Categories
Design UX

The Law of the Instrument

Very early in my career, I made the mistake of applying for a job that put more emphasis on the tool used for the work than the person needed. “Mac Operator required” read the headline.

It wasn’t false advertising. I got the job, and true enough the work was operating a Mac in a sweatshop environment, producing terrible ad artwork and even more terrible brochure artwork. My design career barely survived.

Some years later, I became particularly adept at Adobe Flash (then Macromedia Flash) . The software allowed designers to indulge in creating websites and web applications that broke out of the constraints of a standard web browser.

The more I saw myself as an advanced user, the more each new feature became a chance to showboat my skills. The software’s capabilities began to lead my design work. I had a hammer, and all I could see were nails. Thankfully, by the time Steve Jobs kick-started Flash’s death spiral, I had moved on to embrace process and my toolkit was well beyond whatever Adobe were selling at that particular time.

The lesson I learned from these situations was not to allow your contributions as a designer to be defined by the tools you use.

This came to mind watching the Adobe/Figma story send shockwaves through the design industry last week. I remain unmoved.

If interaction design practice has deteriorated to the point where it relies so heavily on a single design tool, something is badly wrong.

I get just how good a tool Figma is. I get that a whole generation of designers in their early careers have known nothing other than Figma as the de facto tool of their trade. And it has earned that place. That should not make it a prerequisite for design.

Anyone unsettled about Figma’s future might use this as a reminder to stay sharp.

Don’t over-invest in a single design tool. Don’t conflate your value as a designer with technical ability in a software package.

Software will come and go. Your true value will endure.

Categories
Self-development

Small (micro) wins

Well, that is a satisfying conclusion! I managed to fit the study for this into some of the busiest months of my career earlier this year. The result is a nice payoff of course, but the syllabus alone was worth it.

This will not be my last experience with the Open University. I commend it to anyone considering distance learning.

Completion certificate from the Open University

Categories
Process Self-development

Living & learning

I am currently studying for a micro-credential in Organisation Design and Development with Open University. There is a fantastic mix of what I already know, what I thought I knew, and completely new information.

In the latter category is the fact that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established principles that characterise a human-centred organisation. ISO 27501:2019 “provides requirements and recommendations for managers and the actions to be taken in order for an organization to achieve human centredness.”

It’s worth considering how your organisation – or team – stacks up against these.

Categories
Books Community UX

Back to the books

Always good to get a new UX Belfast lineup secured.

It’s getting close to 10 years since I took over the bookclub that Design By Front established as a regular fixture in the Belfast design calendar.

I remember well the great evenings with a small bunch of design friends, all needing out over the book selection that month. It was a smaller affair then.

Since that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to welcome many of my professional heroes to Belfast (virtually, of course). The pinnacle had to be hosting Susan Weinschenk last year, with over 100 attendees. It has never been about the numbers, always about the content.

I try to be timely with the theme of each meetup. It’s a particular thrill to have Christian along right when his book is being published – and much-needed it is, too.

Emma is such a great leader in the local tech community, I’m really delighted to finally have the topic for her to appear at UXB.

Hopefully the last online-only event. We’ll see.

Categories
Teaching

Lecture: Ulster University

Back to in-real-life speaking this week, addressing students from the MA in User Experience and Service Design at Ulster University.

Two hours back on my feet, after many months of sitting and talking to gallery view on Zoom, was a real thrill. The topic was behaviour change, examining factors in the adoption of new products and innovations. My thanks to Course Director, Dr Brian Dixon for the invitation.

And how great to see a course of this nature being offered in Belfast. Only in its first year, applications are open for 2022 entry.