business and design
November 5, 2004
UX and visibility
Speaking of filing things away, here's part of an email I just sent to the InfoD-Cafe list in response to Loren Needle's email re information design visibility. Many UX fields (usability, graphic design, IxD, IA, tech writing) have this same "why don't they value us?" kind of undercurrent, and I think Challis makes a critical point. Below is a linked version of my response.
Anyways, what I wanted to add to this discussion is to point to Challis Hodge's article titled Design is Broken and Needs to be Fixed. Here's a snippet:
I have listened for decades now as we designers have debated in circles, chased our tails and whined about business not understanding what we do and the value we bring. We talk about making things more usable, about creating brand loyalty, about making the world a better place. We struggle with ROI models, case studies and methods to communicate our value. Still we find ourselves in the same situation, having the same discussion. We just dont get why business doesnt understand.
I also think there's another theory that may be of use in these issues of visibility (for we share them with many, many other professions). It's diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers) aka crossing the chasm (Moore) aka the tipping point (Gladwell). It's a very complex and interesting theory, but I think the point that applies here is this: there is a gap/chasm/space between the point where something is used by the early adopters/visionaries and the early majority/pragmatists. And that space has everything to do with communication of value. The language we use is not the language used by those we would seek to convince. For me, this is exactly in line with what Challis is saying. And this is where we should look to find ways to make progress.
September 21, 2004
I don't know if it was my biorhythms or what, but Sunday was a terrible day. I now have a nice pea-sized crater in my windshield courtesy of a drive on I395 in the Washington area, and worse yet, it seems like the hard drive in my TiVo melted down. I've ordered a replacement hard drive, so hopefully tomorrow I'll be back to normal (I'm having to actually record a program on VHS tonight--yikes!).
When you order a WeaKnees.com TiVo upgrade, we will send instructions specifically written for your TiVo. These instructions have been created and improved over the years to insure that your upgrade experience is simple and straightforward.
I realize they aren't the first (I've downloaded manuals for cell phones and PDAs before too), but it occurred to me today what a useful practice this was for smaller companies too.
My primary motivation in deciding "TiVo hard disk replacement?" or "new TiVo unit?" was cost. But I'm feeling warm fuzzies now because the docs make it look pretty straightforward, even for someone like me, who doesn't normally go into the guts of my electronics.
August 25, 2004
Microsoft offends globally
Well, my favorite (perhaps apocryphal) bad internationalization story is that Pepsi's slogan "Come alive with Pepsi" was translated in German to essentially mean "Come alive out of the grave with Pepsi." But now it's Microsoft's turn to have their globalization gaffes made public.
CNET has these highlights in How eight pixels cost Microsoft millions:
The Guardian has its own take in Microsoft pays dear for insults through ignorance .
August 17, 2004
Dilbert does design Check out today's Dilbert. Looks to be a funny week, as yesterday's struck a funny chord too.
July 28, 2004
Announcing UXnet: What Lou said...
I've been waiting for Lou to go first, and he has:
Besides a minor quibble (it was UPA and DUX that were scheduled at the same time), Lou has really said this wonderfully. Please read the whole post and not just the part I've shamelessly stolen. Or visit the UXnet site and become part of the community. As Lou says:
But there's so much promise in this concept; what we right need now is support, encouragement and, perhaps, a little courage. And soon, volunteers.
Oh, and we're working on the $$ issue too :).
July 7, 2004
In memoriam: John Rheinfrank
How sad...I just received an email that let me know that John Rheinfrank (who I mentioned in an entry just last Saturday) passed away a day later, on the 4th of July.
June 28, 2004
Clement Mok revisited
Jess had a pointer to an interview with Clement Mok from last fall that I'd seen but not really read carefully. In some respects, it is a follow on to his Designers: Time for a Change article from May 2004.
What's interesting is that he makes reference to a new organization (in the formative stage) called the American Design Council. I'll certainly be interested to hear more, since I'm really interested in the concept. It's nice to see that Jeff was kind enough to also link to a post of mine on this subject from a year ago...interestingly, I think it holds up relatively well.
I can't wait to see how things shake out (if you know what I mean).
May 2, 2004
An MFA is the new MBA?
The May issue of Design Research News has a very interesting promo about the Harvard Business School declaring the MFA as the new MBA...essential for a business career. But they point to the online publication (PDF, 19M) of the Rotman school of management at the University of Toronto.
The PDF is 76 pages, and in a couple of scans I couldn't find a mention of the HBS blurb, which you can actually read here (see item #9):
Businesses have come to realize that the only way to differentiate their offerings is to make them beautiful and emotionallly compelling -- which explains why an arts degree is now a hot credential in management.
In any case, there are some very interesting articles in the Rotman magazine. Looks like it's well worth the download.
UPDATE, 5/4: If you're not a comment reader, consider checking out Victor's commentary on the articles.
April 20, 2004
Connection between design and stock performance
The latest issue of Design Link (from Herman Miller) is out and among its snippets is this blurb for some interesting research from the Design Council in the UK: The Impact of Design on Stock Market Performance:
A recent study in Great Britain has shown a direct relation between design and business success. The Design Council, an organization funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry, released research findings this month.
I need to explore the Design Council more. Unlike some of the folks on this side of the pond, the Design Council seems to have done a better job of putting the, shall we say non-traditional, design fields (like information design and interaction design) together with the traditional.
March 17, 2004
Andrei takes on Jakob
I don't usually like to blog things that are going to appear on every UX-related blog, but this is going to be worth checking out ... the comments are nearly as interesting as the post. It's an open letter to Jakob Nielsen by Andrei Herasimchuk of Design by Fire.
There's so much I agree with in this letter, it's hard to pick just one snippet, but this one gets at the heart of it:
Mr. Nielsen, I respectfully request you stop posting articles like this. You do yourself and the usability field a disservice by speaking in terms that are vague, not backed up with research data, and filled with hyperbole. Further, until you learn more about what it takes to be a designer, and what it means to design a product with your own two hands, I respectfully request you stop trying to dictate any design agenda as some subset of what you view as the usability agenda.
Those of us in the design and usability biz need leaders to help us demand more from those who develop products and services. But while Jakob's spin may get him the press he clearly desires, I'm not sure it's our best choice for effecting real change in business.
Thanks to InfoDesign for the pointer.
February 20, 2004
Kitchen Stories--a UCD comedy
NPR had a review of Kitchen Stories this morning. It's an independent movie from Norway that's currently only showing in NY and LA, but it sounds like a movie any user-centered designer or ethnographer might find especially interesting.
Here's a detailed synopsis from MovieWeb:
In post-World War II Scandinavia, home science is a booming industry and Sweden's Home Research Institute is conducting studies aimed at standardizing the average household kitchen along the lines of an ultra-efficient assembly-line model. Over time, the researchers discover that simply by organizing the kitchens workstations properly, based on the layout of factories, the benefits (in terms of time, money and physical exertion) for a household could be enormous. Or, as a Swedish ad for the new ideal kitchen of the time put it: "Instead of a housewife having to walk what is the equivalent of Sweden to the Congo during a year of cooking, she now only needs to walk to northern Italy in order to get food on the table."
After thoroughly mapping the Swedish housewifes behavior in the kitchen, scientists at the Institute feel ready to venture beyond their own geographic and gender-based limitations. So, in the early 50s they send 18 observers to the rural farming district of Landstad, Norway, with its surplus of bachelors, to study the kitchen routines of single men.
In order to be on 24-hour call, the observers live in egg-shaped pea-green campers outside each subjects house. From custom-made observation chairs strategically placed high above each kitchen, they study and take notes. The observers must be allowed to come and go as they please, and under no circumstances must they be spoken to or included in kitchen activities. Immediately regretful of having signed up to be observed, Isak (who thought that by doing so he would be given a horse) makes it ridiculously difficult for Folke to analyze him. But small kindnesses whittle away at the wall between them, and they embark on a tentative friendship, much to the chagrin of Folke's by-the-book supervisor, who has zero tolerance for any deviations in this "scientific" inquiry.
DC's not exactly Podunk, Iowa, so perhaps it will show up here. (As an aside, I did not know that there are five Podunk's in the US. None are in Iowa.)
January 9, 2004
Norman on PowerPoint
Am I the only one who is getting tired of seeing David Byrne in the press as the counterpoint to Tufte regarding PowerPoint?
Well, glory hallelujah! It's not mainstream media (yet), but Cliff Atkinson (who is making a career out of fixing organizations' problems with PowerPoint) has an interview with Don Norman on the subject. I like it because it says exactly what I think about PowerPoint.
Here are some extracts I like:
PowerPoint is NOT the problem. The problem is bad talks, and in part, this comes about because of so many pointless meetings, where people with - or without - a point to make - have to give pointless talks. ...
It's hard to keep up on all the PowerPoint mentions lately, but a good resource if you're so inclined is sooper.org's powerpointless?
Some articles that haven't yet made it to that list but have appeared recently are:
Finally, while browsing the website of a design firm I worked at in the mid-1990's, I came across a real solution to the fundamental problem: designing PowerPoint presentations to serve only as a speaker's aid rather than to serve the audience. Evil Genius (The Good Side of PowerPoint) shows an option to take advantage of PowerPoint's notes capability to design slides that are visually interesting for audiences (and providing basic cues for speakers) and that have notes to support post-session use. The notes field can also be highlighted to support speakers who require more support than the basic outline provided by the visual slides.
December 21, 2003
Tim Bray on PowerPoint
If youre going to escape the tyranny of the bullet point, you have to get away from the idea that whats in your slides is the content of your presentation. Slides arent big enough or rich enough or smart enough to themselves contain any presentation worth listening to for more than about ten minutes. Instead, your slides are a visual auxiliary to your material; no more, no less.
Am I being crass for suggesting this is another "not the tool, but the toolsmith" perspective?
December 19, 2003
Doc Searls on presentations
First, I've got to say I love PowerPoint, just like I used to love Persuasion, and before that I loved MORE, which was the original presentation program. In fact, I'm one of those guys for whom no software ever got in the way of anything other than the time I should spend away from the computer.
There's a lot more useful information about actually doing presentations, which I think supports my position that the problem is not the tool. The real issue is the lack of emphasis on designing something that really supports the audience rather than the speaker. Doc's got some useful real-world suggestions for changing the focus...check it out!
December 13, 2003
Ah, the joys of being Don Norman. His new book, Emotional Design, isn't yet available (will be released on 12/23), yet it is now 20,578 on Amazon's sales rank. Contrast that to the little academic book that Mike Albers and I worked on...which a year later has hit 580,099...woo baby, time to quit the day job (not :).
Seriously, Amazon's offering Emotional Design for under $20 for a hardcover. Such a deal! But if you're not yet convinced, you can take a look at some sample chapters on Don's site.
December 11, 2003
One hot design book
Here's a new book that's making the rounds: Universal Principles of Design. Mike dropped by my office a couple days ago to show it to me, after having heard about it from Victor (who heard about it from Adam).
The buzz may well be justified. Here's a blurb from Amazon:
Universal Principles of Design is the first comprehensive, cross-disciplinary encyclopedia of design. Richly illustrated and easy to navigate, it pairs clear explanations of every design concept with visual examples of the concepts applied in practice. From the "80/20 rule to chunking, from baby-face bias to Occam's razor, and from self-similarity to storytelling, every major design concept is defined and illustrated for readers to expand their knowledge.
Courtesy of one-click ordering, it's on its way to my mailbox!
December 9, 2003
Fortune: From drab to fab
Is it just me, or is design getting some fab press? In late October, there was a design issue of Newsweek. Then at the end of November, there was a design issue of the New York Times Magazine. This Fortune article is a nice complement. Some highlights from this piece:
How do the savviest companies come up with designs that excite consumers and spur sales? For starters, they don't make the design department a product's last stop after it has already passed through the engineering and manufacturing departments. ...
December 2, 2003
Patrick Whitney on HCD
Another failed weblogs.com ping sent me browsing MT's activity log again. Today's failed search term from the log is Patrick Whitney, who is Director of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
I've just printed out an interview he did with the Danish Design Center last spring on Why Human-Centered Design is the Design of the Future (pdf).
This page from IIT is probably full of lots of other interesting fodder as well, but I'm off to one of my last classes for the semester.
November 24, 2003
usability versus innovation
I'm off tomorrow for some family turkey day festivities, so the pickings here will be slim for the next several days. But in the spirit, let's leave you with this "meaty" question...are usability and innovation diammetrically opposed?
On one hand, we have Nico Macdonald, who asks whether design is for or by the people? He notes:
Usability and the cautious thinking it embodies has come to dominate thinking about the design process. ... If usability becomes the focus too early in the development of a product it is likely that a more ingenious and ambitious way of solving the problem will be missed, and a less useful and desirable solution will be polished to perfection.
Contrast this thinking with the latest from Jakob Nielsen, regarding the rather poor usability of current web applications:
A key lesson from many other fields is that continuous quality improvement is the way to true excellence. That's a lucky break: Web usability is so far behind that there's no hope of reaching acceptable quality in a single leap. Continuous improvement is our only chance.
Maybe it is my philosophical bent, but I continue to believe that there is a useful middle ground between user-centered design and designer-centered design. Thus the question shouldn't really be usability versus innovation, but more "given this specific project, what is ideal?" There are people in the UCD camp (like Whitney Quesenbery) who espouse this balanced view, but alas, it doesn't seem common yet.
November 21, 2003
Hargadon on innovation
Yesterday's search mining also yielded the term hargadon, which apparently refers to professor and author Andrew Hargadon. He's an Associate Professor of Technology Management at the Graduate School of Management at UCDavis and author of How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate.
A Google search turned up this recent interview in ACM's Ubiquity magazine. The interview discusses why "out-of-the-box thinking" may not be so great, the myth of the "Great Man" theory of invention, and how artists approach innovation and what we can learn.
The main focus of his research/book:
The book recognizes the importance of continuity and its critical role in the innovation process. By focusing on recombining existing ideas -- rather than inventing new ones -- we can better exploit the sources of innovation and, at the same time, increase the likelihood of their impact. It's much easier to think of things that have already been done and, when you introduce those ideas into new markets, they are already well developed. The trick is putting yourself or your firm into position to be the first to see these opportunities.
I wonder if this view of innovation might be more palatable those who despair innovation fetishization.
November 19, 2003
CFP: AoIR 2004
I'd really like to add this one to my conference calendar for 2004! It's Internet Research 5.0: Ubiquity? in Sussex, UK, September 19-22, 2004.
Internet Research 5.0 will feature a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives on the Internet. Examining and challenging the visibility and prevalence of the Internet and Internet discourses, the conference will bring together a wide range of researchers, practitioners and scholars for the exchange of formal and informal ideas. As with previous AoIR conferences, the aim is to promote a deep, coherent and situated understanding of the Internet and connected networks.
Deadline for submissions is February 2nd.
November 17, 2003
The DSL comes back tomorrow...yeah! Only two weeks after the move...guess it could be worse. I'll be back to more traditional blogging then. In the meantime, here are a few more interesting links for your blog surfin' pleasure:
November 10, 2003
Mo's design luv
I came across Moluv's Picks today. I'm on dialup for another week until Verizon gets my DSL moved, so I'm not going to surf this site too much for now. But design fans may want to check it out. Too bad there is no obvious RSS feed.
October 31, 2003
UCD meets XP/Agile
And here's another list pointer. William Hudson alerted folks to a draft of an article he's done for the Cutter IT Journal. It's a simulated conversation between a UCD consultant and an XP team leader: Adopting User-centered Design within an Agile Process (PDF). It starts:
eXtreme Programming and other Agile processes provide a middle ground between chaos and over-elaborate processes sometimes referred to as "death by documentation." A particularly attractive aspect of the Agile approach for many teams is its willingness to accommodate change no matter how advanced development might be. However, this very flexibility can cause user interface design issues and ensuing usability problems.
I'm assuming that XP/Agile are primarily relevant in software applications development. Are people using it for web sites or web applications? Inquiring minds and all that!
Skills Framework for the Information Age
Here's another email list tidbit. Whitney Quesenbery pointed to an interesting initiative across the pond: it's the UK-based Skills Framework for the Information Age Foundation (SFIA). From the what is SFIA? page:
The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective Information Systems (IS) making use of Information Communications Technologies (ICT). It is a simple and logical two-dimensional framework consisting of areas of work on one axis and levels of responsibility on the other.
There's a section that describes the structure of the SFIA framework, which describes "what ICT practitioners and users do."
When I get a few moments, I'm looking forward to exploring this in more detail. There may well be some useful concepts for the whole "big picture" UX/ED issue.
October 28, 2003
Design conference borgashmord
I meant to get to this earlier, but peterme has written volumes on his weblog about some recent UX/ED conferences. First, he writes four entries about the HITS 2003 conference (one, two, three, and a postscript). If you're so inclined, you can get HITS slides and posters.
Next, he waxed poetic about About, With and For in two parts (one and two). This conference was a 1+ day event at IIT immediately after HITS2003 and seemingly geared towards a student audience (IIT students attend free).
He was less happy with a conference he didn't attend: AIGA's Power of Design. Peter was not impressed with the seeming "circle jerk" supposedly described by Dirk Kneymeyer's notes from the conference. Not sure I agree with him there, but his view seems widely shared among the non-AIGA UX/ED folks. Perhaps a challenge for DUX2005?
October 21, 2003
E-commerce and the environment
According to the announcement:
Articles in the special issue analyze the environmental consequences of telecommuting and assess the transformation of the wholesale, warehouse and retail sectors of the economy by network technology. The environmental impact of conventional and electronic approaches to grocery shopping, book selling and scholarly journals are compared and the possibility of using product tags to improve recycling is explored. The research ranges from the U.S. to Germany, from Finland to Japan.
A lot of the articles are really about the environment (including one on greenhouse gas emissions and home grocery delivery in Finland! Others are more generically relevant to the whole society and technology conversation, particularly the reviews of books like Castells' Rise of the Network Society and Brown and Daguid's The Social Life of Information. Interesting that their method for making these available is to simply create PDFs of the relevant print pages...so in some cases, you'll need to skip over text in the first column!
Funding from the NSF (where I would love to work some day) has enabled them to make this issue available for free. However, you do have to register to download articles.
October 16, 2003
More from Clement Mok
Oy, I've had to change the channel...the Yankees have tied it up :(. Courtesy of TiVo, I can watch the rest of the game later if it doesn't go even more downhill. In the meantime, here's a quickie post to take my mind off the game (and the MLB.com score card in the background).
The latest issue of NextD journal has come out with an interview with Clement Mok [ framed | unframed ]. This follows up on his recent Time for a Change call to design professionals, which has also appeared in Communication Arts.
Over on Contact Sheet, Scott provides an interesting take on this call. He also points out that you can get the snazzy version of of this pitch here. I don't mind the Flash presentation, but think it might not have been the best design to assume the reading speed they did. Making folks click next would be bad, but a small speed and/or rewind control wouldn't have hurt!
October 6, 2003
October's First Monday
September 28, 2003
NYTimes on PowerPoint
The recent media fascination with PowerPoint continues, with the latest coming from the New York Times (free, registration required):
Is there anything so deadening to the soul as a PowerPoint presentation?
The article goes on to rather superficially deal with the question of whether "PowerPoint-muffled messages have real consequences, perhaps even of life or death." The article summarized Tufte's analysis of one of the slides Boeing assembled related to the recent Columbia disaster this way:
Among other problems, Mr. Tufte said, a crucial piece of information that the chunk of foam was hundreds of times larger than anything that had ever been tested was relegated to the last point on the slide, squeezed into insignificance on a frame that suggested damage to the wing was minor.
As I just commented on the ID-Cafe list, I wonder if his analysis isn't really a bigger indictment of a human (or business?) tendency to either avoid saying something your superiors don't want to hear or the inability to actually find the relevant facts in a sea of data.
With all its faults, is PowerPoint really the reason that this key piece of evidence was buried where it was?
September 22, 2003
We had a school reception yesterday, and one of my classmates (Yoram, who has neglected his weblog or I'd link to it) and I were talking about the issue of IT and the diffusion of innovation. He recommended two books that look very promising if you're into this space: The Innovator's Dilemma and Weird Ideas That Work.
September 15, 2003
Innovation and design
This is worth moving up from comment status. Avi Solomon has pointed to a great resource in the innovation and design space: Andrew Hargadon has very interesting research available based on his work at/study of IDEO and a presentation he did based on it called When Innovations Meet Institutions.
August 30, 2003
Priorities for the big picture
While I was off tailing after eight-year-old twins at the beach, Paula Thornton engaged a few folks behind the scenes for some more discussion about the "big picture." One of the resources she pointed folks to was a draft document Challis Hodge did in the spring called The Future of Design (PDF). In it, he makes some of the same great points that have appeared on his weblog and on a variety of lists, such as:
We talk about making things more usable, about creating brand loyalty, about making
the world a better place. We struggle with ROI models, case studies and methods to
communicate our value. Still we find ourselves in the same situation, having the same
discussion. We just don't get why business doesn't understand.
Designers can and should bring a strategic perspective and a set of unique skills capable of simplifying complexity, taming technology and yes making the world a better place. Before we can even begin we must recognize that the problem is not that business doesn't understand design. The problem is that businesses have no incentive to focus significant resources on the strategic benefits design can bring.
Quite simply, we need an umbrella organization for design advocacy. An organization that is capable of waging a serious and professional marketing and development campaign. An organization that is capable of driving political, social and cultural change.
I'm a bit bummed that someone who has such a great handle on the big picture (as Paula would say) has decided instead to focus on the roots of his elm tree instead of the canopy--as he's mentioned, he's focusing on a home for interaction designers these days.
I understand the attraction. I've often thought that had I started out as a user-interface programmer, I'd still be programming. Instead, I started out coding signal processing algorithms in Fortran for a subcontractor to the NSA. I came close again ten years later, when I was at MAYA, where I coded interface prototypes in Visual Basic. There is a lot that's interesting in interface/interaction development! But I had grown tired of Pittsburgh (again) just as the web became something one could make money working on. Anyways, I digress.
I get why interaction designers want their own space. Same reasons essentially that led to AIfIA. Ah well, I wish them luck! In the meantime, I'll continue to dabble in discussions about a potential "interfaith council" of sorts. For today, I want to explore a bit what this council/institute/association might actually do, given that I do not think that preaching to the choir is the big focus.
Here are some potential priorities that I "borrowed" from an existing association (it's usually easier to edit than create).
Do you have an idea which organization has these as its priorities? Did you guess this one?
My point isn't really that we should adopt their priorities or that our products are that similar. It's actually that we would be well served by doing a lot more looking outward to see how we can learn from others who have already solved similar problems, rather than our intensive navel-gazing about how our field is "the" answer or "the" umbrella discipline. Whitney Quesenbery (who really should write something on this subject for public consumption...hint hint) came up with the similarity of some of our discussions to that of the Kilkenny cats.
I continue to believe that none of the existing organizations (or the new interaction design organization) has the resources or the clout to do this on their own. I continue to hope that we'll see some kind of multi-disciplinary forum--our "interfaith council"--where we can find our common positions. Lyle's metaphor (described here) is the call: a rising tide raises all boats.
August 21, 2003
The other ID
IDEO's people and work practices are unique, but they are as much a result of IDEO's innovation strategies as they are a cornerstone of it. Underlying this creative cacophony is a singular advantage IDEO enjoys over its clients and many others. By virtue of having worked in so many different industries, the company is far more likely to see (or simply remember) new ways of solving longstanding problems in one industry by importing ideas from others.
Challis mentions the article to raise the point about IDEO's ability to position themselves well. I'm mentioning it here because a few folks have asked me in private conversations why so few of the UX/ED/ID/IA discussions include what we can learn from industrial designers. Good question! Worth a more serious response sometime soon, but in the meantime, I like the idea that our communities would be well served by importing more ideas from others--rather than staying in our own little silos.
August 17, 2003
Brands and culture
Andrew Zolli has an interesting read about brands, commercialism, and culture in his weblog called No Logo vs. Pro Logo: How Both Sides Get It Wrong (sorry, you gotta scroll...no permalinks). He makes a fairly good case for why the "anti-corporate activist and corporate leader" need to meet in the middle:
For starters, brands aren't invading the culture, for many they are the culture. The marketplace has trumped other 'meaning making' institutions in people's lives, from political parties to religious institutions. Ask an average citizen to name their elected representatives and you'll get a disinterested stare, but everybody has a passionately held opinion about Walmart.
There's more good stuff there. But I must admit that every once in a while, I just get a kick out of checking out the activist stuff (like these spoof ads from the folks at Adbusters).
August 11, 2003
My left field idea
Nearly two years ago (November 2001), Lou Rosenfeld got a bunch of folks from a variety of disciplines together via email (and later at a number of conferences) to discuss organizations, infrastructure, and information architecture. Fairly early on, there were a handful of folks who were very interested in a new organization for IA (which subsequently became AIfIA) and another handful who were interested in what we referred to as the "interfaith council" -- a group meant to share what were clearly overlapping interests (DUX2003 came out of some of those discussions).
Now it's August 2003, and Tog wants to create a new title and a new organization: the Interaction Architects Association. I'm not sure that the title change will be worth the hassle, and I think that creating a new organization is not for lightweights. But I wish Tog luck, and if this new org's dues are as reasonable as AIfIA's, I'll join. But Tog's new organization is unlikely to solve what I see as the bigger problem...how to get business to make more (and better) use of these kinds of skills.
I've participated in both the early IA discussion and this more recent discussion for one real reason: I'm far more interested in the effort that will raise the visibility (and value) of all of these related skills, whether you call them UX, ED, ID, IA, usability, or whatever. I like the way that Lyle Kantrovich put it:
A rising tide raises all boats.
But up to this point, most of the "big picture" discussions have generated more quibbling than results (and I'll cop to being a grade-A quibbler myself). No single group has been able to position itself as the "umbrella" for these activities. Most often, terminology (whether it is experience design, user experience, information design, information architecture, usability, interaction whatever) carries some baggage with it that others are unwilling to carry.
So that's one problem. The other is I suspect that none of the individual organizations have sufficient resources to "raise the tide." I agree with Challis Hodge when he says:
What we need to be talking about is an organization that can wage a serious and professional marketing and development campaign--in the context of business.
What we don't really need (though I wouldn't mind them) are more conferences, lists, journals, etc., where we are primarily preaching to the choir. And my apologies to Mark Hurst, but as I wrote earlier, I'm not sure we want a field (or an organization) to "disappear" either. In short, I think we need to raise our visibility (and our perceived value) among the people who hold the purse strings.
So here is my left-field idea to do that.
That's it so far. My fundamental premise is that we'll have more success working together on a common goal than we will with a dozen different organizations focusing more on our differences. The original "interfaith council" used the religious symbolism intentionally...it's not about creating a single religion (or user experience field), but rather finding what we agree on, working to advance that, and then helping to educate about the differences. The rising tide and all that!
So now, it's your turn. I think there's a pony in this rhetorical BS, so I'm posting this to see if I can get some bright folk out there to help dig it out :). What do you think?
August 6, 2003
On design and business
Over on InfoDesign, Peter points to what Clement Mok has been up to since finishing his term as president of AIGA: re-energizing his Visual Symbols Library as a business. I enjoyed re-loading the home page to see the same image zoomed or cropped differently.
So I followed some links to Clement's home page and found a link to an article in Inc magazine from last fall titled "Driven by Design." It's an interesting read given the current discussions going on about new organizations and terms for umbrella disciplines.
I'd pointed earlier to his CommArts article back in May, but if you missed it then, it's also worth a check!
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to email@example.com.
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multimedia & broadband
society & technology
words can't describe
STC Information Design SIG
boxes and arrows
information design journal
aiga experience design
asilomar institute for information architecture
society for technical communication
usability professionals association
gratuitous right-nav promos