“The details are not the details, they make the design.” – Charles Eames
Most people think that design is just about deliverables. But, every great designer knows that it’s really about the process of discovery, problem, and solve that we go through to ultimately reach the design. What design is really about, is the million little details and the thoughtful decisions that we make along the way. Unfortunately, with the democratization of design, comes a focus on deliverables, and a sacrifice of the details.
Today, everyone thinks they’re a designer. This can be attributed to the ever growing popularity of the fields of user experience and design (in fact, the field is in such demand, that Inc Magazine listed it as one of the 5 hardest jobs to fill in 2012.) Needless to say, in a very short amount of time, the field has gone from being relatively unknown to now a buzzword – something that everyone feels they’re qualified to govern. As a result, the very details that “make the design” are at risk.
The popularization of the field of user experience is causing a growing focus on the deliverable and not enough attention on the details. Why? I think it’s because it’s easy for people who are not trained in user experience to focus on the deliverable and to base input on opinion instead of objective reasoning. People who don’t have experience in practicing user experience don’t want to go through the process – they don’t want to do the time and focus on the details that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that ideas can come from anywhere in a team. However, I also believe that in order for an idea to be great, it needs to fit into, and add value to, the entire story of the product (I’m big on storytelling, read more in UX Magazine). It needs to be a vetted detail that fits into the entire experience.
Picasso said that “Good artists copy; great artists steal”. It certainly makes sense to steal ideas, especially when it comes to interfaces that consumers are familiar with. However, it doesn’t make sense to steal when you haven’t considered the context and the story. Too many times, people steal simply because “the other guys did it” or because “it’s a popular ux pattern”. But the truth is, unless you’ve considered the effect that an element has on the entire experience, unless you’ve considered the details, your product probably isn’t going anywhere. Stealing can make you good; design will make you great.
So what can we do? How can we help ensure that the details are not diluted? How can we bring a focus back to process and away from deliverables? I think that a key part of the solution lies in figuring out how to help organizations adopt more design thinking and apply more ideas from the design process to every part of the organization. If we can allow everyone to participate in the process, then they’ll appreciate the details. Not easy, but something to think about.
Anyone else there have ideas or see other risks associated with the popularization of user experience?