How often do things in your everyday life that seem to be easy at first glance, turn out to be the major causes of your problems? How many things should be changed around to avoid these awkward stumbles and mistakes? For example, the handle shaft that comes out not by pressing, but turning the top of the handle. A door that is not clear how to open by pushing or pulling. Or the usual kettle button that can either turn it on or open. All this was created due to mistakes in design education. We encounter these trifles every day and do not even notice them; that is why they can remain unchanged for years and dozens of years.
Don Norman, in his book The Design of Everyday Things, says that if you somehow encounter such problems and that causes you discomfort, it is not your fault. These are the designers’ problems. Behind all that, there is a very simple global idea: we need to make things easy so that they are user-friendly and it doesn’t take time to understand how to interact with them. This idea became the basis for what we now call User Experience (UX) Design. The author of the book is recognized as the inventor of this term in 1993 when he joined the distinguished ranks of Apple.
Today, top management of multiple companies consider it as one of the main priorities to hire UX Designers for their team. Why? The answer is obvious: every dollar spent in the US brings from 2 to 100 times bigger profit. And this state of things has led to the fact that now in order to find someone who is really talented among the workers in this area, you need to dig deep. Where exactly should you look for UX designers? This is a very common situation in the labor market today.
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Where to Find UX Designers?
If your first guess turned out to be the most obvious, do not be fooled by this, it may well be a common mistake. Not all schools graduate are really skilled, besides not all of them are ready to work in certain companies. In the era of computer technology and self-development, designer neither has to attend a school nor necessarily should show his projects to the world. Most of what designers do today is very different from what designers did before. And that’s why we need a new design for education also.
Some things created by today’s designers cannot be exhibited as they are simply not physical objects and they have no beauty in its literal meaning. To make it clearer here is an example: when you leave the store with goods and money is immediately read from your card – this is also design. It makes your life more convenient, but a contactless reading of the card is not shown at the exhibition. The same situation with the taxi service where you do not have to pay to the driver. Just call the car, sit down, get to the right place and leave.
Norman says that the field has long gone beyond the interaction with the computer and moved on to interaction with the world. And to solve today’s everyday problems, it’s not enough just to be a designer. It is necessary to study different disciplines and solve problems with the help of knowledge at their intersection. Technology, politics, business, social sciences, art. All that has a thousand of its internal problems and a sea of knowledge to solve them. It is only necessary to collect them and apply, to restore order.
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Experience and Knowledge
Even Steve Jobs, back in 1996, spoke about this approach in an interview. He talked about the fact that many people from the field do not have diverse experience from different areas, which is so necessary for deep thinking. Therefore, the decisions that designers make are very linear and superficial. And the more they dive into the problems that a person faces every day, the better the cases will be. But of course, this does not mean that a person should not have the basic knowledge. The only problem is that the young designer gets other knowledge and experience behind the walls of the school. It’s good that there are so many different blogs, forums, online courses and templates that designers can use and learn to broaden their horizons and get better at solving more problems.
Aaron Walter and Eli Woolery created DesignBetter.co. This platform helps to collect all the best designer cases in one place and solves the problem of fragmentation. Because even with the existence of all these online resources, and pages, the average designer simply will not waste time searching for the best of them and will not be able to find them all. In addition, any user will be able to find on the platform useful books and successful cases.
Educational institutions for designers have become worn and slow: they often do not have the time or wish to change their schedule and content of classes, find new modern teachers and update the curriculum due to future education technology. The world of design is changing much faster than schools and graduates are simply not ready to solve real-world problems in practice. Therefore, this is the best way out in the situation. The closer the designer is to the problem and so to say “in the fields”, the better he understands what people in everyday life face with and what he needs to do or change in order to improve the quality of life.
Another important feature of gaining experience is that the only correct way does not exist. But there is definitely a wrong approach – to sit and do nothing. Because you need to get as much experience from different areas, solve as many problems as possible, study as many cases as possible and try to put all the knowledge gained into practice.
Even Norman doesn’t have any particular scheme for obtaining knowledge and says that everything he did in life regarding his work is chaos. And if he first started to possess all the knowledge that he now has, he does not know where he could be.
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Many designers are now working on large projects that should solve serious problems in the future. These are long-running tasks. But in the era of fast testing, big data, various methods, and approaches to solving problems, many of the designers switch to solving smaller, short-term tasks. And while some of them are focused on improving the quality of people’s lives and human-centric design, other professionals work exclusively with what is designated by the term “user”, which makes their work somewhat narrowly focused. How to make the designers focus on more global issues instead of short-term tasks? What should be the company such people would work for? How do we improve education to improve our future? Some of these issues have been resolved on the 2018 IxDA Education Summit.
Designers were offered various schemes and solutions that would help them focus on long-term projects and draw attention to their work and how it can change the lives of many people. Participants were asked to put this knowledge into practice and check which trends might affect the future of the design of things and interactions. To begin with, the participants were offered a review of an alternative economy focusing the discussion on how to create value for something.
The next step was to train the leaders of various organizations in new futurist techniques, such as scenario planning and forecasting. But this is far from the practical tasks of designers, and therefore modern practices have just begun to consider them.
The problems of obtaining an education have always been compressed by a certain framework of rules and conflicting final goals. Should the future be created by a small group of experienced professionals or a huge mass of people with access to the knowledge base and the ability to develop their skills? The answer was obvious. This way, talented students could do really great things.
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Summing up, it is important to say that each person is a designer in his own way. We live and interact with the world around us, finding inconveniences and shortcomings and come up with various solutions to make our lives more comfortable. The only difference from a professional designer is a set of tools, special skills, experience and a vision of this world a little more clearly. That allows them to more accurately and precisely influence the environment and the objects making them better. It does not matter at all whether it is a short-term project for achieving quick and low-cost results or a large-scale project that will affect the life of a huge number of people for many years to come. The main thing is that this process of improvement should not stop and society should not stop fighting with problems that arise everywhere.
About the author: this is the guest post by Jeremy Raynolds, a young blogger who writes about design, new trends, and technologies at Edubirdie. His articles on the problems of modern design are based on open-mindedness and orientation in modern trends.
Title image by Sahil Sadigov