Thanksgiving is my absolutely favorite holiday. It's not just because I love to cook. Ok, maybe it's a strong reason. But I love this holiday because I like to reflect on my life and what I'm thankful for - the people, my health, work, just everything. Life is pretty wonderful.
I am grateful and feel blessed that I chose the career path I did in customer experience. I feel like my life is a present every day. I get to work on innovative projects with smart people and develop solutions for people's problems. And I'm encouraged to consider multiple approaches and options to discover what's best. It really is a great job. In what other profession do you get to help people complete tasks in their lives, help businesses engage with customers in a better way, and be paid to be creative with crazy ideas?
This is why I'm bothered when I see designers being snarky. I understand why. First, there is no excuse for poor design. There are too many great designers out there to help you create a usable product. A designer spending an hour on a product can improve its experience 100%. Great design doesn't cost that much. Second, it's easy to be critical of ourselves and others when it comes to design. Hindsight is 20/20 and if we could all go back in time to create a different product than what we did, we probably would. Or we would take a different approach entirely, making and experience simpler. Third, if our egos are involved in our designs, then no one designs better than we do ourselves. I have been in too many arguments with other designers, not about the design approach, but an argument closer to, "I would have done it THIS way." I used to joke that information architects (what a UX designer was called 500 years ago) were like Betta fish (or Siamese Fighting Fish). You can only have 1 per bowl. So only 1 IA per team. And don't question their design or approaches.
I'm always nervous when I design a new approach for an app. I want everyone to like it and find it useful or helpful in some way. I'm always looking for experiences to be innovative, yet familiar. And I have to remind myself, how people see my design, my work, is not a reflection of me. My work reflects my understanding of what will help the business and the customer. I could have misunderstood a strategy or approach. Or I missed a way to simplify some steps. In the end, I'm helping people complete a task to help them in their lives and helping the business help their customers. I'd say I'm less a designer and more a facilitator.
There's this weird legacy belief about "the hero designer," who becomes a celebrity for having "the" innovation that rocks the world. I remember being at a Design Management Institute conference over 10 years ago where one of the speakers said that such an idea was dead. With the rise of interactive design and automation, you can't create anything alone. This is true. I think this also speaks to the elusive unicorn - designer, developer, UX strategist, all-in-one. Some exist, but some debate that maybe not. Or that it is difficult to do all things well. Either way, I would argue that design was never about heroism. Even in the "Mad Men" advertising era, great graphic design relied on great copy, good account management, honest customer ad testing, and clients who knew their business and markets.
We were fed a myth.
Instead, I believe that heroism in experience design comes from being that facilitator in the background, listening, observing, and discovering trends in the conversation. It's not always the fabulous, glamorous person who makes everything shiny and spectacular or fills a room with charisma. It's the person who makes an experience come alive by communicating well with the entire team, making sure everyone is aligned and the business and customers have been heard and understood. The great experience designers often sit in the background, helping the team make a vision real, leading the charge through influence.
Effective experience design helps a team collaborate, bring a vision to life, and enables everyone to be more productive.
So this Thanksgiving, maybe we designers and strategists need to look at our jobs differently. Rather than be the "fabulous designer creating," what if we were facilitating change, solving people's problems, and helping visions become real? We shouldn't dismiss the fact that as business facilitators, we are helping professionals ease into this new world of automation and customer interaction. We are working at the cutting edge of a new world, a new age. That's a wonderful opportunity. I know I'm truly thankful and grateful to be part of it.