Interaction Design, should it be a part of Product Management or Development? (Was should interaction designers produce code...)

20 Oct 2004 - 3:55am
9 weeks ago
7 replies
834 reads
Navneet Nair
2004

There has been some good discussion going on about in-house vs. consultant and
now code vs. only design, and though I've been mostly lurking for the past few
months, this brings forward one of the issues me and my team having been
facing...

Namely, in an in-house setup, should the interaction design team be a part of
Product Management or should it be a part of development?

When I've been asked about it, I quite coyly put that it should be somewhere in
between (tending towards Product Management) and acts as the liaison between
product management/marketing and development (so has to be close enough to
development). Which brings forth the question: Who owns the deliverables? (Of
course the IxD team does, but in a broader sense)

This may be slightly off topic, but I would like to get you opinion, and if
there is an agreement, hopefully wrangle my management to re-organize thus...

Cheers
Navneet

Navneet Nair
Interaction Architect
http://www.onclipevent.com
form follows function();
Blog: http://www.onclipevent.com/enterframe/

Comments

22 Oct 2004 - 4:57pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 20, 2004, at 1:55 AM, Navneet Nair wrote:

> Namely, in an in-house setup, should the interaction design team be a
> part of
> Product Management or should it be a part of development?

The real question is should product management be a part of design? And
in that model, should Engineering and Design be equal?

I would say yes on both counts.

Andrei

22 Oct 2004 - 5:03pm
Listera
2004

Navneet Nair:

> Namely, in an in-house setup, should the interaction design team be a part of
> Product Management or should it be a part of development?

Neither.

It should be part of DESIGN, a department that drives a business goal
through concept to prototype.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

22 Oct 2004 - 5:20pm
mtumi
2004

On Oct 20, 2004, at 4:55 AM, Navneet Nair wrote:

> Namely, in an in-house setup, should the interaction design team be a
> part of
> Product Management or should it be a part of development?

Well when you say part of, I assume that means the team would
ultimately answer to whoever runs either product management or
development. Having the design team ultimately responsible to the
head coder seems like it would be a mistake in most organizations, as
they often have conflicting views - often the best design solution for
the end-user is not the easiest to code, as it asks more of the
product. Plus it might end up with the designers being too aware of
implementation details, and end up accidentally blinding them to
solutions that don't follow the implementation plans. So given these 2
choices, unless you have an engineering team that is very focused on
requirements over getting things up and running (rare), I'd say product
management for sure.

I like the separate design department idea, but that would require the
other departments to recognize design as an equal player. In the right
company that might be best, but I think in most organizations a
separate design department would end up getting the shaft, and would be
more effective as part of product management.

Michael

22 Oct 2004 - 5:32pm
Listera
2004

Michael Tuminello:

> Well when you say part of, I assume that means the team would
> ultimately answer to whoever runs either product management or
> development.

No, I mean designers should report to the head of the DESIGN DEPARTMENT.

> I like the separate design department idea, but that would require the
> other departments to recognize design as an equal player.

And until that happens, designers and the notion of UCD will always be
dominated by other priorities. Our ultimate goal should be the recognition
of designers as the drivers of the product design process...not the
marketing people, not the developers...designers.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

22 Oct 2004 - 7:09pm
mtumi
2004

not every company runs the kind of shop where design counts. that's
just the fact of the matter. otherwise ID magazine wouldn't run an
issue on the top design-focused companies.

so while I agree with you that in-house design can work wonders in the
right company, this mandate has to come from the top, and if not (which
I would assert is usually the case), a separate design department is
going to just end up "putting lipstick on the pig". I think a good
example of a company where design matters is Apple, but there is a
clear importance attached to design by Steve Jobs.

So I agree with you - separate design department good, but only at a
company where it is clear that design is integral to the process of
building the product, rather than having management or marketing hash
out the feature set, inevitably straying into "how it works" and
possibly even "how it looks", and counting on the design department to,
in essence, correct mistakes that have been made in conceptualizing the
product.

the other thing is everyone wants to be the driver of the product.
everyone wants to participate in making something. and other
departments have things to contribute that designers will not be
well-versed in. to have designers drive the product on their own is
just flipping things around, and attemping to solve problems by
considering only part of the problem, and then introducing late-stage
fixes as is often done with design. designing great features that are
hard to market where people don't "get it" would be an example of this.

Michael

22 Oct 2004 - 7:20pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Oct 22, 2004, at 5:09 PM, Michael Tuminello wrote:

> the other thing is everyone wants to be the driver of the product.
> everyone wants to participate in making something.

Interesting... It's the engineers and designers that actually *do* make
the product. Regardless if people want to participate, if they can't
actually do the work, why exactly are they participating? Anyone can
offer an opinion. Doesn't mean everyone should.

> and other departments have things to contribute that designers will
> not be well-versed in.

Like?...

> to have designers drive the product on their own is just flipping
> things around, and attemping to solve problems by considering only
> part of the problem, and then introducing late-stage fixes as is often
> done with design. designing great features that are hard to market
> where people don't "get it" would be an example of this.

If you have designers that have no business experience or can't see how
important certain business decisions play in the role of the design, I
would agree. Otherwise, I think you'd discover that the best designers
in the business do have a keen eye towards business issues. Ive is a
great example of this at Apple.

By the way, "great features that are hard to market where people don't
get it" are not great features. In fact, they are probably poorly
designed as well.

Andrei

22 Oct 2004 - 9:18pm
Listera
2004

Michael Tuminello:

> not every company runs the kind of shop where design counts.

So we, as designers, are not concerned about such companies. Who cares what
department a designer's affiliated with in such a company? When design
doesn't count, neither do designers: end of discussion.

> that's just the fact of the matter.

No argument here.

> so while I agree with you that in-house design can work wonders in the
> right company, this mandate has to come from the top,

Ditto.

> the other thing is everyone wants to be the driver of the product.

Frankly, that's not always the case. On several occasions, I've had
developers come up to me privately and tell me how glad they were to have
someone who understood technical issues to relieve them of the burden of
IA/UI/UX design.

> to have designers drive the product on their own

That's a pejorative rephrasing of what I said. A designer who's not
considering/learning from all stakeholders has no business designing. I am
often asked when I'll start designing after I take on a project. It seems
I'm doing anything but designing for a good while. No point in designing
until you have something to say, so I go around begging for input, from
everyone.

> designing great features that are hard to market...

...is bad design to begin with.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

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