In response to an excellent article by Sharon Lee at ALA, “Human-to-Human Design“, I made comments. I thought it would make a good blog post too. I’m still fleshing these thoughts out. So, any feedback would be helpful.
As a user experience designer to some interesting and large projects, I’ve had to advocate the persons on “the other side of the screen” numerous times. Much of the time to the humbling response of something along the lines of “well, because of the business goals…” [insert objection here].
It seems we ‚Äì as the craftspeople in this industry ‚Äì are in the position to take this type of stand for the humans who must use our clients’ [insert service here.]
In fact, this weekend, I’ve started a process in myself to stoke some emotionality for the “user” and move away from two heavily used terms that I think are actually hindering us from totally empathizing with our audience and creating the best experiences imaginable.
First, the word, “user.” This is discussed around on various platforms and not really new, but I want to make a push to re-ignite this notion. From the cold, steely, technical aspect, they are “users,” but at the end of the day, they’re people, other humans, just like you and just like me.
The second word we should move away from – and this will probably bother some because it is so the vogue thing – is “design.” This includes all derivatives such as “designing” or “designers.” Primarily for the same reason as the above. If you do a search at Thesaurus.com for the word “design” you’ll find cold terminology like, “model” “map” “configuration,” “engineering,” etc. Likewise, do a search for the term, “craft.” In contrast, you’ll find warmer words like, “skillful” “art” “ingenuity” “workmanship.”
And sure enough, someone had a problem with it.
Perhaps I wasn’t being clear. This notion stems from a process through which I’m undergoing personally. I’m just beginning to articulate what has come to me and it is undoubtedly fuzzy at this point, but it only becomes more clear with each step of exploration.
Over a decade ago, I sought to understand what my place was going to be in this world and I identified myself as “designer.” I studied design. I labeled myself as designer and revered myself as such.
Over the years, I’ve realized the term is misused, overused, and abused. A hobbyist can pick up a book, learn a little something and go forth, create, build, and declare their design. And no one can argue that it isn’t design.
Ah, but craft. “Craft” as it relates to “design” is the beauty side of the same coin. As indicated, design has intention and this may very well be true, but it is the word “craft” that can denote so much more. And so, I would suggest that where design has intention, craft has intuition; designers are industrious, craftsmen (and women) flow.
In my college design courses, the literature taught us that there was function and there was aesthetic. I have found that most people polarize and tend to focus on one or the other in their post-academia careers.
Throughout my career, my position has at countless times been to mitigate in the chasm between the technically proficient and the artistically profound. Perhaps it is design that is the middle where the two meet. Moderately simple mathematics will show us that starting with zero then going in two opposing directions, there is infinity in both directions. Artistry and Industry, running infinitely deep in their respective directions.
So, for me, I need some distinction for this discipline of “creating an experience.” Usability, in its purist sense, is virtually devoid of all aesthetics. Just as pure artistic expression of emotion is is of no mainstream use.
I am by no means suggesting that “design” should go away. Perhaps I’m suggesting that as human factors, usability, ergonomics, etc. have become such cornerstones to our practice of design, we need see the other side of the coin. And that is where we find craft.
If you’re interested, I’ve started a new group at ma.gnolia.com as a starting point to gather some of these thoughts together. I’d love to hear from folks on their opinions on this matter: