We're Going All in with Product Design

Bryan wrote this on March 27, 2012 in , . It has 5 reactions

Last week, we highlighted our objection to UX design as a discipline. It's not the first time we've been defiant in our cause. That's caused many people to ask, however, "what do we stand for?"

If you recall from our previous post, most of the examples of solid design work could be summarized into a few general ideas:

  • Prototyping and building things — not documenting or "strategizing"
  • Rapid iteration — working through the problems with tangible products
  • Building strong teaching cultures — successful products requires design literacy
  • Project inspired, not project managed — great products happen in-spite of project managers or program managers
  • Loose contracts or specs — design thinking requires flexibility

ZURB over the last 15 years hasn't spent much time worrying about how to shape our industry — instead we kept our heads down learning and practicing with our clients and customers. And the funny thing is, when you look at that summarized list, ZURB has been preaching those exact principles from day one. Even as a consulting practice.

There are limitations, however, with being a consultant and having a lasting impact with the companies we help. However, instead of looking at our services as insufficient, we decided to chart a course three years ago that brought together a complete solution to help our customers succeed. At the time, I'm not sure many of our employees believed we could truly pull it off. Today, we have expanded our efforts to include products, events and publishing — all to help our customers design great products faster. Now more than ever, design companies now need to be even more invested in their customers needs.

Helping People Design for People

Our purpose remains constant: Help People Design for People. When you put the needs of users first, the business goals often magically fall into place. It's not a tradeoff, but a healthy exchange of value.

Early in my career as product designer of toys, I learned successful hits couldn't be predicted, but they almost always had some combination of delight and crowd backing. An aha moment. The perception of value was important, but not always grounded in beneficial "features." The experience couldn't be predicted, but the principles of good product design, which have been around nearly a century, could still be applied.

When I started designing websites in 1998, I took most of the same methods I had honed in school, and applied the techniques to web development. It wasn't a perfect match, but I found that approach set ZURB apart from all those designers that came from graphic design backgrounds. At the time, calling myself a product designer seemed a little out of touch with people who just wanted a website.

But as the years have passed and more people have become aware of the business value of design, it's become apparent that solving an interface problem on a tablet or phone truly is a product design problem. It's no longer just a desktop screen and the form factor of the actual device is rather secondary to the interface. Companies can no longer easily justify focusing only on desktop interfaces. We have to prepare for the future.

Product Design is the Future

The next 15 years should be just as exciting as the last 15. At ZURB, we've committed ourselves to challenging the status quo, whether it's releasing an open source framework for multiple devices or building product design apps that even a marketer or executive could use. We're committed to furthering the discipline of product design and we think it's important to study the lessons history has taught us.

So in so many words, we're all in with product design.


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