Thursday, March 21, 2013

The UX Meditation

Honbo Garden in Osaka (CC license).
I can safely say I'm doing what is my core passion these days: UX. In some sense, it's my zen garden; a chance to say "stop" to manic, unmeditated design requests and the breakneck turnarounds found in the industry formerly known as advertising.

High visual design is often thought of as coming from an R/GA, Wieden Kennedy or one of the thousands of sexy, boutique digital agencies out there today. However, one of the problems I've had with Madison Avenue's approach to design for digital is a culture of rock stars and one-off, "campaigny" executions that, though they have their place, don't really do it for me. There seems to be a problem accommodating scale given the culture and expertise found in such environments. And the last thing I want to work on is another glorified digital rubber chicken, hand buzzer, whoopie cushion, or a fake fly in a fake ice cube that thrills for a quarter and is never seen again. Worse yet, I'd dread working on an enterprise-level site that is treated more like a small campaign microsite.

I like to build products that last; ecosystems that one can nurture and grow into something used on a massive scale on a daily basis. After several years of seeing it done wrong at some of the largest interactive shops, I decided to pursue design and creative direction under the newly-coined term "UX" as Lahiri Studios.

User experience is something I treat as an umbrella term under which we find user research, information architecture, prototyping and visual design. A UX professional, therein, is a more involved architectural and strategic thinker; someone who doesn't push pixels in Photoshop without stopping and thinking several levels deep into the implications of a design decision. I can't imagine it being done any other way these days, but I know it is, all the time, and I'm just thankful that it's not my world anymore.

The fact that Valley companies are pursuing design aggressively is the light at the end of the tunnel for me. I think Apple spearheaded this and left an indelible mark on the lives of design professionals in technology. It's led to a new level of respect in the industry for what is as much a deeply personal passion as it is a professional role now for the last 13 years. Companies continue to take notice of the importance of design, and the importance of Austin's explosive and extremely disruptive tech culture as well. I truly appreciate the methodical approach of tech as it has existed in software and systems development for decades now, and would love to see that same approach applied to design. I truly believe it's not just the right way, but the only way to design for digital media at scale.

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