We have one of the most supportive, fantastic communities of all time. I love being part of it. I can’t even tell you how many social threads and forums I’ve seen completely blanketed by folks who have been in the biz for years helping answer questions and mentoring new designers. Our community is awesome.
I was at a conference recently, and overheard a conversation that left me feeling really angry. An attendee was chatting with a speaker who had given a killer preso about UX strategy laced with both interaction design and user research tips. His presentation was informative and well thought out, and attendees left raving about the session. Several people walked up to the front of the room to congratulate him afterward, myself included. I overhead the attendee standing in front of me say, “This was great, but the session title was misleading, since you’re not a REAL designer.”
The speaker looked a little stunned.
I was dumbfounded. Then I was angry, so I calmly approached, and said, “I’m sorry, what exactly is a “real” designer in your opinion?”
I tried REALLY hard to keep the anger and sarcasm out of my voice, but was apparently only partially successful, because the guy went from cocky and condescending to startled and uncomfortable and said eloquently, “Well you know, he doesn’t like, make graphics and stuff like designers on my team do.”
I diffused a bit there, and realized that the guy wasn’t a designer, and he just didn’t have a clue. I felt like a jerk for getting up in arms when they guy was just legitimately ignorant, and said, “Gotcha. Yeah, there are tons of different specialties in the overarching design profession. Graphic design is one of them, but there are tons more.”
Then we sat down and chatted at length during the break about different specialty design professions. Sometimes I forget that people (even people in the tech industry) don’t have a firm grasp of who makes up the design industry.
Graphic design is not better than interaction design is not better than front end dev is not better than information architecture is not better than content strategy is not better than user research, etc.. The design profession is made up of all types of people with all types of backgrounds who come together to design amazing products. There is not “more important” or “less important” there is just a “design team”.
The lesson I took from my interaction with this dude at the conference (who turned out to be a systems admin btw) was that anger isn’t the appropriate response to ignorance; education is. Unless the ignorance is heavily laced with elitist jerk mojo, in which case, pity is the appropriate response. ;)