IxD Through Mixology, Chapter 2 Process & Methods

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. While I initially planned on frequent posts following the presentation, I got lazy (not excuses, I forgot and got slack). Let’s get back to the topic and today discuss Process and Methods.

In Mixology

I have defined two camps of bartenders and mixologists. Those that use traditional materials and methods and those that utilize newer technology.

Traditional tools include muddling fruit and spices to extract flavors, combining liquor and ingredients in a shaker and straining over ice or into a glass. Pretty basic and straightforward combination of ingredients.

More modern methods include using liquid nitrogen to flash freeze liquid, molds to combine various ingredients, and the study of microbiology in food to combine flavors and to evolve a recipe over time.

These two camps typically don’t intermingle. Bartenders and restaurants are known for their process to make cocktails and bartenders in both camps are aware of the merits and reasons for the other’s process.

In Design

Design is not such a happy convergence of technique. Too many discussion boards and threads are focussed on the best tool for wireframes, the best way to prototype, and the best annotation tool. By having these conversations the purpose of the tool is lost. Wireframing is not a final deliverable. A prototype is not a shippable product. These are vehicles of communication. At the end of the day, the tool doesn’t matter but the effectiveness of what was communicated.

So What

Communication matters. In mixology, a customer orders a drink. They order an end product. They do not order a Boston shaker, a French shaker, or a Cobbler shaker. It is the same in design. A client does not order wireframes in Illustrator, Axure, or rough sketch1. They want a result. Yes, the process is important. But the process is not the tools. In mixology, like design, the process is the discovery, the iteration, the review and the result. The process is not the use of a pencil instead of a marker. Design needs to refocus on communicating process, less on tools. Different tools are appropriate for different projects. And each designer will be more comfortable communicating in a different medium. Effective communication should be the focus of conversation, not how it is dressed up.

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 Iteration.

1 Granted, some clients to request deliverables in specific formats for use by their internal teams.

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