Everyone is an expert

Donald Norman brings up a very valid point in chapter 6 of The Design of Everyday Things. He mentions that with most people, they tend to engage a problem as if it were the end all. To be honest, I do this all the time. Growing up with an engineering mindset, my approach to a problem was always: what is the most efficient way that I can solve this problem? I never thought to understand why I was given this specific problem, or what the underlying conditions were. It seems as though people try to act like doctors. Listen to the symptoms and diagnose as accurately as you can. The thing about most doctors is that they don’t make these decisions on the spot. While they’re checking the patient and listening, they’re asking questions.

The point about the “Wizard of Oz” technique was also interesting. It reminded me of how Thomas Edison would exhibit his lightbulb when it was first invented. In between visits, he would change out the bulb so that it wouldn’t go out unexpectedly. I think this applies to design as well. We can put up a sort of front to the audience that we are testing our designs to and with a little manipulation we can get the information that we need. Even before we reach a specific prototype we will have a defined direction that will lead to success.

I have never really thought like a designer in my life before, so this is a very new approach to thinking about problems. I realize now that I have to think even further than what I’m asked to do. It reminds me of a character from the HBO show Silicon Valley. A designer is constantly asking questions about the visual design of a certain product which ended up frustrating me a little bit. It’s probably not that relevant, but I can see why the writers wrote this character the way they did. When we’re designing, we need to be able to attack every aspect of a problem and its roots so that we can accomplish as much as we can in terms of needs and wants.

We might be “experts” in a certain sense, but it seems like we only hit the tip of the iceberg.