Myths To Design By
Chris Baum, Consultant
Session Type: Presentation
Where did myth become a bad thing?
Everywhere you look, myth is used as an easy handle to identify fallacies. “Top 10 Myths of User Experience” and “Myths of Interaction Design” are titles often used for articles and presentations to capture people’s attention. The intent here is good – help people avoid making mistakes and base their practice on wrong-headed, but widely accepted ideas.
However, the misuse of “myth” here signals a larger problem – that, for all its practical applications, the design disciplines struggle for a deeper grounding, holding the larger community back from realizing our true potential. We debate definitions and boundaries endlessly, far past the point of usefulness.
It’s time to reclaim “myth” for it’s real purpose. Myths are metaphors that provide connection to the underlying social structure and belief systems. In the most discussed cases, mythic stories explore sacred or metaphysical ideas, but they also play large roles in knitting together the social fabric of a culture.
In his seminal career, Joseph Campbell used a comparative method to illustrate foundational issues with many of the worlds cultural myths. He examined myths from across the globe.
Looking at his work, and that of others like Abraham Maslow and Carl Jung, it is possible to start sketching out a Mythology of User Experience. This mythology is comprised of strains from all of the communities of practice – interaction design, information architecture, user research, content design, etc. – working together using our individual practices to realize the promise of the technologies available to us, in service to the people using them and the organizations leveraging them.
When talking about why myths are important, Campbell highlights a statement made by the Dalai Lama on his first visit to New York City.
“Keep up your practice. The results do not happen fast; this is not an instant realization. And as you practice, you will become aware of a change of consciousness. Do not become attached to your method, for when your consciousness will have changed, you will recognize that all methods are intending the one goal.” – Dalai Lama, New York, 1979
The UX disciplines find ourselves in a situation similar the larger geo-political climate – where there was, at one time, clear separations between cultures, technology and interaction have created a single, large global community. In these situations, myths mingle and change. During these times, it is very hard to see how the myths will blend and emerge.
In this session, we will explore the mythic elements of our various communities to:
- See how the larger UX community fits together
- Find methods to uncover the myths held by user and business stakeholders
- Make better decisions about what features and inputs are important in the design process
- Create ever more effective and meaningful designs
Chris helps orgs (and people) apply their wisdom practically. Mostly this manifests itself as information architecture, user research, and interaction design. He also shepherds Boxes & Arrows.
An unapologetic Midwesterner, Chris now enjoys the many pleasures of San Francisco.