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Experience Designer – from blocks to something more

May 26th, 2009

p>A few days ago, while heading to the Adobe offices here in Bucharest, I noticed (again) the grey communist buildings. I don’t know why, but this communism thing keeps inspiring me to think about the software industry.

umbraBlocuriJust to give you a hint: communist blocks are not the nicest type of buildings. Here in Romania they were ordered mainly by Ceausescu to displace a lot of people from rural areas into cities so that his plans of urbanization and industrialization could be sustained. So these buildings did just that … and nothing more. Very functional, that’s it. Not too much creativity, one model copied hundred of times in a row. More an engineering task than an architect’s job.

Now, if you ask a software engineer, this might sound like an efficient way to build houses, with a lot of component and design pattern reuse. If you ask people that are living in these blocks (including me) I would prefer moving. I can’t really because these are practically the only available blocks in Bucharest.

And this brings me back to the software industry and how we are building software, especially business software. Actually the verb for this is ‘engineer’: we are engineering software. And as engineers we are striving for efficiency. As a result there is tons and tons of software that is extremely … well let’s put it blunt: crappy to use. However, much of this software provides a lot of value. Like communist buildings, I would prefer using ‘crappy’ software to get a process going rather than push some paper.

But as the industry matures, the fundamental efficiency problem moves away from ‘build these two functionalities with the minimum amount of money’. As applications move more and more into our lives, they become like buildings and demand a touch of the ‘elusive’ design. For thousands of years architects have added the ‘experience’ value in the construction industry. That’s what the new Experience Designers for applications strive to do for the software industry. (They might also be known as Interaction Designers as we still struggle to define their work).

You can say that these guys make applications look nice, but I would say that it’s more than this. You can’t really put this into words, but if you come and take a walk among the grey communist blocks in Bucharest you will understand.

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  1. sonia
    May 26th, 2009 at 13:26 | #1

    The idea of reusing the plan of a building existed before communism.

    In Rome, to close off the Piazza del Campidoglio symmetrically, the facade of Palazzo Nuovo duplicates to that of Palazzo dei Conservatori (using Michelangelo’s plan).

    But nowadays, I guess we have symmetrical things only in graphic design :) .

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