Why define the UX Tribe?

Is this an unproductive exercise to create false labels or to create consensus when there is none? I don’t think so- the risk we face is what Jesse James Garrett called the ‘death knell of division by job titles’. Here are some

  • User Experience Designer/ Architect
  • Information Architect
  • Interaction Designer
  • User Interface Designer

Not to mention Usability, User Research and other related titles. It all makes sense to me and I understand the subtleties- but its way too confusing for anyone outside the profession. Needless to say, this isn’t good branding and there is much value proposition lost as a result. Besides, Business executives don’t care about (often pedantic) differences between Information Architecture & Interaction Design.  I’m not saying that these branches should merge or these terms stop being used, but accepting that what we do is ‘User Experience Design’ is only a good thing.

Why not just call it Design, some argue? For one its too broad- well established divisions like Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Architecture already exist. More importantly, the right question to ask is- “is there really something new, unique, and especially useful“. The primary goals of IA, IxD etc are essentially the same- fulfill user goals in interactive products & make stuff easy and pleasurable to use .

Again, there are no hard lines- there are folks who strictly do IA or IxD, but the majority of us lie somewhere in between- why not simplify our message to the industry and take advantage of the full extent of our value proposition. The irony that we UX Designers pride ourselves in solving contextual problems for the user (the marketplace in this case) is not lost on me.

(Note: This is a continuing poll)

March 27, 2009. Uncategorized.


  1. Dave Malouf replied:

    Why not? I’ll tell you why not? b/c UX is inaccurate, and narrow. It lacks the sophistication that permeating the global design community. It doesn’t speak to how non-UX design traditions are actually doing UX tasks better and with greater success.

    Titles are meaningless and creating a false sense of community is exclusionary and unnecessary. The intricasies of the tasks facing us are deep but the holism we must embrace is also equally important. A UX Community that is separate from ID, GD, and Arch is just plain limiting.

    The tribe is not real. It was made up to be marketing speak. There is no “discipline” behind it so it is only as valuable as the time period it stands next to. Be the discipline, and let that stand, evolve and grow. ID is a great example of this. So is architecture. UX is not comparable b/c it lacks a defined core discipline to emerge from. It is too vague and contains too wide of a # of disciplines to be useful as a defining rod. At best it is a community and even then the community is so fragmented that it’s foundation is filled with cracks.

    That’s why not!

    — dave

  2. jobrien replied:

    We cannot all have generic titles or labels as then no one would know who is responsible for what or what it is we each contribute. Plus, at the end of the day, our titles are what defines our roles, helps set us up for our career paths, and helps define our employee reviews, etc.

    However, we should look to belong to a unified group of UX contributors. Along with that, I think it is important that this group have it’s own management in place for support and representation of the group at large. While we may all work on our own projects and efforts, being a cohesive group brings solidarity to a team of UX folks and gives them a stronger presence and even influence within an organization.

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