Embiggen Your Knowledge: How Cromulent Design Could Make The Simpsons Less Funny

Session Title

Embiggen Your Knowledge: How Cromulent Design Could Make The Simpsons Less Funny


Matt Wallens, Matthew Oliphant

Session Type: Presentation

The Simpsons has been on TV for 20 years, longer than many of us have been in the User Experience field. Although yellow and limited to four fingers, The Simpsons have been continuously ahead of their time as it relates to UX, by way of poking fun of it by doing things oh-so-wrong. Discover the lessons that The Simspons have taught us about the dangers of bad design, UX practices, and not standing in the way of a t-shirt cannon. This discussion features case studies of some of The Simpsons’ questionable techniques.

And yes, we will watch clips from the show!

10 questions to be Answered:

1. What can go wrong when you let users design your product? (The Homermobile)
2. Why is it important to establish success criteria before a study? (“Is my brother dumber than a hamster?”)
3. How not to behave when you’re “behind the glass”? (What’s Wrong With Itchy & Scratchy?)
4. Why you should understand the problem before paying for a slick solution? (Monorail!)
5. How can you make customers happy by designing a very specific product. (Leftorium)
6. How can you solve a complex problem with a simple solution? (Inanimate Carbon Rod)
7. Why is it OK to recognize (and go with) a better design? (Soap Box Racer)
8. Can you re-purpose a niche design/product and make it sell? (Springy the Olympic Mascot)
9. How soon should you show your design? (Dr. Homer’s Miracle Spine-o-Cylinder)
10. When should you build and when should you buy? (CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet)

Since it’s a 40 minute session, we’ll crowdsource the list down to a reasonable size in advance of the event.


Matt Wallens is a freelance User Experience Designer based in Atlanta, GA, and founder of 80 Watts []. With over 12 years in UX design and management roles and countless hours logged watching The Simpsons, he’s on a mission to prove that they can teach, as well as entertain.

Matt’s motto, to paraphrase Homer Simpson: “UX: The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”

Matthew Oliphant is a freelance User Experience Architect, based in Boston, MA, who often quotes cartoons like The Simpsons and Futurama when explaining complex interaction design principles. He’s been designing primarily for the web for the last 10 years and watching TV for even longer.

Matthew writes about UX at [] and is often seen around town putting the U in Usability.


  1. Posted September 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    This panel looks like it will be both useful and fun, a rarity in the world of conferences. I can’t wait to be in Savannah for it.

  2. Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Sounds like a blast, Matt! Great insight and a super-fun topic.

  3. Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks, Abi. That’s exactly the kind of balance we’re hoping to present. :)

  4. Webb Vandiver
    Posted September 11, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Very clever concept! Well thought out. I’m very impressed and would like to see the presentation one day, if possible. Good luck!
    Can’t go wrong with the Simpsons.

  5. Posted September 12, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Nice. I can see it now. Especially a comparison to Homer as a product manager and the sled dogs from the movie as the UX team. “OW! My whipping arm!”

    Where do I sign up!?

  6. Posted September 12, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Bravo! I can’t wait to see that. It’s refreshing to see genuinely useful information presented with some fun. The presentation itself is a lesson.

  7. Posted September 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

    @Eugene That’s a good idea too. Homer as PM. We’d wear Tom Landry hats and give the presentation from a Business Hammock.

  8. Sara Brown
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Fantastic idea! What a clever and fun way to present design concepts. I’m sure there will be a big turn-out for this session. I foresee it being one of the most popular sessions of the conference!

  9. Posted September 12, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Agreed on the additional ideas!

    And thanks for all the positive feedback!

  10. Christine Heller
    Posted September 12, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    What a great idea, Matt! I know you’ll have fun.

  11. Maria Cordell
    Posted September 14, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Sounds great, guys! It’s a very creative and relevant way to explore these topics. I look forward to it!

  12. Posted September 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    This presentation sounds like it will make for some quality infotainment.

  13. Posted September 15, 2009 at 1:45 am

    A title like this normally makes me worry this would be a fluff talk – but it’s clear from the abstract that you seem to have a knack for relating to design in all aspects of life (and communicating that well to others). Looking forward to hearing this!

  14. Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Yeh, this looks sweet. I love presentations that combine whimsy and solid wisdom. I bet you’re going to have a crowded room for this one.

  15. Posted September 15, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Wait. Whimsy _and_ wisdom?

    We’re boned.

  16. Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Looks great guys!