May 18th, 2008

The right design

I just finished reading Bill Buxton‘s Sketching User Experiences and it had quite an impression on me. It starts with a general, broad argument on the role of design thinking in business and product development, illustrating how design, design thinking and design artifacts are not yet well enough integrated and understood in technology business. A great introduction also for non-designers, including a fantastic discussion of the iPod design and business story.
For design practitioners, the main part of the book is concerned with the activities of sketching and prototyping. His main argument is that these two concepts are often used interchangeably, however serve two very different purposes:
Sketches are for getting the right design , developing the basic idea, the punchline of the design project. Sketches are quick, disposable, diverging, and abundant.
Prototypes (as well as usability testing, mock-ups, etc.) are for getting the design right – narrowing down the possibilities, making decisions, just doing what it takes to get from an idea to a really well designed thing.
To experienced designers, this might sound quite obvious, but I have to admit myself I did not reflect properly on how I use these words, and how I use these design tools. Buxton did a great job of introducing subtle distinctions in this area, and gives you lots of different angles and examples to get it. Great stuff. Obligatory reading for designers, and highly recommended for anyone who has designers around them – I promise you will understand them much better afterwards :)