Kinda agree with Patrick on this one. I've been using Photoshop at lot less and less these days.
Maybe I'm weird, but I use Photoshop not only for UI stuff but also laying out product ideas.
If "design" is problem solving than many people can be designers. I find this theory true. Why? To iterate my short note on Twitter: President Obama, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs and many more. These miraculous people '"designed" something. If it is the need for America to change or the need for 20/20 vision. The steps in between are extremely important. If it's the metals in the spectacles or the bills that are passed. For each scenario, the weight of importance is different. But with consumer facing technology, there is no question our perceived weight in problem solving is forced upon the UI. Like the article depicts, it's tumbling more and more that direction.
Solid points, Patrick. I think design is a shitty word anyways. Are illustrators designers? The whole "design is problem solving" definition is too vague. Like, "The blue in this room is too blue." That's a problem? Sure. An important one? I don't know. When does product design start and stop. When does UI start and stop?
"I am troubled by the devaluing of the word 'design’. I find myself now being somewhat embarrassed to be called a designer. In fact I prefer the German term, Gestalt-Ingenieur." — German Guy.
More great points. My fears are that if designers don't change the definition our roles will only lead further down the rabbit hole. Either design will evolve away from what I think it is (which this has obviously already happened) or we'll be producing products that no longer solve problems for human nature. That's a scary thought.
Good product design thinking and process keep the right problems in focus at the right times. Tools, like Photoshop, are process agnostic... it just takes discipline and the right kind of thinking to stay at the right level of fidelity and context.
I think the problem lies in the desire to shortcut the process and lay pretty pixels down. A typical stakeholder will have an emotional reaction to a "nice looking" screen and won't have the ability/desire to "move backwards" and go back to thinking about the problem solving.
That said, might be interesting if there were tools that encouraged the right kind of thinking and process.
Ryan, those divisions (while pretty harsh) are for the most part correct.
My point earlier was that the modern "designer" is increasingly being required to be all three of those seemingly silo'd roles. The product ecosystem itself is the sum of all the moving parts that are commonly classified as UX and UI (and then some). I don't believe that Product Design should be separated from UI or UX. I think it is a designer's responsibility to be able to take a step back from the interface, and then the experience, and evaluate the product as a whole.
Ryan – to me, a UI Designer is someone who knows their way around Photoshop whether that be on an excellent level or amateur. However, that person also likes to get down in HTML5/CSS3 with sprinkles of jQuery. Now, some might say that's the definition of both a UI Designer & Front-end Developer but it really varies from job to job; especially if you're freelancing.
Tyler – I agree. A product designer, web designer and industrial designer all have about the same roles with different variables involved. I too believe it's the designer’s job to know how their design is flowing, ux.
Yeah, totally agree. ;) Those three titles are what people try to force you into, or the connotations I've seen them carry. Every one looks for labels. Having the internal disciplines to go in and out of those and do all of them well is SUPER valuable. I also see some front end dev knowledge/skills as valuable here too to forecast the feasability of what you design.
I think Ryan makes a very good point. Being a designer, product or otherwise, isn't at all about what tools you use. However, those tools can play a big part in what you do on a day-to-day basis.
For example: I sketch to help me solve problems. Sometimes with pen/paper, sometimes in Photoshop, and sometimes in code.
In addition, my role as a product designer for web applications is broad in scope, UI being an important part of that. Do I consider myself a UI designer? Yes, I do. Is UI the most important part of what I do? Not at all.
I agree with the original tweet from Josh, but also assert that "making interfaces" is part of my work, and a valid one. Here is a recent problem that attracted me to this branch: dribbble.com
Ryan, I hosted a Branch related to that very subject a few days ago: branch.com
I think it comes down to education and finding out ways to showcase, sell and explain your work that differs from the "here's a fancy interface" screenshots you'd see in a portfolio.
For what it's worth: I feel your pain. It's hard to explain everything a solid product designer brings to the table, but it's very easy to show off an nice interface. Luckily, despite what you might feel, there are a ton of people, especially here in the bay area, that get the value of a thinking designer. There are still some folks out there with a "make it pretty" attitude, but they're slowly going away.
It's definitely a question I've had for a while. I find that in job ads, some companies; let's say when asking for a Front-end developer has a different interpretation of what that means than other companies. I guess because there's never been a "set" description for titles like UI Designer, Front-end Developer, Front-end Engineer so people have always slapped their description/interpretation to them.
While it's obviously good to have your niches, I think it's dangerous to pigeonhole yourself. I think it's super important to be well rounded and have a knowledge of everyone's role on the team (as a designer, that means knowing some front-end, and having a general understanding of what the backend developers are doing / technology being used). I think everyone on the team should be responsible for problem solving and creating the product.
Scott, I think that is true and aligns with what I've experienced. Adding to what you said, on our team we each have things that we specialize in, but each of us as designer go through the whole design process (overall problem/ecosystem, UX/flows, and final UI design). Also, I think its important to have the whole team with front-end and back-end engineers involved in the process from the start.
User testing and iteration thereafter are crucial pieces to product design that I feel a lot of 'UI designers' fail to consider—and perhaps that is the largest difference that exists between the two. For me, it was a humbling experience to realize that often times I'm not the end user, and I must consider that when I am building an experience within a product. With that being said, of course the tools in which we build these experiences become less important than the process. The sketchbook/whiteboard is a great place to start. I will develop my thoughts in Photoshop eventually, but only once I know exactly what I want to accomplish with the interface and how it will translate to the user.
I'm extremely happy that this conversation has gotten the attention it deserves. Mostly because the only goal for the conversation is the end-all self-reflection we should all have from it.
Although the discussion of "process" is quite different than the original intent. I think what Eli said about "shipping" is bordering on the right material. Although how do you align that thinking with professionals like architects? If an architect said, "We'll figure out the support beams later. Just build it". They can't do that, so why should we?
I'll play mini-anarchist & suggest everyone push back on the "make things pretty" requests. Ask your employer what they feel the definition of design is! But be forewarned, that answer can be scary.
I've heard it claimed that the term 'UX Designer' is bogus. I actually think it's a really important role to take on. UX essentially covers everything design related, from how the user moves from one area of the app to another, to which areas there are and their purpose, to what the app visually looks like (UI). And I think the role of designer needs to consider all of that.
While someone's UI design may appear to be incredible on Dribbble, hiring them as 'designer' would be risky, because that proves nothing about how they understand the flow of an app, only that they understand and can produce good UI design. That's a different skill from good UX design.
Patrick: I don't think it's reasonable to compare (digital) product design to architecture. We work with a way more plastic medium than they do. It's so much easier for us to prototype, break and build.
If architects had some magical process that would let them edit an Autocad file, that would immediately translate into something physical that they could experience (like a life-sized prototype building), I'm pretty sure they wouldn't prefer to stick to their imagination and architectural models.
Your point does make sense for engineering though, where upfront planning pays off in the long run. But as product designers, when we have the luxury to iterate on realistic prototypes, we should take advantage of it.
Thanks for your feedback! Team Branch