Design Philosophy

Unlike lawyers, designers generally have express design philosophies. My design philosophy draws upon the advice of Victor Papanek, who decried "the ever-increasing trend...to become narrowly vertical specialists, whereas the real need is for broad, horizontal generalists or synthesists." Design for the Real World 299 (2019 ed.). This is my approach:

Find the Moving Parts

A mentor of mine who happened to be a federal judge once told me, "No matter how complicated it may be, every case comes down to a small number of moving parts." As with lawsuits, so also with design problems: even the largest doors still swing on hinges. As a designer, my first task is to find the moving parts. Only by finding the true causes of a UX problem can a designer understand what it takes to fashion a solution.

Definitions Matter

Many UX problems have communication gaps at their core. What people call a thing alters how they think about it. As Alan Cooper put it, "a single misconstrued word can derail an entire project." The Inmates are Running the Asylum 185 (2004). Therefore, fostering a shared vocabulary (whether verbal or visual) is critical to finding the right design solution. Often, the solution to a UX problem becomes obvious once stakeholders can accurately communicate about it.

Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

Raymond Loewy wrote that while designers always want to push the most advanced solution that they can create, stakeholders are rarely willing to accept it. Therefore, the designer should aim for the "most advanced, yet acceptable" (or "MAYA") solution. See Raymond Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone 277-78 (2002 ed.) The MAYA point is a delicate balance, and a UX designer must be an astute student of stakeholders' culture to locate it.


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