As a hybrid developer and designer I struggled to explain to others the benefits of having a design perspective in a development team. But with the ever increasing importance of designers in the technology industry I think the gap between design and development is starting to close. More and more companies understand the importance of having a designer on the team early on in product development.
But today I read an article that irked me. The article I’m referring to is: Pinterest’s Founding Designer Shares His Dead-Simple Design Philosophy by Sahil Lavingia who was on the founding team behind Pinterest. While I agreed with some of the points made, it bothered me because I couldn’t understand how you discuss the importance of design but also say design shouldn’t be a designated function or industry! Sahil argues that everyone building a product should think of design not in terms of aesthetics but in terms of the purpose of the product. He also says that companies should emphasize not just coding skills but also designs skills. He talks about solving design problems and improving on your product so that what your product does and why it exists is clear. So far so good. But this particular paragraph irked me, he writes:
I agree, we all need designers. But I’d argue that we already have them. They’re us: you and me. Design shouldn’t be designated a specific function or industry. The discipline is just as fundamental as technology and profit are to a business that it doesn’t need to be isolated to a single role. It should be considered part of every role.
I think, yes, everyone involved in the creation of a product should have a design mindset. They shouldn’t be just concerned with code and functionality or profit. It is about the product: how will it be used, when, where, why, etc. Most importantly, who are your users? If you can’t answer that question you won’t be able to design a great product. So yes, we are the designers, you and me, but that refers to the users of the product which could be you or me. It doesn’t refer to the CEO of the company who might be concerned with how their product is going to make money or the developer who is concerned that a particular feature is going to take longer to code. Technology and business is vital to a company but it’s not part of every role. You have designated developers, managers, accountants, etc.
Designers are there to ensure you are thinking about your users and not yourself. Just because you understand your product doesn’t mean your users will. We need designated designers! They’re the people who can dedicate their time and effort into understanding your users. That is why there is a demand for UX/UI designers, product designers, user research designers, the list goes on.
Most products need functionality and compatibility but we don’t have everyone learn code. It’s because we need specialized developers who understand the ins and outs of what it takes to make the product work. In the same way, we need designers who take the time to understand the who/what/when/where/how of our users: why do they need this product? how would they need to use this product? To not give our designers credit for their knowledge and what they bring to the table is an insult to designers everywhere, no matter what field you’re in.
So YES Design SHOULD be designated a specific function or industry! Designers are the ones who can bring your focus and attention back to your users, the people you are creating the product for in the first place, and the people who you hope will enjoy your product and make your work worthwhile.