Alvar Aalto, the father of Modernism, once said that nothing is as dangerous in architecture as dealing with separated problems.
This is something that we often struggle with in our work in digital advertising. Much as a result of the waterfall model and the general legacy of the industrial era production line mentality, we tend to separate the problems in creative design, user experience, strategy, and technology. And we separate the people who look for solutions to those problems. The technology team gets to step in only when the strategist and the creative director have finished their work. They come together somewhere in the middle to discuss solutions in check-in meetings, over a couple wireframes and comps, before heading back to their own chambers.
The Audience Doesn’t See Pieces
The problems that arise from this separation are most pressing in — to go back to Alvar Aalto with a modern twist — information architecture and user experience design. The danger is that we separate ourselves from our audience. Because when the audience looks at the campaign we’ve built, the process we’ve engineered on a website or in a mobile app, or the social networking components we’ve brought into a digital billboard ad, the audience doesn’t consume the pieces of the design and the functionality separately. They get the total experience: the sum of all the choices we’ve made in strategy, in tactics, in visual design, copy and code.
The Difficulty of Dealing in Limitless Space
Realizing this has been somewhat easier in actual software development than in the world of advertising. Where in the past, advertisers were limited to a one-way message that could fit on a billboard, in a TV commercial or a print brochure, the Web has brought a library framework combined with a software application platform to the people who used to focus just on getting the customer’s attention and selling an idea in the limited space and time without instant interaction with the target audience. Like Erica DeJoannis points out in her excellent article about UXD in the world of marketing, marketers and UX designers approach online marketing in two fundamentally different ways. Marketers are focused on selling and messaging, while UX designers are focused on designing products.
Work in Tandem
To help UX designers and marketers work together more efficiently as well as to help high level strategy connect with the low level tactics more effectively, we need to get out of our silos. When the architect is sketching the blueprints, the builder aka the technical developer needs to be as close as the visual designer and the strategist. The solution to a strategic or architectural problem may well come from the mouth of a programmer, and we all contribute to the same product together.
How do you facilitate inter-disciplinary work?