One of the common frustrations I face as a designer of digital products / interfaces / software is not just dealing with stubborn engineers or misguided marketers, but also trying to explain myself to random strangers at social events, like a holiday party :-) There is no one single easy compact description…unlike doctors, lawyers, accountants, or even programmers who luckily (or not?) have a typical “gestalt” that people form in their minds about who they are, what they do, what the resullt of their labor is–even if they are stereotypes to a large extent.
But as a designer who deals with the information architecture (navigational paths and content buckets), layout of controls and content (interface design), and feedback / functionality / affordances (interaction design), it’s challenging to coin a neat little phrase I can easily throw at a social event without seeming nerdy or abstract…or somehow defensively trying to justify my existence!
Here’s a few approaches I’ve attempted in the past:
– “I’m a web designer” (Great! Can you help my grandma use Photoshop to do that?)
– “I design the visual interface of hi-tech products” (So, you’re the guy who makes those pretty icons? I love the red ones!)
– “I’m a product designer at a software company” (Huh?)
– “I’m a software designer” (Wow, I heard programming is really hard. Do you have to go to India alot?)
Most recently I’ve settled on saying that I’m a designer at Citrix in Silicon Valley, helping make our software apps user-friendly and attractive. Then I reference my iPhone or Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. That seems to be working so far… Responses tend to be hopeful interest with some follow-up curiosity questions about the project complexity, tools, team, travel, etc. Key words that pop up are “simplicity”, “easy”, and “usability” which suit me fine. On the extremely rare chance I’ve met another designer like myself, then we have a wonderfully rich, deep discussion of philo and process ;-) But that’s super rare.
On Quora I posed this question about how designers like myself intro themselves, which generated several salient responses on how to deal with that awkward social moment of “hmm??”: