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August 2, 2012
'Experiences': the Future of Design
 
As a young designer I always thought that I existed to make things look pretty. Early on, for the most part, my assumptions were reinforced when project managers and copywriters came to the design department with creative briefs and copy pre-written and said, "We have everything figured out, now make it look pretty.” This setup never left room for the designer to voice his thoughts or ideas to the people making the business decisions. “Bring in the designers at the last minute so it doesn’t look ugly,” they would say.
 
The Solution: Integrate and Iterate!
 
With social media, we have an integrated feedback loop. This forces innovation because we can hear what the customer wants directly and we have the responsibility to provide them with it. We all know what happens when we don’t; Detroit and Kodak, for example. Often the business side of a company hyper-focuses on short-term gains or losses in profits. As designers, we need to be constantly concerned with customers’ needs. They know how to find value and it is our job to communicate value to them in a clear, impactful way. Then we need to do it all over again because people’s values change over time. Designers that are successful continually iterate their creations based off of feedback from their audience. When a manager says they do not like a design, I often ask, “Is that your personal opinion or do you think it will not work for our customers?” So much bad design has been approved and shipped because no one stops and asks, “Does this work for our customers?” If you receive feedback from people who do not have the customer in mind, don’t listen to it. Ultimately it will only serve to hurt the bottom line.
 
Everything is an experience and can be designed.
 
Newer generations are starting to value experiences more than tangible goods. Why not? A memory lasts a lifetime. Even when products fade away, we are left with our "experience" of them. No part of a customer’s interaction with a website or otherwise should be considered out of the realm of UX design. It is taking what you know about basic design principals and applying it to all the interactions a person has with a product or service. The modern designer has to be acutely aware of how customers are experiencing their designs to be successful in their work. Fight to get feedback about how your work has impacted the people you designed it for. After all, isn’t that the point of designing for specific audiences?
 
User Experience is an exercise in the human experience.
 
We are all human (thanks, Captain Obvious). What we don't always realize is that humans are often irrational. We like things a certain way, we LOVE to be catered to, and we are confused easily. The best advice I can give someone trying to be a better designer is to be a better human. Observe what you are experiencing when you buy shoes on Amazon or use your smartphone to find directions to dinner. What parts of those processes do you stumble on?  User research is key; see if customers are experiencing what you assume they are experiencing. This process is never finished, but each time we go through it we cull insights that are invaluable.
 
Now that our experience together is ending...
 
Whatever your title, you are an experience designer. Customers are experiencing your products or services every day; will you listen to what they have to say? We can all be more successful designers, companies, and people if we open our ears and eyes to what people are saying about us, our companies, and our products.
 
Since you all are the intended audience for this article, please write a comment about your "experience" reading it. Thank you!

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Mike DeSart is a Visual/UX Designer at SurveyMonkey.com and general DesignNerd. Connect with him on Twitter @mikedesart.
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