don’t hate the designers

Douglas Bowman had to quit Google, and Valleywag explains it all for you (to hell with Owen!). I had a similar experience at Yahoo, so I’m only surprised Douglas lasted this long. The comments on Valleywag are really sad though; a palpable hostility towards “precious,” “childish,” “short-sighted” designers (you can look for yourself, I’m not linkin’). A lot of product design is really bad, sometimes the designers get a chance to do something really good with a job, but not often.
Jared Spool, an Extremely Important Person, once told me over Pad Thai that “visual designers are just failed artists.” I took that personally, being a failed artist (heh), but didn’t understand why the “visual” distinction was necessary… I guess he would have to be a failed artist as well if he just said “designers”? Or he has to get the frustration of just speaking at conferences out somehow.
Facebook’s redesign inspires widespread unhappiness and derision. On Techcrunch, incredible bile is thrown at the designers. I can’t say I like it, but why does anyone think that Facebook is anything other than an ongoing experiment? Facebook users are not “customers,” they are collaborators in inventing new ways of being connected, and much is required of them sometimes. The new Facebook stuff is not very good, but at least they haven’t given up like Irene Au and the crew at Google.
I have attempted to be useful as a designer, and had enough failures and successes to know a good deal of humility. There’s no research method, process, innovation technique, conference presentation, or even extra-talented designer that magically makes good stuff.
UPDATE: Another comment thread at an article about designers quitting Google, filled with ignorant stuff. It really does seem that there is a cultural lack of understanding about design and what it is. I suppose the only real solution is to increase the overall cutlure’s understanding and ability to parse visual and experiential elements; then (and probably only then) will people want a specialist to make the choices about those things instead…

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