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."


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