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User Experience – Designers do it better

The role of the User Experience (UX) Designer seems to be organically redefining itself. While this makes my job as a Talent Agent more challenging (or downright difficult), the repressed visual designer in me says it’s about time.

My clients aren’t looking for business analysts, producers or technologists, who have re-branded themselves as UX experts, to supplement their creative teams; at least, not anymore. It seems a collective penny has dropped: User experience designers need to be designers.

A rudimentary point; the graphical treatment of user interface elements (the visual treatment of text, for example) contribute to its overall usability, which plays a role in overall user experience. While this is true, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. To create a great user experience, you need empathy. And designers have empathy.

Good UX designers need to be persuasive in how they work, collaborate and communicate. Designers make for good communicators; speculatively, they’re attracted to a career in design because of their desire to express themselves. So, arguably, designers are more aware of emotion; they are emotional, and because of this, they have an honest sense of compassion for the user, for the people building the product, for the client and for the brief.

Designers are trained to always answer a brief with something desirable. They have always been trying to please an audience, and since everyone is judged by what is most visible – agencies by their portfolios, clients by their websites, creatives by what they produced last week – it’s possible that designers feel the need to work harder.

Someone who is attracted to programming as a career is likely to be more inclined to seek a yes or no answer, and this is often validated by their boss or clients. For a developer, a common brief might be to write a piece of code, as fast as possible, while making it bug free. This is the polar opposite of what a creative is taught and encouraged; to explore multiple choices at once. Designers naturally push the limits. And where an analyst might simply aim to solve a problem, a designer is trained to seek ways to improve. To some, solving a problem versus solving a problem in an elegant and lateral way makes for only a subtle difference. To award-winning digital agencies, it’s their point of difference.

Ultimately, I think it’s more than how designers solve problems that sets them apart. I think it has more to do with the fact that designers prefer to see everything as a problem to be solved, even when no one else does, that is their greatest advantage.

Design, as defined by the Carnegie Mellon School of Design, is

‘ … the process of taking something from its existing state and moving it to a preferred state.’

I like their broad definition and I think it’s appropriate when illustrating the significance of design processes in user experience. I also like Paul Rand’s slightly less forgiving definition; ‘Design is everything. Everything!’

Do you agree or disagree?

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