An Event Apart: It’s a Great Time To Be a UX Designer

In his It’s a Great Time to Be UX Designer presentation at An Event Apart in Chicago 2013, Jared Spool talked about the reasons why designers are in high demand today and what skills they and their organizations need to deliver great experience design. Here’s my notes from his talk: It’s a Great Time To Be a UX Designer

Jared Spool in his greatness!

  • Flattery comes from Kunming
  • Interesting Apple stores in Chine. Fake! Everything is a perfect imitation. There are 41 of them.
  • There are 41 imitation Apple stores in Kunming, China copied down to the last detail. In North America, Microsoft, Nook tablet look like an apple store, Jcp looks like Apple, Somersby commercial like Apple.
  • Why is everyone copying Apple’s stores? Apple stores earned 17 times more than the average mall store: $6,050 per square foot.
  • Every thing in an Apple store is designed -it is all intentional. It’s all thoughtful!
  • Design is the rendering of intent!
  • Samsung lost a billion dollar lawsuit to Apple when they copied many aspects of the iPhone design. Because of an Q&A report!
  • Intention: imitation(less expensive, less risky design not valued, viewed as commodity) and innovation( more expensive, more risky, design heavily valued, viewed as competitive).
  • Imitation is intentional as well.
  • Business wins when it’s intentionally innovative
  • Business wins when design is valued
  • Organizations that tend toward imitation don’t tend to value design. They don’t have senior design teams or leaders. Innovative companies view design as a competitive advantage and invest accordingly.

Disruptive exsperiences

  • The newspaper industry used to make lots of money from classified ads. Craig’s List killed this market. And now AirBnB is disrupting Craig’s List. Square is disrupting the payment industry. ZipCar disrupted the car rental industry.
  • The innovative route is where the big payoff is.
  • Innovations is where you start to be a leader in your space
  • Cirque Du Soleil made some key factor a:
  • design decision to remove animal acts from the circus.
  • Benefit: reduces transportation costs. Eliminates animal care costs
  • Opportunity: Increase performance
  • Results: Ticket prices 120-200 dollars a seat
  • This reduced transportation and animal care costs and allowed them to cater to more affluent adult audiences. Instead the spent the money on better performers, music, etc. Since kids weren’t coming, they could charge more money and serve alcohol. They now make more money each night than all of Broadway does every night. It the design!
  • Design is not about the visual. Design is about the business!
  • By owning their own stores, Apple controls retail, distribution, and product. They take 100% of profits instead of only 40%, like Samsung.
  • Great business models are intentionally designed!
  • Business needs designer everywhere. Design is happening all through the organization.

Filling in the gap with intent

  • Products break. How do we map out the journey from frustration to delight?
  • Innovation is adding value where there wasn’t any before.
  • Apple put Genius bars in their retail stores that allowed people to make appointments which brought them back to the stores when their products broke where they shopped again while waiting.
  • Innovation is not adding new inventions.
  • Experiences can be mapped, measured, and designed.” As a result, we can make them better. You need to map out the experience so you can understand and design it.
  • What do we intend?
  • Intuiti designed a mobile application that automatically files taxes by simply scanning the contents of a W2 form. This drastically changes the experience of filing in taxes. It added value where it didn’t exist before. They didn’t invent it but they where first and innovative in their field
  • GE  Adventure Series painted MRI machines to look like pirate ships and fun scenes to make getting an MRI less scary for children. This is intentional. This is designed. It’s an experience
  • Experience design is rendering intent in the gaps. That’s where the big money is and the competitive edge.
  • Who gets to figure out where those gaps are? Designers

The Making of a Great Design Team

  • Designers are in high demand across the World. There’s over 150,000 designer jobs currently open in the US alone.
  • Old Chines proverb: Be careful what you ask for, lest it become true. For years, designers have been asking for recognition. Now they have it and they need to deliver value.
  • What skills do design teams need, experience design: information architecture, copy writing, design process management, copy writing, user research practices, interaction design, information design, visual design, marketing, analytics, ROI calculations, social design, ethnographic research, domain knowledge, business knowledge, technology, marketing, analytics, use cases, user stories, editing and curation.
  • Jared’s team interviewed hiring managers and asked what the best designers in their teams did: storytelling, critiquing, sketching, presenting, facilitate meeting and bring people togeheter.
  • Though the number of skills required is increasing, the number of people on teams is decreasing. We can no longer compartmentalize. We all need to cover more than one skill.

The rise of the UX generalist

  • Most companies don’t support specialists. It cost too much They need generalists. Even specialists have general skills they trained over years before specializing in a particular area.
  • Not every company can afford to hire specialists. Regional economics drive specialization. It only exists when there is enough demand. In fact, in very high demand economies only specialists can survive. It should be noted that specialization is not compartmentalization. Specialists have the breadth of skills across their entire discipline but the bulk of their experience is within their specialty.
  • Specialist: having more expertise in one are over others
  • Generalist: Having equal expertise in most areas
  • Compartmentalist. Having expertise in only one area.
  • A career-limiting decision. Designers need to be careful not to compartmentalize themselves.
  • The future is about UX generalists: designers that have more than one skill. These people are UX designers but they’re often called “unicorns” because they are hard to find.
  • How do you make a design unicorn? (in 5 easy steps)
  • How to become a design unicorn:
  • 1. pick one subject, learn it deeply,train yourself and
  • 2. practice your new skills over and over again,
  • 3. deconstruct as many designs as possible
  • 4. Create your own design, actively seek out feedback from others
  • 5. Teach others. Watch one o, teach one
  • The unicorn is design’s most important innovation.
  • It’s a great time to be an experience designer.
  • Unicorn exist! You can become one!

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