Designing The Damn Thing

Designing the experience (not defining it)

Over and over again, it seems, practitioners within the User Experience world stir up flame wars and heated debates about what it is exactly that we do and what it should be called. From Interaction Design to User Experience Design to Information Architecture to UI Design, titles and job specifications vary as frequently as Sean Combs’ stage names.

Here’s a suggestion: stop trying to define the damn thing and, instead, design the damn thing.

Design it. Get your hands dirty. Make sketches, push pixels, build prototypes and create experiences. Just do it. Forget your title. Forget your job description. Focus on the business problem you’re solving. Then figure out what you’re best capable of doing that will lead to a successful solution for that problem. Work within your organizational constraints or break new ground. Regardless, solve the problem. Understand your user. Understand the business goals. Do the right research and apply that learning to the solution.

Instead of using titles and job specs to describe the value you bring, show it. If you spend your time designing the experience and solving problems instead of defining where your cog fits in the machine, your true value will become obvious. The more your value becomes obvious, the less the need for specific job titles and descriptions.

Pretty please, let’s stop defining the name, boundaries and specifications of our profession. Instead, let’s solve problems, innovate and simply design good experiences.


About Jeff Gothelf

Jeff Gothelf is a lean thinking and design evangelist, spreading the gospel of great team collaboration, product innovation and evidence-based decision making. Jeff is an author, speaker and thought leader on the future of product development and design, often teaching workshops or giving talks on building cultures that support teamwork and innovation. Jeff co-founded Neo Innovation, a lean/agile product firm in NYC. Prior to that, he led the UX design teams at TheLadders and Web Trends. Earlier he worked with and led small teams of software designers at AOL. He is the co-author (with Josh Seiden) of Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience and the upcoming (Harvard, 2016) Sense and Respond (
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  • Michael Critz

    The emotions surrounding work can impede progress.nnToo often I watch great designers hamstring themselves with fear. Rather than ask themselves, u201cwhat will it take to solve this problem in a way that works for the audience and is worthy of the clientu201d they get sidetracked second-guessing themselves. They worry about presenting a new idea because it wasnu2019t in the initial sketches. They let some technical aspect of the project frighten away a great idea. nnI prefer the Indiana Jones Way, u201cIu2019ll think of something.u201d Indy makes it happen. He improvises, and sometimes fails, but always has fun.

  • Jeff Gothelf

    Thanks Michael. I agree that emotions can get in the way. In this case, it’s the emotions surrounding job titles and descriptions that seem to get in the way. Designers get so caught up in what their title denotes they should do rather than the best thing to do and it limits their success as well as the project’s.nnI like your Indiana Jones approach. Hadn’t heard it called that before but it’s the way I work too.