Our job is to talk to people

And then make things for them.

Bill DeRouchey’s keynote presentation at UX Australia 2012 was about bringing it back to being about people. Technical skills are important, but technology changes so rapidly that keeping up in order to design for the technological capabilities of the day are just part of the job.

One thing that will survive all technological developments and trends are the basic attributes and tools of the designer: being compassionate, curious, empathetic and simply asking why. Why did you do that? Why do you believe that?

The question “Why?” is a constant that doesn’t care about accelerometers, curved corners, biometrics, glossy screens, or wireless communication.

Bill encouraged designers to get behind the eyes and in the shoes (but not in the pants) of people to see the world how they see it. To take a genuine interest in the now, near future and long term; in the individual, the organisation and the world.

Asking why exposes ruts and habits both in individuals and businesses that can be important in understanding the challenge and developing an appropriate solution. Failure to do so could result in recommending changes that don’t fit with people’s worldview and values or a company’s culture.

The word “Why” doesn’t just have to be used as a question, and as we explore a problem or need and the greater context we can shift from asking why to explaining why a particular solution would be a good fit. That intelligence gained by going deep into the problem space will stand you in good stead to combat opposition and ignorance.

A designer must be able to promote and sell their ideas. The best ideas in the world are worthless if no one is convinced. We must be evangelists.

Bill finished his talk by imploring designers to think bigger and beyond the immediate to some of the more important wicked problems that plague our planet, to tackle the institutions.

He was critical of the design talent and effort wasted in dead-end startups where the business plan is merely to develop product equity and sell it off. We have too few good designers as it is and some significant, important challenges that we can contribute to.

Bill cited Simon Sinek and his book Start With Why.

See sketchnotes of Bill DeRouchey’s presentation by Matt Magain and Gary Barber.

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