Why I design for the enterprise and why you should, too.

We need more designers designing for the enterprise


We love the cool, the hip, the exciting, the noted. We thrive on recognition, notoriety, but most of all a sense of impact. We are human focused designers. For the most part we are drawn to very externalized project types. Startups, social media, consumer products, etc. get the forefront of our attention, but we balance that we a strong push towards issues and systems of social innovation.

Few of our community focus on the underbelly of systems. The arenas of infrastructure and enterprise don’t seem to excite the average designer despite it’s tremendous impact in the world. We do however complain ad nauseum about the effects of poorly designed infrastructure and enterprise tools, and we laude futures of consumer experiences that will never happen without rigorous attention to the infrastructural systems that will enable them to happen.

So I hope to get more designers interested in infrastructure and enterprise design. It is the design of the building blocks of every thing else. It is the design of the corporation for the corporation. It is the design of the systems that will not just impact your direct customer’s experience, but their customer’s experiences and trickle down even further from there. It is the design of systems, technologies, and interfaces that can enable the reduction of costs, or create efficiencies of speed or scale that can lead to saving lives around the world, creating knowledge, or just making it possible to request your paid time off without feeling abused in the process.

Working in this space requires depth and specialization. The problems are at a scale of complexity logarithmically higher because of the intricacies caused by system interoperability, data relationships, multiple contexts and human behavior patterns involved. There are wicked problems in these hills that need designers with wicked skills in order to employ.

Enterprise designers also can’t work the same ways as designers of other systems. We need to be more deliberate, more precise and holistic. Testing a single hypothesis outside of the context of the whole system design can lead to false results that can lead to designing things wrong at best, but also lead to designing the wrong things at worst.

When you get to the meat of enterprise and infrastructure design, there is that moment when you see in the open designer the “Ah-ha!”. That moment when they see the fractals of possibility and the empowerment of their full engagement. The designer moves from thinking about touch points to thinking about the level of abstractions away from the final child impacted by the interfaces so far removed from that child.

So I encourage you to search out places where you can have real impact on the world at exponential rates of return over those you can have with consumer products and even with social innovation products. Think about the simplicity of that light switch on your wall. Now think about all the people around the world who have that same power, with that same ease. Finally, think about how making that simple point of contact was only possible due to the huge amounts of complexity managed on behalf of the person facing that switch. Design THAT!

What will be your light switch in your career?

Published in #SWLH (Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking)

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