Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jul 2022

Design’s Credibility

While listening to Charles Barkley on the Draymond Green podcast, he brings up an interesting point regarding credibility. Paraphrasing: it doesn’t matter how an active player views something that’s happening in the league, but they have to tell the truth in such a way which doesn’t rip the player, but addresses the behavior. Charles goes on to use “he had a bad game,“ as an example. Because the player probably had a bad game that night, it doesn’t mean the player is horrible, the person is horrible, etc. Speak about the behavior, and then move on. In doing this, the reporter/active player who’s talking about the league, maintains their credibility with the audience.

Swinging this to design and technology in an enterprise context, it could very well be made the case there is little to no credibility because of how design doesn’t speak for itself honestly, or how technology has been allowed to run without ethical constraint.

For example, Phoenix Perry tweets about Don Norman walking back his doctrine of human-centered design. What is so marvelous about the article, thread, and comments is how many folks were begging for removing the user from the center of the experience have validation (again) in being macro-focused to design impacts. Norman’s HCD focus is very much the gospel of design in many business circles. Such that to ask those circles “who the user is” or “what impacts do persons who are not the users have towards the platform” was often met with derision, instead of curiosity. Personally, it led to a conflict then reshaping of what it meant to be a designer, eventually resolving into a more active, more responsible agent within the worlds we are designing (the ethos goes: _ I see this cooperative, iterative, insanely creative “pen” of a future - designing worlds, communicating interfaces, and embracing every part of what it means to be humane._) Such a shift is a call back towards accountability for design, though (as the tweet’s comments detail), not all accountability has happened publicly or privately.

Connect to technology is also coming into the same questions of accountability. Everything from incoming regulations to what can be done with application stores and payments, all the way to how different countries will legislate how platforms secure information within their borders, are all questions connected devices, platforms, services, and those who maintain all of these, must attend. The industries using these connected technologies cannot run away from that accountability, else they will lose credibility with those persons who consume and build on top of them. The challenge, just like it is for the design community as mentioned earlier, will be not to only hear and pivot, but then to give just space to the behaviors and perceptions that should be put in front of the matter.

Design as a whole isn’t evil. However, if it does not stay accountable, it’s credibility will show its efforts to be most perverse - literally, inhumane.