Saturday, January 29, 2005

Old News: A Decade of Webdesign

Old news in several ways.

It was last weekend that I attended the conference A Decade of Webdesign in my home-town Amsterdam. I experienced some great flashbacks!

I've been online since 1994, when I got my first email address from my university. I spent some time on internal discussion groups, then Usenet (now better known as Google Groups) and soon discovered hierarchy-based browsing systems like Veronica for Gopher sites. Shortly after that the world wide web became accessible through Mosaic on a black & white monitor. I started creating my first webpage and quickly adapted it when I realized it looked horrible on a color monitor. I also started with the first version of Boersma's Beer Page, a growing list of links to beer-related websites on the web. For a long time that page generated more hits than all other pages together at my first employer's website...

The conference covered, in theory, my full history with the web: 1994 - 2004. It quickly became apparent that some of the speakers had other definitions of the decade, but that suited their presentations best and nobody cried. The presenters covered all kinds of subjects, from technolgies such as (X)HTML, CSS and Flash, through modelling end users and their work, to how historic websites could be captured and stored in museums.

John Chris Jones reads aloud
Oh, and one of my heroes was there: John Chris Jones (author of the book Design Methods, a classic from 1970!) read from his digital diary. During the rest of the conference he was usually the first to comment on the latest presentation, always with humor, always with a smart comment.

Anyway, the conference blog has a good report of what happened.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Will User Experience merge into Design Management?

Last November, I wrote the article Big IA is now UX, where I introduced the T-model that shows the umbrella-role that I think User Experience now plays over other disciplines such as information architecture, interaction design, information design, usability, visual design, etcetera. In this article, I predict that User Experience (UX) will merge into Design Management (DM).
(By the way, as the T-model got picked up, why didn't anyone point me to George Olsen's 2001 proposal? Or to Sean Patrick Coon's contributions in 2002 to this discussion? If I'd read this page of comments on an old post from Sean from november 2002 before I'd written the article, it would have saved me so much time in getting my thoughts together...)

Anyway, a good friend of mine recently sent me an acticle called "18 Views on the Definition of Design Management" from the summer of '98 issue of the Design Management Journal (now DMI Review).
(Unfortunately, it's not one of DMI's free downloads, nor is it featured in their professional interest section with some more free articles. If you happen to be a DMI member, the PDF file can be found here.)

The article features, as the title suggests, 18 design managers who each give their personal definition of DM. I liked aspects from all of them, with quotes like:
"The real value offered by design management to an organization is its consistent orchestration and nurturing of shared values and realities" (although to me that sounds like a definition of branding)
"Effective design management contributes to the development of customer profiles and value propositions that drive commercialization as information is translated into product form, color, texture, and interaction style." (I like the references to persona and business cases)
Near the end of the article I saw two very interesting quotes that referred to processes for design management:
"Successful design management demands structure and discipline. The structure provides a template to follow, allowing you to focus on content and creative solutions rather than process. This template encompasses keys to sound business and project management practice [...]. Discipline is required to stick to the process." (Brian Vogel, Senior Vice President of Product Genesis Inc.)
"Products, uniforms, buildings, Web sites -- design management can make a contribution in any area in which communication takes place. The newest frontier is process design. Designers should look beyond the coventional activities, such as packaging, graphics and product design. Designers have an important role to play in defining how companies use information. How is product information documented and communicated? How are new employees trained? How can the customer experience be simplified and refined?" (Sohrab Vossughi, President of ZIBA Design)

Now, if UX deals with overseeing and orchestrating design efforts, and DM provides structure and discipline for design efforts, what exactly is the difference? Is it a matter of history? Are the two different because UX grew out of web design and DM out of packaging design? Or is it a matter of focus? Is UX still about the contents and DM about the process? Or is it really a matter of time before User Experience will become integrated in Design Management?

At the moment I don't really care: We're all still busy defining UX, and there's plenty of work to be done in getting the umbrella up. The more interesting question is: Besides Design Management, are there more fields that have come to the point where they can manage design efforts? Is there a whole branch of Business Administration that specializes in this area? Are there hordes of Economists waiting to become our managers? For now, I´m keeping an eye on anyone who calls himself a Design Manager...

Update (27 januari): ID Discuss, the interaction designer's mailing list, currently features a discussion on Business and Design, inspired by an article in BusinessWeek that predicts that more and more executives will be "turning to design firms -- yes, design -- to learn the ropes."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Preparing for the IA Summit 2005

It's time I start preparing for the IA Summit 2005.

Of course, as a member of the organizing committee, I have been preparing for the Summit for about 10 months now, and even on a personal level I've been working on getting my submission accepted (N.B. big page!).

But now it's time to prepare mentally, create the slides for the presentation, book the hotel and flights, and see what else Montreal has to offer! It looks like I'm way too early for the annual beer festival Le Mondial de la Bière. Maybe I can squeeze in a short visit to New York, especially if they have another NY UXnet event.

Anyway, hints on where to get a good microbrew in Montreal (especially on a Sunday night) are welcome!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

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