Designers are held to a double standard, especially those of us who design for the interactive medium.
The stereotype of a designer is that he or she is self-referential with their design approach. Businesses cringe when faced with the prospect of bringing in a new designer to a team. I mean, come on, all designers are “shiny-shiny” types, looking for that Golden Pencil or Webby Award, right?
Management talks about wanting designers who have a rationale before suggesting a change to existing design patterns, which is understandable. We’re designers, not artists. Designers should have a process that substantiates our output; a smart, talented, non self-referential designer, able to take both the domain and its particular users into account when designing interfaces.
So designers expose our craft and processes to the business and developers to show that we get it. Seasoned designers are able to have a conversation about a business model; we can talk shop with those who write complex code; we can subjugate our personal preferences to explore the possibilities that lie beyond the present user experience.
The aforementioned isn’t optional to practice the craft; these are the multi-disciplinary skill sets required for the role.
“Innovation comes from rapid iterations of features” they say. “Okay” we designers add, “Let’s just make sure we’re focusing on the right features, useful to actual users.”
Management doubles down on features, project managers steel up, developers get frustrated, cats sleep with dogs, etc.
The intent behind crafting an interface is to create a representational model that reflects the end user’s mental model—their goals, desires, and ability to use technology. Successful design isn’t about deploying the implementation model.-Me
So why is the method of getting to the interface so disconcerting? Doesn’t each discipline require proper time to perform their own tasks?
Designers perform research with human beings, create user archetype(s) and sketch out scenarios to represent context. If such output aligns with company strategy, design vision can be translated into interactions across interfaces to support, change, and/or disrupt existing user behavior.
This is how refined holistic experiences are created—beginning with a single product, spanning across an entire service, and expressed deep into external communication. Design is a cross-functional, collaborative function that may impact the core hypothesis of why a product exists, and will definitely improve the experience of the product itself.
If my colleagues in this field believe that experience design begins and ends at the interface—where it gets pretty—then I guess I understand the hesitation to leverage these methods.
Maybe designers should “just get drunk and throw paint on the canvas.”