(Insert Job Title Here): Why you should ignore your title and just do the right thing

Session Title

(Insert Job Title Here): Why you should ignore your title and just do the right thing


Abby Covert, Draftfcb

Session Type: Presentation

Over the last few years, the experience-design community has trended from generalists to specialists and back again. We fight over the words on our business cards. We call ourselves Experience Architects, User Experience Advocates, Experience Evangelists — basically, any pithy little title we can cram the word “experience” into.

But let’s take a moment to step away from this competency-eye view. Is the energy put into fine-tuning our professional identities killing our collaborative spirit?

This session explores our roles and the ways in which they work as part of a larger, unified effort.

Sound a bit like a manifesto? Perhaps. Ideas to explore:

* We are all creators — in this case, of websites.
* Pushing each other is not disrespectful.
* There’s a little Subject Matter Expert in all of us.
* Anyone can do documentation. Really.
* Stop protecting your sandbox. Share your wealth.


Having worked in the design field for eight years, Abby specializes in user-experience planning and information architecture. She develops user-experience strategy for clients ranging from consumer goods to healthcare.

Prior to her current role at Draftfcb, Abby helped create a user-experience practice for a strategic healthcare-marketing firm. She has also worked as a consultant in creating optimal user experiences while implementing Microsoft technology for large enterprises. Early in her career, she was a key member of a team charged with innovating a new set of HR self-service web applications for Fidelity Investments. Some of Abby’s past clients include Kraft Foods, Bank of America, The Hartford Insurance, BlueCross BlueShield, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the United States Postal Service and Home Depot.

Abby has a dual degree in Multimedia Studies and Graphic Design from Northeastern University and volunteers at the Information Architecture Institute. When she’s not working, she’s riding her bicycle around Chicago.


  1. Posted September 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Interesting topic, but saying that “We are all creators — in this case, of websites,” is dated. Interaction designers are creating lots of exciting artifacts not just websites.

    If your intent is to present a manifesto why not discuss tangible interactions, speculative design (e.g., Gaver’s Drift Table) and myriad of other ways designers are shaping user’s experiences away from the desktop? It is this sort of work (I believe) fosters “collaborative spirit” especially among different kinds of designers.

    Good luck!

  2. Abby Covert
    Posted September 18, 2009 at 1:46 pm


    I find it very interesting that you disagree with a phrase that I used, when the intent of my talk is to try to remind us all that what we produce is way more important than the words we use to describe it or the job titles we hold while creating it. The word “website” used here is a term I chose very specifically because in my experience, a lot of what we focus on in this community appears to a user in a browser. Call it what you will, product, application what have you…Your users most likely refer to it as a website. In my opinion, creating vocabulary-based walls between us and our users is really no better than building those same type walls between our competencies.

    While I would love to discuss tangible interactions and/or speculative design further, it seems like a whole other presentation topic. I would love to see a topic like that submitted to an upcoming conference — and perhaps you are the best gal for the job.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond,


  3. Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t think ignoring job titles will actually solve anything. Look at it from the perspective of the manager. How do you describe (in a few words) what kind of role/talent/type of people you need to hire without getting into a list of skills, etc?

    Its not about protecting the sandbox, its about identifying what the heck a sandbox is and what makes it different from other things that are not sandboxes and why that difference is important.

  4. Abby Covert
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for the feedback!

    I totally agree that in the hiring, management and promotion of people, job titles and role descriptions are extremely important. This session was born more out of the feeling that I spend aLOT of time listening to someone tell me what my job is and is NOT while days tick by on a project waiting for the person whose job it is to move it forward. This session is more a call to action for those with useful skill sets to be empowered to step outside their traditional role and break new ground in terms of who can and should do what.


  5. Posted October 1, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Yay for a little controversy! Looking forward to seeing where this one goes!