Must we be Leonardo de Vinci?

20 Dec 2007 - 2:24pm
6 years ago
7 replies
287 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

"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." --
andrei

I love ya man, but this point I REALLY have to disagree with. My experience
here at Motorola Enterprise Mobility is that innovation is best done in
groups. The cathartic energy of a design studio environment breeds
innovation better than any other I have been in.

Case in point, I just submitted a patent application b/c myself and an ID
were working on a problem. Through our discussing and sketching, and going
back and forth a new innovation occurred that is patentable & licensable and
actually valuable. The event would have never occurred otherwise.

I hate working alone. I loathe it. I'm in a position right now, where I'm
the only IxD in my group and I'm suffering from it. (Wanna job, email me ...
please be a "D"esigner ... no PhD's, reserachers, and usability experts).

I also disagree with your contention that you can't have specialization and
bring specialists together to create a better whole. I have done great work
where I directed from the point of view of IxD working with a visual
designer or other form-making designer.

Now where I do agree with you that Interaction Designers need to be
competent in form-making, no doubt. It is the only way we can lead and
collaborate with form-makers when being a part of the design process.

I think you are overstating your position a tad and not really thinking
about the total eco-system for interaction design today and tomorrow.

I agree that "it isn't so hard" to learn basic type, layout and color theory
(for example); couple that with shape, texture, sound, and spatial theories
of ID (my IxD environment) it starts to become a lot, but not hard. But even
you yourself said that what makes the designer special over the usability
expert is that they've been doing this craft "year on year". It is exactly
that point. Yes, I can "learn" theory, but to become practiced in the crafts
associated with them ARE time consuming (not hard, but definitely time
consuming). They also (and this is the kicker) require learning
interpretation skills. Knowing that 5px separation isn't enough negative
space vs. 10px which is just right takes a lot of practice and here's the
kicker ... waiting for it ... MENTORSHIP!!!!!

Reading a book and putting it on your web site once isn't going to do it.
Crafts require attention to detail, which requires a master's eye to guide
your hands.

For example, even after 8 weeks of a sketching class, I still can't look at
a cube (the basic component of ID sketching) and tell you if it is right or
not. Maybe, I'm an idiot, but it seemed to me that those that can do this,
can b/c they have spent 100's of hours drawing, critiquing and building with
the elements involved.

I do think we need to have a broad swath of skills and form-making skills
are REALLY important, but I do also believe that form-making in and of
itself is NOT the primary skill or theory we as interaction designers need
to have.

Neither is psychology (btw)

I would answer this another way. Since Bill Buxton is one of my models of
directions for my career. Heading towards being a Leo is definitely on my
radar and I would say might be a good idea for many of us in practice.

I would also point to the non-direct aspects of Leo-ism: do more!
I often look for tangential criteria when hiring: multi-lingual, well
traveled, hobbies, into music, etc. This to me speaks to the Leo-ism that I
admire more than whether or not I can paint, sculpt and architect.

-- dave

Comments

20 Dec 2007 - 6:38pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 20, 2007, at 11:24 AM, David Malouf wrote:

> I love ya man, but this point I REALLY have to disagree with. My
> experience
> here at Motorola Enterprise Mobility is that innovation is best
> done in
> groups. The cathartic energy of a design studio environment breeds
> innovation better than any other I have been in.

I agree to the extent the corporate culture allows for teams to do
this. My experience has been that most corporate cultures are set up
to create committee mentalities, which is where I base my opinion
here. (And it *is* an opinion.)

> I hate working alone. I loathe it. I'm in a position right now,
> where I'm
> the only IxD in my group and I'm suffering from it. (Wanna job,
> email me ...
> please be a "D"esigner ... no PhD's, reserachers, and usability
> experts).

I do as well. At least until I get into a disagreement with some
business type or product manager type, at which point I wish I was
only having to deal with my own internal arguements. 8^)

> I also disagree with your contention that you can't have
> specialization and
> bring specialists together to create a better whole. I have done
> great work
> where I directed from the point of view of IxD working with a visual
> designer or other form-making designer.

I'm not sure I ever stated it that way. I'm just making the point
that the more you know, *even* if on a particular project you are
only needed to deliver one portion of the design, the stronger you
(and the team) are. In this regard, a team of designers that can all
do what some on this list define as interaction and visual design but
who are only needed to work n specific portions for any particular
project will be stronger than a team of of people who only know
interaction and people who only know graphic design.

> I think you are overstating your position a tad and not really
> thinking
> about the total eco-system for interaction design today and tomorrow.

I don't think I am to be honest. I honest believe that if you had a
two person team where *both* people are strong at both interaction
and graphic design (and information as well), then that two person
team is an order of magnitude stronger than a different two person
team where one person only knows interaction and the other person
only knows graphic design.

I believe this by the way because it's how I organize my design teams
these days.

> I agree that "it isn't so hard" to learn basic type, layout and
> color theory
> (for example); couple that with shape, texture, sound, and spatial
> theories
> of ID (my IxD environment) it starts to become a lot, but not hard.
> But even
> you yourself said that what makes the designer special over the
> usability
> expert is that they've been doing this craft "year on year". It is
> exactly
> that point. Yes, I can "learn" theory, but to become practiced in
> the crafts
> associated with them ARE time consuming (not hard, but definitely time
> consuming)

Exactly right. But I want to make sure people don't make the time and
experience part of the equation the reason to make claims that being
an interaction+graphic+information is somehow either not possible or
worse, somehow not the standard. The fact it takes time is fine. So
those that are int he education system now will have an edge because
we are setting the expectation that they *do need* to learn all this
stuff, and because it takes time, they better get started.

Becoming a good architect or even a good doctor takes time. I'm not
sure why that should be a problem for us as well.

> They also (and this is the kicker) require learning
> interpretation skills. Knowing that 5px separation isn't enough
> negative
> space vs. 10px which is just right takes a lot of practice and
> here's the
> kicker ... waiting for it ... MENTORSHIP!!!!!

Agreed.

> I do think we need to have a broad swath of skills and form-making
> skills
> are REALLY important, but I do also believe that form-making in and of
> itself is NOT the primary skill or theory we as interaction
> designers need
> to have.

Given the interplay of how the actual form and graphic design
significantly impacts interaction at all levels, I'm not sure I agree
with you.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

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

21 Dec 2007 - 7:13am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Dec 20, 2007, at 2:24 PM, David Malouf wrote:
Andrei said:
> "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."

David replied:
> I love ya man, but this point I REALLY have to disagree with. My
> experience here at Motorola Enterprise Mobility is that innovation
> is best done in groups. The cathartic energy of a design studio
> environment breeds innovation better than any other I have been in.

I consider myself to be a pretty good designer and have been key to 20
or so industry first products, which I think qualifies as innovative.
However, I'd have to agree with David that innovation comes more often
through collaboration than individual effort—at least in my
experience. Even those innovative ideas I've had that came to me as an
individual often occurred either during or after a collaboration or
conversation with others.

> I also disagree with your contention that you can't have
> specialization and bring specialists together to create a better
> whole. I have done great work where I directed from the point of
> view of IxD working with a visual designer or other form-making
> designer.

If you can't then I wonder how IDEO has been so successful and
innovative. (in agreement again).

> I think you are overstating your position a tad and not really
> thinking about the total eco-system for interaction design today and
> tomorrow.

Here, here!

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

21 Dec 2007 - 7:55am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 20 Dec 2007, at 23:38, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> On Dec 20, 2007, at 11:24 AM, David Malouf wrote:
>
>> I love ya man, but this point I REALLY have to disagree with. My
>> experience
>> here at Motorola Enterprise Mobility is that innovation is best
>> done in
>> groups. The cathartic energy of a design studio environment breeds
>> innovation better than any other I have been in.
>
> I agree to the extent the corporate culture allows for teams to do
> this. My experience has been that most corporate cultures are set up
> to create committee mentalities, which is where I base my opinion
> here. (And it *is* an opinion.)
[snip]

The difference between consensus and compromise.

I'm with David & Andrei - my best experiences of developing good
products has come from teams cultures rather than individuals.
Especially when everybody is involved - not just the "designers".

Cheers,

Adrian

21 Dec 2007 - 8:15am
Mark Schraad
2006

On Dec 21, 2007, at 7:55 AM, Adrian Howard wrote:
> On 20 Dec 2007, at 23:38, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
>> On Dec 20, 2007, at 11:24 AM, David Malouf wrote:
>>
>>> I love ya man, but this point I REALLY have to disagree with. My
>>> experience
>>> here at Motorola Enterprise Mobility is that innovation is best
>>> done in
>>> groups. The cathartic energy of a design studio environment breeds
>>> innovation better than any other I have been in.
>>
>> I agree to the extent the corporate culture allows for teams to do
>> this. My experience has been that most corporate cultures are set up
>> to create committee mentalities, which is where I base my opinion
>> here. (And it *is* an opinion.)
> [snip]
>
> The difference between consensus and compromise.
>
> I'm with David & Andrei - my best experiences of developing good
> products has come from teams cultures rather than individuals.
> Especially when everybody is involved - not just the "designers".
>

I agree that better work come from teams. And, that is where I prefer
to work.

What IS frustrating within the corporate environment is that so often
compromise is the outcome. Collaboration and consensus is generally
what happens when there is talent, domain expertise and mutual
respect. It has been said over and over, but a singular vision is
worth its weight in gold. The larger the group, the harder it is to
maintain the passion, drive and vision for a product.

I also thin that corporate management (and the performance goals
therein) will often drive decisions towards safety, where
coincidentally, innovation is rare. Bold or daring moves are more
germane to designers than to business types. Risk is more typically
taken when there is nothing to lose, or the goals are exceptionally
difficult to reach.

Mark

21 Dec 2007 - 8:46am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 21 Dec 2007, at 13:15, Mark Schraad wrote:
[snip]
> What IS frustrating within the corporate environment is that so
> often compromise is the outcome.

Aye.

> Collaboration and consensus is generally what happens when there is
> talent, domain expertise and mutual respect. It has been said over
> and over, but a singular vision is worth its weight in gold. The
> larger the group, the harder it is to maintain the passion, drive
> and vision for a product.

True. I just find it annoying that folk often seem to pick the easy
answer of "pick some dude" to have the singular vision. Especially
when, as so often happens in my experience, the "some dude" starts
denigrating/ignoring everybody else input.

Fostering that environment of talent, domain expertise and mutual
respect is much harder to pull off, but much more effective in the
long term. IMHO anyway :-)

> I also thin that corporate management (and the performance goals
> therein) will often drive decisions towards safety, where
> coincidentally, innovation is rare. Bold or daring moves are more
> germane to designers than to business types. Risk is more typically
> taken when there is nothing to lose, or the goals are exceptionally
> difficult to reach.

Not quite sure how I feel about that. If I'm offering risky solutions
to somebody in a risk averse environment I don't think I'm doing my
job very well...

Cheers,

Adrian

24 Dec 2007 - 3:40am
desiree mccrorey
2007

Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
> What IS frustrating within the corporate environment is that so often
> compromise is the outcome.

We may have different perspectives on compromise, Mark. The best I would expect
from a product development effort would be a compromise; a delicate balance
between the needs of users, designers, architects, business, engineering,
marketing, QA, sales, etc. since all of those needs have to be represented in
the end commercial product for a business to stay afloat.

However, if all most or all of those stakeholders don't work collaboratively,
the product ends up, at best, software functional - a level that most
software/web products seem to have achieved.

desiree

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

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24 Dec 2007 - 12:03pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

Agreed. There will -always- be compromise, even in the most ideal
situations. Unless your project has a single stakeholder, then there
will be compromise to please all parties. Compromise doesn't mean
"bad" though, and sometimes compromises can actually lead to better
solutions, ones that a single designer working in isolation wouldn't
have thought of.

On Dec 24, 2007 3:40 AM, Desiree McCrorey <ddmcc5 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Mark Schraad <mschraad at mac.com> wrote:
> > What IS frustrating within the corporate environment is that so often
> > compromise is the outcome.
>
> We may have different perspectives on compromise, Mark. The best I would expect
> from a product development effort would be a compromise; a delicate balance
> between the needs of users, designers, architects, business, engineering,
> marketing, QA, sales, etc. since all of those needs have to be represented in
> the end commercial product for a business to stay afloat.
>
> However, if all most or all of those stakeholders don't work collaboratively,
> the product ends up, at best, software functional - a level that most
> software/web products seem to have achieved.
>
> desiree

--
Matt Nish-Lapidus
work: matt at bibliocommons.com / www.bibliocommons.com
--
personal: mattnl at gmail.com / www.nishlapidus.com

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