sex was the, the most frustrating thing is sometimes like not being able to revisit something with somebody who's basically almost like, fallen off the face of the earth because they've broken up with you or you don't were together anymore. And is there something in kind of years, I, I mean lots of loads of my exes are gonna be like, oh no, she's gonna ring me. Where is there something about going back, years later and. Remember when we went out, like, what went wrong there? Because in the time you just [00:40:00] can't, like, make sense of it, but it's important to make sense of it for your kind of future, future endeavors.
one thing that is quite a personal story, but I, when I broke up with my last serious partner so many, many years ago now, I remember thinking, oh, I really, we, we can't be together, but I really like care about this person. So I want to make this transition into us not being together like as easy as possible.
I don't just wanna like leave and like all the person you've been texting for every day of your life for the last year also, then that's just gone. It's like this habit, like needs to be sort of wound down a bit or like sort of going cold Turkey is like the hard bit. So I was like, well, if we keep texting, we'll just end up getting back together.
So I ended up writing these cards like where every day I just wrote like, this is how I'm feeling about this. Breakup and after about a month, the first one was like, I can't live this as hell, like whatever. And then by the 30th day I was like, things are looking up. I'm [00:41:00] positive about the next thing.
like such a short period of time. But then I, yeah, obviously not suggesting people do this cuz it was well intense. But then I like gave him the cards. Cause I was like, just in case you were wondering how it was going for me in the 30 days, here you go. And obviously I thought he is gonna be like, this is insane.
But I was just like, I just hope it helps you to know that when you were thinking, is she thinking about me? Is she sad as me? I was, and that's comforting. So I think that there's, yeah, there's a thread in that which to explore of almost when you. Reflect or think of something in the past. It can be a long, a long time ago or a short time ago.
yeah, how are you gonna make sense? How could you make sense of that? And any questions that you have, like how might you get those answered? And sometimes you, you won't be able to, and that's falls into the uncontrollable category. But then, yeah, you can [00:42:00] do what I did and
screw up the post-it, and
then you don't need
to know.
Nirish Shakya: But I think that that sounds like such a lovely thing to do to someone when you are, yeah. Transitioning into a different form of relationship. And, most people probably would not think to do that. I mean, I, I hear that now a lot. The, the trend is just stop responding with them, like ghost them.
Right. and ghosting can be really
Nina McNamara: But ghosting is
the worst ever. That's
why it's
Nirish Shakya: yeah. it's like, they, they've stopped acknowledging your existence. And this how this happens in relationships. This can even happen in the, in professional relationships in industry as well. Right. You just never respond to someone. How do you, how do you manage that as a, a designed thinker?
Nina McNamara: so as in how do you manage the, the, the,
concepts of
Nirish Shakya: in, if someone's ghosted.
Or, or let's say you are the one ghosting
Nina McNamara: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, first of all, if you are the one ghosting, well, I would say don't do that, but, but obviously [00:43:00] I'm sure that I've done it, you know, when you, like, I don't think I have, but I'm sure I probably have. I, I think that for me, like if you are, if you are being ghosted,
The best thing to, to, to manage that I would say is like, first of all, put put it in the uncontrollables box, right? It's like that is someone else's action. And it's something that you can't make people do things that you want them to do if you're not in touch with them, or if you are, normally they're gonna do what they're gonna do.
And I think the immediate tendency is to take that as like, brutal feedback of, it's me. They don't like me, so I'm not attractive enough, I'm not right? And it's like, maybe some of those things are true in that, like, clearly this relationship wasn't meant to be because this person has ghosted you, so they, they, they don't want to be in, in touch with you anymore.
But it's actually not about you, it's about them. And A whole [00:44:00] lot of reasons why people do it. And I think more and more in society was so, so bad at confrontation or like actually saying things up front people, it's so much easier to text someone or send them feedback paper, email over, like just being face-to-face and saying, look, this happened yesterday.
It wasn't great. This is how it made me feel. But like moving forward, like, let's do it this way. No one says that anymore. They're just like, oh, maybe I will. And then they're like, it's too hard. Ghost. Like, so I think it falls into the uncontrollable and I, and I guess my only thing to say would be it, whether it's a job, whether it's a relationship, whether it's, I don't know, someone you've emailed to apply for some like to, to do, to get featured in something or you are trying to like get something going.
It's a, feels like a form of rejection, but rejection is part of the, of the journey. And it's not necessarily a bad thing because it actually. is probably for the best that you're not with that person or not in that job. And, I've been [00:45:00] rejected for hundreds of jobs or ghosted probably for, for jobs that I've applied for.
And, it made me get the right job later. So it wasn't about me, it was just about like, say the context. What did we say before we said, yeah, it's about the context. it's like the contexts and the timing, like the communication are, are you hearing and saying the same thing very often? No. and like the, if those two things aren't aligned, then
makes sense why it
Nirish Shakya: Yeah. So what you're saying is their user journey is different to the one you're on.
Nina McNamara: Yeah. And their communication style is very different
that there's none.
Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And also, another reality is that, we have access to so many more people through technology now that we might not value the relationships that we build through that. And, and then just treat us as a disposable, entity because we're just gonna find another person the next day really easily anyway.[00:46:00]
Nina McNamara: Absolutely. And I think that's part of the, how technology has changed everything. Because if your interaction, if it was so e it is like when something's hard to gain, like it and naturally develops more value. Like that's just the way we think about things. It's not to say that you can't have very valuable, meaningful relationships through online dating.
Loads of my friends have met people and married people who they've met online, but I think it's about, yeah, other two people aligned on the way that they're thinking about that interaction. And yeah, if it's quite throwaway, to begin with, then. It doesn't, it makes sense that it's throwaway to end with two.
And unfortunately that's the reality of there's plenty more fish in the sea, times a million cuz the sea is like in your hand with like three apps that you can go back on and see all the potential. There's like limitless potential. probably very few actual like wheel connections happening. but maybe we're not giving those connections
enough of a chance cuz there's always
something else.
Nirish Shakya: Yeah, I mean, I, I personally have not used any of these dating apps [00:47:00] because I found my wife away before any of these dating wives came up.
Nina McNamara: Yeah,
Nirish Shakya: So maybe there is an opportunity for
these services to,handhold a user. Managed lot of these, I guess, uncontrollables in that journey so that, they, can maintain their sense of, wellbeing, and self-care through these journeys.
Because some of these journeys, I'm assuming, can be very stressful, to, to the users.
Nina McNamara: Yeah, and I think there's like, I remember the step change, right? Like when, when I started using Tinder, these actually before then there was kind of plenty of fish and match and stuff, but for me at the time I was like, it's completely off limits to pay for that. Like that's just a no for whatever reason.
And loads of online dating insights just had this big stigma of like, that is for losers basically. And then it became very mainstream of like everyone does it. So then it's completely acceptable. And I think the step change was [00:48:00] because you can swipe freely and then you match if someone else likes you, but you never know if someone doesn't like you.
So immediately, like people's biggest fear of kind of rejection or like's, one of my biggest fears, rejection like that you don't have that anymore. So you're like, I just see when they like me and I don't actually know if they didn't. I don't, it doesn't say 10 people said no, cuz that would be awful. And I think that changed like the way that people did stuff.
But then obviously over time you get very, very used to the tool, like tricking the algorithm, different behaviors of, people swiping just without looking to get to get more matches and things like that. So it's almost like the, when it, when the online design, online dating shake up happen, that they were serving like a massive user need there about rejection.
But now it's like, well what are the evolved needs like, and what's the new research saying? I would love to speak to yeah, [00:49:00] a re researcher at Tinder or Bumble to see like, what are users actually saying here and are we properly serving those needs? Because actually once you're an app, if the need starts to be, I'd like more in real life things, it's quite hard thing to buy in on, on your
If it's
app related, I
Nirish Shakya: because a lot of these apps, they seem to have designed just the happy parts and they tend to market and advertise those happy parts in terms of, yeah. And then you're gonna, everything's gonna be like hunky dory. You're gonna find the right person, you're gonna have great fun, and potentially you might live happily ever after.
But in reality, that's not the case a lot of times.
Nina McNamara: Totally. And one of our LA the last events that I did for the UX of sex was the topic was dating. it's kind of mixed in a, of to put people from different, sexual orientations, genders, backgrounds, different parts of the world, and the kind of, there was lots of common themes of that sort of fatigue, I guess, about online dating.
Um, [00:50:00] but equally it was really difficult to think of like, what else? Because the convenience of it is 10 out 10. but the meaningfulness was maybe less. And I think that one of the key things that I remember is somebody saying, We just need to slow it down. And I was like, that would be a really interesting idea to play with of like, what does that mean and how would you kind of reverse some of those, like, quick habits that have come in.
I know like in on Bumble, it's like the, the woman has to speak first. And I remember switching to that and being like, oh no, I have to speak fast like this. Like, it was like a habit thing. And then it was also putting yourself out there for a rejection, like it's actually a thing that you're not into.
So almost like I, you
that like feature
Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And so that, that probably can't be
very easy for like, if you are introverted and you don't want to make that first poof.
Nina McNamara: Exactly. So yeah. And, and also just like how much you place on sort of the [00:51:00] time is someone takes to text back or reply. Getting out of that habit of like, if that's in a week, that's actually not that long, but it would feel like it's so long in an online dating app, I would imagine. but yeah, there's, there's so many interesting concepts.
I think it's ready for, it's ripe for innovation again, for sure. people leaning lots towards, in real life interactions, but with something else added in. So, yeah, there's a, there's a lot of ideas
floating around
that we'll have to wait and
Nirish Shakya: And how does, how does all of this impact the way you show up, in your work as a professional, in your design career projects, the teamwork that you do, does this have any impact on that? Does it, does there like, I don't know, emotional leakage that might.
Nina McNamara: Well, I think because I'm. Unable
stop talking about it generally, like,
Nirish Shakya: you're here.
Nina McNamara: definitely does leak in. Yeah. Yeah. Completely leaks into everything. but no, I, I genuinely think that I [00:52:00] am, when I've been more fully embarking on this and, and really trying to put, put something behind, like, what is it?
I've seen like a huge change in, in a, in the way that I show up in, in work. So, as part of the leadership team, I would say like the, the biggest thing is the, the finding my own voice or like ability to be candid. Like I think, in a way, like it offers it, this, doing this stuff offers this desensitization of cut of taboo topics, and he's talking about that all the time.
So then it becomes like asking for budget or, talking about something, headcount for the design. So you might. Is just so trivial compared, it just feels like you can approach that really easily cuz it's not like saying, okay, so let's talk about, what your deepest desires are. Like you're actually just saying like, Hey, this is quite a standard request of head.
Like, so the candidness, I think, I've definitely brought in, and also just that kind of, I, I would say like vulnerability of to be my [00:53:00] kind of whole self at, at, at work because I feel, I do believe that like all of this stuff, if you've not got your kind of rounded, holistic view of, holistic kind of grasp of yourself, then you're not gonna be showing up in the best way in all the stage, all different parts of your life.
So, if we know that, if you've had an argument with your partner or if your kids have kept you up all night, or if something's been happening at home, There's no way that, that's not gonna affect the next eight hours of your workday, the, the following day. But we, the default is like to hide that and not say like, I think people maybe joke about in a banter way of like, oh, like wonder why blah, blah blah's so happy today.
Or whatever. It, like that innuendo kind of thing. But actually, wouldn't it be great if like somebody did say like, I'm just feeling really energized today because like, I had the most amazing intimate evening with my wife and I just feel incredible now. Like can you imagine like [00:54:00] a CEO
of a company saying
you'd feel like what?
Nirish Shakya: around the room.
Nina McNamara: yeah, everyone would be like, okay, I'm just imagine naked. I, I've just imagining naked com. Like, so, but like, obviously, yeah, not suggesting that that's that level of openness necessarily, but I think there's, there's a shame in sort of almost. Enjoying your relationship or in, or celebrating the things that are going well for you personally?
we're so good at bragging about like, I did this and work, I delivered this, like this product launched and I'm so happy about it. But no one, no one's like really, I mean maybe Instagram, but people are a bit less like, yeah, on LinkedIn. You're not like saying your kind of relationship achievements as much as your first work achievements, I guess.
But they obviously impact one another. So, that's
something that I've
Nirish Shakya: Nina, if you could ask anything, in a professional work environment to let's say your client or your boss or your, designer colleague, what would you ask them? What's that one question?[00:55:00]
Nina McNamara: Oh. Oh, that is a great question. it would really depend I think. But let me have a think about it. I think I would want to ask them almost like, what has been the most, how do I wanna put it? Like, yeah, I think it would be like, when have you felt a sense of overwhelming joy? I think I'd wanna ask that, and I would be really interested to know
whether people go
down there
Nirish Shakya: The sex group.
Nina McNamara: when I signed a million. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. The sex route. Like, because really I would always be like, it must be in sex. But so many people would probably go down to like, [00:56:00] when I signed this million pound deal, probably you would be feeling joy.
But I guess like, that kind of, it goes back to like me being that be a burst. And here at the moment you, it's really hard to remember that emotion and maybe we just, yeah, it, I would be so interested to see whe whether people choose that, cuz it's very vulnerable to say that, via like a professional achievement.
and I, I guess like, yeah, maybe people would say they're wedding day or they're
their first child or
Nirish Shakya: boring and generic.
Nina McNamara: I'm like apart. Maybe I'd be like, actually this, apart from you can't say these things. You can't say your wedding day yell or the birth of your a child,
anything. And then see what
Nirish Shakya: I mean, the general rule pop of people follow in a professional setting or any setting is that, you don't talk about, politics, religion, and sex. But what we're saying here is that maybe that last one should be removed from that rule.
Nina McNamara: I think so. Yeah, absolutely.
Nirish Shakya: Nice. so Nina, in terms [00:57:00] of like your daily practice as a designer, or a problem solver in an organization and innovator, what are some of the daily practices, that you can incorporate to start thinking or using, some of these topics into your, personal life or your work life? in general.
Nina McNamara: Yeah, a really good question. so I think, like I've touched on, touched on it a little bit, but, immediately, and it doesn't have to be about sex, right? Like whatever your thing is, like, everybody has interests outside of, work invasive home is, I, I think one key thing is perspective. So, for me, On a really fundamental level, I think if we can use UX techniques to simplify, like the most messiest, craziest thing, which in my mind is sex and relationships, then if we're trying to simplify something that's like a gnarly backend system, like some kind of technology, something that is defined, I guess is way easier to simplify that than potentially [00:58:00] something that, like a, a relationship.
So, I guess the way, the thing I take about, take from that is it's okay to feel overwhelmed in work when you, when you're trying to tackle a very difficult problem. And lots of designers, especially, as they're becoming senior and taking on more responsibility, they're gonna start facing these complex problems and feel overwhelmed.
but actually just applying that different lens and saying, people have done it for things like. That are more complicated than this. Like, I actually think I've got the skills I, I've got the tools, I've got my controllables, I'm, I'm gonna be able to tackle it. So focusing on those controllables and ask yourself, like, yeah, are you doing something?
Are you simplifying or is your kind of
worry in actually
complicating the things
Nirish Shakya: simplify your own backend
Sorry, I had to go there.
Nina McNamara: Yes. Yeah. Love it. There's so many. I'm
getting lots of
t-shirts after this.
Nirish Shakya: You could, you could, you could just create a UIA company.
Nina McNamara: I know that's it. That's actually the outcome of the
UX of sex. Just [00:59:00]
Nirish Shakya: Um,
say in, in workshops and meetings, how can you, bring in some of these techniques in, in that, in there, those kind of worlds?
Nina McNamara: So I think that inherently that the, the stuff that I'm doing with, with UX of sex for me is like a very creative outlet. And, we've talked about co-creation, we've talked about, ideas and sharing and things like that. And I think, if I was to boil that down to like one thing that if, you don't have to become a UX of sex advocate, like if I was just to boil it down to one thing, I would say really as a designer, like try to do something, one creative thing every day.
Now it sounds like a cliche, there's a million books on this, but it is so important. It's something that you can do that's super simple, even if it's a cr a creative warmup in your standup, actually in your commute rather than scrolling your phone. Like just give your brain the space to think through things.
really with UX of Success, I'm just, Applying a different lens to something quite ordinary. And for you, you could think, well what's [01:00:00] something ordinary in my life that I could maybe apply a different lens to? but yeah, it's really just getting used to in whatever simple way. Like say drawing, doing something small that's creative, just writing down an idea even, just so you can get really, really used to listening to your creative voice because the fact you're a designer probably means you have one.
and fair. More often than that, we just don't listen to it cuz there's so much other noise.
Nirish Shakya: I love that. Nina, what's, what's your, what's your favorite creative thing that you do on a regular basis?
Nina McNamara: so for me, I love thinking up, I love think making up creative warmups. And for anyone who has weight with me, it's almost. Of definitely everyone who's worked with me will have done a creative moment with me at some point. And I have no shame in being cringey. I have no shame making execs of our client do something that they're like, no.
And I'm like, you have to cuz it's the workshop. And like, [01:01:00] so I don't have any shame with it whatsoever. but yeah, I think my favorite, favorite thing is creative warmups. And usually my top tip for that is make the creative, make the creative warmup, not just for, for creativity's sake, like have a double, a double, use to it.
So it's some kind of taster or mini version of the workshop you're gonna run or the meeting you're gonna run. so an example of that might be, if you're embarking on a strategy workshop where you're saying, let's think of the bright future, dark future for the next five years. And you're trying to get lots of executive people to actually draw some things and write some things and get out of their kind of, Head a little bit.
a warmup might be, what do you personally wanna achieve in the next five years? So people will say, then people say stuff like, I wanna get any kitchen. I
wanna re landscape my garden. I
Nirish Shakya: How better sex.
Nina McNamara: a pianist. And you're like, wow. Yeah. Like, so then you are already like, okay, I actually know the people a bit Maira who are in [01:02:00] this room, and then that's gonna, they're, and they're already thinking ahead in something completely unrelated.
so they know, they have a little taster of like, all right, the next, however long the workshop is, is gonna be about
Nirish Shakya: Hmm.
Nina McNamara: also it helps me
to build a rapport with
them if
I know a
bit about
Nirish Shakya: I love that. And there's a twofold benefit to that. I think one is the fact that you're giving them space to acknowledge what's important to them in their lives, which in turn helps you know more about what's important to them so that you can then shape that gathering, to suit, I guess, their, their needs as well.
Nina McNamara: Yeah, honestly, it's such a, it is been such a, like, simple like Keyon locker type thing for all of my many workshops and sessions that I've facilitated with all sorts of people. E even one that, another example is like if you're doing an ideation workshop or getting people to draw, mostly you're gonna be asking people who've never drawn before to draw.
And even just [01:03:00] doing a warmup where it's a drawing exercise, like, getting two random words and drawing an umbrella dog or like a, like table tree or whatever. And then like they, when they draw it, you then also get a sense of their confidence drawing. So I've had it. Some people are like, ah, they're drawing this big thing.
They just take a whole piece of paper in. You're like, oh, they're really into the drawing. They're gonna be fine. And then you'll have someone who has gets like a bio and draws like a tiny, teeny thing in the corner of a post-it, and you're like,
they're gonna need a little bit
cook soon
to get into this drawer in business. Like, so I'm just like this. We are just in my expectations of what I'm gonna get from this group.
Nirish Shakya: Love it. Nina, I'm just gonna do a quick recap of our conversation that we've had had over the past hour. and there's, there's a lot of eye-opening or mind-opening, topics there. one thing was around being aware of [01:04:00] the, the context and timing and, and that you user journey that you are going through and the person you're in a relationship are going through as well.
and also bring in communication to, unlayer and demystify some of that because. They might be in a totally different life stage to you, and your ne needs might be totally different. and being aware of that as early as possible in their relation relationship and also, through continuous iteration in that relationship can make that those journeys, less painful and less stressful, I guess.
we talked about, co-creating that journey, and also at the beginning maybe treating the beginning of that journey, for example, the first date as a prototype or an experiment rather than, treating or putting all your emotions into that basket. And then when it doesn't work out, then you, end up in, in a, in a dark place.
but a lot of times, when you're in these co-creative activities in your own relationship, you will bring in a lot of [01:05:00] your own preexisting baggage and your partner or the person you're in a relationship will bring in this, but, You gotta accept that fact, that emotional inva investment. and also look at what can we control here?
because we might not be able to control, a lot of that baggage that we, that we bring in. But one of the things I really love about what you said was, yeah, there are a lot of uncontrollable emotions, but what we can control is how we respond outside of those uncontrollable emotions. and I guess this is where it's so important to separate ourselves, whether physically or from a time perspective, and give ourselves that space away from that event.
For example, like, the last time you had sex. So instead of talk about how wars in bed, give yourself the space and time to then, Look at and observe that thing, that you are engaged in more neutrally so [01:06:00] that you can, do something like a sex retro, right? You're kind of co-creating that space and time to analyze how it went and what could be done better the next time.
loved how you also incorporate the double diamond in terms of like, using that as a way to see like how your relationship progresses, from, being more divergent and, going out on an exploratory journey, looking at different, options and partners and then maybe converging into one partner and then diverging again, and then converging, in terms of also, Other events in our life, like having kids, buying a house, losing a job can also impact that, journey that you go on.
maybe if might make it, go divergent in other pathways or convergent in other ways. and, and hence why I feel like it, it is important to talk about a lot of these things even in our, professional and work lives. Because, and like you said, how we perform, how we show up, our emotional wellbeing can be, IM impacted by a lot of what's going on in our personal life, our, [01:07:00] in our relationships.
So how might we, you know, make talking about these, perceived like shameful things, less shameful, and more accepted so that people feel safe, in whatever environment they might be in. And maybe, like you said, it probably starts off by just starting off with, doing that one creative thing that takes you out of that comfort zone, maybe, whether it's in your own personal life or when you're in, in a workshop, right?
Maybe, ask a question to facilitate, some of these conversations in a, in a manner that feels safe to people. And then, step it up a notch the next time you do it. yeah, lots and lots of great learnings for me there, Nina. Thank you so much for sharing those.
Nina McNamara: Pleasure. And yeah, thank you for the summary. It's, it flew by and I'm amazed that we covered so much, but equally not surprised cuz it's a massive topic
and I could talk about you all
Nirish Shakya: So Nina, if [01:08:00] people want to, learn more about your work, and get in touch with you, how can they do?
Nina McNamara: Yeah. So, specifically for UX of sex stuff, you can follow me on Instagram at UX of sex. the, and if you once get in touch about design stuff, obviously Nina McNamara on LinkedIn, Instagram too, and. If you wanna be directly involved in the UX of sex, the next thing that the UX of Sex is doing, then we have a very unique event that is happening in May, which is called What Can We Learn From Kink?
So that is a workshop and a dinner where, 30 or so people are gonna get around a beautiful table, and discuss with, a, a kink educator, Sarah, about a journey, I guess, of kind of mindful co-creation. so it's not necessarily, it's learning from kink. You don't have to be kinky as such to come, but you might learn something if, even if you're not.
so yeah, that's coming up in May. And the link to that is on our [01:09:00] Instagram
and my
Nirish Shakya: Awesome. And that's happening in London.
Nina McNamara: In London? Yes. In full, so kind of private dining room lot. Very, very fun. the, the events we've had so far have just been incredible in terms of the openness and the people you meet and Yeah.
I guess it's
not a hookup event,
Nirish Shakya: Or can be.
Nina McNamara: meet interesting people. And maybe
it could be, I talk
controller. It's
Nirish Shakya: We're not, we're not
like, shaming hookups
Nina McNamara: Yeah. It's like if you meet someone who's interested, which you definitely
will. What? I
control the,
Nirish Shakya: Awesome. What's the date again, Nina?
Nina McNamara: 18th of
Nirish Shakya: 18th May. Awesome. So
we'll put the, the links, in the show notes, so if you are interested in, meeting other people and meeting Nina herself, in that event, pleased to check it out. It sounds pretty awesome. I'll try to be there as well if I can on, on that day.
great. So Nina, is there a resource, a book, a person, anything that you would like to recommend to our listener that [01:10:00] potentially has changed your life? A career?
Nina McNamara: Absolutely. Yeah. I always, always go to this one, which is a book and I, it's also a workshop, that I did in Copenhagen, which is called Turning People into Teams. and I think it comes as no price, that that book is full of rituals, routines, and things that help you build a really strong team within, within work.
and for sure, I don't think Mary and David who run the workshop and wrote the book will mind me saying that I'm gonna a hundred percent steal all of those things and apply them to the UX X at some point because there's lots of crossover. But yeah, for me, you can't do anything really, in work until your team.
Is formed and solid. So that has been a game changer for me in my career and how I think about design. instead of going straight to the design, I go first to the pupil and then everything else seems to be a bit easier after that. So yeah, turning people into teams by, Mary and David [01:11:00] Sherwin, they have a great website as well.
And these letters are called Ask the show So would highly recommend and if anyone does, if you work with me in the future. yeah, loads of mind
techniques are
inspired by them.
Nirish Shakya: Awesome. I mean, I'm one of the, the biggest, know, Steelers, the thieves in the world cuz you know, as they say, good artist copy and great artist steel. So I think creativity is about, stealing and mixing and matching ideas and making something better out of it. so this is a question that I ask all my guests at the end of the episode.
So imagine, Nina, it's your last day on earth and you're in your deathbed, you're about to die, and someone comes up to you with a tiny piece of post-it and a Sharpie and asks you to write your last words for humanity. What would you write on the tiny.
Nina McNamara: I would write [01:12:00] seek joy,
Nirish Shakya: Seek joy.
Nina McNamara: because I think seek joy. So whatever that is for, it's different, completely different for different people, but it's, yeah, really the only thing that matters. And. So many things going to fall into that. so
yeah, I just put seat joy.
I think that's
Nirish Shakya: Love it.
Nina McNamara: no one will regret the joy they have, when they're on their desk.
Nirish Shakya: I love that. I think, one thing that I'm actually trying to do with my productivity system is tag my weekly tasks that I have to do with three things. Three, three tags. One is urgent. Meaningfulness and joyfulness so that I can have a, a good balance of urgent, meaningful, and joyful tasks throughout the week.
Cause a lot of times I was finding that I would just like just doing the urgent ones and not really focusing on, is this actually bringing me joy? Are there things that I do in the, during the week that I do just for fun? Just [01:13:00] cuz it brings me more joy. And I think that's something that, yeah, it, it's really difficult to do, I have to say, because we're so, so much focus on doing things that, are important from a career sense in terms of it, does it bring me more, career fame or does it make me learn something?
But maybe, like you said, if we can prioritize someone joy into our lives, it does make our lives more meaningful. At the same time. It makes, it helps us do better in our personal professional lives.
Nina McNamara: Absolutely. And that, I mean, the taggin of things, I'll steal that one for sure. I'll steal that. The tight of things. So joyful and meaningful and urgent. because yeah, that's, that's amazing. I, yeah, I, I, it's so true. Like we, especially when we're stressed or things are urgent, we don't prioritize those things.
They're the first thing to go weirdly. and I think, yeah, whatever it is that brings you joy, so important to prioritize it and absolutely it will make the other things better, because [01:14:00] you're just gonna be showing up in, in a different way when you've got that
joyful perspective.
So, yeah.
Super important.
Nirish Shakya: Well, it's been a very joyful conversation for me, Nina. And, thanks for again, sharing your wisdom and insights. and I'll, I hope to meet you in person soon, maybe in your next event, or maybe back on the show sometime in the.
Nina McNamara: Amazing. Great to meet you too. And yeah, really enjoyed the conversation. 
Thank you so much for listening in. If you have any suggestions or topics or people that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at I respond to every email. And see if you can share this podcast with one friend who wants to increase their self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning. See you next time.