More and more I am hearing UX practitioners talk about making the thing that we design. This often turns to discussions around prototyping and bridging the gap between design and implementation. As a Design Technologist, this is right in my sweet spot. For years my career was focused on the engineering side of projects and I cannot help but have that programmer part of my brain light up when working on design or strategy.
I sometimes get quizzical looks at my title, followed by questions about what qualifications I look for in a Design Technologist. Here’s some thoughts around that question. I think you will do best looking for someone who has a development background. If you find an individual with a history of “making stuff” then they will naturally have the right mindset to build something interactive. Usually this includes:
- A comfort level with front-end programming (web, desktop, mobile, device)
- A tool belt filled with techniques for creating interactive apps
- The ability to quickly pick up new tools
- A itch to dive into code and “just built it”
You also need to find that special someone who appreciates design and wants to be a member of the UX team. A design technologist uses her skills to solve design problems, not to code the final working application. A lot of developers will balk at this since they feel most productive when users are clicking on something that they actually built. A design tech needs to be satisfied knowing that the UX of the software is better because of their work. A prototype is often her end deliverable.
Also, this person may start to feel isolated since they work day to day with colleagues who don’t code and don’t swap stories about programming logic and MVC frameworks. She’ll instead work with IA’s and IxD’s who talk about design patterns and user research. Your design tech should help to bridge the gap between the UX and development teams. In doing so, she may be able to satisfy her desire to kibitz with other techies. It’s important that technologists stay connected to communities of programmers as lessons learned from that world are often very applicable to UX design problems.
My ideal design technologist job description probably wouldn’t mention specific development apps or programming languages. That’s a moving target and often this person would be asked to “just get the job done”. I would talk more about approach and project experience. If you are working for a company that make mobile devices then perhaps you want someone who’s worked a bit in the consumer electronics space or mobile space. I’m not saying that you’d want a Java-guru with years of experience shipping J2ME apps, but someone who understands the mobile context and is excited about the opportunity to try loading a prototype onto a phone.
Are you a Design Technologist even if your business card says something different? Do you want to learn techniques for translating your designs into prototypes quickly? I’ll be leading a day dedicated to this very topic at our Good Design Faster workshop in April. Register with the promo code BLOG for 10% off.