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Designing Beyond the Organizational Level


Having worked in the User Experience field for over 20 years, there still remains only a handful of folks that have influenced my career. I still remember attending Jared Spool’s UIE conference back in the 90’s, frantically trying to learn all I could about usability and interface design. On June 7, 2018, I found myself thinking about that moment as I said hello to him, the “maker of awesomeness”. My company, Logical Design Solutions, hosts events for the IxDA Northern NJ local group and we were privileged to have him as the speaker for our recent event.

His talk last night, entitled, The Evolution of a New UX Design Resolution, was about a level of design beyond the organization – ecosystem level design. He explored this new level with us, showing us how we’ll need to start designing beyond organizational boundaries, and what that implies. He introduced us to the pioneers of this new design area and explained the process by which designers everywhere will need to develop their expertise.

Here are my key takeaways:

Powers of 10

Similar to how we need different cameras and telescopes to zoom in and out of different image resolutions, we need different tools to look at different resolutions of design. Each resolution (screen, application, organizational, ecosystem) has unique problems and intents, requiring us to change the way we work, and the tools needed in order to solve these problems.

Now, if we look at some of the tough design challenges today (e.g., our healthcare system), there are multiple organizations involved in working together to come up with solutions. This means we need to pull the lens out wider beyond the single organization and this is referred to as the eco-system wide resolution. Since this is so new with really challenging problems, we don’t know yet how to design at this resolution.

We need to be designers that can work at every one of these resolutions which means we need to look at how to develop people design skills. To achieve this, we need to move away from developing people as T-shaped designers which are those that have deep skills in one vertical area with light skills across all other areas. The model that Jared recommends, called the broken comb model, develops designers that have lots of different skills at different depth levels, creating well-rounded designers.

This model of learning and development puts the focus on skills rather than roles allowing designers to work at any resolution. It will allow designers to work across organizational boundaries in this new eco-system resolution and help future-proof people, so they will be able to work at potentially wider resolutions in the future.

The influence never ends.

What a great informative and educational talk by Jared as he has once again opened my eyes to the ever-evolving landscape of User Experience design. Our society has created some complex design challenges, but this talk has definitely given me some new insights on how to think about them. Time to go and grow some skills!

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