This is why so many people have an opinion about design

With more companies focusing on design as a competitive advantage, it seems as if everyone is suddenly a designer.

Register now for OSCON EU, October 26 to 28, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where Tom Greever will present the session “Articulating design decisions.”

skyscraper-418189_1280The more that I talk to people about what it means to explain design, the more I realize that everyone across all types of organizations — from product companies to nonprofits to universities to health care — is intensely interested in it. Everyone now has an opinion about design, and we’ve all been in the position of having to defend our choices or suggestions.

Developers, product owners, project managers, and even CEOs are intimately involved in design processes now — increasingly, it seems as if everyone is a designer. But it hasn’t always been this way — so, why now do so many people have an opinion about design?

In the past decade, design and UX has gone “mainstream.” The most popular and interesting companies have put design at the forefront of their product offerings, creating a buzz culture that drools over every new release and a fan following that promotes their brand for them. I’m not only thinking of Apple, but also brands such as IKEA, innovators like Tesla, and unique problem-solving designs from Dyson, Segway, or Nest. These brands command respect, elicit strong opinions, and foster loyalty from the people who follow them. This elevation of design conversations within today’s companies , organizations, and throughout the public in general exemplifies a democratization of design that we haven’t before experienced.

Here, I’ll explore several factors contributing to design’s growing ubiquity.

Social media has changed how people view digital products

It’s not only physical products that have transformed our understanding of the value of design. Social media platforms have shown that UX is a critical component to success. Millions of people use Facebook every single day. Each minor tweak to the UI or change to the design incurs the praise or wrath of every user. Why? Because Facebook (and other services like it) is a very personal part of our lives. Never before have we had a platform for sharing the most intimate and mundane details of our everyday experiences. Read more…

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Understanding the rules of critique

Four rules to ensure critiques remain focused, efficient, and effective.

This excerpt was co-authored by Aaron Irizarry.

Register now for the O’Reilly Design Conference, which will be held January 19-22, 2016, in San Francisco. Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry will present the session, “Discuss design without losing your mind.” Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our recent book “Discussing Design,” by Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry.

350px_Chinese_movement_escapement_and_jewelsThere are four key rules of critique that we need to keep in mind. Paying attention to these rules will help to ensure that our discussion remains focused, efficient, and effective. It’s the facilitator’s job to make certain these rules are adhered to, but it’s a good idea to share them with the team.

Especially in formal critiques, we want to confirm that all participants know about and understand these rules. Don’t hesitate to review them quickly at the beginning of the discussion or post them in the room where the critique is being conducted.

Everyone is equal

Organizational hierarchy has an uncanny ability to make people feel like their perspectives and opinions carry more or less weight than others. Although it’s true that an organization might make decisions based on what its leaders think as opposed to other employees, it isn’t inherently true that their opinions are more accurate just because they’re executives.

It is important in a critique that we remember this and that everyone’s observations and perspectives are listened to equally. More attention should not be paid to those of a higher position just because of that position. You may be familiar with the acronym HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion); it’s a killer when it comes to effective critique. Read more…

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Data, design, and intuition

The O’Reilly Design Podcast: Pamela Pavliscak on designing for happiness.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Design Podcast, our podcast exploring how experience design — and experience designers — are shaping business, the Internet of Things, and other domains.


In this week’s Design Podcast episode, I sit down with design researcher and data scientist Pamela Pavliscak. Pavliscak is the author of Data-Informed Product Design, a free report from O’Reilly, and will be speaking at OReilly’s inaugural design conference.

Pavliscak talks about the delicate relationship between data and design, and why it’s not an either or proposition, as well as why designing for happiness is good for business.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

We like to think in dichotomies for when it’s either data or intuition. I think of it more like archaeology. Archaeology is not always about finding the big celebrities or what the important heroes and personalities of history do. It’s about learning more about the everyday practices of people. You have these clues, these traces left behind. Like archaeology, the science gets more sophisticated. Archaeologists have remote sensing and X-ray guns. Data scientists have algorithms and AI. The big difference is, these people that we’re learning about with data science are still around. We can learn about them in their own words and rely on them to share their feelings and their context. For me, it’s not really an either-or, but more of kind of an improv ‘yes-and’ kind of relationship.

I always suspected that delight, that concept that we have in design, wasn’t the full story of what made people happy. The small moments, the small pleasures certainly factored in, but it really seemed that the patterns fell into this kind of deeper meaning. I would see people for Humans of New York — this is the happiest site in the world for people. Not in the sense that it’s showing happy things, but because it makes people feel connected. It’s connected to a story, and it’s connected to a story that’s not complete. There’s still room for people. Those are the kind of moments that came out.

You’ll find that happier employees are more productive and they find more meaning in their work at the same time. Even way back to the 80s, I found some research on product detachment, and found that happiness and brand detachment are somehow linked together. There’s Martin Seligman’s PERMA, there’s subjective well-being scale, there’s Maslow’s hierarchy, which of course we all know by heart. Countries are applying happiness initiatives to supplement their GDP. We’re learning more about this through behavioral economics and these different models.

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Take the design salary survey

Help us gain insight into the tools, work environments, and salaries of today's designers.


Designers are in demand.You’ve read the stories – IBM hiring 1,000 designers and investing $100 million in user experience design. Companies are fiercely competing for design talent, and poaching has become a way of life for large and small companies alike.

Given the tumultuous design landscape, we’re launching our inaugural Design Salary Survey to help shed some light on the discipline. The goal of our survey is to identify key trends, assess the tools market, and identify what skills correlate with higher salaries.

Additionally, our survey will shed light on design titles. There is plenty of debate over job titles in the field. The nebulous nature of job titles is both confusing and distracting — interaction designer, UX designer, experience designer, product designer, and the list goes on. Our survey will classify the titles by responsibilities, and identify trends, tools, and what pays (and what doesn’t).

We’ll also be taking a close look at the design tools market. New tools are emerging everyday — it’s no longer a one pony show with Adobe owning the market. The options are so abundant and overwhelming, Khoi Vinh recently conducted a survey of the design tools space. Survey results showed a mix of both newcomers and old-school tools, illustrating the dynamic nature of the market. Read more…

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Understanding the experience design of consumer IoT products

Great UX for IoT requires cross-discipline collaboration between design, technology, and business.

Download a free copy of our new report “User Experience Design for the Internet of Things,” by Claire Rowland, to learn about a framework for understanding the UX of consumer IoT products. Note: this post is an excerpt from the report.

Trapeze_artists_1890When we think of design for connected products, we tend to focus on the most visible and tangible elements. These are the industrial design of connected devices, and the user interfaces (UIs) found in mobile and Web apps and on the devices themselves.

They are important concerns, which have a major impact on the end user’s experience of the product. But they’re only part of the picture. You could create a beautiful UI, and a stunning piece of hardware, and users could still have a poor experience of the product as a whole.

Designing for IoT is inherently more complex than Web service design. Some of this is to do with the current state of the technology. Some of this reflects our as-yet immature understanding of compelling consumer IoT value propositions. Some of this stems from the fact that there are more aspects of design to consider. Tackling them independently creates an incoherent user experience (UX).

Designing a great connected product requires a holistic approach to user experience. It spans many layers of design, not all them immediately visible. More than ever, it requires cross-discipline collaboration between design, technology, and business. Great UX may start with understanding users. But the designer’s ability to meet those users’ needs depends on the technology enablers, business models, and wider service ecosystem. Read more…

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Design for the greater good

The O’Reilly Design Podcast: Gretchen Anderson on designing for social impact.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Design Podcast, our podcast exploring how experience design — and experience designers — are shaping business, the Internet of Things, and other domains.

471px-Holy-grail-round-table-bnf-ms_fr-116F-f610v-15th-detailIn this week’s Design Podcast episode, I sit down with designer Gretchen Anderson. Anderson is the author of the free O’Reilly report Designing for Social Impact and a program committee member for OReilly’s inaugural design conference, where she is also moderating a panel on designing with data for social impact.

In this podcast episode, Anderson talks about design as a force to improve our lives and about approaching design as an inclusive discipline.

Here are a few highlights from our chat:

Forget the color palette conversations. Stop trying to make everyone understand the craft of design any more than they want to — just take your seat at the table. Greg Petroff talks about how designers can be a little bit paranoid by nature. I think that comes with the territory. There can be a lot of ‘us and them’ — I think it’s important to really drop that way of thinking. Not everyone does what you do, but that does not mean that you aren’t part of a larger ecosystem; you want to foster that creative part of bringing everyone together.

Design is about finding and testing and being able to hold a point of view on what people need and want, whatever your mission or enterprise is, and being someone who can reconcile constraints into something awesome, not just the sad compromise of everyone’s democracy. Have the bravery and the skills to hold that and the relentless passion and patience for refinement of an idea, even the bad ones sometimes.

Read more…

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