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Tuesday
Dec072010

A life swinging between UX and SD

Think I really should reflect a bit more on my life after join LBi and my swing between the worlds of UX (User Experience design) and SD (Service Design) till this point. I was introduced to various UX events and presentations by my dearest colleagues. It's been definitely a wonderful journey so far working in big agency like LBi, but what I am sharing here is more of personal reflections on the relation and differences between SD and UX - the two design disciplines which both claim to concern mostly with people and experience.

First thing I notice, is the use of language. For example, the use of 'User Experience'. When I start hanging out in the UX crowds, I realise we are talking about 'user experience on digital devices' in most cases, but substituted with the word 'User Experience'. While in SD, 'User Experience' stands for a more holistic concept that involves inter-person interaction and how individual interaction with their communities in real world. On the surface, it seems just a use of word, but the meaning we give to words defines our perception of the world around and our roles. Of course, it is fare enough that every discipline has its own (yet interrelated) definition of certain word, as far as we are aware of these limits in inter-disciplinary communications.

Couple of weeks ago, I ran an internal session with a group of UX designers at LBi, looking at the three roles of service designer and link it to stories in UX design. For the session, I modified the term into Navigators, Facilitators and Maker to fit their specific vocabulary ( For original concepts on these design roles, please see the summary of my thesis ) We had some fantastic discussions about what in Service Design practice might be meaningful for UX designers. Again communication came up, along with language, such as ‘Do we need to have MBAs (to be strategist)?’

(more picture from Flickr)

A second thing I notice is this emerging ‘schools of thinking’ in both SD and UX. Both disciplines have people from different types of training or professional practice. Individual who works under the same job title might have completely different approach. It is not the different personality types I am talking about here (which you get often in team-building exercises).  It is a school of thinking that people brings with them this belief of what their profession is all about. This hugely impact how people prioritise activities. A behaviour science training UX designer might put more emphasis on analysing the basics than a UX designer from a developer’s background who is happier to ‘fail quickly to succeed fast’ with assumptions. It can be frustration. And it can be confusing for client who has experience working with one type but not the other. The practitioners in these situations may find it hard to describe what they are experiencing, but it exists and should be acknowledged.

A third point is regarding the methods we can borrow from each other. Three month habiting in UX world has opened my eyes to the secret beauty of statistics and quantitative methods (while used properly). I was impressed by the conscious efforts put into balancing the use of qualitative and quantitative methods in understanding and solving problems. Qualitative methods have been in favour by designers for many obvious reasons – rich, engaging and do not ask for good mathematical skills. Yet, I feel the need to justify the use of quantitative methods in Service Design to create a more hybrid approach. Thanks to the very talented media and SEO team, I was shown how quantitative data can serve as an effective tool in monitoring prototyping process and estimating its impact on user behaviour (people don't always do what they say). Imagine how traditional techniques like A/B test and multivariate test can actually mimic in real life scenarios or in physical service ecology. It might seems terribly rigorous at first, but I believe there is value to bring in some sort of modified version of quantitative methods for the use of Service Design. It can then provide good argument in measuring and support business decisions for the stakeholders who are more figures sensitive. UX has been juggling user research for a fairly long time and has learned a lot from other disciplines such as science and arts. Looking into how they have balanced different methods in exploring and measuring digital solutions, it is inspiring to combine the best of the two worlds.

What I found above are the inevitable meesy nature of young fields. As we are expanding our design activities more into ‘new’ contexts (be it emerging technology or grass-rooted social innovation) and multi-disciplinary teams, this is the perfect time to talk about how should we be cautious about the language, assumptions and methods we bring from our own history, and also how we can construct a ‘neutral’ platform to create meaningful conversations.

Think I really should reflect a bit more on my life after join LBi and my swing between the worlds of UX (User Experience design) and SD (Service Design) for the past weeks. I was introduced to various UX events and presentations by my dear colleagues. It's been definitely a wonderful journey so far just for the experience of working in big agency like LBi, but I am sharing here is more of personal reflections on the relation and differences between SD and UX - the two design disciplines which both claim to concern mostly with people and experience.

First thing I notice, is the use of language. For example, the use of 'User Experience'. When I start hanging out in the UX crowds, I realise we are talking about 'user experience on digital devices' in most cases, but substituted with the word 'User Experience'. While in SD, 'User Experience' stands for a more holistic concept that involves inter-person interaction and how individual interaction with their communities in real world. On the surface, it seems just a use of word, but the meaning we give to words defines our perception of the world around and our roles. Of course, it is fare enough that every discipline has its own (yet interrelated) definition of certain word, as far as we are aware of these limits in inter-disciplinary communications.

Couple of weeks ago, I ran an internal session with a group of UX designers at LBi, looking at the three roles of service designer and link it to stories in UX design. For the session, I modified the term into Navigators, Facilitators and Maker to fit their specific vocabulary ( For original concepts on these design roles, please see the summary of my thesis ) We had some fantastic discussions about what in Service Design practice might be meaningful for UX designers. Again communication came up, along with language, such as ‘Do we need to have MBAs (to be strategist)?’

(more picture from Flickr)

A second thing I notice is this emerging ‘schools of thinking’ in both SD and UX. Both disciplines have people from different types of training or professional practice. Individual who works under the same job title might have completely different approach. It is not the different personality types I am talking about here (which you get often in team-building exercises).  It is a school of thinking that people brings with them this belief of what their profession is all about. This hugely impact how people prioritise activities. A behaviour science training UX designer might put more emphasis on analysing the basics than a UX designer from a developer’s background who is happier to ‘fail quickly to succeed fast’ with assumptions. It can be frustration. And it can be confusing for client who has experience working with one type but not the other. The practitioners in these situations may find it hard to describe what they are experiencing, but it exists and should be acknowledged.

A third point is regarding the methods we can borrow from each other. Three month habiting in UX world has opened my eyes to the secret beauty of statistics and quantitative methods (while used properly). I was impressed by the concious efforts put into balancing the use of qualitative and quantitative methods in understanding and solving problems. Justify the use of quantitative methods in monitoring prototype and its impact on user behaviour (people don't always do what they say) and it provides good arguement in measurement and support business decisions.

What I found above are the inevitable nature of young fields. As we are expanding our design activities more into ‘new’ contexts (such as service innovation and social innovation) and multi-disciplinary teams, this is the prefect time to talk about how should we be cautious about the language and assumptions we bring from our own history and also how we can construct a ‘neutral’ platform to create meaningful conversations. Having said that, UX has been juggling user research for a fairly long time and has learned a lot from other disciplines such as science and arts. Looking into how they have balanced, yet diversed, their methods in exploring and measuring digital solutions, it is encouraging to combine the best of the two worlds.

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    design generalist - Blog - A life swinging between UX and SD
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    design generalist - Blog - A life swinging between UX and SD

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