Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Because I said so

A colleague sent me a link to a blog by someone leaving Google. The person joined Google seven years after it had been founded as its "first visual designer." He refers to himself as a "classically trained designer" and contrasts that to the other designers at Google, who had backgrounds in CS and HCI.

It reminded me why I have trouble working with visual designers. I deconstruct his blog to be saying, "It got frustrating not getting my way on the merits of my stated, expert opinion, but having to actually justify and convince non-classically trained people--often being asked to justify my decisions with USER DATA (how pedestrian!)."

I think technical communicators are grounded more in the social sciences and rely less on the kind of connoisseurship I find with visual designers. For example, I'm involved in fewer and fewer discussion where someone says "It just doesn't sound right to my ear." In most discussions I have with technical communicators, they have reasons and research to back up why this combination of words is more suitable than another combination.

Not that I don't work with visual designers who do the same. It's just that with visual designers I'm more likely to encounter the "because I have taste and you don't" rebuttal. (I have yet to get a good explanation for why Comic Sans is a bad font.)

Imagine going into engineering meetings and justifying my suggested changes to the UI labels by saying, "Because I am a classically trained technical communicator." Like THAT'S going to work.

My point is that I'm glad it doesn't work. I don't mind basing my decisions on principles and research that can be empirically validated. It's part of what makes me a professional.


Janet S. said...

Interesting. It boils down to: Google isn't interested in what looks better; they're interested in what works better.

Also, another part of being a professional is not venting in public (however politely) about why you left a position.

Gordon said...

Comic Sans!! Ohh wait, that's just my opinion..

I have similar discussions with developers on occasion, the presumption that they just ARE right doesn't really cut it with me.

Char said...

When you find out what's wrong with Comic Sans, will you let me know? ;-)