Undoing the Toxic Dogmatism of Digital Design: Myth-Busting and Moving Forward

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Sep 23, 2023

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Undoing the Toxic Dogmatism of Digital Design: Myth-Busting and Moving Forward

In the world of digital design, there has always been a lack of consensus when it comes to what constitutes a "good enough" foundational education. Design educators and industry leaders have long debated the best methods and practices for teaching digital design. This lack of agreement has led to a perpetuation of ineffective methods that fail to tell the full story of user experiences.

One common myth in digital design is the idea that there is a linear flow to user interactions. Many designers still cling to the belief that users follow a predetermined path when engaging with a system. However, this is far from the reality of how people actually interact with technology. In both consumer and enterprise settings, user interactions are complex and non-linear. Users navigate through systems in a way that is unique to their individual needs and preferences. Designers must let go of the idea of a linear flow and embrace a more holistic understanding of user experiences.

Another toxic dogma in digital design is the obsession with deliverables. Many designers focus solely on creating visually appealing maps and diagrams that tell a surface-level story of user journeys. However, these deliverables are merely evidence of the work, not the work itself. Designers must shift their focus from creating pretty visuals to developing practical tools that allow for meaningful insights and analysis. Having a down and dirty version of a user journey map that allows for in-depth exploration is far more valuable than a superficially appealing deliverable.

Design team seniority levels are another point of contention in the digital design world. The traditional hierarchy of junior, mid-level, and senior designers often fails to accurately reflect the skills and expertise of individual team members. Seniority should be based on merit and competency, rather than arbitrary levels. Design teams should encourage a culture of continuous learning and growth, where each member is valued for their unique contributions and expertise.

One of the most troubling trends in digital design is the fear of exploration and failure. The pressure to constantly produce results has stifled creativity and innovation. Designers must reclaim the safety to explore new ideas and take risks. Failure should be seen as a learning opportunity rather than a mark of incompetence. Embracing a culture of experimentation and iteration is essential for pushing the boundaries of digital design.

It is also crucial to question the influence of well-known design leaders. While they may have established themselves as authorities in the field, it is important to recognize that they do not hold all the answers. As creatives responsible for mass communication and shaping user experiences, designers have the power to make a significant impact. It is essential to challenge the status quo and question the dominant narratives in design. Inclusivity should be at the forefront of design processes, ensuring that products and services are accessible to all.

To move forward and undo the toxic dogmatism of digital design, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace a non-linear approach: Let go of the belief in a linear user flow and embrace the complexity of user interactions. Design for individual needs and preferences, allowing for flexibility and personalization.
  • 2. Focus on practicality over aesthetics: Shift your focus from creating visually appealing deliverables to developing tools that enable meaningful insights and analysis. Prioritize the functionality and usefulness of your designs.
  • 3. Foster a culture of exploration and failure: Create a safe space for experimentation and risk-taking. Encourage continuous learning and growth, valuing the insights gained from failure.

In conclusion, it is time to undo the toxic dogmatism that has plagued the field of digital design. By challenging established beliefs and embracing new approaches, designers can create more inclusive and impactful experiences. Let go of outdated methods, prioritize practicality over aesthetics, and foster a culture of exploration and failure. Only then can we truly move forward and shape the future of digital design.

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