Wednesday, June 30, 2010

(Not) About the Importance of Design

This article is NOT about the importance of design.  Those who know me best know that I'm a bit of a contrarian... I tend to play devil's advocate in arguments just to see what will happen, I do the opposite of what I'm told just to see if I can, and in college I once wrote a reactionary "Anti-Feminist Manifesto" because I was so tired of being told by my women's studies classes about what a victim I was of The System and The Patriarchy.

I have to stop and clarify a bit here.  This article will NOT BE an Anti-Design Manifesto.  For one thing, I've grown up a bit since college, and along the way realized that victimhood aside, I am a feminist.  For another, just because I'm tired of hearing about the importance of design doesn't mean it's not important.  I just don't think it's important to CONTINUE TALKING about the importance of design ;)

My reasoning here is threefold.

First of all, it's all been said.  Read the first chapter of just about ANY design book, and you'll get inundated with the reasons why design is important.  Most of them come down to a basic fact: if you don't set out to design your [noun], you'll end up with a badly designed [noun].  I cannot count how many times I've heard this phrase.  Many times it's stated far more eloquently than I just said it, but the basic argument is the same.

My second reason is that talking about the importance of design is preaching to the choir.  I've already picked up your book, attended your lecture, turned on your video, whatever.  If I'm here, and your content is not SOLELY ABOUT the importance of design, chances are that I've already bought into the message.  I don't need to hear it again, because I already know it by heart.

Lastly, talking about the importance of design is pointless because if you don't get it by now, you're probably not going to.  I assert that with all of the "democratization of design", all of the numerous sources who will tell you it's important, all of the cultural shift that has transitioned towards intentional design, unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard some (or most) of it by now.  And if you've heard it, and you still don't buy it, I can talk about the importance of intuitive information structures and seamless interaction models until I'm blue in the face; I still don't think you're going to buy what I'm selling.  And that has to be OK.  It's a waste of my time to convince someone who doesn't believe in of the importance of deliberate, intentional design.  I'd much rather spend my time working with someone who at LEAST buys into the story A LITTLE, and then show them just how far that story will take them.

You may, by now, be wondering "If it's all been said, and you're soooo tired of it, why do you keep reading/watching/listening to these sections?  Why don't you just skip them?"  Frankly, it's partially because I'm a sucker.  I enjoy the eloquent phrasing, the reiteration of an important point.  But also it's because these first chapters often set the tone for the rest of the material.  These sections define what the AUTHOR thinks are the important concepts in the "importance of design" message.  For example, you might be able to guess from reading this article that things like "information structures" and "interaction models" are important to me, because I called them out in my examples.  That gives you some important context about where I'm coming from.  And personally, I'm all about context.

I've seen some great diagrams explaining the different facets and personas within the design process.  What I think would be cool is if we designers could use some of these diagrams, and color in the parts we feel apply to us, and to our content.  So without further ado, I will show MY PERSONAL design emphasis pictogram here.  I hope both that it comes in handy for you other context-o-philes, and that this is the start of a broader industry trend.

My emphasis order is:
1. Information Architect
2. Interaction Designer
3. Visual Designer
4. Copy Writer


A big thank-you to Robby Ingebretsen and the videos at .toolbox, from whom I stole the original UX Venn Diagram.

1 comment:

  1. PS, I tried to post the Photoshop file for anyone who wants to color their own emphasis diagram, but Blogger doesn't seem to want me to upload anonymous (aka non-image) file types. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know via commens. KThxBi!