“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

How UX Plays (and Works) Together:

In NYC @ the Parsons School of Design in the Parsons Design Lab, we had a wonderful panel discussion. The Panel was key-noted and then moderated by Louis Rosenfeld and the panelists included:
Conor Brady Creative Director, Razorfish
Marilyn Tremaine
James Spahr
Mark Hurst
Josh Seiden
Whitney Quesenbery

The evening started with a presentation by Louis Rosenfeld. The presentation used my experience of creating this event as an example of why UXnet is so valuable to the community.

I do have to say that my original purpose in the evening didn’t quite come through, but still an important conversation proceeded about “defining UX”. Before you moan look at some of the questions we were trying to answer:

What is it?
Can we define it?
For whom?
Is it something new?
Is it something different?
Should we even bother defining it?

Some brief highlights of the discussion:

My favorite points (besides my own), were by Marilyn who teaches at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and created their HCI program. I very much appreciated her demonstrating quite well why we need a well-defined and more mainstream appreciated vocabulary. It isnt so important that we hold to the phrase user experience, but it is hard for parents and up and coming students to see any vision of a career as anything close to UX Professional. I also liked her plea that a UX professional be added to a sitcom like Friends (yes, Friends is cancelled).

The discussion (and debate) centered around various areas.

Mark Hurst in particular pointed us towards focusing on our deliverables and the fruits of our good labor as the definition of who we are and how we sell ourselves. However, this is all well and good when you are a consultant, but when you are trying to build internally, labels and definitions are quite important.

The evening had some other great gleanings that I cant quite remember at the moment. If others can fill in the blanks for me with their own thoughts and observations, that would be great.

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  • http://tess.ucdavis.edu/ Tess

    Some highlights I recall were (I am paraphrasing liberally):

    Dave: UX is a house of various expertise and how you define it is often the “Ven (diagram) of me.”

    Conor: Who is the audience for the definition of UX? UX changes per client, per project – is it a sell or a tell? His team builds core teams of IAs and VDs, adding as necessary for the project. The team needs to understand each other.

    Further assortment of UX definitions included:
    * Not a technique, but a mindset summed up as experience (pretty sure this was Mark).
    * Need to become a strategist and evangelist along with our technical specialty to survive.
    That should fill in some holes, but the conversation was rich and there was much more!

  • ACM

    I vote that the question “what is UX?” and related topics – “who are we as UX professionals?” etc, be permanently banned from the list and any future meetings, in favor of concentrating on real issues. some of these might include common methodologies and metrics in use in the field, case studies, sell-in of UX to organizations, avoiding overlap between UX people and other defined positions (for example IA/graphic designer, prototyper/programmer). It’s a new field – I’m sure there are plenty more.

  • http://synapticburn.com Dave Heller

    I think it all depends on your vision. Are you just interested in your good name and your good work, or are you interested in building a discipline, getting it understood, and respected both by closely aligned peers and by “customers” of your services? Also, how do you create an educational cirriculum around something amorphous? Academia wouldn’t stand for it. As clear definition is the first requirement for any educational program to be centered around.

    Don’t we all want that kid who got his first iPod, to jump and say, “I want to do that!”? Well, what is “That”?

  • http://tess.ucdavis.edu/ Tess

    “avoiding overlap between UX people and other defined positions” …really. Just exactly what is a “UX person” to you? I am an IA/designer/prototyper and this I consider to be a UX person. I have been addressed as such in business meetings, introduced as UX Manager at corporate events and that is what 2 of my business cards have stated as my title. My daily activities have included making wireframes, nav models, icons, graphs, usability related brochures and making prototypes. Why can’t you agree with other colleagues that I am a UX person? Why, because we can’t agree on a definition….

  • http://web.njit.edu/~tremaine Marilyn Tremaine

    I think Whitney Quesenbury had a great comment when she talked about developing career paths. It is not just what one does now but what one does in the future. Not everyone wants to eventually move up in management and walk away from the very fun and creative things that they are doing be in UX Designer, yet few other options are open except consultant.

    What did Madison Avenue do about this before everyone had a computer on his / here desk?


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