The Restaurant

You are working at a large, busy restaurant. It’s half full right now. Lunch is finishing up. There’s cooks, servers, cleaners, and patrons enjoying meals and drinks. There’s old furniture and appliances throughout the restaurant.

Yesterday, the restaurant decided to build a dancefloor. Management noticed patrons were staying back after dinner to drink until late, since there was no other suitable venue in town for them to go.

You are tasked with figuring out this dancefloor thing. Who’s going to use it and how they will use it. You can use the existing space, appliances and furniture. It’s very hard to remove anything from the restaurant. It’s also tricky to build anything specific or new. We don’t know if this dancefloor will be successful, but we need to try out something.

You don’t need to build a nightclub. Come back with some ideas. Present some smart options. Show us what it might look like. Maybe it’s not even possible.

This is sort of what the role and responsibilities of a UX designer is looking like these days.

Take a design role at a medium-large software company for example.

  1. You are collaborating with a bunch of different folks. There’s no siloed design team.
  2. There’s less and less value in novel user interface solutions or minor interface polishing tasks. It’s unlikely you are starting anything from scratch.
  3. Someone has likely thought through or worked on a similar problem before you.
  4. What we decide to work on (viability) becomes increasingly more important question to ask than what the solution looks like.
  5. You are working in a complex, dynamic space.

Sound familiar? The next question to ask is, how can I do a good job in this environment?

  1. Deeply understanding the business. Design has a lot to learn from users, but also a lot to learn about how the business works. Take a note from team business’ aka product management and get involved where you can in the why’ as much as the how’.
  2. Product thinking.
  3. Storytelling. Although this comes after the design’, you still need to communicate and sell.
  4. Managing complexity. This is where design thinking fits in. I believe in design thinking, I abhor design theater. When 1000 tonnes of complexity gets dropped on your head (with a deadline), you need smart, thoughtful processes to find thread an elegant solution.
  5. Yes, you will still be designing stuff’, but it might feel more like a rearranging placemats at a restaurant than designing widgets on a screen.

June 19, 2022