UX Lisbon: A Means to An End

by May 17, 2013

In his A Means to An End presentation at UX Lisbon Jon Kolko explained how designers make things, the impact they can have with their work, and why they should focus their efforts on issues that matter. Here's my notes from his talk.

How Do You Work

  • There are four ingredients in design: craft, material, process, and voice.
  • Craft: usually thought of as refining the ability to make things. But craft is also about detail. Detail reflects engagement: a sense of quality that comes from the craftsman.
  • Material: there’s a sense that the materials we use want to flow a certain way. Simplicity is the greatest form of art. Rather than decorating, allow the material to do what it wants to do: this reflects the appropriateness of a material.
  • Process: sketching and prototyping are tools for discovery. Process is not magic, it is rigor and hard work. Process takes time and it is methodical.
  • Voice: what do you need to express? Voice allows to communicate a purpose, a reason for making things.
  • These four ingredients apply to the process of making things, whether it is pottery or programming. You can position these ingredients to amplify your message.
  • When you position these ingredients in the world, you have an impact on people.They leave changed after they experience what you have made.

What To Work On

  • Where do you choose to direct this powerful force? You can just spend your life mastering these skills or you can decide where to apply them.
  • Design does not have a subject matter -you can aim it anywhere you want.
  • Your opinion and point of view matters. Your selection of subject matter is always political and important and it has consequences.
  • Because design is powerful, you’ll have an impact with your work. Is it the impact you want to have on the world?
  • How can you gain control of your subject matter? You are not restricted to working on what your boss or client requires. You have a choice.
  • Theory of Change is a way to take control of subject matter: you can take inputs and influence short term and long term outcomes.
  • Social entrepreneurship is another way to take control of subject matter. Corporate or consultancy? The third choice: start your own company. A social entrepreneur focuses on both profit and social benefit.
  • For design to achieve a strategic role at a company, we need to get familiar with what makes companies work. The boardroom is the third way you can control subject matter.
  • Design is always a force for change in the world, what problems do you want to work on?