February 3, 2002
MarkBernstein.org
 
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What has Experience Design come to?

Nathan Shedroff wrote Experience Design, a gorgeous book (and pep rally) that urges designers to view new media as encompassing experiences, not screens or artifacts or processes. A few months ago, he wrote an important polemic about the critical response to the book.

I'm deeply puzzled and disappointed at the lack of thoughtfulness in the design world when it comes to articulating opinion. Maybe this is just confinable to the online design world and, admittedly, the online world is much more polarizing and excitable in general.... What upsets me, though, is the apparent acceptance as normal of the kind of boorish spouting-off within these media and these communities.

Shedroff suffers from a malaise common to writers, the belief that their important and successful book has been neither. It's hard to know whether your book matters; the book goes off and does its work in private. What you see are the critics and the axe-grinders and, too often, the fools.

Shedroff also has a useful diagnosis for the meltdown that afflicted Web design discourse this summer, an epidemic that took most of the best portals offline.

Can you imagine a group of Fashion Architects declaring their supremacy over Fashion Designers? Yes, that's what we've come to. We barely have enough respect as it is from clients and some team members so far. Imagine if they found-out how shallow and vain the profession is turning. And, sadly, just as Experience Design is coming "in," Visual (or Graphic) design seems to be going "out." At the fourth annual AIGA Advance for Design this year (the forum for the AIGA Experience Design group) a sneaky, scary undercurrent was uncovered. It seems like the field of graphic design isn't important enough anymore; that visually translating all of the decisions and messages and strategies into a final product just wasn't important on it's own to be included as a role.

It's a long rant, it might have been tightened here and there, and it walks dangerously close the the edge of the Author's Big Mistake -- arguing with the critics -- but it makes fascinating reading. Shedroff can be hilarious (he argues that CHI is a "conference of abused children") and doesn't hesitate to assign blame: "The most dangerous thing in design today is that too many designers hyperlink automatically to eye-rolling sarcasm. "