Expert/Rapid/Special Forces Design (was: Yet Another iPod Birth Story)

18 Oct 2006 - 5:42pm
7 years ago
5 replies
738 reads
Jim Leftwich
2004

On Oct 18, 2006, at 11:59 AM, Dan Saffer wrote:

> On Oct 18, 2006, at 7:24 AM, James Leftwich, IDSA wrote:
>
> > Hmmmm... I guess I don't know why you're so skeptical about what
> > Leander Kahney's reported here, Dan. It matches everything I've
> > heard from people who've talked to the same group of people
mentioned
> > in the article.
>
> I'm skeptical mostly because of the click wheel, which wasn't (and
> still isn't) a very standard component in devices. And I'm certain
> we're all aware that the same components can be assembled in many
> different ways. Witness the proliferation of mobile phone form
> factors, all from very similar components. Very few things,
> especially a thing as nicely done as the iPod, simply snaps together.
> The article made it seem easy, and I bet it wasn't.

I read the article and interpreted it to say that the form factor was
pretty straightforward, and this matched what I'd heard through a
short grapevine. Pus the fact that while a wide variety of shapes
were possible, Apple has a (recent) history of using fairly
rectalinear form factors. I'm sure they SLA'ed a number of form
prototypes, but in the end, the form of the initial iPod followed
very close the componentry, in the simplest and smallest form
factor. I'm not sure that they were implying the activities involved
in doing that were "easy," but simply that that particular collection
of components pointed to a fairly straightforward general form factor
direction.

More on this notion of "what's easy" later, in context to some other
issues involved here (which will go beyond the individual case of the
iPod and its design origins).

> >
> > What I do think this thread is probably going to open up a
discussion
> > of, however, is the schism that exists between those who know that
> > designers can sometimes, with a good deal of confidence, make fast,
> > decisive design efforts that are likely to solve a number of
problems
> > and achieve success as products - and those that want to suggest
that
> > such efforts, are at best, lucky guesses.
> >
> > Not every problem or unfulfilled need out there requires massive
> > research efforts. Despite your, um, interesting linguistic
exercise
> > in labeling these types of efforts, "genius design."
>
> I wasn't suggesting you have to be a genius to practice what I call
> "genius design" (although it helps!) The term for me means a type of
> design that is done just as you describe here: relying on the
> experience and intuition of the designer to make the necessary design
> decisions. It's how most design is done, I'd argue. Perhaps "genius"
> was the wrong word, but I wanted something to convey the internal and
> intuitive nature of the method.
>
> > In my opinion, it's largely the Interaction Design community that
> > doesn't understand this. Or at least a large segment of the
> > community.
>
> The IxD community has emphasized UCD practices for a decade now. You
> could argue over-emphasized. Which is why I put four approaches to
> interaction design (UCD, activity-centered design, systems design,
> and genius design) in my book.
>
> Dan

Let me elaborate a bit on why I find this set of issues to be a
complex and problematic area of terminology, philosophy,
interpretation, and approach in our diverse field of Interaction
Design... I want to start by saying I don't want to unnecessarily
argumentative, because I find your book and ideas to be incredibly
valuable resources to our community. I'm commenting here, and
strongly, because I think our discipline needs to have a much more
out-in-the-open discussion of exactly what constitutes alternative
approaches to Interaction Design from the UCD/Academic approaches
that have held hegemony for so many years.

But I also come from a very different, more product-centric portion
of the field, as well as the individual or small team consultancy
aimed at lots of very niche areas of product and system development.
These areas have many aspects that differ from the web, web
application, desktop software, and other areas of Interaction Design
that comprise much of what's done and discussed in the field.

First off, in your book, you list four different approaches. User
Centered Design, Activity-Based Design, Systems Design, and "what you
call Genius Design."

I think the term "Genius Design" is among the most unfortunate and
misleading terms that could've been chosen.

I question the terminology and linguistics of this approach to
design, which I would term (and argue is more accurate) "Special
Forces" or "Rapid," or "Expert" design. I do agree with your primary
point in your book that designers use a mix of these, often varying
the degree or ratio of one or more of these approaches. Most
designers, myself included, use a mixture of approaches. But in many
cases, it's heavily weighted toward this fourth category, and it need
not necessarily be a bad thing, a reluctant thing, or something to
lament.

But first to tackle the linguistics. A number of us in the field
have historically had to approach complex design problems (large and
complex systems, short development timeframes, limited budgets, small
staffs or having to do things individually), and this shapes
different types of strategies and builds different bodies of
experience and judgement. Nobody I know who practices to a large
extent the type of design you characterize as "genius design," would
ever characterize it as such.

Many people will easily claim they practice "User Centered
Design," (I'd argue all good user experiences are designed with the
user in mind. I'm reminded of groups that call themselves something
like "Concern Americans In Favor Of Freedom" etc.), and the same goes
for "Activity-Based Design," and the methods of "Systems Design."
But surely nobody would try to advertise their services of being able
to come into complex situations and effect significant and effective
design solutions by saying they practice, "Genius Design."

So I find this a misleading and, in a certain sense, dismissive
terminology. It colors and prejudices an approach that's not at all
based on a practitioner's "genius," though in agreement with you, I'd
say that in all fields, talent and smarts are a real benefit. But
what we're really talking about in this approach to design is not
whatsoever, as you claim in your book, "the easiest way" to approach
things. (You say many people take this approach because it's,
frankly, easier."

It's not simply that UCD practices have been been emphasized for a
decade now. (I'd argue that it goes back farther than that, even if
it wasn't labeled that). If these practices were only being held up
as *a* model, instead of often *the,* *the only,* or *the best*
model, that would be great. But the fact is, going back to the late
1980s, (and we're coming up on the seventeenth anniversary of BayCHI,
which I was a part of from its early beginnings), researchers and
academics didn't just advocate a UCD-type approach to design. They
often, and still, have overlooked, denigrated, mischaracterized,
undervalued, and otherwise dissed the types of expert design
approaches that you, roughly, lump into the "genius design" category.

Over the past twenty years a number of terms have been used for
pejorative effect, "Cowboy," "Lone Wolf," "Dictator looking to impose
a personal vision," etc. in ways to denigrate and devalue what a
growing number of practitioners recognize as a complex set of expert
and experienced practices and applications of judgement. What these
quasi-strawmen terms, like "genius design," do however, is obscure
the wide variety of expertise that goes into the best and most
successful examples of this alternative type of approach. An
approach that's actually much better matched to the existing
constraints of many real world projects, products, systems, and
services.

Sure, there are plenty of efforts which could be considered to fall
under your "genius design" category which could very well be
characterized as lazy efforts, unintegrated kludges, lipstick-on-the-
pig efforts, etc.. But holding these up as exemplary of non-UCD (or
other academically blessed) approaches does a grave disservice to the
enormous field of products, systems, and services that would benefit
by Special Forces or Rapid Design or Expert Design efforts.

Lone practitioners and small expert teams do not practice an easy
craft or set of methods. Parachuting into chaotic, and sometimes
even hostile situations with outrageously complex sets of
stakeholders, functionality, integration, and achieving successful
and integrated design solutions - is anything but easy or simple.
But it's not magic, and not limited to just the few we can dismiss as
"geniuses." It's an alternative and additional approach that can be
studied and applied by more designers.

The skills and experiences necessary to do this type of design are no
more mysterious than those that are most often described and
advocated (such as UCD research and approaches), yet they are best
learned in the real world, and through experience and teaming with
more experienced practitioners. In your book you say that it's
often, unfortunately, beginners or experienced people that practice,
"genius design." This is true in one sense, but overlooks the fact
that it's only through real experiences that one can gain expert
knowledge and judgement, and the ability to cross-pollinate (sensible
or successfully recontextualized aspects of) models from one product
or system domain to another. An example of how this has been done
poorly in the past has involved taking desktop GUIs and trying to
move them (sometimes without adequate recontextualizing and change)
over to small, mobile devices.

The bottom line of what I'm stating for the broad Interaction Design
community is that beyond what's talked about, written about, lectured
about, and held out as UCD/Academic/Researcher dogma lies an entirely
different continent of experiences, strategies, models, and
approaches to successful outcomes. They're not (necessarily, or
just) accidents, lucky guesses, strokes of genius, easy ways out, or
monuments to individual ego.

Back in 1998 I read a very excellent article in SCIENCE NEWS, "Seeing
through expert eyes: ace decision makers may perceive distinctive
worlds - intuition and experience in decision-making"

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_n3_v154/ai_21003401

I highly recommend people read this informative article.

It gives an excellent overview into studies of how experts make rapid
and "intuitive" decisions in complex situations. I think it's no
less applicable to Interaction Design than it is to firefighting, or
piloting.

Our field deserves a much more serious examination of the many
alternative and equally valid and successful models of approaching
design. Particularly given that our world is full of countless
products, systems, and services that will never have the budgets,
timeframes, and human resources to approach them via oft-described-
and-trumpeted UCD methodologies.

As Marc Rettig put it so well, many of us in the design field
(practitioners and otherwise) are often fully occupied by our work to
stop and deconstruct our internalized methods and expertise. But I
have to say, I chafe when I read alternative design approaches given
short shrift, inadequate descriptions, or are outright denigrated.

But I say all of this with a great deal of respect for your book and
efforts to provide an overview for our field. I hope that our field
will become inclusive enough to acknowledge the validity of and
adequately describe what's really involved in other successful,
alternative design methods and approaches.

Jim

James Leftwich, IDSA
Orbit Interaction
Palo Alto, California 94301
USA
http://www.orbitnet.com
jleft at orbitnet.com
(650) 387-2550 mobile

Comments

18 Oct 2006 - 6:32pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On Oct 18, 2006, at 3:42 PM, James Leftwich, IDSA wrote:

> I think the term "Genius Design" is among the most unfortunate and
> misleading terms that could've been chosen.

First off, to be clear, I was never using the term "genius" in a
pejorative sense. After I read your mail, I actually had to open my
book and read the section on genius design again, to see if it had
come across that way. I don't think it does--to me, it seems a fairly
fair and balanced (if I dare use that phrase) view of the approach,
noting (like the other approaches) its pros and cons. I use genius
design myself, on nearly every project.

As far as its being misleading and unfortunate, well, I'd like to
hear from others their opinion on that. It's not something I ever
envisioned someone using to sell their services "I practice Genius
Design."

>
> I question the terminology and linguistics of this approach to
> design, which I would term (and argue is more accurate) "Special
> Forces" or "Rapid," or "Expert" design.

This approach doesn't have to be rapid, nor done by an expert, and
special forces seems, well, too militaristic. "Intuitive Design"
could work, I guess. "Designer-centered design"?

> I do agree with your primary
> point in your book that designers use a mix of these, often varying
> the degree or ratio of one or more of these approaches. Most
> designers, myself included, use a mixture of approaches. But in many
> cases, it's heavily weighted toward this fourth category, and it need
> not necessarily be a bad thing, a reluctant thing, or something to
> lament.

Why did you think I was characterizing it as such? I note in the book
that the iPod was created using this approach, and also talk about
its power and utility.

>
> But first to tackle the linguistics. A number of us in the field
> have historically had to approach complex design problems (large and
> complex systems, short development timeframes, limited budgets, small
> staffs or having to do things individually), and this shapes
> different types of strategies and builds different bodies of
> experience and judgement. Nobody I know who practices to a large
> extent the type of design you characterize as "genius design," would
> ever characterize it as such.

Of course not. I never expected anyone to do so. But I needed a name
for the type of design that only or mostly draws from the designer's
own experience and genius (a synonym for expert, I might add) design
seemed to fit.

>
> Many people will easily claim they practice "User Centered
> Design," (I'd argue all good user experiences are designed with the
> user in mind. I'm reminded of groups that call themselves something
> like "Concern Americans In Favor Of Freedom" etc.), and the same goes
> for "Activity-Based Design," and the methods of "Systems Design."

All good designers design with the user in mind, naturally. But to
quote Brenda Laurel: "Perhaps the single most pernicious sort of
folly I have seen over nearly thirty years in the computer field is
the belief on the part of engineers, designers, and marketing people
is that they "just know" what will work for their audience. For
extremely observant, experienced designer, this may indeed be true,
but such people are exceedingly rare, and those who are most
successful have "trained" their intuition by carefully observing and
reaching deep understanding of certain kinds of people, cultures, and
contexts. For the rest of us, that first "great idea" is usually a
shot in the dark."

> But surely nobody would try to advertise their services of being able
> to come into complex situations and effect significant and effective
> design solutions by saying they practice, "Genius Design."

Why not say they practice interaction design? Few people introduce
themselves as "User-centered Designer." It's the name of an approach,
not a discipline.

>
> So I find this a misleading and, in a certain sense, dismissive
> terminology. It colors and prejudices an approach that's not at all
> based on a practitioner's "genius," though in agreement with you, I'd
> say that in all fields, talent and smarts are a real benefit. But
> what we're really talking about in this approach to design is not
> whatsoever, as you claim in your book, "the easiest way" to approach
> things. (You say many people take this approach because it's,
> frankly, easier."

I'm sorry, but leaving aside the years of training and background one
should have to use genius/intuitive approach, it is easier. Research
and its analysis are damn hard work, and by leaving off that step,
you remove a lot of effort and expense. No design method or process
is truly easy, but drawing on one's own experience is considerably
simpler than the recruiting, researching, and analyzing the data that
one has to do in UCD or ACD.

>
> It's not simply that UCD practices have been been emphasized for a
> decade now. (I'd argue that it goes back farther than that, even if
> it wasn't labeled that). If these practices were only being held up
> as *a* model, instead of often *the,* *the only,* or *the best*
> model, that would be great. But the fact is, going back to the late
> 1980s, (and we're coming up on the seventeenth anniversary of BayCHI,
> which I was a part of from its early beginnings), researchers and
> academics didn't just advocate a UCD-type approach to design. They
> often, and still, have overlooked, denigrated, mischaracterized,
> undervalued, and otherwise dissed the types of expert design
> approaches that you, roughly, lump into the "genius design" category.

This is due in part to the crappy products that developers and
designers created without knowing anything about their users and
their needs. And this isn't a thing of the past either.

>
> Lone practitioners and small expert teams do not practice an easy
> craft or set of methods. Parachuting into chaotic, and sometimes
> even hostile situations with outrageously complex sets of
> stakeholders, functionality, integration, and achieving successful
> and integrated design solutions - is anything but easy or simple.
> But it's not magic, and not limited to just the few we can dismiss as
> "geniuses." It's an alternative and additional approach that can be
> studied and applied by more designers.

I never said otherwise.

>
> As Marc Rettig put it so well, many of us in the design field
> (practitioners and otherwise) are often fully occupied by our work to
> stop and deconstruct our internalized methods and expertise. But I
> have to say, I chafe when I read alternative design approaches given
> short shrift, inadequate descriptions, or are outright denigrated.

Obviously, it was difficult to even name this approach, much less
describe it in any detail, mostly because individual ways of working
and the use of experience to make design decisions is an impossible
task.

I should also note that in no other interaction book I've read or
seen do different approaches get laid out side-by-side like I do in
D4I. It's a hard thing to do--and apparently, unpopular on both sides
of the UCD debate. :)

BTW, anyone who wants to debate or discuss this with me in person,
the first section of my all-day workshop next week in NYC ( http://
www.adaptivepath.com/events/2006/oct25/ )walks through the four
approaches and compares and contrasts them. It's usually (as this
exchange shows) a lively discussion.

Dan

18 Oct 2006 - 11:00pm
Jim Leftwich
2004

These issues are extremely complex and difficult to adequately, or
non-tediously discuss and examine in text-based forums. I think we
would agree that they're much easier and productive to discuss in
live face-to-face forums, and with examples to provide necessary
context. The field is just that wide and diverse, and terminology
can often be misconstrued and misinterpreted. That's a problem
that's not going to go away in the discipline of Interaction Design
anytime soon. But I don't want to unintentially offend,
misinterpret, or be misinterpreted. I think that all design efforts
are valuable. I start with that value.

I greatly appreciate this spirited discussion. It's an important
one. And I have the utmost respect for opposing points of view,
though there are some aspects that I strongly, and historically,
disagreed with, and I rarely see opposition rising to meet statements
of some of the more visible pundits in the field of user experience
and Interaction Design. So I will do it to represent the many ad
hoc, solitary, small team with no time or budget, or rapid expert
intuitive approaches out there who *don't* believe we're doing a half-
assed or non-optimum job of things. I really don't like the term
"designer-centric design" either, because design is always "solution-
centric" and hopefully wholistic, integrated, and multi-dimensional.

>> Many people will easily claim they practice "User Centered
>> Design," (I'd argue all good user experiences are designed with the
>> user in mind. I'm reminded of groups that call themselves something
>> like "Concern Americans In Favor Of Freedom" etc.), and the same
goes
>> for "Activity-Based Design," and the methods of "Systems Design."
>
>All good designers design with the user in mind, naturally. But to
>quote Brenda Laurel: "Perhaps the single most pernicious sort of
>folly I have seen over nearly thirty years in the computer field is
>the belief on the part of engineers, designers, and marketing people
>is that they "just know" what will work for their audience. For
>extremely observant, experienced designer, this may indeed be true,
>but such people are exceedingly rare, and those who are most
>successful have "trained" their intuition by carefully observing and
>reaching deep understanding of certain kinds of people, cultures, and
>contexts. For the rest of us, that first "great idea" is usually a
>shot in the dark."

I'm particularly glad that you quoted Brenda Laurel. Let's examine
how she constructs that quote. First off, she starts off by framing a
particular type of non-research-based design, as a "pernicious
folly." Then she cleverly escapes the, "But what about these
successful examples" question by boxing it into the ,"Yeah, well
there are a few, "exceedingly rare* individuals argument. The "rest
of us" tagline really underscores the attempt to distance the reader
for any hope that they might also develop some effective, intuitive,
and valuable judgement for use in a large range of situations calling
for it.

This kind of dishonest framing of the IxD argument has been going on
for years and years by the research community. And to oppose it is,
unfortunately, to risk accepting the framing to begin with. I don't
accept this framing. Because nobody says, in the most simplistic and
misunderstandable form, says they just know what will work (100%).
But what they might indeed say is that they have a pretty good idea,
after sizing everything up rapidly, of what is likely to be the best
shot, given a fixed amount of time, resources, and need for
significant innovation, development from scratch, or fixing of an old
or poorly-working solution. It's a serious mistake to speak of design
in universal terms, and make it sound as though all design problems
start out as equal, or the situations in which they must be tackled.

This is a way of boxing and subsequently dismissing and
deligitimizing any approach other than the one the research
priesthood blesses. If you can successfully paste the label of
"genius," or "rare," on someone, you can paint them as an outlier
that no longer needs to be considered seriously, let alone studied in
order to discover and perhaps derive alternative methods that can be
repeated and applied in appropriate situations and used by greater
and greater numbers of designers.

Intuitive design approaches can and should be learned "by the rest of
everyone." Many more than would be acknowledged by that dismissive
statement have the capability of tackling greater design challenges,
take much larger intuitive risks, and thus achieve much larger design
gains across the field.

Maybe some here remember how many millions of dollars the big group
of heavily credentialed researchers of an place that billed itself as
"the next Xerox PARC" burned through before they closed. I think
anyone involved in that effort should be careful before throwing
around terms like "pernicious folly." Particularly, when such terms
are aimed at those that may, for reasons of lack of budget, time,
resources, or other constraints can very well make expert and
intuitive decisions in complex situations.

Let's definitely begin a discipline-wide examination of the ratio of
money-spent:success-of-design. Many large corporations have large
staffs of UX, Usability, Research, and associated disciplines. How
many of them truly produce paradigm-shifting, profitable, best-of-
class products?

We have a fundamental and serious schism in the discipline of
Interaction Design. I think we've got plenty of researchers and
academics and some consultancies ready to cast aspersions on those
that don't follow their methods. But bear in mind that I, and no
other designers I'm aware of, are saying research is not valuable,
nor are other methods, including UCD and ACD not completely viable
methods.

It's non-UCD/ACD methods and practitioners, in the form of fictional
strawmen, that continue to be lambasted by the pundits. I, and
others, would like to see this stop. I'll likely be assailed as
coming from an egotistical position, but nothing could be further
from the truth. This is not about any one particular designer's
approach or methods, but more an appeal on behalf of the many single
and small team design efforts out there that innovate and improve
user experiences a great deal with very little resources, or time.

I argue that *many, many* more designers could learn to be excellent
intuitive designers, capable of bringing successful solutions to a
much larger set of products, systems, and services.

But by throwing around statements such as the one you quote above,
there are many young designers that will never take bold steps.
They'll never understand that they can indeed, with careful thought
and insights (and I argue exposure to other designers that may mentor
them) learn to hone their intuition. Start small on small products
and work up from there. Take big risks on small projects. Then take
big risks on larger projects.

A designer can do no worse than some of the well-researched multi-
million-dollar flops!

>> So I find this a misleading and, in a certain sense, dismissive
>> terminology. It colors and prejudices an approach that's not at all
>> based on a practitioner's "genius," though in agreement with you,
I'd
>> say that in all fields, talent and smarts are a real benefit. But
>> what we're really talking about in this approach to design is not
>> whatsoever, as you claim in your book, "the easiest way" to approach
>> things. (You say many people take this approach because it's,
>> frankly, easier."
>
>I'm sorry, but leaving aside the years of training and background one
>should have to use genius/intuitive approach, it is easier. Research
>and its analysis are damn hard work, and by leaving off that step,
>you remove a lot of effort and expense. No design method or process
>is truly easy, but drawing on one's own experience is considerably
>simpler than the recruiting, researching, and analyzing the data that
>one has to do in UCD or ACD.

This is where we're really far apart. What you're failing to
acknowledge is that in many types of situations where the designer,
or small team has, for example, one or two months to assess and
design an entire product or system architecture (let's use the
example of a mobile phone OS UI system/language and application
framework), I can guarantee that 70-hour weeks of difficult and
complex work, often with small teams, is no picnic. Calling it easy
is offensive, and that's what I could not more strongly object to. If
95% of that time is spent designing and completing to great detail
and documentation, and it's successful, then it does not follow that
it was any easier. I can't speak for your experiences, but I will
not accept that any of my small team's efforts were easy in the
slightest. They were grueling right down to the deadline. It's just
that the hard effort was spent in other activities other than what
you, and others, might deem necessary. Most projects have very tight
constraints. Devoting significant chunks of time to research may be
necessary in some projects, but it's certainly not in all projects,
or at least the only way to expect success.

No practitioner I'm aware of would make the ludicrous charge that
research is easy, and that's part of my point. Nobody's attacking or
denigrating UCD or ACD, etc.. What I, and others who work in these
sole proprietorship and small team situations are asking is that we
and our approaches not be denigrated, sidelined, explained away as
"extremely rare," or most offensively of all - called "easy."

I can assure you, Dan, that the methods you describe are not the only
"damn hard work" out there in the Interaction Design field. This
attitude is primarily why I feel the urge not to attack the methods
you advocate, but rather stand up for those you claim, wrongly, are
"easy" and others claim, even more wrongly, are "pernicious folly."

Jim

James Leftwich, IDSA
Orbit Interaction
Palo Alto, California 94301
USA
http://www.orbitnet.com
jleft at orbitnet.com
(650) 387-2550 mobile

19 Oct 2006 - 1:50am
stauciuc
2006

On 10/19/06, Dan Saffer <dan at odannyboy.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
>
> On Oct 18, 2006, at 3:42 PM, James Leftwich, IDSA wrote:
>
> > I think the term "Genius Design" is among the most unfortunate and
> > misleading terms that could've been chosen.
>
> First off, to be clear, I was never using the term "genius" in a
> pejorative sense. After I read your mail, I actually had to open my
> book and read the section on genius design again, to see if it had
> come across that way. I don't think it does--to me, it seems a fairly
> fair and balanced (if I dare use that phrase) view of the approach,
> noting (like the other approaches) its pros and cons. I use genius
> design myself, on nearly every project.
>
> As far as its being misleading and unfortunate, well, I'd like to
> hear from others their opinion on that. It's not something I ever
> envisioned someone using to sell their services "I practice Genius
> Design."
>

I haven't had a chance to read the book, but I have read about it on this
list and in a couple of articles on the web. It was the first time I
personally heard the ideea of a designer designing based more on his own
experience being actually acknowledged. And I could really appreciate that,
because, indeed, a lot of design is being done like that and no one seemed
to give it much credit. Or at least it wasn't discussed that much - it
seemed to be a kind of tabu for [most of] the community or something.
So whatever term will stick in the end, I think it's still very important
that there is something to name in the first place.

Personally, I could understand what the term meant instantly. I did find a
bit of a warning in there, in the sense of "Don't do this if you don't know
what you're doing". And I think there must be some kind of warning for the
approach, because when it's used by non-experts (programmers or decision
makers could also do 'rapid design' if they had to, right?), it may indeed
not produce the best results.

>
> > I question the terminology and linguistics of this approach to
> > design, which I would term (and argue is more accurate) "Special
> > Forces" or "Rapid," or "Expert" design.
>
> This approach doesn't have to be rapid, nor done by an expert, and
> special forces seems, well, too militaristic. "Intuitive Design"
> could work, I guess. "Designer-centered design"?
>

Personally, I like the "Expert Design" name.

>
> > So I find this a misleading and, in a certain sense, dismissive
> > terminology. It colors and prejudices an approach that's not at all
> > based on a practitioner's "genius," though in agreement with you, I'd
> > say that in all fields, talent and smarts are a real benefit. But
> > what we're really talking about in this approach to design is not
> > whatsoever, as you claim in your book, "the easiest way" to approach
> > things. (You say many people take this approach because it's,
> > frankly, easier."
>
> I'm sorry, but leaving aside the years of training and background one
> should have to use genius/intuitive approach, it is easier. Research
> and its analysis are damn hard work, and by leaving off that step,
> you remove a lot of effort and expense. No design method or process
> is truly easy, but drawing on one's own experience is considerably
> simpler than the recruiting, researching, and analyzing the data that
> one has to do in UCD or ACD.
>
>
I agree. It's not easy to become an expert, but it's easier to design when
you are one.

--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

19 Oct 2006 - 2:35am
stauciuc
2006

On 10/19/06, James Leftwich, IDSA <jleft at orbitnet.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
>
> I greatly appreciate this spirited discussion. It's an important
> one. And I have the utmost respect for opposing points of view,
> though there are some aspects that I strongly, and historically,
> disagreed with, and I rarely see opposition rising to meet statements
> of some of the more visible pundits in the field of user experience
> and Interaction Design. So I will do it to represent the many ad
> hoc, solitary, small team with no time or budget, or rapid expert
> intuitive approaches out there who *don't* believe we're doing a half-
> assed or non-optimum job of things. I really don't like the term
> "designer-centric design" either, because design is always "solution-
> centric" and hopefully wholistic, integrated, and multi-dimensional.
>
> I agree this is a very important discussion, and you did a very good thing
to start it

> I'm particularly glad that you quoted Brenda Laurel. Let's examine
> how she constructs that quote. First off, she starts off by framing a
> particular type of non-research-based design, as a "pernicious
> folly." Then she cleverly escapes the, "But what about these
> successful examples" question by boxing it into the ,"Yeah, well
> there are a few, "exceedingly rare* individuals argument. The "rest
> of us" tagline really underscores the attempt to distance the reader
> for any hope that they might also develop some effective, intuitive,
> and valuable judgement for use in a large range of situations calling
> for it.

The dismissal of this approach is surely a problem. And I can see (and I
think it is clear) where it started: for many years, a lot of design has
been done by non-professionals or unexperienced designers. And most of the
times, in a hurry and with not too much concern for the user. This lead to
bad design in a huge number of situations. And for the benefit of the
products and the users, it had to be somehow discouraged on a large scale.
Unfortunately, it also dismissed the success stories: when things are done
in a hurry because there is no other way, when decisions are made without
much user research because there are no resources for user research, and so
on, and still the products can succeed - because they are made by people who
really know what they're doing - experts.

...Maybe we should make here a parallel with "Agile Development", and simply
start accepting that design is done in the real world, and not an ideal one:
user-research is good, but there might just not be the resources to do it;
there will always be deadlines; we will always have programmers that want to
make their life easier; we will always have stake-holders who just want
'this feature'; products have to make money to be successful etc. We are
designing under a great number of constraints. We cannot pretend they aren't
there, we have to accept them. Only after accepting them, we can start to
ask ourselves: Now, what can I do to make this a good product?

>
> It's non-UCD/ACD methods and practitioners, in the form of fictional
> strawmen, that continue to be lambasted by the pundits. I, and
> others, would like to see this stop. I'll likely be assailed as
> coming from an egotistical position, but nothing could be further
> from the truth. This is not about any one particular designer's
> approach or methods, but more an appeal on behalf of the many single
> and small team design efforts out there that innovate and improve
> user experiences a great deal with very little resources, or time.

Thank you, in their behalf! :)

I argue that *many, many* more designers could learn to be excellent
> intuitive designers, capable of bringing successful solutions to a
> much larger set of products, systems, and services.
>
> But by throwing around statements such as the one you quote above,
> there are many young designers that will never take bold steps.
> They'll never understand that they can indeed, with careful thought
> and insights (and I argue exposure to other designers that may mentor
> them) learn to hone their intuition. Start small on small products
> and work up from there. Take big risks on small projects. Then take
> big risks on larger projects.

I like to read this kind of statements every now and then. They are both
encouraging and motivating.

> No practitioner I'm aware of would make the ludicrous charge that
> research is easy, and that's part of my point. Nobody's attacking or
> denigrating UCD or ACD, etc.. What I, and others who work in these
> sole proprietorship and small team situations are asking is that we
> and our approaches not be denigrated, sidelined, explained away as
> "extremely rare," or most offensively of all - called "easy."

Bot it is more fun, isn't it? At least for me it is, I admit it. I like to
design more than I like to research. I like to create products more than
create personas. I like to discover solutions. Maybe that's what makes
research seem more difficult to some of us. Because it's simply not so fun.
Your teams work day and night on those projects, right? But do they like it?
They love it! Do I have flow when I work on personas? Well, not always. Do I
have flow when I try to design solutions? Hell, I could stay thinking all
day long.
...Maybe that't the difference. And maybe Dan is just trying to say that
going straight to design is a shortcut we can afford when we know what we
are doing. A shortcut that helps us stay in time and in budget. And again,
maybe it's the wording that caused the problem.
But that's just my opinion.

I can assure you, Dan, that the methods you describe are not the only
> "damn hard work" out there in the Interaction Design field. This
> attitude is primarily why I feel the urge not to attack the methods
> you advocate, but rather stand up for those you claim, wrongly, are
> "easy" and others claim, even more wrongly, are "pernicious folly."
>
>
> Jim
>
> James Leftwich, IDSA
> Orbit Interaction
> Palo Alto, California 94301
> USA
> http://www.orbitnet.com
> jleft at orbitnet.com
> (650) 387-2550 mobile
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Sebi

--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

19 Oct 2006 - 4:09pm
Dan Saffer
2003

I just want to toss out a couple of statements here about this
conversation in general, since I have a set of wireframes due today. :)

UCD and its methodologies arose because of the failings of "intuitive/
expert/genius design." And indeed, our world is filled with ugly,
graceless, poorly functioning things that were all created by people
who felt they were designed just fine. If you are inexperienced, you
could do worse than by talking to users and figuring out what they
need and what the domain requires.

The four approaches to interaction design can be used in combination,
and in practice, usually are. I might use UCD methods for some
things, genius design for others.

No design work is easy. But if you remove some of a process (in this
case research and analysis), it logically stands to reason, if
everything else is the same, that a process that doesn't include
research will be easier. I'm not sure why you think it would be as
difficult or more difficult without research, Jim. It simply doesn't
make sense, logically. Research doesn't mean doing less, it means
doing more. Much more. Look at how many organizations balk at doing
research for just this reason.

I will agree that not all projects require research. It's probably a
50/50 split in my own work. But for unfamiliar domains, user bases,
cultures, etc. I highly recommend it as a basic method.

I never said genius design was rare; I said the opposite, in fact:
it's how most design is done.

Dan

Dan Saffer, IDSA
book http://www.designingforinteraction.com
work http://www.adaptivepath.com
site http://www.odannyboy.com

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