Current Thinking

Who really “owns” Design?

GoldenGateOfDesignOwnership.jpg

Yeah. Exactly.

It’s a ridiculous question, I know. Design is so important to every aspect of what we do in the tech industry, it’s almost inconceivable this is even a discussion still. But, as we all know – everyone seems to be an expert on Design these days, so here we are sorting out who is actually responsible for a team’s decisions around Design strategy and execution. Should be really clear, right?

 

Who really “owns” Design?

The answer couldn’t be more simple…

The CEO, right?   no.
Product Manager?   no.
Design Agency we hired?   definitely not.
Our in-house Designer?   close, but no.
The Dev team?   ugh.

 


bigquoteNo one person or group owns Design.


 

Design is bigger than any single person on the team or discipline in your org. It’s never completely conveyed in sketches and prototypes. Design is the sum total of every thought and every decision made from project inception to delivery. The final design decisions and implementation are merely a snapshot in time of a complex series observations and decisions made by a lot of people. Saying that someone “owns” that snapshot is far too simplistic.

Hold up, you say. If we’re lucky enough to work with a good Designer or Agency, they must surely be responsible for the Design decisions across the board. Right?

Uh… no.

 


bigquoteIt’s every person’s job to positively affect the shape and feel of the overall experience and end-to-end interaction.


Whether you’re in a startup, big corporation, or a non-profit, everyone has something to contribute to the Design of our dreams and aspirations. Your input could come in the form of suggesting clever copy, noticing something is misaligned, finding a more authentic image to use, increasing perf by 2x, or realizing the boss was being a lemming when they suggested it needed to be blue.

Given all that input from the team, someone must be responsible for making Design decisions, right?

Yes, there are actually trained professionals who know better than most how to blend those ideas and suggestions together into a cohesive whole and craft a memorable story – they just happen to be called Designers.

So, are you saying Designers own Design then?

No. But, Designers are the best people to help coordinate, shape, and execute an authentic experience for your team and are certainly worth their weight in gold for their ability to empathize with your customers. They don’t just deliver artwork – they synthesize experiences. Just ask ’em. It’s their role to know how to federate and focus all the input, and they should be held responsible for performing it like a killer. We all have roles to play in our team’s success, theirs is to synthesize the best Design possible given your input, the context, timing, and audience.

OK, got it. I own Design then.

Kinda. Everyone should feel like they own Design, because you do in many ways. But, leave out the word “own” and try saying “I am responsible for our Design as much as anyone on the team.” Then go act on it. Be passionate about delivering the best experience possible. Don’t just leave it to someone else to figure out. You are as much a part of a successful Design as the person doing the final execution.

 


bigquoteWe are all responsible and accountable for Design.



Really, it’s true. And it shows when we get it right.

 

Mike Pell

 

Read more

 

 

 

 

Talks

(Design conference talk proposal) “Designers: Adapt or Die.”

DesignAndCode_header

ABSTRACT

The game has changed for all of us. If you are a Designer, now is the time to adapt and evolve by learning how to design *and* code, or face becoming irrelevant to teams and clients. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

This Design talk is meant to be a wake up and call-to-action for Designers of all experiences to look more closely at the trends happening in tech that lead to their marginalization.

We’re all right in the midst of a colossal shift to a Maker/Hacker mindset and approach to just about everything we do – whether that be creating products, providing services, doing things at home, or even just communicating with each other.

This new world needs and values doers, not talkers.

Unfortunately, even the most talented Designers who don’t code are the equivalent of talkers in this example, and Coders are the doers. Yes, Design is absolutely critical to everything we do, and I totally live the whole power of collaboration thing every day myself – but that complete reliance on others to finish the job isn’t going to cut it anymore in this shifting marketplace.

The most valuable person on the team is not the one with the million dollar idea, it’s the person with the ability to actually bring that idea to life quickly. And that value gets exponentially larger when it’s the same person who can both brilliantly envision and skillfully build. That person is called the Coding Designer. And that person is worth their weight in gold to employers and clients.

I’m not saying Designers can or should replace true Developers. Different skillsets (except in the rare case). I am saying the days of being able to skate by without fabricating your designs are numbered Designers, so it’s time to do something about it. You don’t need to become hardcore Devs, but you do need to know how things work in the code world and be able to express your ideas in that medium.

 
 

M. Pell
BIO

Mike Pell is leading Design for The Microsoft Garage, an innovation accelerator turning people’s wild ideas into reality worldwide. The chaotic and ever-changing nature of The Garage presents Mike with continuous opportunities to learn by doing, whether that’s hacking, making or moving ideas forward.

Bold, insightful and uncompromising, Mike is recognized as a thought leader in the field of visualization, expert in the radical simplification of experiences, and a strong presenter at conferences.

His career in high tech has covered the gamut from intrepid entrepreneur, to venture-backed startup veteran, to corporate man for Adobe and Microsoft over the last three decades.

www.futuristic.com

 

See this recent post for more on this topic:
https://futuristic.com/2015/07/15/designers-adapt-or-die/

 

Current Thinking

Designers: Adapt or Die.

The writing is on the wall, and it’s in 400 pt Helvetica… Learn to code or be irrelevant.

 

designers_adapt_or_die

If you’re a Designer in tech and haven’t already noticed that all the young lions coming out of school to take your job (or beat you out for that juicy contract gig) all know how to write some kind of code or script, you really should pay a bit more attention.

It’s time to make a choice that your livelihood in this industry will depend on.


bigquoteThe day is quickly coming where we’ll have no use for you if you can’t design AND code.


Really. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. Understand it. Internalize it. And then decide to do something about it.

If you don’t already script or code try codeacademy.com or code.org to get started.

 

< You > Don’t fast prototyping tools count? < /You >
< Me > No. Not without the ability to go off script (bad pun).< /Me >

 


< awkward >
 silence < /awkward >

 

< You > OK, hold on. That’s just plain wrong. Why would you even think that’s the case? < /You >

< Me > Well, let’s start with the obvious – we’re all in the midst of a colossal shift to a Maker/Hacker mindset and approach to just about everything we do – whether that be creating products, providing services, doing things at home, or even just communicating with each other.

This new world needs and values doers, not talkers.

Unfortunately, even the most talented Designers who don’t code are the equivalent of talkers in this example, and Coders are the doers. Why? Design work without the ability to be experienced falls short. Yes, Design is absolutely critical to everything we do, and I totally live the whole power of collaboration thing every day myself – but that complete reliance on others to finish the job isn’t going to cut it anymore in this shifting marketplace. < /Me >

 

< You > Whatever. Why should I believe anything you have to say about this anyway? < /You >

< Me > Maybe you shouldn’t – but honestly I’ve seen this happening every day with big and small teams alike, and experienced it myself from both perspectives (being a Designer and Coder) and the conclusion is inescapable.

The most valuable person on the team is not the one with the million dollar idea, it’s the person with the ability to actually bring that idea to life quickly. And that value gets exponentially larger when it’s the same person who can both brilliantly envision and skillfully build. That person is called the Coding Designer. And that person is worth their weight in gold to employers and clients.

I’m not saying Designers can or should replace true Developers. Different skillsets (except in the rare case). I am saying the days of being able to skate by without fabricating your designs are numbered Designers, so it’s time to do something about it. You don’t need to become hardcore Devs, but you do need to know how things work in the code world and be able to express your ideas in that medium. < /Me >

 

< You > Still not buying this. Where’s your so called proof? < You />

< Me > OK, since nothing I say will convince you, let’s be a bit scientific and data-driven here. We’ll depend on your observation of real people in real situations to be our guide.

      1. Go to a Hackathon
        Look around at all the college kids and people in the early stages of their careers. You’ll notice something that’s almost a universal constant – there are very few Designers to be found in relation to the number of Developers. And the Designers who show up are surely in high demand. Aha! You say, that refutes your key point right? No, you’re missing the point. In a time-sensitive, pressure packed situation like a hackathon, speed and working prototypes win. Same goes for the real marketplaces of the world, but let’s stick to the hackathon example. Now let’s imagine if all of those Designers could also code. What impact would that have on the output and quality of the final hacks? Hint: a HUGE one. Coding Designers are priceless in situations that require rapid prototyping of new ideas. Ask around.
      1. Observe Makers
        Find a Maker garage near you. The key attribute of people you’ll find there as part of the Do It Yourself (DIY) or Maker movement is the desire and ability to build things themselves. It’s true they often collaborate on designing whatever it is they are interested in, but nothing stops them from moving their idea forward. This same behavior has existed forever in the product development world, but the difference is functions were compartmentalized and often gated. Conversely, Makers and organizations with Maker-mentalities need the ability to force things into being quickly so hypothesis can be tested out and designs revised as needed. In those cases, Design and Coding/Fabrication are skills found within the same person. Not saying they’re rockstars at both necessarily, but the more each person involved can accomplish themselves to achieve the desired outcome, the faster everything goes toward reaching the stated goal. True that design may suffer a bit and code quality may suffer a bit, but the result is out there in the world quicker and can be adjusted as needed.
      1. Talk to a Product Development Team
        Big or small, new or experienced – ask anyone on the team if they’d rather have an awesome Designer who can’t code, or a pretty good Designer who does, and see what they say. And remember – don’t be offended. It’s just business. Every team faces the same challenges – there’s never enough people, time and money to get the job done as quickly as it needs to be. So, if there’s a chance to have someone capable of doing more than one role sign ’em up. Even better if they’re both the tip of spear and the person digging in the dirt. Designers who can conceptualize, ideate, and then jump right in and code it up so it can be used and evaluated by others are the future of that role. Those who can’t are still awesome, but nowhere near as valuable to the team.

It may sound like I’m down on Designers who don’t code. Not at all. You are the engine that’s driving many of our brightest innovations forward. No one disputes that. I’m just saying that you need to pay more attention to what’s happening around you while you’re heads down in Photoshop and making wireframes.

The game has changed. Adapt and evolve by learning to code, or face becoming extinct.

< /Me >

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