UI Practicum #8. What are Your Brand Values? (Hands-On Exercise)

Published July 27, 2016 by Jane Portman

Building a product, putting together a team, or promoting a personal consulting brand? This exercise will help you stay true to your values in the rush of everyday tasks. Today is the day when you’ll define your brand in simple human words.

Moz has this TAGFEE Code which describes their values. TAGFEE stands for Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional.

You can do the same with your own product, service, or organization, too!

How brand values help you in everyday work

I wouldn’t touch such “soft” subject in this practicum series if it didn’t affect actual work. You can (and should!) apply brand values to any project. While being immaterial, values translate into anything you do:

MailChimp is fun but not silly. Copy Hackers are bold and daring. Paul Jarvis is content and ascetic. What are you?

Step 1. Define your core values

I’ll lead by my own example and show you the brand values of UI Breakfast. I’ve never announced them directly, but people still get it from my writing (judging by your feedback). So it’s time to put these values in plain English: Simple, Rational, Honest, Generous, Curious, Consistent.


This trumps anything. The solutions in UI/UX are usually deadly simple, if you approach the problem from the right angle. That’s what I love about design, and that’s what I try to teach you. In my world, software products should be like an IKEA table — simple, sturdy, comfortable, and affordable to anyone.

If given a choice, I prefer simple to delightful. For example, hidden iOS patterns are interesting: double-tap something while holding the home button. This helps keep the UI clean and neat. But how do all the users know? I would probably never design something like that myself.


Rational over beatiful. Rational over creative. Rational over cool. Always look for reasoning, and find a solution that will be useful. Do your customers really need this new feature, or do you just want to look cool or or exercise new technology?

Windows platform often comes up with extravagant design solutions because they can’t repeat what Apple and Google have done. This comes at the expense of poor usability. What if they tucked up their desire to look cool, and made something simple for the user — even if that means repeating certain patterns?


Whenever in doubt, I say things straight. This doesn’t mean I’m not diplomatic — but calling out problems by their name is the best way to solve them. In marketing, honesty helps you maintain an authentic voice. In UI/UX, honesty helps to highlight real-life problems and find real-life solutions. We don’t live in a pink world of unicorns and perfectly implemented projects, and I don’t mind saying that.


Nearly everything I publish is free. A very small number of consulting & training gigs keep me afloat well (because I charge a lot). I do have paid products like The UI Audit book, but pushing sales hard isn’t my style.

This UI Practicum series is free, because helping 6500+ people is more important than adding a few hundred dollars to my monthly revenue (therefore, locking great content behind the paywall). I also give away tons of free advice daily via email when you ask for it.


There are so many interesting things out there in the world — I’m never tired to learn about them and share the results with you! I love learning about people through meaningful conversations. That’s why the podcast thrives.

My work life is a series of new challenges and skills learned. New things this year are team training, community, webinars, and video teardowns. Each of them puts me outside of comfort zone, which is totally fine. It wouldn’t be fun staying there.


It’s super-important to show up and ship things consistently. It’s super-important to stick to your design decisions. It’s super-important to keep all your main CTA buttons green if you decided so, etc.

Don’t go too crazy on this one though! Interest often comes from breaking your own patterns, which is fine to me if things remain simple and rational.

Step 2. Define anti-values

Defining what you’re not is equally important. You just slap yourself on the wrist preventively — before doing on something that doesn’t match your values or abilities. Saves you tons of stress and wasted time! Here are my anti-values.

Not Creative.

UI/UX for me is not a creative discipline, it’s a rock-solid craft of solving problems. Period.

Not Exceptional.

Once again, you don’t have to be exceptional to help people! The best services and solutions are often very, very boring (and effective).

Not Fun.

My sense of humor exists in real life, but it instantly disappears when it comes to digital content. This was proven once again on April 1st this year, when I published the Product Horoscope which didn’t go anywhere (thanks to my friends I didn’t turn that into a real newsletter), and never dared to publish The UI Audit Gauge prank.

This leaves me looking like a very boring person, and I’m totally fine with that. The main goal is to help!

Step 3. Highlight one core value

Here’s the cherry on top: between your values, define one key value that trumps everything. This helps you focus even better.

The single idea of safety transformed the Aluminum Company of America into a prosperous corporation. This example inspired our family so much, that my husband now builds his construction design business around the quality of documentation.

In my case with UI/UX, it’s all about simplicity. You will benefit from having one key value, too!


Take a sheet of paper and follow these steps:

  1. Write down 6 core values for your brand.
  2. Write down 3 anti-values that you definitely don’t correlate with.
  3. Highlight one key value that trumps everything.
  4. Keep this list for future reference, and run all your product decisions by it.
  5. For best results, make it public. Make a dedicated section on your site, publish a manifesto, write a blog post, or at least tweet about it.

Let’s make it a Twitter campaign!

Tweet your values with a hashtag #uibreakfastvalues and mention @uibreakfast. I’ll happily share it with everyone!

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