I was thinking last night about a question I get a lot from hiring managers who are interviewing me for some random UX position (or interaction design or something other) for their company.

That question 99.9% of the time is “What do you see as User Experience Design?”

Good question, as it seems there’s a lot of answers, or no real ONE true answer. Really. I think that comes from there being all sorts of different things that fall under the UX design umbrella.

Because when you think about it, all the different “things” (or disciplines) that fall under the magical UX design umbrella are design related. Think about it. Information Architecture is designing a better more user-friendly way of getting around a site or app; user research is gathering information and then “designing” a plan to make a better experience, and of course there’s all the other design things such as interaction design, UI design, visual design.

My thought (and I’m guessing I’m not the only one here), and usual answer to the question is that User Experience Design is all those, and I truly feel and believe that a good if not great UX designer is capable of being involved with all the different aspects of UX design. What I think of is that a UX designer (and maybe this is what their role should be vs. falling into being just one of the other disciplines) is similar to an architect. And by that I mean what the architects from the post-war were.

Those amazing people — Mies Van Der Rohe (who started the Bauhaus movement), Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, Cliff May, and the list goes on (you can view that here) did something that a lot of architects don’t do today. That is, create an experience. Most of today’s architects design the structure, and let the landscape architect do their part, and leave the colors to the client as well as furniture and so on.  This is similar, in my mind at least, to those who practice UX design, or unfortunately work for a company where they are only required or assigned to do one aspect of UX design.

Those designers from 1933 up to what we know as mid-century, created experiences. They chose the right colors, they designed the furniture, they looked at the environment and how to make it meld with the inside of the home (not just a house), they were there from day one to the day the keys were handed over to their client. They made sure the vision they created became reality. The listened to their client and gave them the best user-centered design and a great user experience.

Most places I’ve worked I’ve been told to only focus on wireframes, or interaction design, or visual design, or user research. And I get that certain companies have that broken out on purpose, or that’s just the way things are. And for most people that works well, because someone may be a great information architect, or UI designer, or researcher, and that’s their passion.

For me though, it’s about creating the best user experience as those designer/architects did – from day one to launch. It’s about using the right colors, designing the furniture, picking out the right lighting, creating something truly wonderful and unique, giving the user the best experience possible. Being involved in every aspect of the process.

What does UX design mean to you? How do you feel about the title “UX Designer” being more than just one part of the whole picture? I know some companies call it a “UX Lead” and they have involvement from start to finish. What are your thoughts?

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