IxD Through Mixology, Chapter 1 Education & Training

At the end of May I presented at MidwestUX in Columbus, Ohio on Interaction Design Through Mixology, and how our careers mirrors a hobby of mine. Over the next few weeks I will expand on my talk where I highlighted similarities between my hobby and my career. Today let’s discuss Education and Training.

In Mixology

When I started out in mixology, it was on a whim. I wanted to homebrew and wasn’t confident in making the financial plunge. I was concerned for the carpet in my apartment, and the fact that I had an electric range. (It is significantly easier to homebrew on gas than electric.)

I don’t remember the exact moment I decided to infuse but I remember thinking a cucumber gin and tonic and basil gin and tonic would be amazing. And that was all it took. I didn’t buy any books or fancy equipment, I didn’t even do much as far as initial research. I dove right in. It wasn’t until after I realized other people do this too and that there is A LOT to learn.

So I asked myself, where do I go to learn about mixing drinks? What are the best books to learn from? Do I need a certificate from a bartending class so people know I am not full of shit? What tools do I need in my home bar?

In Design

Design raises the same challenges. Where in mixology I come from a self taught path, I have a degree in design and human computer interaction. Following the IxDA message boards and the conversations at various conferences and on twitter, a common thread has arisen. Students and practitioners are debating:

What are the best books for design?

Do you need a degree in design?

What is the best degree or certificate program to learn design?

What are the best tools for wireframing, prototyping, and annotating design?

So What?

The questions I raised in mixology are the same raised across the design community. And the beauty of it is both have the same answer. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it is not about who stamped your diploma and more about your drive, perseverance, and motivation. Motivation to be the best bartender, the best designer, the best anything. This is true of any profession, any hobby.

While education is important in teaching the fundamentals, education does not teach people how to persevere. It does not teach how to push yourself. That is an innate ability – something found only when someone is passionate about their work. Blind trial and error without training won’t lead to mastery. It is important to learn from the mistakes of others. It is important to seek out past examples and experiences and to learn from them. While a foundation may be helpful, it does not replace passion and outside perspectives. There is also a lot of skills not taught in foundation programs. While a student might learn process and methods, they cannot learn to empathise, to read people and to have a more human nack at something. That comes from life experiences and the best way to get those is to live and perform in areas outside your comfort zone.

It is also important to note that requiring a degree defines the IxD community as a set of hypocrites. Interaction design founders consist of psychologist, engineers, anthropologist and designers from fields not based around technology. That breadth of knowledge and experience allows designs to be rich and innovative. Forcing a degree program and a specific course limits the experiences practitioners can bring to the field, their work, and the evolution of design as a whole.

Conclusion
Education and training is a big point of contention in the design community. It has led to the tongue in cheek hashtag for this series of posts, #DTDD (define the damn drink) where the design community discusses what the field is and how to be a designer at nauseum (DTDT, define the damn thing). Ultimately we need to realize that we all come from different backgrounds and we bring unique perspectives to design. We cannot continue the infighting and debates, we need to get behind a solid front to promote design and not our subjective preference on the best definition of it.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Please share below or reach out to me on twitter @dafark8. My next entry in the series will be on Process and Tools.

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1 Response to “IxD Through Mixology, Chapter 1 Education & Training”


  1. 1 Adiphene April 9, 2013 at 4:57 am

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