The rise of “UX + Something” designers
User experience design is a term that we generally associate with apps, websites, or interactive products. It would be easy to think that UX designers are purely modern when you consider their typical job description. But in reality, designers have existed for centuries, yes! not only designers, but UX designers have existed.
Despite having been coined by cognitive psychologist and designer Don Norman in the 1990s, the term “UX” actually dates back a number of decades.
Design is everywhere… from cooking scrumptious meals to sending rockets into space and this very quality of being so omnipresent makes it a primordial concept.
Why does any of this matter? Looking forward is always better than dwelling on the past, isn’t it?
While you may feel that history is something that doesn’t concern you as a modern individual, knowing our history can provide valuable insights into the future. If we know more about the origins and factors that helped shape it, the better prepared we will be for the future.
“We cannot truly love someone if we do not know their past.”
The dawn of the UX
In the 1940s when Toyota — on the quest for workplace efficiency — developed its famous human-centered production system. The Toyota Production System was based upon design for people, and much attention was paid to creating the optimal working environment, and just as important, human input was considered crucial and was actively encouraged, just like UX designers do.
This was the rising action in UX history as it really brought attention to put the users and their needs first.
Going forward, Walt Disney was also considered one of the first UX designers…He was obsessed with creating magical, optimal, and nearly perfect user experiences.
Walt Disney’s guiding principles for his team of engineers were all about knowing your audience, wearing your guest’s shoes, and communicating with color, shape, form, texture, and so on.
The Macintosh, PC era
During the late 20th century, when the transformation was just around the corner and the Internet became popular and available to the mass, there was a need to create a digital interface for communication. For most people then, browsing the web was not a daily activity.
The 1970s kicked off the era of personal computers, with psychologists and engineers working together to focus on the user experience. The very first website on the World Wide Web was created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 while at CERN. The World Wide Web was invented almost 30 years ago to help people easily share information around the world.
Over the following decades, it has changed significantly — both in terms of design and functionality, as well as its deeper role in modern society.
In the early age of the internet mostly this job was done by tech experts (developers) and not designers…. hence resulting in technically correct but emotionally irrelevant designs.
The first website contained only text with hyperlinks explaining what the web was, how to use it, and basic set-up instructions. From those early days to the present, web design has taken a long and winding journey.
At first, the concept of these digital interfaces being designed was non-existent or in general very esoteric. The geeks were given credits to be able to come up with “something” with which we can get our job done...or functional.
Over the years, web design has transformed the internet — how we experience it, interact with it, and leverage it in every area of our lives. In 1993 Don Norman coined the term “user experience” for his group at Apple Computer. But the field is older than the term.
The climax of these “UX + something” designers is yet to come
UX designers are storytellers, they are musicians who orchestrate seamless user experiences. They are narrators, directors, empathizers, problem solvers, managers artists, poets, filmmakers, and researchers. Most importantly, user experience design goes beyond screens. There are subtle layers of experience in our day-to-day lives that are crafted and orchestrated by designers.
“UX is not any more esoteric.”
Yes! I am talking about the very fact of a UX designer wearing multiple hats. The fact that wearing multiple hats should be embraced as part of being a designer.
UX Designers have a wide spectrum of skills. Simply getting out of the mindset of having “one” role and being able to seamlessly transition to others is all it takes. In fact, most of our skills overlap because the nature of some of these roles is similar to one another. Designers can use countless abilities depending on the situation, hats are incredibly important. Designers can deliver the best with these hats intact and as the UX professional is growing it is expected to be this way…
“A UX designer needs to be hands-on with as many human-centered methods as possible in order to create great human experiences. ”
Credits — Tiffany Eaton
As Jacob Neilson (NN group) says, “I’m very bullish on the future of the UX profession. What we’ve seen so far is nothing compared with what’s to come.” …and I do a +1 to that.
Here’s to all the creative souls out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts/stories/suggestions.
Don’t forget to check out my design work or my other articles on design, life, and design life.