Don’t design for everyone. It’s impossible. All you end up doing is designing something that makes everyone unhappy. -Leisa Reichelt
Leisa is a Freelance User Experience Designer & Researcher. I’ve just started following her on twitter and have been impressed with her insights into user interactions. You can follow her blog at http://www.disambiguity.com/
I came across a great blog by Rebecca, she’s a UI and interaction designer based in the UK. She had a great post today on evolving design practice and the ideal design curriculum. She quotes from an interview with Hugh Dubberly, entitled “Becoming a Digital Designer.” The interview is from 2006, but I found it still very pertinent. Dubberly’s feelings toward design and it’s purpose is right on. Thanks Rebecca for this great find;
I believe design should make the world better. It should serve people.
It should make things stronger, faster, clearer—and cheaper. It
should surprise. It should engage. It should delight.
I believe design is a collaborative process. In that sense, design is
political. It is a sort of discussion. And the designer’s role is to help
facilitate the discussion. The traditional tools of drawing and prototyping
are remarkably helpful in this role. Sometimes the subject of
the discussion is abstract. In such times, designers must be able
to prototype abstractions—they must be able to create models,
which are simply tools for thinking.
I believe designers should root their work in the context of its
use. We must understand our audience. Who are they? What do
they believe? What do they want? At the same time, we must
understand the economic systems and technologies which make
products possible. All three equations—audience, business, and
technology—must be solved simultaneously.
Click here to view the entire interview with Hugh Dubberly, “Becoming a Digital Designer” article.
I recently had a fellow design friend ask me what he could do, while in school, that could help land an I.D. job. I had a couple ideas, and thought this would make a great post. This is not meant to be a sure formula and guarantee for hire, just my opinion on what may help.
To me there are 5 main areas:
1.Great sketching (not necessarily #1, but somewhere at the top)
2.Awesome model building (with company specific software)
3.Inspiring presentations (that tells a story about the product – more importantly about your abilities)
4.Offer something unique (this could be a skill, the way you solve problems, or something else)
5.Well-established industry relationships
Great sketching will always play a major role in your job opportunities. An I.D-er is responsible for finding product design solutions and communicating them to the customer/employer. Sketch quality is directly related to inspiring project teams with confidence to invest. The inspiration can come from style and clarity. While in school competition to be the #1 artist is stiff. It’s important to always benchmark your work, be honest with yourself and ask “Where does my work rank?” You should not only do this with your immediate classmates, but with students from other schools. Aim for #1, but know that there will always be someone better. That’s not meant to be negative, just a statement to keep you humble and always looking to learn.
Awesome model building is especially important in today’s economy. With every company reducing headcount, the demand for multi-faceted/cross-trained employees grows. Naturally with workers doing more then before there’s less time to train. Students that come out of school with high-level training in all company used software increases their chances 10 fold. They have become “soldiers ready for battle.”
An inspiring presentation is your ability to tell stories and sell ideas. While in school this becomes a double edge sword, because it also describes your skills as a designer. I’m sure you’ve heard before, that your presentations should speak for themselves. The story should be clear and visible with or without your presence. I’d like to add, that your abilities as a designer are very clear and present in every presentation you create, so ask yourself what messages are you sending about yourself?
Offering something unique is self explanatory, yet probably one of the most important areas. At this moment there are fewer jobs being offered, yet the same amount (if not more) students looking for jobs. How are you going to set yourself apart from them? How will you become memorable after being the 50th interviewee?
Well-established industry relationships build easy to cross bridges. In a way it’s a lot like marriage, would you marry someone you didn’t know? Of course not. Why would a company hire some one they don’t know? Sure this happens, but they risk a lot. I would look now for opportunities to start conversations with prospect companies, even if this is your first year. Ask for job insights, share your work, and invite critiques. When the time comes to interview you’ll have allies and referrals, people willing to put their reputation on the line to recommend you.
I hope this gives a little help to those in school currently or even those looking for jobs now. Of course I’d love to hear insight you may have.
Every once in a while I’ll spotlight a designer from industry. This may be someone well know, not so well know, past, or present. The purpose is to become more acquainted with others in our field. Today’s designer, Yves Behar, is well know. I grabbed this excerpt from Wikipedia;
Upon founding fuseproject, Behar says his goals are threefold. Firstly, he wants to be a futurist, optimistic about the possibilities of new technology. Secondly, he’s a humanist, in that his designs seek to put the human experience first. And, finally, he’s a committed naturalist, promoting sustainable ways of living and consuming. That fusion, of technology with humanity, of brand and story, of all aspects of design, from product to advertising to online to point of purchase to user experience, is his central message. He states, “We have one foot in the consumer’s space and one foot in our client’s space, so we can act as the bridge, or the glue.” 
Béhar’s designs and creative positioning are at work in diverse areas as fashion, lifestyle, sports and technology, for clients such as Birkenstock,BMW’s MINI, haasprojekt, Herman Miller, HBF, Hewlett Packard, Hussein Chalayan, Microsoft, Nike, OLPC, Philou, PUIG and Toshiba.
In 2005, a massive chandelier sculpted by Behar for Swarovski was installed at JFK airport. The piece is a loose tangle of organic curves with 55,000 crystals, and includes a motion detector triggering 2,000 blue light-emitting diodes that react to the movement of passengers .
He designed a set-top box for French broadcaster Canal Plus. “Le cube”, in black and white.
To some of you this may be old news, but I’ve been noticing a change in designer skill sets required by companies. The old way relied on a designer that had great sketching, innovation processes, and communication/presentation skills. This individual would spend most of their time sketching. Then, once a direction was picked, the designer would spend the rest of their time guiding a digital/traditional model maker. As you can see this relies on two people who each know one and a half “languages.” The designer is proficient in the language of 2D and somewhat familiar with 3D. The modeler, on the other hand, is well versed in 3D and lacking in 2D. Together they battle back and forth trying to communicate, eventually producing the final product.
Today’s valued designer is bilingual, well equipped in both 2D and 3D languages. This has two benefits.
1. It produces a cost savings by reducing head-count.
2. It shortens the translation time between languages.
If you’re still in school and find yourself gravitating towards one language, be sure to dedicate some of your time to the other. If you are a design professional, look for opportunities to gain other languages. Maybe you’re already proficient in 2D and 3D, looking for a third skill could only make you more valuable. What other languages have you picked up, and how have the benefited you? Feel free to share.