This is real. 

This is not an instructor-directed topic. This is not someone else’s social agenda. This is my life. My future. My developing expertise. 

The impact I have on the world as a designer starts right here. Senior year at California College of the Arts. 2015. This is when my naivety of all the particulars of the industry is an asset as I take a critical eye to ‘design consultancy’ as a system.

Design can do better than it is currently doing in the world. Just enough exposure through internships, research, and indirect perspectives has made that clear. This is not a question of whether design is valued. This is a question of whether Designers can enter the tech industry on the invention end of the spectrum vs. the final UI layer of the spectrum.

Team Chaos is a group of four Interaction Designers: Analicia, Kirk, William, and myself. I believe we can redefine the status quo of when designers are allowed to enter the stage during invention. I expect that most of the world does not share that same vision. The tech industry is very engineer driven and venture capitalism thrives off of what they consider the ‘builders.’

Through my team’s research this week, I believed we would verify that in most cases design is considered a small puzzle piece to a concept that has already been pitched, funded, and developed.

I interviewed three players in the ecosystem of design implementation throughout the past week.

  • Andrea - A Senior Software Developer who is working on a project a design consultancy has been hired to deliver the final user experience for her team to code.
  • Justine - An in-house UX Designer for General Electric who works side-by-side with the engineer team on a couple of projects in Agile format.
  • Brett - An Interaction Design Intern at a start-up led primarily by business school graduates, preparing to release a new product.

I also participated in the transcription and synthesis of a dozen other interviews my team conducted. The interviewees varied between clients of design consultancies, consultants, and in-house UX/IxD designers.

One lesson that became clear from our research is there are certainly opportunities for design consultancies to collaborate with clients in more strategic processes. Another lesson I learned is that communication between consultancies and clients can be a significant barrier even when delivering a completed package. This is commonly referred to as “throwing it over the fence,” which implies that consultancies put together their deliverable, hand it off to the client, and wipe their hands of involvement. The client is left on their own to build out the product – by their own choice, by the way (they are the ones that hired the consultancy, so they choose when to cut ties). Finally, the last major lesson I learned is that the internal organization and communication within design consultancies has room for improvement, as many designers find themselves dissatisfied with the their position in a consultancy after a short time, and begin seeking a change.

My goal for this coming week will be to continue uncovering the reasons behind so many consultancies taking a backseat approach to product development, and the drivers for retaining consultants in a design consultancy organization.

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