Must we be Leonardo da Vinci?

19 Dec 2007 - 6:18pm
7 years ago
12 replies
634 reads
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

Yes! We most be the best designer of our generation, as well as the best engineer and scientist!

At least this is a reasonable conclusion you could make by following all of the heated arguments in the threads:
* "Design" in Interaction Design?
* The mighty UX guru has spoken - Discuss!!

We are in the midst of creating a new field. If we define this field as GraphicDesign + Computer Engineering + Usability Evaluations + UserResearch = Interaction Designer. Then no interaction designers would ever exist. No one can advanced in all of these equally (but for the occasional Leonardo).

When we define this field, we have to leave out our personal history from the equation. It is human nature to put more value into those things we are better at... and since we all came from different backgrounds we are valuing very different things.

I can not find it, but Jared Spool placed a link to his blog which discussed thinking about this in terms of skills and not roles.

In all of the discussion on what skills we need, I did not see anything that talks about what we do. And by this, I mean, hard core deliverables required for us to design the interactions.

The current standard for doing this is wireframes. It strips out all other design considerations so you can focus in on the interactions. If you do not understand typography or layout or contrast (shades of grey... not color) then our design deliverable will likely be incomprehensible.

The value in understanding usability testing is understanding how to validate your design with the folks who will really be using it. Art does not need validation, design does.

The value of user research is the ability to gain empathy for your users. This empathy is not gained by filling out a persona Grid and picking a picture for that persona. The value is in the process of finding something meaningful in the overwhelming amount of information you got from your time spent with the users.

We need to understand and work closely with the designers responsible for the final look and feel. Form and function interplay with each other. We start the interplay by doing the functional design. They do the form design. We iterate between each other until we feel we each have the best design for our area of responsibility (or you run out of time). [Sure some folks have the skills to do both of these, but I find innovation comes when these two perspectives have to verbally resolve design conflicts... a sane person can rarely argue both sides well through internal dialogue]

We need to understand what it takes to build these designs. No point in designing the best interaction possible if no one can build it within the budget you have for the project.

So, by my definition, to be a good interaction designer you need to:
* Focus in on just the interaction design (the design of the functions)
* Be able to work well with someone responsible for the look and feel (the design of the form)
* Be able to gain empathy with your users
* Be able to validate your designs with your users
* Be able to design something that can be built.

Nick Iozzo
Principal User Experience Architect

tandemseven

847.452.7442 mobile

niozzo at tandemseven.com
http://www.tandemseven.com/

Comments

20 Dec 2007 - 12:40am
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 19, 2007, at 4:18 PM, Nick Iozzo wrote:

> If we define this field as GraphicDesign+ComputerEngineering
> +UsabilityEvaluations+UserResearch = Interaction Designer. Then no
> interaction designers would ever exist. No one can advanced in all
> of these equally (but for the occasional Leonardo).

Given that architects and industrial designers actually have to
learn, be accountable for, have a deep knowledge across a variety of
disciplines, and do more in their profession than what most software
designers or interaction designers are expected to do, I'm going to
have to disagree.

> The value of user research is the ability to gain empathy for your
> users.

Sidenote: The value of research is that it's research. In other
words, it gives you concrete data to work with during the process of
design. Better data and research leads to better decisions. That you
gain empathy in the process is a bonus, but it's not the primary
value of research.

> We need to understand and work closely with the designers
> responsible for the final look and feel.

Better yet... consider that you should become responsible for that
look and feel. I don't know any industrial designers or architects
who say things like, "Let someone else create the outward aesthetic.
I just map out the scaffolding."

> So, by my definition, to be a good interaction designer you need to:
> * Focus in on just the interaction design (the design of the
> functions)
> * Be able to work well with someone responsible for the look and
> feel (the design of the form)
> * Be able to gain empathy with your users
> * Be able to validate your designs with your users
> * Be able to design something that can be built.

I'm going to be blunt again. Those in this field who take this path
-- the one where they willingly hand over large swaths of the design
process to others and skip out on being able to do core design pieces
with their own two hands, whether it be the aesthetic, building the
prototype, or being involved in research -- will find themselves
potentially out of work or at the short end of the stick in five to
ten years once the crop of young talent matures a bit more.
Especially as companies learn to do more with less as they always do
and as technology flattens to the point where those who take
initiative will learn these new tools will be able to build all sorts
of things that were previously much more difficult to near
impossible. The younger designers coming up right now are both eager
and are currently learning all of these skills. And they are hungry.

You can hate me for saying this or be pissed at me for even
suggesting it, but consider I'm just the messenger.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

20 Dec 2007 - 8:02am
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

Andrei, you did not respond to the one of the key points I was making in the original post. That the innovation comes from the interplay of form and function, that interplay plays out best if you have strong designers representing each perspective. One for function one for form.

No reasonable sized project has just one person on it doing all of the design and coding. You will have a team. With that the case, then you appear to be arguing for the Visionary Designer role. The single person who defines the entire design and then has folks do the details.

Continuing with your analogy of Architects: you have a Frank Lloyd Wright with the vision and a team of folks behind the scenes doing the detailed designs of things so that they can be built. Of course, these folks are broken up into specializations. Some are good at the structure items required to build the building, others are good at the architectural details, plus all the third party contractors it takes etc... So the division of responsibility happens under the Visionary.

What I am advocating is the team approach. One person is responsible for the functional design another is responsible for the form design. You dived this responsibility to create a creative tension. You set it up so these two sides have a tug of war with each other. If they have worked together a long time, then they will know how to push each other to be better.

I call the person responsible for the functional design the Interaction Designer. I do not want to name the role of the person responsible for the form designer. As in past posts, the names for that role have caused issues. I do not care what they are called, just what they do; they design the form of the application.

To be a good interaction designer, you need to gain the empathy of your users. You do this by doing actual research not by reading what someone else has done. You need to be able to communicate visually. You need to be able to validate your designs. A good designer for the form of the application needs all of these as well!

So the difference is not in the skills it is in the roles they play to get the job done. The functional designer may never select final typography, but they better be able to call the form designer on bad selections. The form designer may never write detailed interaction specifications, but they better be able to point out a better way to do something if one exists.

I believe I response to all of your points so I cut out the original message in an effort to keep the response short per forum guidelines. But here is the permelink to our reply if I missed something:
http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=23782#23784

Nick Iozzo
Principal User Experience Architect

tandemseven

847.452.7442 mobile

niozzo at tandemseven.com
http://www.tandemseven.com/

20 Dec 2007 - 12:03pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 20, 2007, at 6:02 AM, Nick Iozzo wrote:

> Andrei, you did not respond to the one of the key points I was
> making in the original post. That the innovation comes from the
> interplay of form and function, that interplay plays out best if
> you have strong designers representing each perspective. One for
> function one for form.

That interplay and innovation comes out best when one person is able
to work through it all. Not a team. Teams are needed due to project
deadlines, scope, etc. Teams are the norm, true, but the ideal is
still one person. I very rarely see teams innovate. I often see
single designers innovate.

> No reasonable sized project has just one person on it doing all of
> the design and coding. You will have a team. With that the case,
> then you appear to be arguing for the Visionary Designer role. The
> single person who defines the entire design and then has folks do
> the details.

You can see my talk I posted earlier in a different thread for the
answer to that question.

> What I am advocating is the team approach. One person is
> responsible for the functional design another is responsible for
> the form design. You dived this responsibility to create a creative
> tension. You set it up so these two sides have a tug of war with
> each other. If they have worked together a long time, then they
> will know how to push each other to be better.

This is a mistake, imho. I don't operate like that, and my design
teams don't operate like that. The division of skills I use is where
the designer has to code/build the prototype. Outside of that,
designers who work with me are expected to be interaction/graphic/
information hybrids. I myself am that as well and have been since I
started doing this work.

> To be a good interaction designer, you need to gain the empathy of
> your users. You do this by doing actual research not by reading
> what someone else has done. You need to be able to communicate
> visually. You need to be able to validate your designs. A good
> designer for the form of the application needs all of these as well!

You need empathy, but more importantly, you need data and skills and
the ability to make the right decisions. I know lots of people who
empathize with their users who still make pretty bad products.

> So the difference is not in the skills it is in the roles they play
> to get the job done. The functional designer may never select final
> typography, but they better be able to call the form designer on
> bad selections. The form designer may never write detailed
> interaction specifications, but they better be able to point out a
> better way to do something if one exists.

Again, this is mistake.

Why is this the case by the way? Because learning the basic of good
graphic design is not rocket science. It's quite straight forward.
Once technology flattens some more, once the school systems start
doing better blends of ID, IxDA and Art and Design, then the younger
talent will provide both and more. Further, the basics of good
interaction design are also not rocket science. They are also quite
straight forward. Once you have the basics down, the rest is desire,
passion, drive and good old experience over time from practice,
practice and more practice.

Requiring one person t know and be able to do both is not a high bar
imho. I do it, my designers do it, and I see lots of other designers
coming into the fold who also can do it. And as I said, that skill
set is *still* less than what architects and industrial designers are
expected to know and do in their professions, which is why I push for
the prototyping skills, to reach the same bar as them.

> I believe I response to all of your points so I cut out the
> original message in an effort to keep the response short per forum
> guidelines. But here is the permelink to our reply if I missed
> something: http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=23782#23784

I did respond to your points, by stating that your larger suggestion
that people need to be Leonardo is not correct given what industrial
designers and architects learn and do. I felt that covered it.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

20 Dec 2007 - 1:08pm
Katie Albers
2005

At 10:03 AM -0800 12/20/07, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
>On Dec 20, 2007, at 6:02 AM, Nick Iozzo wrote:
>
>> Andrei, you did not respond to the one of the key points I was
>> making in the original post. That the innovation comes from the
>> interplay of form and function, that interplay plays out best if
>> you have strong designers representing each perspective. One for
>> function one for form.
>
>That interplay and innovation comes out best when one person is able
>to work through it all. Not a team. Teams are needed due to project
>deadlines, scope, etc. Teams are the norm, true, but the ideal is
>still one person. I very rarely see teams innovate. I often see
>single designers innovate.

In my experience, I have found the reverse to be true. When
intelligent people with complementary but different skills, knowledge
and expertise, butt up against each other with a common end goal...it
often sparks innovation.

> > No reasonable sized project has just one person on it doing all of
>> the design and coding. You will have a team. With that the case,
>> then you appear to be arguing for the Visionary Designer role. The
>> single person who defines the entire design and then has folks do
>> the details.
>
>You can see my talk I posted earlier in a different thread for the
>answer to that question.
>
>
>> What I am advocating is the team approach. One person is
>> responsible for the functional design another is responsible for
>> the form design. You dived this responsibility to create a creative
>> tension. You set it up so these two sides have a tug of war with
>> each other. If they have worked together a long time, then they
>> will know how to push each other to be better.
>
>This is a mistake, imho. I don't operate like that, and my design
>teams don't operate like that. The division of skills I use is where
>the designer has to code/build the prototype.

So, you don't actually have a division of skills

>Outside of that,
>designers who work with me are expected to be interaction/graphic/
>information hybrids. I myself am that as well and have been since I
>started doing this work.

I have known many many people who are actual polymaths...and yet
still most of them prefer to work on X, Y or Z aspects of their
respective fields. I have known many more people who consider
themselves to be polymaths -- for a variety of reasons, I don't work
with them.

> > To be a good interaction designer, you need to gain the empathy of
>> your users. You do this by doing actual research not by reading
>> what someone else has done. You need to be able to communicate
>> visually. You need to be able to validate your designs. A good
>> designer for the form of the application needs all of these as well!
>
>You need empathy, but more importantly, you need data and skills and
>the ability to make the right decisions. I know lots of people who
>empathize with their users who still make pretty bad products.
>
>> So the difference is not in the skills it is in the roles they play
>> to get the job done. The functional designer may never select final
>> typography, but they better be able to call the form designer on
>> bad selections. The form designer may never write detailed
>> interaction specifications, but they better be able to point out a
>> better way to do something if one exists.
>
>Again, this is mistake.
>
>Why is this the case by the way? Because learning the basic of good
>graphic design is not rocket science. It's quite straight forward.
>Once technology flattens some more, once the school systems start
>doing better blends of ID, IxDA and Art and Design, then the younger
>talent will provide both and more.

Again, I've seen a lot of the allegedly fearsome alleged polymaths
you predict, and I've found that most of them -- a few years out of
school -- are not as talented at everything as they think they are,
but boy do they have control problems. I avoid hiring them when I can
and falling that I avoid putting them on teams like the plague.

>Further, the basics of good
>interaction design are also not rocket science. They are also quite
>straight forward. Once you have the basics down, the rest is desire,
>passion, drive and good old experience over time from practice,
>practice and more practice.

If you talk to most rocket scientists, rocket science isn't rocket
science. It's easy. It's what their brains do. It's what they've
trained in. It's what they know about. But almost none of them would
claim to be a naval architect, despite the fact that -- once you
substitute liquid for gas -- they are substantially similar fields.

I do not understand the apparent attraction of "everyone can do
everything and is trained in everything" beyond a desire to do it all
yourself. And even in a case where everyone does have the same
training and fundamental ability there will be individuals with
different strengths and patterns of thought -- and thank god for it.

Taken to its logical extreme you have everyone equally skilled in
everything -- because if an IxD doesn't understand the ins and outs
of business in general and business X in particular, how will they
understand and fulfill the goals? and if they can't develop the
marketing program, then how will they know how to design the
interactions and if they couldn't design the building the business is
housed in then how will they understand how those physical
surroundings work together to affect the form of the business which
in turn influences the concept of the business and so forth. Yeah, I
know -- ridiculous.

But basically, this appears to be a very personal argument for you --
and there's no way to argue against someone's definition of what
makes them a successful human being, so, at this point I'm bowing out
of the discussion.

Katie

--

------------------
Katie Albers
User Experience Consulting & Project Management
katie at firstthought.com

20 Dec 2007 - 5:53pm
Jim Leftwich
2004

This is one of THE perennial arguments of this field, and it almost never fares well in text forums, due to the different experiences and frameworks the participants bring to it. They then commence beating each other over the heads with their word balloons (my favorite mental image of text forum arguments), and in the end everyone tuckers out, retires to their respective corners, and not much progress is made, nor light shed.

Reading through the responses so far, I'm already seeing some of the familiar old strawmen, biases, and oversimplifications of a set of issues regarding development processes, skillsets, and personnel configurations that (taken across the entire spectrum of interactive products, software, and systems) cover enough examples to make everything everyone here has said so far, both true in some situations and false in others.

I do have some thoughts, however, regarding generalists, specialists, individuals, teams, and ideas/statements introduced in this thread. I'll address this primarily from the perspective of a generalist (since I am one), since I think they're usually greatly outnumbered in the wider design/development fields...

a) Being a generalist is a worthwhile and valid path to take in one's career

b) Being a generalist, or advocating generalism does not mean that non-generalists are morons or incapable of having valid careers or contributing to great product successes.

c) Being a skilled/talented/experienced/successful generalist does not *necessarily* mean that arrogance must come along with it, however arrogance is often the interpretation that others will assign to a generalist who's defending/protecting a comprehensive system/plan/vision. This entire sub-issue is incredibly complex and subjective. It's not served well at all by oversimplification by people on either side (when sides emerge, that is).

d) Not everyone is cut out to be a generalist. Education can definitely help though. European design education tends to be much more generalist and broad-based in general. America is land of specialties and specialists. In general (not necessarily a hard division, and many individuals go against this division).

e) People who are born/cut out to be generalists will likewise often be very frustrated if forced to perform in a specialist role. Such is the nature of how different we all are as humans.

f) Many unique and complex problems throughout the world can be effectively, successfully, and *efficiently/quickly* addressed by generalists/small Special Forces groups.

g) There are good, skilled, experienced generalists and there are wanna-be generalists. Some of the wanna-be generalists are good, skilled, experienced generalists in training. The best place for these generalists to become better is by working as protege of a master-level generalist. This is what Andre has described. It's how I learned, and how I lead/teach/mentor now.

h) Generalists *can* work effectively with teams and corporate structures (or clash horribly), but it's always on a case-by-case situation and individual basis, as to whether this works or not. I'm troubled to see anyone, regardless of side or opinion, claim that there's *one* way to do anything, or that "I avoid 'these' (insert strawman/stereotype here) types of designer like the plague," because it doesn't really help us to recognize the opportunities and synergies that exist on a case-by-case/individual level that is reality. The IxDA community would do well to work to find common ground, rather than retreat into polarized/oversimplified sides on these issues.

i) Good/skilled/experienced/proven generalists, when compared side-by-side almost always have different profiles/topologies of expertise/talent/experience/approach.

j) There often is a great deal of misunderstanding/rancor/disconnect/strawmanning/derision/slagging between:

- Specialists vs. Generalists
- Corporate/Large-scale Teams vs. Individual/Small Groups
- Directors vs. Builders
- Drivers (Periodic Revolution) vs. Putters (Ongoing Iterative Evolution)
- Academics vs. Practitioners
- Researchers vs. Intuitives
- Designers vs. Marketing vs. Engineering vs. Business

...and many more.

It's my opinion that many of these issues are not well served by overly simplistic, polemic, text-based argumentation. I think a number of good points are being made by everyone here, but I'm troubled by the polarized nature of the discussion.

Using examples, and having much higher-bandwidth discussions will lead to a much greater ratio of light:heat, and will benefit our field much more. These issues are much more effectively discussed F2F, in small groups. Though I realize that we'll see this same thrash emerge again and again.

I'd say that this is my two cents, though it's probably more like my $2.

Jim

James Leftwich, IDSA
CXO - Chief Experience Officer
SeeqPod, Inc.
Emeryville, California
http://www.seeqpod.com

Orbit Interaction
Palo Alto, California
http://www.orbitnet.com

20 Dec 2007 - 12:59pm
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

I think we are getting somewhere now. We have very fundamental differences on how we think a team should work on a project. Our own personal experiences are informing us on the best approach. Could then the difference in our approach just be a difference in the types of projects we have worked on in our careers?

While I have worked on a lot consumer facing applications over the years (I worked on both Hallmark's and Victoria Secret's first e-commerce sites). Most of my projects are on either applications which people will be using 8 hours a day as a part of their job (e.g. Call center application) or applications with very complex business rules that no single source of knowledge about them.

In these cases, I have found the Interaction designer is best at being mainly responsible for making sure the design of the interactions allow the user to operate as quickly and efficiently as possible while the role of the other designer is dedicated to making sure all of this information is as cleanly displayed as possible.

Nick Iozzo
Principal User Experience Architect

tandemseven

847.452.7442 mobile

niozzo at tandemseven.com
http://www.tandemseven.com/

20 Dec 2007 - 3:15pm
desiree mccrorey
2007

Nick Iozzo <niozzo at tandemseven.com> wrote:

> We are in the midst of creating a new field. If we define this field as
> GraphicDesign + Computer Engineering + Usability Evaluations +
> UserResearch = Interaction Designer. Then no interaction designers
> would ever exist. No one can advanced in all of these equally (but for
> the occasional Leonardo).

I wouldn't say this is a recent event. This has been ongoing for a few decades.
But there aren't any rules that say one can't advance in more than one area,
especially over time. In general, it can only improve one's overall
effectiveness by trying to advance in more than one area.

> So, by my definition, to be a good interaction designer you need to:
> * Focus in on just the interaction design (the design of the functions)
> * Be able to work well with someone responsible for the look and feel (the
design of the form)
> * Be able to gain empathy with your users
> * Be able to validate your designs with your users
> * Be able to design something that can be built.

Your definition looks nice on paper. But to remain employable, the reality
check is any user experience "shepherd", whatever the title and using whatever
they have in their bag of skill goodies, needs to be flexible enough to tackle
whatever they feel needs to be done in within the organization/group/company to
assure the users' experience is as good as possible.

To be the most marketable, you should probably set your goals on getting as
close to da Vinci as you feel comfortable/necessary. Generally, the larger the
company, the more specialized the roles and responsibilities become. In small
companies, one needs to wear many hats. Your skill set may also heavily depend
on which work environment suits you.

Since creating a good user experience (usable , useful, etc.) involves many
areas:
- interaction design
- information design
- visual design
- prototyping ('lite programming')
- requirements analysis
- competitive analysis
- specification definition
- usability & usefulness assessment
- user research
- evangelizing UE,
- and probably a few more that I can't think of at the moment...
we have the blessing and curse of picking what we'd like to specialize in to be
effective in any given situation. A blessing because we have the freedom to
pick from a long list of options. A curse because so do companies and
recruiters. A curse because after all these years, we still struggle with what
to call ourselves and how to define that title.

desiree mccrorey

Desiree McCrorey
UI Architect/Web Producer
www.healthline.com
desiredcreations.com

____________________________________________________________________________________
Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs

20 Dec 2007 - 5:27pm
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

That is a good point. We should keep reaching and trying to grow.

When I look at this situation I am looking for what is a scalable business model for a midsized and up consulting company or large Interactive product company.

The smaller the company or department the more skills you will have to learn.

Nick Iozzo
Principal User Experience Architect

tandemseven

847.452.7442 mobile

niozzo at tandemseven.com
http://www.tandemseven.com/

From: Desiree McCrorey
Sent: Thu 12/20/2007 3:15 PM
To: IxDA Discuss
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Must we be Leonardo da Vinci?

Nick Iozzo <niozzo at tandemseven.com> wrote:

> We are in the midst of creating a new field. If we define this field as
> GraphicDesign + Computer Engineering + Usability Evaluations +
> UserResearch = Interaction Designer. Then no interaction designers
> would ever exist. No one can advanced in all of these equally (but for
> the occasional Leonardo).

I wouldn't say this is a recent event. This has been ongoing for a few decades.
But there aren't any rules that say one can't advance in more than one area,
especially over time. In general, it can only improve one's overall
effectiveness by trying to advance in more than one area.

> So, by my definition, to be a good interaction designer you need to:
> * Focus in on just the interaction design (the design of the functions)
> * Be able to work well with someone responsible for the look and feel (the
design of the form)
> * Be able to gain empathy with your users
> * Be able to validate your designs with your users
> * Be able to design something that can be built.

Your definition looks nice on paper. But to remain employable, the reality
check is any user experience "shepherd", whatever the title and using whatever
they have in their bag of skill goodies, needs to be flexible enough to tackle
whatever they feel needs to be done in within the organization/group/company to
assure the users' experience is as good as possible.

To be the most marketable, you should probably set your goals on getting as
close to da Vinci as you feel comfortable/necessary. Generally, the larger the
company, the more specialized the roles and responsibilities become. In small
companies, one needs to wear many hats. Your skill set may also heavily depend
on which work environment suits you.

Since creating a good user experience (usable , useful, etc.) involves many
areas:
- interaction design
- information design
- visual design
- prototyping ('lite programming')
- requirements analysis
- competitive analysis
- specification definition
- usability & usefulness assessment
- user research
- evangelizing UE,
- and probably a few more that I can't think of at the moment...
we have the blessing and curse of picking what we'd like to specialize in to be
effective in any given situation. A blessing because we have the freedom to
pick from a long list of options. A curse because so do companies and
recruiters. A curse because after all these years, we still struggle with what
to call ourselves and how to define that title.

desiree mccrorey

Desiree McCrorey
UI Architect/Web Producer
www.healthline.com
desiredcreations.com

____________________________________________________________________________________
Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page.
http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

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20 Dec 2007 - 5:50pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 20, 2007, at 11:08 AM, Katie Albers wrote:

>> This is a mistake, imho. I don't operate like that, and my design
>> teams don't operate like that. The division of skills I use is
>> where the designer has to code/build the prototype.
>
> So, you don't actually have a division of skills

Not for the design portion. Designers I work with and hire are
expected to do define, design and otherwise be accountable for the
interaction, graphic and information part of any project they work
on. (And if there are designers on this list that are looking for
that kind of design environment, Involution is going to be hiring a
lot this year, so feel free to contact us.) I even expect designers
to know how code or script basic stuff like XHTML, CSS, PHP and some
JavaScript, and to know technology works at a certain level. However,
in this respect. due to project time and client's ability to pay for
projects, designers are paired with prototypers (who also have strong
design skills) in order to build and make prototypes for product design.

> I have known many many people who are actual polymaths...and yet
> still most of them prefer to work on X, Y or Z aspects of their
> respective fields. I have known many more people who consider
> themselves to be polymaths -- for a variety of reasons, I don't
> work with them.

Being a designer and being expected to know interaction design,
graphic design and information architecture is not like being a
polymath. Like I said, industrial designers and architects are
expected to know at least as much as these three things combined, and
in most cases, far more.

> I do not understand the apparent attraction of "everyone can do
> everything and is trained in everything" beyond a desire to do it
> all yourself. And even in a case where everyone does have the same
> training and fundamental ability there will be individuals with
> different strengths and patterns of thought -- and thank god for it.

I've never stated designers for digital products or software need to
know everything. I've stated many times in the past that I think they
need to know interaction, graphic and information design. That's a
specific definition, and one I don't believe is not out of reach by
any stretch of the imagination given what other design professions
require.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

20 Dec 2007 - 5:53pm
James at otto.d...
2007

This is one of THE perennial arguments of this field, and it almost
never fares well in text forums, due to the different experiences and
frameworks the participants bring to it. They then commence beating
each other over the heads with their word balloons (my favorite
mental image of text forum arguments), and in the end everyone
tuckers out, retires to their respective corners, and not much
progress is made, nor light shed.

Reading through the responses so far, I'm already seeing some of the
familiar old strawmen, biases, and oversimplifications of a set of
issues regarding development processes, skillsets, and personnel
configurations that (taken across the entire spectrum of interactive
products, software, and systems) cover enough examples to make
everything everyone here has said so far, both true in some
situations and false in others.

I do have some thoughts, however, regarding generalists, specialists,
individuals, teams, and ideas/statements introduced in this thread.
I'll address this primarily from the perspective of a generalist
(since I am one), since I think they're usually greatly outnumbered
in the wider design/development fields...

a) Being a generalist is a worthwhile and valid path to take in
one's career

b) Being a generalist, or advocating generalism does not mean that
non-generalists are morons or incapable of having valid careers or
contributing to great product successes.

c) Being a skilled/talented/experienced/successful generalist does
not *necessarily* mean that arrogance must come along with it,
however arrogance is often the interpretation that others will assign
to a generalist who's defending/protecting a comprehensive
system/plan/vision. This entire sub-issue is incredibly complex and
subjective. It's not served well at all by oversimplification by
people on either side (when sides emerge, that is).

d) Not everyone is cut out to be a generalist. Education can
definitely help though. European design education tends to be much
more generalist and broad-based in general. America is land of
specialties and specialists. In general (not necessarily a hard
division, and many individuals go against this division).

e) People who are born/cut out to be generalists will likewise often
be very frustrated if forced to perform in a specialist role. Such is
the nature of how different we all are as humans.

f) Many unique and complex problems throughout the world can be
effectively, successfully, and *efficiently/quickly* addressed by
generalists/small Special Forces groups.

g) There are good, skilled, experienced generalists and there are
wanna-be generalists. Some of the wanna-be generalists are good,
skilled, experienced generalists in training. The best place for
these generalists to become better is by working as protege of a
master-level generalist. This is what Andre has described. It's
how I learned, and how I lead/teach/mentor now.

h) Generalists *can* work effectively with teams and corporate
structures (or clash horribly), but it's always on a case-by-case
situation and individual basis, as to whether this works or not.
I'm troubled to see anyone, regardless of side or opinion, claim
that there's *one* way to do anything, or that "I avoid 'these'
(insert strawman/stereotype here) types of designer like the
plague," because it doesn't really help us to recognize the
opportunities and synergies that exist on a case-by-case/individual
level that is reality. The IxDA community would do well to work to
find common ground, rather than retreat into polarized/oversimplified
sides on these issues.

i) Good/skilled/experienced/proven generalists, when compared
side-by-side almost always have different profiles/topologies of
expertise/talent/experience/approach.

j) There often is a great deal of
misunderstanding/rancor/disconnect/strawmanning/derision/slagging
between:

- Specialists vs. Generalists
- Corporate/Large-scale Teams vs. Individual/Small Groups
- Directors vs. Builders
- Drivers (Periodic Revolution) vs. Putters (Ongoing Iterative
Evolution)
- Academics vs. Practitioners
- Researchers vs. Intuitives
- Designers vs. Marketing vs. Engineering vs. Business

...and many more.

It's my opinion that many of these issues are not well served by
overly simplistic, polemic, text-based argumentation. I think a
number of good points are being made by everyone here, but I'm
troubled by the polarized nature of the discussion.

Using examples, and having much higher-bandwidth discussions will
lead to a much greater ratio of light:heat, and will benefit our
field much more. These issues are much more effectively discussed
F2F, in small groups. Though I realize that we'll see this same
thrash emerge again and again.

I'd say that this is my two cents, though it's probably more like
my $2.

Jim

James Leftwich, IDSA
CXO - Chief Experience Officer
SeeqPod, Inc.
Emeryville, California
http://www.seeqpod.com

Orbit Interaction
Palo Alto, California
http://www.orbitnet.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=23782

20 Dec 2007 - 6:21pm
Nicholas Iozzo
2007

I agree this forum is not working for this discussion. Would anyone be interested in using a break during the conference to have a face-to-face on this topic?

As a professional society, I think we to come to some sort of agreement. If we are having such a hard time defining the skills that we want, how can the Universities produce enough folks with the skills we want?

I was a lurker on this list for several months reading the various debates (under a different email address). Beyond the occasional temper getting flared people where raising good points.

I think it would be a worthwhile undertaking to define the education we are expecting students to have that we would want to hire. Anyone else interested in getting together during the conference?

Nick Iozzo
Principal User Experience Architect

tandemseven

847.452.7442 mobile

niozzo at tandemseven.com
http://www.tandemseven.com/

From: James at otto.dreamhost.com
Sent: Thu 12/20/2007 3:53 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Must we be Leonardo da Vinci?

This is one of THE perennial arguments of this field, and it almost
never fares well in text forums, due to the different experiences and
frameworks the participants bring to it. They then commence beating
each other over the heads with their word balloons (my favorite
mental image of text forum arguments), and in the end everyone
tuckers out, retires to their respective corners, and not much
progress is made, nor light shed.

Reading through the responses so far, I'm already seeing some of the
familiar old strawmen, biases, and oversimplifications of a set of
issues regarding development processes, skillsets, and personnel
configurations that (taken across the entire spectrum of interactive
products, software, and systems) cover enough examples to make
everything everyone here has said so far, both true in some
situations and false in others.

I do have some thoughts, however, regarding generalists, specialists,
individuals, teams, and ideas/statements introduced in this thread.
I'll address this primarily from the perspective of a generalist
(since I am one), since I think they're usually greatly outnumbered
in the wider design/development fields...

a) Being a generalist is a worthwhile and valid path to take in
one's career

b) Being a generalist, or advocating generalism does not mean that
non-generalists are morons or incapable of having valid careers or
contributing to great product successes.

c) Being a skilled/talented/experienced/successful generalist does
not *necessarily* mean that arrogance must come along with it,
however arrogance is often the interpretation that others will assign
to a generalist who's defending/protecting a comprehensive
system/plan/vision. This entire sub-issue is incredibly complex and
subjective. It's not served well at all by oversimplification by
people on either side (when sides emerge, that is).

d) Not everyone is cut out to be a generalist. Education can
definitely help though. European design education tends to be much
more generalist and broad-based in general. America is land of
specialties and specialists. In general (not necessarily a hard
division, and many individuals go against this division).

e) People who are born/cut out to be generalists will likewise often
be very frustrated if forced to perform in a specialist role. Such is
the nature of how different we all are as humans.

f) Many unique and complex problems throughout the world can be
effectively, successfully, and *efficiently/quickly* addressed by
generalists/small Special Forces groups.

g) There are good, skilled, experienced generalists and there are
wanna-be generalists. Some of the wanna-be generalists are good,
skilled, experienced generalists in training. The best place for
these generalists to become better is by working as protege of a
master-level generalist. This is what Andre has described. It's
how I learned, and how I lead/teach/mentor now.

h) Generalists *can* work effectively with teams and corporate
structures (or clash horribly), but it's always on a case-by-case
situation and individual basis, as to whether this works or not.
I'm troubled to see anyone, regardless of side or opinion, claim
that there's *one* way to do anything, or that "I avoid 'these'
(insert strawman/stereotype here) types of designer like the
plague," because it doesn't really help us to recognize the
opportunities and synergies that exist on a case-by-case/individual
level that is reality. The IxDA community would do well to work to
find common ground, rather than retreat into polarized/oversimplified
sides on these issues.

i) Good/skilled/experienced/proven generalists, when compared
side-by-side almost always have different profiles/topologies of
expertise/talent/experience/approach.

j) There often is a great deal of
misunderstanding/rancor/disconnect/strawmanning/derision/slagging
between:

- Specialists vs. Generalists
- Corporate/Large-scale Teams vs. Individual/Small Groups
- Directors vs. Builders
- Drivers (Periodic Revolution) vs. Putters (Ongoing Iterative
Evolution)
- Academics vs. Practitioners
- Researchers vs. Intuitives
- Designers vs. Marketing vs. Engineering vs. Business

...and many more.

It's my opinion that many of these issues are not well served by
overly simplistic, polemic, text-based argumentation. I think a
number of good points are being made by everyone here, but I'm
troubled by the polarized nature of the discussion.

Using examples, and having much higher-bandwidth discussions will
lead to a much greater ratio of light:heat, and will benefit our
field much more. These issues are much more effectively discussed
F2F, in small groups. Though I realize that we'll see this same
thrash emerge again and again.

I'd say that this is my two cents, though it's probably more like
my $2.

Jim

James Leftwich, IDSA
CXO - Chief Experience Officer
SeeqPod, Inc.
Emeryville, California
http://www.seeqpod.com

Orbit Interaction
Palo Alto, California
http://www.orbitnet.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=23782

________________________________________________________________
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Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

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20 Dec 2007 - 9:27pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Jim As always, I love your thoughtful responses.

I don't think in any design disicpline there is a one-size fits all.
This is why there are different design schools and different design
disciplines and even different design methodologies.

I think the best we all can do is offer what has worked for us,
express why what we do has worked in as clear and dispassionate means
as possible and then be open to listening to others and learning from
how their experiences have caused them to go in new directions.

To answer Nick ... I'm not sure there is an affinity group around
this question. So instead of taking formal time from the group around
intangibles like the framing of this conversation, one might have a
breakfast table, or a lunch table on the topic of "How is your
organization organized around skills, roles, and x-design
collaboration?"

It's interesting that we didn't get any submissions on the topic of
managing and building an interaction design team team for the
conference.

On a side note, for stuff like "Let's talk about this or that at
the conference." I recommend using the "Connect" section on our
web site. You can get there by either clicking "Connect" from the
main conference site's top navigation
(http://interaction08.ixda.org/) or by going directly there at
http://interaction08.crowdvine.com.

-- dave

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=23782

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