Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Designability & the Source of a Good Idea

Having been immersed in a variety of client- and agency-side projects lately, it's really interesting to witness the evolution in interactive process and protocol. UX (user experience) folks are acting more like designers, designers are acting more like information architects, and creative directors are expected on many levels to understand delivery systems and technology nuances. Like the very tools we've built and been offered to mash up, we are now mashing up skill-sets at a quick pace and in considerably high demand.

Razorfish's Consumer Experience Report last year really summed up this new movement in design sensibility, or "designability", and addressed a real need to re-examine how we look at building imagery, writing code, or even processing information. The real takeaway in all of this, in my humble opinion, is that good ideas are no longer the responsibility of a copywriter, art director or creative director, but that of anyone who is a stakeholder in the development of a brand or its respective products. That means if you happen to be sitting in the room, no matter if you're the junior account guy or the big boss, then you're a stakeholder and it's your undying pledge to the client to speak up. Put it this way, if creative agencies, for example, are being paid for their creativity, then fee generation should be commensurate with access to more than just a few folks who have been deemed "experts" on an account.

John Sweeney's now famous book "Innovation at the Speed of Laughter" taught us about the acceptance of all ideas. When you've spent any amount of time in an agency conference room, it's funny to think about how easily ideas get killed by ego and insecurity in a matter of minutes. Lately, however, I've noticed a pretty profound shift in thinking, and while there are plenty of folks in the room that will tell you why they don't like something, at least they're presenting a fairly sound argument and then listening to the rebuttle. It's amazing what a little economic adversity will do to open our minds.

So, getting back to the development process - and more specifically, designability - we can look at things such as a website, microsite, application or community platform as a point of commonality for the creative process. This is not only where all brand marketing functions can build a voice, but where an array of media can build and share their own. We all face a new and fantastic challenge, which is too somehow marry a compelling esthetic with engaging conversational dynamics. Further, we have to think in terms of scale so that our beautiful work can be improved upon and adaptable to the conversations that ensue and give a brand's perception its rapidly morphing shape in the world.

Keep reading, keep learning, keep wondering and keep developing. You don't have to be artistic to be creative, or creative to be artistic. You just have to be open to new ideas.

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