Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Old School UX

I love old Catholic church buildings. This weekend we drove from Bloomington, IN to Nashville, TN and back. Along the way in Jasper, IN we encountered this great old building. I am drawn to these for a number of reasons. Firstly, simply because of their beauty. But, my interest in them is also deeply tied to design -- both visual and user-experience. These architectural/artistic wonders were constructed with great thought and purpose. They were not made just as a place to sit and listen to sermons. In fact they were built to create an experience for the visitors. As a designer I believe there is much to learn from studying these old examples. The people involved in the design of these were practicing user focused, goal-directed design hundreds of years before Alan Cooper, John Carroll and all the others. While they may not have been committing persona's and scenarios to paper I have not doubt that they were running these types of models through their minds as they designed experiences.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Mystical Powers of The Designer -- aka "Design Thinking"

Recently, I was talking with a friend -- he spoke of a conversation he had had with someone in a different design discipline. This person told my friend that he felt the whole "design thinking" thing was a crock. I can see how one might come to that conclusion. It is definitely a recent buzz word. It has been receiving a lot of hype and is being used by people to stir up the emotions of non-designers and sell them the mysterious elixir from the exotic land of design. While I understand the concern, I see this as an opportunity to help people understand what we as designers do. It's a chance to demystify design, to educate non-designers and maybe even help them to incorporate some of our more useful processes into their non-design work. But, I think the real value of the "design thinking" surge is something completely different.

Once upon a time clocking billable hours for exercising our mystical powers was fun and profitable. The reality of contemporary design practice is quite different. While we continue to use words like intuition, talent, authenticity and creativity -- frameworks of understanding for each of them have begun to be developed. These frameworks are integral to "design thinking." Perhaps -- intuition comes from experience, talent lies in well developed skills, authenticity is determined by evolutionary models and creativity is determined by the value of outcomes within a domain. These developments are not to be feared or disregarded due to their hype-factor. In fact it’s good news that we have begun to understand these mystical powers of ours in a more quantifiable light.

Design thinking may be wrought with buzz or hype. But, maybe there is good reason for this. Do we work in mysterious ways? Sometimes. Examining design thinking provides us with an opportunity to better understand both our physical and cognitive process. This increased understanding can only be a good thing -- allowing us to teach and practice more effectively.

It's a good sign and a mark that our craft is reaching an age of maturity where we might begin to consider calling it a discipline.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

the icebox door

Parts of my philosophy are embodied in 3 haiku by Jack Kerouac...

Missing a kick
at the icebox door
it closed anyway

Straining at the padlock
the garage door 
at noon


In my medicine cabinet
the winter fly
has died of old age

These haiku are loaded with symbolic imagery. I leave it to you to decode meaning. I felt since the name of this blog is derived from these that I would share them.

So here I am starting a new outlet for myself. My life is rooted deeply in visual communication as well as user-experience and interaction design. It's an exciting and somewhat terrifying time for design and particularly for graphic design. Living and working in a world where the spaces we create and inhabit are increasing in complexity at an enormous rate, design stands at an historic crossroads. I believe in part that our future lies in finding, defining and magnifying our roles in inter-disciplinary teams.

In Design Integrations, Kees Dorst writes, “In real collaborative design, the position of “the designer” disappears into a team effort of many different parties: prospective users, stakeholders, and other specialists” (Design Integrations 2009, 288). Dorst notes that the designer-artist came into being in the late 1800’s as a result in part of the industrial revolution. We now find ourselves in the throes of the next major evolutionary step. We, as designers, in the sense that we have come to know and love ourselves, are at a historical point where we are about to be assimilated into the teams required to produce the complex projects at hand. It’s an exciting time but we need to have our game plans in order as we have finally been given a seat at the table.

The intent of this outlet is for me to share thoughts, observations and inquiries on design related topics. I hope that in this blog I might not just be sharing my own thoughts and activities -- but, that I might also spark dialog.