This is a discussion Matt and I have had for years—whether a formal qualification is needed or not. I believe it is. The industry is continuing to mature and now starting to expect some formal education, especially when hiring new staff. As an industry, we deserve it too.
The reasons I think a formal qualification is a strong advantage in UX is related to the age-old issue with tertiary education in the fields of design and technology often being somewhat ‘out of touch’ with industry practice. While I’m not advocating for irrelevant course subjects or defending courses stuck in the dark ages, we still need to remember that ‘capital D’ design (progressive, helpful, considered design) is a sophisticated but learnable field with a long and rich history. Compare web design with a design field like industrial design—as a relatively young industry, we web designers don’t have a very good reputation for design rigour.
I would like UX design to be part of the return to ‘capital D’ design for digital, and that means that people entering the UX field should be learning some things that, arguably, have no place in day-to-day UX design:
- design theory—a solid baseline in robust processes, visual communication skills, psychology. Industry often goes around in circles, or persists with outdated thinking because they haven’t sat down and thought about things properly.
- space for debating design ethics
- plenty of exposure to mentors and people whose job it is to teach you
- being part of a generation of graduates who can grow their careers together
- space and permission to fail at things, to teach yourself, and start good habits without any commercial pressures on you
- a history of our field—where did UX come from? Where is it going? A lot of people don’t know, and they think UX is brand new. That hurts our ability to learn from our industry ancestors.
- some feel for an industry ‘canon’—who are the pioneers and thought leaders? why are they worthy of respect? When practicing it’s easy to become niche and lose sight of some broader references.
- setting an expected baseline of professional standards—things like proper certification and accreditation have an important role in holding the UX field accountable
These things get squeezed out if we only learn on-the-job, and they’re things that only designers with decades of experience manage to pick up by themselves. If we exposed this knowledge and wisdom to the upcoming generations of UX designers, they could better stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, and hopefully do some things to honestly make the world better.
I would hope that formal design education would also leverage UX out of a perceived role in using psychology to manipulate customers so we can increase commercial sales. We’re better than that, and as designers we have a moral obligation to stop filling the world with time-wasting and poorly-designed objects. My hero for this topic is Victor Papanek, and his book “Design for the Real World” which was written in 1971. It’s combative and opinionated, but says many things we seem to have forgotten about and still need to hear.
I’ll ping you an email and see if I can introduce you to someone established in Istanbul.