Take An Infinite Number of Mitches…

…and have them try an infinite number of careers, and eventually you’ll get lucky.

Actually, I got lucky ten years ago, when I switched into my current career. And it seems that people are finally sitting up and noticing, as FastCompany’s list of “Ten Jobs You Didn’t Know You Wanted” does:

Interaction designer
Interaction designers work at all stages of product development to design innovative and user-friendly products. In addition to wearing the traditional hat of a designer, they work with executives to define goals for products and systems in development. They also investigate how people actually engage with new products and systems by creating “personas,” hypothetical users with constructed life stories, to predict their reactions.

Although many interaction designers have advanced degrees in design, such a background isn’t a prerequisite, says David Fore, head of consulting services at Cooper, a pioneering interaction design firm. Fore previously worked as a reporter for industry publications — valuable experience, given that interaction designers’ research requires “the skills of a reporter and an anthropologist,” according to him.

 Reporter and anthropologist?  Sure.  Add engineer, negotiator and psychologist.

In addition to the competitive salary, interaction designers enjoy the opportunity “to learn about every walk of life and industry imaginable,” says Fore. “There’s working with stock brokers, working with a golf course superintendent, an advertising creative director, working with a nurse to build infusion pumps. Everyone needs product design.”

They don’t all know it, but they do, indeed.

20 thoughts on “Take An Infinite Number of Mitches…

  1. As a result, entry-level designers with two years of background can expect $75,000 to $80,000 a year, with ample opportunity for an increase in salary.

    Time to buy that Jeep you have always wanted!

  2. I suspect that that “entry level” salary is in NYC or LA.

    The pay’s good here, but not THAT good.

  3. Nope.

    It helps to explain it this way; most systems (software, in my case) are like a three-legged stool. If one leg is too long or too short, the stool is unstable. You get a good three-legged stool when all three legs are about even.

    The three legs are the Business Case, the Technology and the User.

    The Business Case – what does this thing do, do we need it, how is it going to benefit the business – is the what and why. The leader of this side varies – in software, it’s the business analysts that make sure that leg is well-built (but it could be marketing, sales, or whomever defines the business need).

    The Technology side is the how. In software, it’s the job of the Systems Analyst or Architect (terminology varies) to make sure that leg is well-designed (although Interaction Design touches on areas outside of software; the Technology leader could be anything from Engineering to Product Development to Store Planning).

    The User side – can people actually accomplish anything with your system? – is the job of the Interaction Designer. The user can be a visitor to a website, a customer at your store, someone driving across your bridge or using your train, someone maintaining the settings on a cardiac pacemaker, a pilot, a kid playing with your game station…whatever. The Interaction Designer makes sure the user’s leg of the stool is just right – that the user can use your system, whatever it is, powerfully and effectively and efficiently and safely and…whatever is needed.

  4. “The User side – can people actually accomplish anything with your system? – is the job of the Interaction Designer.”

    But that would mean someone would have to actually talk to the users, and to take into account their needs, and/or desires.


    If I’d wanted to pander to idiot users, I’d have gone into retail…

  5. “If I’d wanted to pander to idiot users, I’d have gone into retail…”

    My users use to be aircraft pilots and navigators. I loved getting feedback from them, and valued that more than any other design input. The best part was getting to go on test flights and see them use my equipment first hand.

  6. If I’d wanted to pander to idiot users, I’d have gone into retail

    And this is the manna of life to me.

    Management says “If I’d wanted to pander to idiot users, I’d have gone into retail”.

    Their stuff – products, websites, administrative software, billing procedures, store layouts – go on to suck terribly. Management a level or two up from Mr “Idiot Users” says “FIX THINGS”.

    A req shortly opens up for someone like me.

    Every time some mid-level project manager says “If I’d wanted to pander to idiot users, I’d have gone into retail”, an Experience/Interaction Designer gets a gig somewhere.

  7. My users use to be aircraft pilots and navigators.

    I’d LOVE to do interaction design/human factors/ergonomics for aircraft. Of course you pretty much have to have a PhD to get into the field. Blah.

  8. My stuff was limited to using radar for terrain following navigation, along with integrating other sensors such as FLIR. It got me interested enough in the field to defy my fear of flying and get a pilot’s license. Haven’t done any of that since I left the field 15 years ago.

  9. Back when I first got into tech writing (in 1993), I worked with all these older guys who’d come over from Honeywell. They described watching footage from the first Gulf War, and kibitzing “I worked on that FLIR!” “Hey, I did the install guide for the F-15’s IFF!” “I did the BEST maintenance guide for the Mark 50 Torpedo guidance head!”, and so on.

  10. This all sounds so “Office Space” – “I have people skills, damn it!”
    “Life coach” – it’s been a while since I read “Bullshit jobs – and how to get them” but I would be very surprised if this gig isn’t in there.

  11. I had some stuff on MC-130’s during the first Gulf War. The only user input I got back from that was that they had to cool electronics equipment with dry ice from when they powered up the planes to when the got high enough in altitude to cool things down. They would literally open up boxes and pour crushed dry ice between circuit cards.

  12. I think I’ve discovered a new career: Experience/Interaction Designer for microbreweries across America! Can the user effectively use your product? I think we need to do some more study.

  13. I won’t say what I do for a living.
    But it’s so cool that I have to get clearance from the Space Battle Manager in Colorado Springs before I fire the laser tonight.
    Oh, and did I mention the part about living in Hawaii?


  14. Oh great. Terry works for SkyNet.

    Dude, what part of “evil robot overlords” don’t you get?

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