The newest generation of IxDers and our (lack of) exposure

2 Nov 2009 - 1:10pm
6 years ago
6 replies
432 reads
Jack L. Moffett

On Nov 2, 2009, at 1:14 PM, David Farkas wrote:

> Where will this trend of 'breeding
> designers since youth' take the field as opposed to our educators
> who found
> design after years of practicing in other disciplines?

I too come to Interaction Design from a straight, educational path.
However, I have a different perspective on this. If you look at
Graphic Design, there are a lot of designers that have been "bread
since youth"—likely more than come to it from other disciplines,
although I don't have anything to back that up. I wouldn't call it a
trend. I think Gretchen is right. It is simply due to IxD being a
young discipline, one that touches many other areas of expertise.


Jack L. Moffett
Senior Interaction Designer
412.459.0310 x219

There is no good design that is not
based on the understanding of people.

- Stefano Marzano
CEO of Philips Design


2 Nov 2009 - 1:24pm
gretchen anderson

Worth pointing out @peterme's latest tweet:

"I'm always disappointed 2 get a resume from designers who went from
undergrad straight 2 grad skool. The real world, ppl! Live it!"

I kind of agree. You can't get design judgement experience in skool. You
can get lots of insight about the process and avoid the mistakes us
oldsters had to make in order to learn stuff, tho.

2 Nov 2009 - 1:56pm
Jack L. Moffett

On Nov 2, 2009, at 2:24 PM, Gretchen Anderson wrote:

> Worth pointing out @peterme's latest tweet:
> "I'm always disappointed 2 get a resume from designers who went from
> undergrad straight 2 grad skool. The real world, ppl! Live it!"
> I kind of agree. You can't get design judgement experience in skool.
> You
> can get lots of insight about the process and avoid the mistakes us
> oldsters had to make in order to learn stuff, tho.

That's not surprising, coming from Peter. I think it is short-sighted.
I went straight from undergrad to grad school because, with a degree
in Graphic Design, I knew that there would be a lot more for me to
learn to be able to practice Interaction Design (or "design
mulitmedia" as I referred to it at the time). That was the right
choice for me, and it worked out extremely well. The real-world
experience was picked up after I graduated with my Masters. Sure, I
could have delayed my IxD career a couple years to get work experience
as a Graphic Designer, but I fortunately didn't have to do that.

This argument is the same as "formal education vs. self-taught",
"IxDer must have strong visual design skills vs. doesn't need them",
and several others. It comes down to your own experiences, and thus
your own bias. There is actually not a "wrong" or "right" way to do
it. The important thing is that however you come to design, you do it
well. Don't completely pre-judge someone based on their path, their
degree, their school, etc. Judge them on their work and their
interpersonal abilities.


Jack L. Moffett
Senior Interaction Designer
412.459.0310 x219

Most people make the mistake of
thinking design is what it looks like…
People think it's this veneer—
that the designers are handed this box
and told, "Make it look good!"

That's not what we think design is.
It's not just what it looks like and feels like.
Design is how it works.

- Steve Jobs

2 Nov 2009 - 2:55pm
Christian Sosa-Lanz

In order to be "bread since youth" parents need to know about IxD. If not IxD, then at least design. Graphic Design and Architecture are practically the only fields common folk know about. We need are more superhero designers that bring our fields to the dinner table. We need OUR Mike Brady to come home with rolled up site maps. I think a single TV role would do more to our field then 50 more books one wireframing.

Target is actually doing us a great service by putting Design so up front and center. They've put Philip Stark, Dror, Sami Hayek on tv commercials. Perhaps not all of them are common names but it's a first step.

2 Nov 2009 - 3:09pm

An interesting discussion topic, to be sure.

Let me first say that my opinions are based on my own experiences alone, and I have not discussed this with other designers before. I am one of the "old style" designers, who spent several years studying and working in mathematics, computer sciences, and engineering, before getting completely frustrated with the lack of "human perspective" going into interface design. My own education in design comes from one (somewhat light-weight) course in college, and then the numerous books, discussions, blogs, and programs I've used as source material since deciding to broaden my horizons.

In my experience, there is a double-edged sword that comes with a background in engineering, rather than art and design. On the one hand, I'm extremely capable in my job because I "speak engineer". I'm equally competent to design the infrastructure of the product as I am to designing its interfaces, so I get along well with the engineering team. I understand their needs, their goals, and the intricacies that they are trying to create. They appreciate, in turn, having a designer that they feel they don't have to speak down to. They can go into immense detail on how the product works without going over my head, and I can always understand how it relates back to my own "big picture" of how the program should interact with our customers.

On the other hand, without the formal background in aesthetics (especially color theory and use of space), principles of interaction, and the myriad other things that come with a formal design education, I've had to learn "the hard way" what works, what is beautiful and appealing, what is good enough. My biggest weakness is my readiness to become overly involved in the technical details, and lose track of how much things can be distilled and simplified for the user. I'm getting better all the time, but I'm keenly aware of how far I still have to go.

I've been lucky in that I have a fantastic design partner who is never afraid to tell me when he thinks something doesn't look good enough :) He has been a tremendous source of inspiration, education, and help for me. We make a good team, because we tightly complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. He is not an engineer, but he understands what makes a composition compelling. I'm not an artist, but I understand the set of information that needs to be conveyed, and how to push the engineering team to make it easier.

2 Nov 2009 - 7:42pm

David Farkas wrote:
> With that in mind I ask what are we, the new generation of designers,
> missing from the puzzle?

Speaking from my experience as an engineer working with designers,
history of the domain. Nobody can be an expert on everything,
obviously, but you should know something about the history of the domain
where you want to work. If you sell yourself as a designer in the
PDA/smartphone space, it would behoove you to know how Palm helped
General Magic commit business suicide or why the EO had ears that also
held all the ports.

Speaking as a recent student of design and thinking about my classmates,
I think it's a love of a specific field (which probably gets you history
of the field for free). The type nerds I met in design school spent
their spare time reading about type, not playing sports. The guys
(always guys :-) I knew who were into automotive design spent their free
time working on cars, looking at cars, driving cars, etc.

One thing I'm personally interested in is how non-designers will build
toasters the way non-designers started being able to make posters after
the advent of desktop publishing. As a fan of "reflect on doing", I've
decided to "do" and bought a cheap 3D FDM printer
(<>) that I'm setting up and attempting to use as
a normal household appliance.

J. E. 'jet' Townsend, IDSA
Designer, Fabricator, Hacker
design:; hacking:; HF: KG6ZVQ
PGP: 0xD0D8C2E8 AC9B 0A23 C61A 1B4A 27C5 F799 A681 3C11 D0D8 C2E8

2 Nov 2009 - 8:17pm

@Christian, interesting that you mentioned the Target designer lines.
That was actually subject of the conversation Saturday and how,
regardless of success they helped bring design to the mainstream a
little bit more.

@Colleen, I agree wholeheartedly that a background in fields other
than design is essential. I have basic development skills and it
allows me to speak on level with the developers and to better
understand their constraints. I want to push back a little though
when you said that having a background in other fields prevents
engineers from talking 'down to them'. Both design and engineering
(and coding and anything else) are specialties with our own lingo. I
spend a lot of my time as a designer communicating to business
managers the processes and methods I am using on projects. I could be
short non designers and talk down to them but I try to relate terms
and methods to processes they might be more familiar with. To this
point, I think it is important that engineers and developers
understand that they have a specific skill set that not everyone else
has. Communication is key and while its helpful for everyone to have a
high level understandings of each others fields I think it is more
important for the specialist of each field to remember that they are
on a project because they have a certain toolbox at their disposal
that everyone else doesn't grasp as well.

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