(was R.E.D.) Experience

28 Jan 2009 - 8:44am
7 years ago
2 replies
614 reads
Mark Schraad

I hope you don't mind Jonas, but I thought your framing of experience
was a worthy topic all on its own...

The notion of experience and domain expertise is something that
hiring managers are almost always interested in. It leverages years
of work and countless failures without enduring the cost of either.
Using the classic T-shape metaphor, experience can be deep, but can
also be wide and diverse. Both have their advantages. As consultant
and outside design firm for most of my career, I am particularly fond
of the wide. Some of my favorite and most successful design
breakthroughs have come from recognizing a familiar situation or
pattern from an adjacent or completely unrelated industry.

The counter to all this talk about experience... is that it is not
the sole answer. Particularly an in house situation or extreme cases
of domain expertise. We all suffer from blind spots. Years of
accepting familiar constraints and not challenging assumptions sets,
not only designers, but entire companies up for disaster as new
'disruptive' players enter the game.

I have watched as first year designers working with seasoned pros and
in a few minute make brilliant observations... only because 'they did
not know any better'. Jack Welch went so far as to coin the word
'nescience' to capture the essence of that insight.

Its worth noting that in light of all the conversations about
intuition, experience and domain expertise, none of these are
substitute for market and user understanding. Both markets and users
change quickly. The practice of assuming that you, as the designer,
know enough to move forward without the important touch points that
research can bring is arrogant and unprofessional. I know that it
happens all of the time. I know that great products are often
produces with this approach. I know that there quite often is not
time, nor budget, nor tolerance for this due diligence... but we
would be better with fewer assumptions.


On Jan 28, 2009, at 3:16 AM, Jonas Löwgren wrote:

> I have been following the RED thread with great interest and
> pleasure, deciding not to step in this time -- but now I have to.
>> Regardless, on any given day, or any given project, a vastly
>> experienced
>> designer can be wrong a hundred times and an inexperienced
>> designer can be
>> right a hundred times. Experience matters far less than judgment.
> This comment is totally obscure to me.
> In my view, judgment in a design situation is strongly informed by
> experience.
> - Experience from previous design work within the genre in
> question, by the designer him/herself as well as by others.
> - To some extent, experience also in adjacent genres (even though
> cross-genre transfer is not always straightforward).
> - Experience from observing related use situations, with their
> particular mixes of domain expertise, stakeholder tradeoffs and
> external forces.
> - Experience with tools, techniques and materials to be used.
> And so on.
> Of course it *can* happen that a vastly experienced designer is
> wrong a hundred times and an inexperienced designer is right a
> hundred times on any given day. But it is highly unlikely. Chances
> are that the vastly experienced designer is right far more often
> than the inexperienced designer. And this, I believe, is one of the
> key underpinnings of the whole RED notion.
> Also note that the difference in judgment ability cannot be bridged
> by systematic design methods. Methods may be useful tools for
> coordination and learning, but the outcome of a method is never
> better than the person using the method.
> Jonas Löwgren


28 Jan 2009 - 4:44pm
Jim Leftwich

Mark Schraad states: "The practice of assuming that you, as the
designer, know enough to move forward without the important touch
points that research can bring is arrogant and unprofessional."

Well, it certainly is as you've framed it here. However, most
experienced designers aren't approaching their work and efforts in
such a simplistic, or as you characterize it "arrogant," manner.

They simply wouldn't last very long in the field doing so.

These practices, as I'm sure some of the practioners that have
responded would acknowledge, are complex and nuanced. They're never
so cartoonishly reduced to "arrogance" and 100%-based on past
experiences in an ever-evolving marketplace and user world.

Good and effective designers are always seeking understanding all
around them, and understanding new and emerging trends and user
behaviors and responses.

Design is never done in a vacuum.

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28 Jan 2009 - 11:07pm
Dave Malouf

Recently in my Interactive product design class here at SCAD I engaged
with my students in an exercise to deconstruct Jesse James Garrett's
"Elements of User Experience" (the diagram, not the book). What was
interesting was the formation of a process that had a new beginning
that I have not seen previously articulated before.

We called it "potential". it decribes that moment when passive
observation against designer/initiator experience comes together to
create the decision to begin further investigation. The next steps
are a process of evaluation (validating), researching (gaining more
experience), and conceiving & envisioning (designing).

Further into the conversation students asked then if experience was
so important in this process does that mean that age (and being
students they were quite upset with the possibility) is a requirement
for good design.

I think expanded on the reality that it is not generically experience
that matters to the designer, but the "right" experience. Not all
experience is even good experience, or valuable experience, and not
all experience is the right experience for the moment being worked

This concept seemed to really stick with the class and with the
further work of the deconstructions that we are still trying

So to this topic, I think that my point is that the goal of research
is to give the designer a collection of experiences. Some of these
are about generating empathy, or aptitude around user needs, goals,
and motivations, but other experience is about the science of the
mind & body and further other experience is about technological
capabilities, business rules and histories, etc. etc.

-- dave

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