Wherefore design [WAS Prioritizing design in successful, legacy applications]

28 Aug 2007 - 8:02am
650 reads
Faith Peterson
2007

Russell thought some of you gentle listfolk might wish to comment on
one/more of these themes from a comment I posted over at his blog reacting
to the question of software design's value, especially if designers slow
down application developers. I'm looking forward to reactions.

1. design and "handy-ness" of software tools

2. design as communication

3. design, speed, and trust

4. worth of designers

It used to be said that a tool might "come well [or easily] to hand." How a
software feature "comes to hand" is the designer's province.

Luke Wroblewski has written that design is the "manifestation of your
product strategy." Everything about your product says something about your
company. All designers are experts in communicating via the tangible and
intangible characteristics of their chosen medium. Graphic designers are
experts in communicating via the characteristics of advertising or of
marketing collateral. Why do companies invest in creative services for
branding? Why not just have the Photoshop production guy create your
collateral without involving a graphic designer? [I was thinking here also
of all the choices - choice of paper and ink, choice of media outlet, etc.]

Other designers do the same through the media in which the products they
design are realized, architects, through their buildings' characteristics,
and interior designers through the beauty and utility of their spaces. Sure,
you could order up some lobby furniture and let the guys who deliver it
decide how to arrange it. What difference does it make as long as people can
find the card swiper? Most companies that can afford in-house software
development efforts might care a little more than that what their lobbies
say about them, and might therefore hire interior designers. How does that
show up in the bottom line?

That said, we should consider whether it's inevitable that design = slow. As
designers, can we accept that there might be such a thing as "good enough
design," and that some software engineers are capable of it? Can we
recognize that the best software engineers do care whether their
applications come easily to the user's hand? Can we trust the sales and
marketing organization to make reasonable judgments about whether a feature
has importance to just one customer or has the potential for a broader
competitive impact?

If we make those choices, what, then, is our value? Kevin McCullagh, writing
in last fall's Design Management Review, makes a powerful argument for
designers, whom he characterizes as uniquely capable of interpretation,
tangibility, synthesis, and resolution. And good designers "are smart at
turning knowledge into action—they solve problems, resolve tensions, draw
tangible and practical conclusions, and hit deadlines."
--
Faith Peterson
f.a.peterson at gmail.com
Schaumburg, IL
http://www.linkedin.com/in/fpeterson

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