Screen? What screen?: UX & Service Design


#1

I’ve got a problem I’ve been thinking around during my job hunt:

User Experience is, as we’ve been reminded on many cases, not just limited to digital devices & media. I’ve seen more and more interest out there for the use of service design and human-centered/design thinking for solving services and products well outside of the digital realm. However, it does feel like most of the groups and positions out there are largely expecting a background focusing on more interaction-design, first.

How can you best position yourself for this kind of work? What skill-sets are most common to bring to the table to solve these sorts of problems? What skill-sets are most needed and in short supply?

It’s my impression that many think that the future of UX is in moving away from such a screen-focused approach, but how does that translate, in practice, to what we’re doing?


#2

I´m reminded of a friend who was quite obstinate about not learning French. She just didn´t see the point of learning a language that she said no one spoke in her province, that she would never speak because everyone spoke English and that it would take too long to learn. She went through life with that kind of attitude. If it wasn´t useful, in her mind, she wouldn´t approach it. In the end, she had an admirable and extremely narrow skillset that has left her unable to jump from one industry to the next, one country to the next, one role to another.
You ask about the most common skillsets. I would argue there are none. What sets a UX professional apart is the vast and unique range of skills that they can bring to bear on the job at hand. And that combination can be pretty strange at times. I had no idea Scottish literature would help me as much as SASS.

Like you, I do believe that UX is moving wildly away from the first years of screen-based issues. I do just as much work on business processes and industrial manufacture as I do with websites and software. The design process I have built for myself is capable of adapting to as much as I can possibly handle, sometimes more.
I tweak it all the time and add to it what I can from my reading, writing and everything I can get my hands on. Talk to people, skill number one.


#3

I do just as much work on business processes and industrial manufacture as I do with websites and software. The design process I have built for myself is capable of adapting to as much as I can possibly handle, sometimes more.
I tweak it all the time and add to it what I can from my reading, writing and everything I can get my hands on. Talk to people, skill number one.

This is really getting at the heart of the question. If I asked what the tools were for interaction design, we’d have lots of structured methods and tools. So, what skills have transferred well and what have had to be adapted more? I know that, from my perspective, a lot of these things fall into tools like: 5 Whys; Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control, and Validate; and value stream mapping. (Though, simply learning to identify and ask the person who can best solve it is the evergreen solution)

As for the personal insight component: it’s impossible to move forward when you’re unwilling to learn what must be most useful for you. No-one wants to deal with a student who won’t be taught. I especially understand the latter as I have to deal with it in my students.

From my perspective, however, It’s more than that. In my case, I’ve spent a lot of time in Human Factors specialty, and have a distinct background in process improvement and systems analysis, so I have a lot of project work in either industrial manufacturing processes or serious lab studies. However, my schooling is not visually-focused. I’ve got an engineering / applied psychology background that focused on problem solving, ethnography, and data and have been learning more of the visual / aesthetic components. I’m still definitely a beginner there, and I think I’ll probably look into IxDA’s online short courses to fill in some of the gaps.

I’m learning to balance the “T-shaped” individual concept. In my background, I’ve had to learn the dangers of being a unicorn. As a lab founder, if it needed to be done, I had to learn to do it. I also had to meet departmental academic expectations to focus on highly technical, non-applicable topics before I was able to pursue what I was genuinely good at. Stretching to too many things at once made me miserable (and unsuccessful). I ended up behind in both categories, as I wasn’t particularly good at the former and I was too exhausted to really pursue the latter.

I’m working to best apply my skills and translate them in a way that lets me do what I do well while shoring up my weaknesses. I’ve spent a long time learning whatever is useful, but there’s always more skills to learn than there is time to learn them. By the end of the day, over-generalization can make you into a dilettante, not an expert.


#4

I like your idea of translation of skill, as a non-native English speaker, I am in that mode almost constantly and maybe I don´t realise it most of the time but I´m converting information, modes, grammar, skills into what is useful for me nearly every minute. Here is my favorite cartoon on the subject of the pitfalls of learning. I need to fight the temptation to opt out all the time.