The rise of the hybrids

No, not talking about the Prius :-) I’m referring to hybrid designers.

I remember when I first started working I would introduce myself as an “interaction designer” or “UI designer” focused on making flow diagrams and wireframes. Now with my expertise in visual design and dabbling in web-based prototyping, I find myself saying that I’m a “hybrid”, tackling multiple sides of a design problem with ease.

No more bucketing someone into either “visual designer” OR “interaction designer” OR “prototyper”. That kind of silo-ing is neither helpful (given the need for fluid studio style collaborative environs and org structures to match the rapid pace of designing / iterating / building) nor practical as new generations of designers become comfortable with hi-fidelity toolkits and creating visuals themselves. Increasingly companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook, are looking for designers who can code and cut their own PNGs with craft, diligence, and expertise of design judgment.

Indeed, the rise of the hybrids is now upon us! To design higher quality products that are innovative, can work across devices & screen types, support rapid iteration cycles on lean schedules & budgets (and slimmer org structures), it’s not enough to just be able to do one thing–you’ve got to be able to multiple aspects of a design very well to demonstrate your value, versatility, and rigor as a designer.

And it just makes sense from a total design perspective. Shaping the visual style impacts the interactions and interface layout, and vice versa. Knowing, or to be more accurate, anticipating the impact on the code makes you that much more nimble and effective to adjust on the fly, generate smarter solutions, dismiss inferior options, and craft a more well-thought out comprehensive product / service / system. After all, no product (or UI) exists in a vacuum on its own, but always part of a broader more value-rich ecosystem. Bringing a full 360 set of skills to the table only empowers you as a designer to shape that general direction, a stong vision defensible to persnickety engineers and stodgy product managers or execs.

Another thing–if you want to gain genuine mutual respect among your product development peers (esp engineers) being able to tackle multiple aspects of a problem only ups your ante in their eyes, increasing your value and reducing the possibility of being cut during annual re-orgs and layoffs.

Maximize your design efficiency, Amplify your total skillset. Extend your talents and respect level. Be a hybrid. The future of design belongs to those who have a diverse repertoire (like a diversified financial portfolio, with hedges and bets and gains placed strategically where it makes sense).

1 comment

  • Should you hire separate visual designer and interaction designer?…

    I agree with much of what’s said here in terms of what / how these designers add value, but I think it’s an increasingly necessary expectation to hire “hybrid designers” who can do BOTH interaction and visuals. They are rare individuals, no doubt. …

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