I think the direction that you are both going in is one where He who has the
most expertise the better. To me this is a nonfunctional truism.
Of course if I have a BFA (industrial design) (minor in CS), MS (in HCI),
and an MBA then I would of course be an ideal candidate. Oh! And 10 years
practitioner experience 1/2 of which was done managing teams of various
sizes and projects of various sizes.
But I think we need to break this down a bit more as while there will be
amazing people who decide that career = life, I do not think that this is a
model of well-being that I want to expect from those I will be working with
nor of those whom I training to be my heirs.
I do believe that there is a balance achievable at the individual level that
can be enhanced through team participation.
I will concede to Andrei that having a lead with a vision is incredibly
important. Does that lead need to be expert in everything? This is where I
disagree. Is there one discipline or component of UX that makes a visionary
more effective than the others? I don't believe so. I think that we are
looking too much at the artifacts and not at the whole. Visual Design,
Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability (measure and
validate), etc. All these are about the solutions, the end products. What to
me is more vital in a visionary is problem definition and none of these have
the key to role more than the other. I do think that Usability is not about
problem deconstruction though, but about problem analysis, which to me is a
necessity towards the problem's eventual deconstruction.
To me the best lead is the person who has experience with, but not expertise
in, the disciplines most effecting the problem they are working on. E.g. a
desktop application requires less visual design than interaction design to
create the better solution. I do see how Andrei comes to his opinion to the
opposite. His statement that the visual design is the most criticized is an
interesting one. To me this is an education problem, and one of "red
herring" than to really understanding what is a better design. While
communicating the GUI is definitely important, if what you are communicating
is not useful, usable, or relevant you sorta miss the boat anyway. When
visual designs get ultra-critiqued, to me that is a sign that there is
something else wrong.
E.g. I jut came across a part of my application that we are releasing soon
that is using an icon. The icon looks fine, but people don't know what it
means. The validation for a "new icon" was not done very well, but people
felt that by changing the icon the problem would be solved. What it didn't
look at is that no icon would help because the flow itself (what the icon
was supposed to represent in the workflow) was just not the right solution
at all, so in that context the critique of the icon was just a red herring
preventing us from really deconstructing the problem to form a better
As to the "science" of interface ... There is much that we should all be
learning about this, but again science is not about problem solving. It is
about knowledge gaining. This is why CHI conferences just don't speak to me,
and why cognitive papers make me go to sleep. They are uncontextualized from
practice. They lack practical application. That isn't to say that there
shouldn't be people out there doing this work, but we need to figure out how
to better bridge these gaps between the academic/science and the practical.
We are NOT the only set of disciplines facing this issue so maybe there is
more to learn from other areas.