I want to address the very noisy design discussions around UX and how many teams rely on this very specific skillset when developing digital and offline products.
Jump onto Medium or Flipboard or any news digest and you will be barraged with a veritable feast of articles on UX with a splash of UI. It really is the best time to gain insight into users and methods for engaging, and while this is amazing, there are some things I would like to take a minute to highlight.
Over the years the design industry has shifted a lot, the role of a designer has been through a variety of identity crisis. From the late 90’s of a graphic designer to the early 00’s of a multi-media designer, to web designer, digital designer now UX, UI and product designer. What’s happening here is designers are crafting their skills into specific roles.
Providing expert solutions to common problems, with the focus always on the user - and herein lies the problem.
We seem to have taken the role of a designer and boiled it down to these pigeon holed roles. Creating constraints and removing any expansion of solutions.
Take a look at development for example. At one point, PHP and .NET developers ran rampant providing specific solutions to problems. Companies were tied down by the technology, but shifting to todays fast moving startup culture. Those skillsets seem to have opened up in search of better solutions. Many dev’s are now multi-disciplinary, working across technologies and focusing on solving problems over the restrictions of tech.
When it comes to UX/UI all of these need to be considered. So why are we still looking at macro solutions when it comes to developing products and services? Yes… 100% users are at the core of every organisation but as designers we have the skills to understand the bigger picture.
We’re ultimately storytellers and problem solvers who have skills in typography, colour theory, layout, photography and illustration, brand development and copywriting. The list goes on and while we have strengths in some areas over others, we still have a great deal of knowledge and insight which can contribute. The unicorn is becoming extinct, long live the stallion.
The experience of many teams, is an established hierarchy of roles. Divvying out tasks and working together to build and progress. Somewhere along that chain, someone has decided that because you’re a designer that you don’t need to be a part of a financial or recruitment discussion for example. Well, let me tell you that’s bullshit. Every aspect to any organisation is context to design and development, which can have an impact on the decisions we make e.g:
Without context, how can we provide solutions for users and business goals? Without an understanding of all aspects of a business and brand, how can we communicate to new stakeholders...how can we ultimately design?
When it comes to junior or student designers, specific skill sets are obvious. We cannot know everything, we can only absorb knowledge and grow. If you’re someone with influence or an educator of sorts, then we should impart more than just “this button should be orange because it increases visibility or content should appear above the fold” (Ughh). Conversations could be “If we create this narrative people will engage with… and sales can better communicate…”.
My best advice for anyone learning to be a designer would be to take business studies – it will pay off in the long run.
I don’t think UX is the solution to all problems. I think design as a whole is and the combination of skillsets, however advanced, will ultimately lead to better outcomes.
I will end with this. I'm not a big fan of preachy “you should do this” and “top 10 things you have to learn” articles. We need more discussions, more collaborations and be open to the fact you may not always be right - but together the possibilities are endless.