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Ep15. Vanishing UX Industry, Design Positioning and Trends with Kevin Richard Ep15.

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Kevin Richard⁠⁠ is a strategist, critical thinking and design leader. Also, a regular guest on the podcast with whom we dive into industry intricacies and specific hot topics.

In this episode, we will revisit sustainable futures, in particular, the Solarpunk as an upcoming design trend. We will also chat about the vanishing UX industry and often problematic positioning of design in businesses.

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Also available on all major podcast platforms and Youtube.


Vy: [00:00:00] Hey, what is up? I’m V, your host at Experience Design Podcast. And today I have a special guest, a returning guest at that, Kevin Richard. And with Kevin, we discussed a few things. We discussed the vanishing design industry, the problems of the design positioning, The recent and interesting design trend called solar punk or stuff we actually discussed in the previous podcast episodes back in the day, but everything combined, we’re going to discuss everything to do with the industry and how can we do better going forward.

And as usual, I hope you enjoy this episode. If you do so share with a friend and do enjoy. I saw the other day, you shared this interesting bit about the solar punk. Um, I couldn’t help, but almost like wonder if it’s maybe a bit of your influence and a lot of other people’s obviously, but it’s kind of like being part of that wave of signals and, you know, thinking about it, writing about it.

It was interesting to see, and I think what you shared was [00:01:00] that Dylan Field, the CEO of Figma in South by Southwest basically shared some thoughts about Solarpunk specifically. 

Kevin: Yes. 

Vy: Which, which obviously everybody’s interested in that, but I wonder what are your thoughts, you know, like how did you receive that and what do you think is going to come?

Kevin: Yeah. So I guess I was probably a bit surprised that it’s, it’s already, uh, discussed as something as a trend because to me last year, when I started to write about it. To me, it was still not very clear what Soda Punk exactly was for it to be, um, adopted by, you know, a larger audience. Like it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s still too, too, too niche as, um, you know, as a concept.

And you need to, you need to actually research it a lot to understand what it entails. And. Because like, if, of course, if you, if you just stay on, on the surface, yes, the, the aesthetics is kind of obvious. Like it’s, you know, you, [00:02:00] you see the features and you can understand what it tries to do, but behind that there’s some, you know, reasons and, and reasoning to, to, to the aesthetics that, that are actually way more complex.

So I was surprised, like they use, for instance, they use the Cybertruck versus the, you know, the Rillion truck. Um, and they compare the two and they say like, Cybertruck is. is obviously cyberpunk, uh, it’s dystopian, it’s, uh, you know, angular and stuff like that. And, uh, the region is, uh, is Solarpunk because it’s round and it’s, uh, you know, I guess you could, you could say something like that, but that shows also that, um, like to me, it’s not a great comparison, you know, it doesn’t like highlights what Solarpunk is.

Uh, outside of purely aesthetics, um, appeals and then really simplified ones, by the way. So yeah. 

Vy: Yeah. It’s, it’s quite typical of design too. Cause I think you noted when you were sharing those things, [00:03:00] um, with the community, you noted that it’s quite surface level and I tend to agree, but it’s a lot of these design trends tend to be quite surface level and it’s, it doesn’t take much for a trend to happen as well, which I think you’re aware, like neo brutalism, you know, all the different kind of like, uh, Uh, what’s the glass or, or neomorphism or, you know, all those different things.

Like they really started because one or two or a few designers experimented in, um, sketch Photoshop, maybe then Figma later down the line. And then it caught up because someone just gave an example and it really takes that little right in the industry to just say, now we’re doing this, or this is what matters.

So to 

Kevin: me, it feels like someone was tasked with the, with finding a new visual language for. the next, you know, iteration of, uh, Figma, uh, rendering or, you know, design style or something like that. And he, this person stumbled upon some, you know, [00:04:00] Solarpunk aesthetics. Something you wrote. Perhaps. I don’t know.

Like the, the, the, in the article I shared, um, they referenced my article about, you know, what, what designers can, can learn from Solarpunk, but they also mentioned like a lot of. Other good references, um, about Solarpunk, like the, the Solarpunk manifesto and stuff like that. And the, the person writing this article, I don’t know how, to be frank, I didn’t investigate it, if this person works for Figma or just, you know, um, speaking about it, like from an outsider, uh, point of view.

Um, but, um, you know, they bring up some interesting principles and things that Solarpunk tries to do, but then it’s like, like, you know, put aside and say, well, we’ll put like some, you know, uh, vegetable photos, um, and green stuff. And I mean, like even the, the, the, the existing, the existence of Figma itself in the Solarpunk, uh, movement [00:05:00] is almost contradictory.

You know, if you, if you take what Solarpunk is trying to achieve, like they want you to, to, to be autonomous, to be, to take, you know, to be empowered by yourself, like, Taking, you know, creating your own tools if you need to, like, you know, there’s, there’s some kind of a back to. Some form of back to some, uh, you know, basic idea of how you could enact in the world that obviously Figma is kind of like a opposite to that, you know, it’s like a centralized tool, uh, owned by a corporation and, and, you know, like you see where, where there’s some limits to the exercise, but, well, it’s still interesting to see, you know, it’s coming in the mainstream discussions.

Uh, I know that for most of it, it will potentially like stay on the surface level, um, But if, if some people come to Cyberpunk principles in, you know, in the different, in the different movements that exist in Cyberpunk and, you know, it start to [00:06:00] change how, I don’t know if it changed how we do design, but how we think about doing design that, that could be like, I see some positives here, you know, obviously I can criticize the shallowness of the, you know, the aesthetics, but I think it’s, it’s still good that maybe some people will.

Start to think of, of, uh, you know, like you see that some unparalleled movements in, in design with, you know, um, sustainable design and eco design, like how you can create things that consumes less and, you know, are in like in circle, uh, way of, uh, doing things and stuff like that. So maybe there’s, you know, they will find some meeting points.

These movements and this will create something. I don’t know. 

Vy: I mean, I’m just going to double click and highlight what you said, because I think it’s like, at least to me, it’s quite important to shout out, but when you compare the Cybertruck and Rivian and both, both are exactly the same thing. You know, if, if you zoom out, if you [00:07:00] abstract it enough, it’s just an EV part of a tech world, part of innovation, granted there is, you know, attempt to use a green energy, to what extent is still questionable.

And you know, exactly both the dependencies is just, there is so many more variables you have to sort out to get to try it. But that’s where I think, you know, it maybe tells a lot of like us as designers. Limiting our remit, um, cause it’s safe thing to do kind of comparing one brand to the other or saying, Hey, uh, I’m, I, you know, I’m going to show a half Android phone and I have iPhone phone and my iPhone even has a green case for, you know, it’s a bit more solar park.

It’s kind of just like that, I think to me, and I think, you know, designers maybe are. less strategic or less critical in thinking, um, maybe that’s why they kind of defaulted. Because if you think about actually creating antithesis to something like a Tesla, a cyber truck, you [00:08:00] would take European version of that and not to say, Hey, you know, Europe does better.

But because You cannot even roll out Cybertruck in Europe because of the shapes, because of the angles, it’s too heavy. You know, um, the people have to have different driver’s license just to operate, like so many things. And it’s so big, like it doesn’t fit 

Kevin: in most like, European places like, 

Vy: yeah, the roads are way too narrow and at least in UK.

And I’m sure in Switzerland as well, like it’s not built for that type of mobile and it’s never going to make it unless we round it, unless we kind of ditch it. So that to me would be like, okay, this is a good comparison, 

Kevin: right? You know, if you want it to be to, to, to oppose to Cybertruck, like some, some things that are punk, it will be closer to.

Uh, knee bike, uh, you know, something like that’s potentially, uh, I dunno, like some kind of mass transportation system, you know, rather than like, uh, another [00:09:00] truck, which is not used to truck, you know, to do trucky things, but to do like to displace, like to move people from point A to point B, like other type of systems that does it for, you know, less the cost of energy.

And Yeah. Self sustained. 

Vy: Maybe like a bike. But that’s what I guess. I mean, again, probably we’re playing too safe as designers, as strategists, you know, we’re always trying to find low hanging fruits, but yeah, it’s kind of like sometimes low hanging fruits are already picked. You know, it’s, it’s so much, you can boil it over and over again and again.

Like are you continuing with the solar punk? And, and kind of looking into it, or do you think there is merit to maybe even go deeper? 

Kevin: I’m following some, some of the movements, some of the groups I know in the movements, but I’m, uh, I try to distance myself right now, uh, to be frank, uh, reflect a bit on, on even what I, you know, what, how I interpreted the movements, [00:10:00] uh, last year.

And I, I just want to hold that, like putting aside for sometimes and come back to it. You know, after some time I need my, my mind at least need a, like a pose so I can come back to it and see, like, I have some issues with my principles, like the one I came, I came up with, um, after, you know, researching the topic.

Why so? Beyond, beyond the solar point itself. I want to come back to these principles because to me, the principles, they are, they are more than just in, you know, understanding what SodaPunk is, is it’s an attempt on my side to help others actualize the movements in some way, you know, try to, take part of it and do something with it, you know, you know, act on it.

And, um, I don’t feel that they are good enough for that right now. Like they, I know I had like, I received some feedback and I know I have like a way of framing things that can, can be [00:11:00] abstract sometime and, and feel not enough concrete in how do you proceed to, towards, you know, this or such or such principle.

And I, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m ready. to improve these principles right now. So I know that I need to like, you know, sometimes the best way is like to put it aside for some time, you come back to it and your mind is fresh and you can do something with it. But the truth is like the principles themselves, uh, to me on my, at least in my mind is a repurposing of other things I had in mind prior to reading about the solar punk, uh, movement.

And so they are not bounded to Solarpunk itself. Solarpunk was like, um, a way to highlight some aspects of these principles. Um, but I still, the truth is I still struggle to apply some of them in my, in my own work, you know, because the corporate settings is not always the best. best [00:12:00] place to start some, some, you know, original stuff.

Or I think I need to try out more things, uh, also on my side to, to see from experience what works and what can be close to a good way of applying the process, the principles, you know, so. Yeah, this is the place where I’m, I’m, I feel like I’m not still there yet. You know, 

Vy: I guess it’s a good, good sign of self, you know, awareness, reflection.

So like, I, I personally think that those principles are good as in like, I think they are actionable and, and for those who are listening in or watching us, um, You can basically watch the previous session we had purely on Solarpunk, where we discussed a lot of things. And, and Kevin, you walked through literally slide by slide through the principles of what we meant.

Um, the only thing, maybe it’s an official feedback bit I could give you is like everything has a specific problem or a challenge, like you cannot expect to use the [00:13:00] principles like, or, or you’re going to need to keep them so abstract that they’re going to be applicable. And then maybe you’re losing. that same battle where you cannot make it action.

But I feel like principles are principles. Like they are, like, you know, there is a reason we are calling them guiding principles because we guide the decisions instead of make like prescription. But so that’s what maybe, you know, don’t be so hard on yourself ultimately, because every time you start to scribble principles, they become these aims, ambitions and, you know, again, guiding principles.

Kevin: Yeah, no, no, you, you, you’re right. And I, I, I agree with you. And, and perhaps, um, the reasoning behind is less about the principles themselves, but about the process of trying to apply them. You know, my reasoning is more about the process itself. You know, um, you know, me, I like to, I don’t know if it’s invent, but I like to work on how we do things, you know, and, um, like formalize some [00:14:00] frameworks or processes or stuff like that.

This is something I like to do. I think it’s where I don’t feel like. Totally comfortable with what I came up with. That’s yeah. Thank you for the feedback. 

Vy: No, it’s version one, I guess. And you’re going to improve, but I think this is a good segue to like your next meet the thing, which is like design as a craft as well.

Um, so a few weeks back, I ran a live stream as well. And we discussed in writing a lot of that vanishing designer. And how the industry shaping up, what does it mean to, I guess, every single person involved, researchers, designers, strategists, that’s where like, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. Um, I feel like designers are burnt out or disappointed in tech and that’s where maybe it’s kicking into solar punk things, but I wonder what are your thoughts as well?

Like, um, how maybe even how right was that article, the vanishing designer, which I’m sure a lot of people already read. Or have seen [00:15:00] in the live stream or, you know, here and there, 

Kevin: uh, you know, I’m a Swiss guy. I want to stay in the middle, but I don’t know if the, if the article is wrong, um, if it’s right, I think it’s, it’s echoes feeling.

and impressions and experiences people had and have. And I’m sure, uh, that it has like a lot of merits to, you know, put words on things that, uh, in the mind of many. Then I see like some, like really cool things. Huge issues with, um, the logic behind the argumentation that was presented in the article, like beyond the truthness or the wrongness of what they said.

Um, and I think it tells also, part of it tells also how also like designers approach some of what they are doing. Like the, some of the reasoning issues are not new. They are part of the way we frame things. Like when you read it in other places, you, you see the same kind of, uh, [00:16:00] Arguments that are presented, you know.

So, like, and a lot of things that the article approach, um, to me, uh, at least, uh, really not new, like some other people like wrote about it, like years ago, like all the part about commodification of design, all the part of we are doing like more engineering stuff than design stuff, actually, you know, the issues with metrics.

I mean, there’s nothing really nothing new. Like, I remember starting to write about this kind of things, like, I don’t know, seven years ago. And I have to take into account that I’m working in Switzerland. And so my, I mean, Switzerland is not really the, the, at the forefront of, you know, tech industries and then the design industry and stuff like that.

So usually when some things happen in design, they are happening like in more in You know, the U S maybe in the UK and then like sometimes five years or 10 years later, it happens in Switzerland, you know? Um, so I’m not saying [00:17:00] like this kind of things are new. Like it’s really, really not new. 

Vy: And the other day, I even seen this random tweet from a random person, which said that design, it basically is becoming commodity.

And to me, partially, I think that has been a case. for as long as design has been part of everything else. Like it’s not art basically. 

Kevin: And I, I think it’s something that’s, um, that I said in the past and I said it in my reply to this article, to the Vanishing Designer, and I think we had some point about it when we, we chat in, in your live stream, that to me, the design is not about the tools, it’s not about a specific process, it’s not about the, even the screens or the UI you create, you know, design is not about that.

all of that. It’s, it’s all of these things are part of the way we do design. It’s not because it’s part of it that it’s, it’s all about it, you know? Um, and I think we do like a lot of disservice to, to what we do as designers if we, if we truly [00:18:00] believe. With that, like if, if tomorrow some company like use AI to generate UI, we are lost as designers.

What does it tell us about what you think you are doing, like as a human being? But I guess it’s not new, like the discussion about the tools is, um, is there like for, like for quite some time now. I remember, uh, when Sketch arrived and, you know, in the market, um, And people were all using Photoshop to create, you know, websites and stuff like that.

People were criticizing Sketch for simply simplifying too much the way we create in face and stuff like that. And yeah, all the discussion was about the tool, you know, and how shiny they are and how beautiful they are and how fast they are. And, and I think it’s easy to, to confuse the means to do it. to which we, we act in the world and the reality of the world.

Right. And I think sometimes in design, we tend to really confuse a lot, uh, these two [00:19:00] and, um, and the tools become the outcome itself, you know, um, in some form. And I guess this is where the issue, the issue lies. Basically, now something happened in the past 15 or even 20 years is that there are a lot of designers in the markets, not necessarily people coming with a formal design background, you know, and I don’t say it’s necessarily an issue.

But it creates something like, when you are new or not that experienced in, in a field or in a domain, uh, the tools and mastering the tools of this domain is the easy way. It’s the, the first things you do, uh, it’s normal. You lack deep understanding. of the rest. And so the, you know, the surface, the tool, what is visible and which brings like the impression of progression in the field really quick, quickly is, um, is what is seen, is what is visible and it’s easy to focus [00:20:00] on that.

Uh, because, because it’s visible when it’s, um, it’s obvious, right? And once you, and it’s easy to master because like, it’s a matter of you taking time and seeing the rules basically. And once you understand how the game works, you can play the game, right? So it’s, it’s easy to, to do that. But, uh, the, everything else.

It’s, it’s, it’s more difficult. It’s harder to, to, to master it. And so I would say if, um, if the discussion remain at the level of the tools we use, then that means we don’t necessarily have like a deep understanding of what design is. When, when I arrive at a problem or a situation when I think there’s something to do, I’m not saying, Oh, I will go use this tool and this tool and this tool.

And you know, something would happen that would be the, the, the right result because I used this. The tool on the market. I don’t know what I will try to do my best to understand the context. And when I say context is not only, you know, only the user on only the organization, uh, like it’s, you know, it’s understanding how people [00:21:00] perceive what kind of actions can be done.

Um, you know, like it’s, it’s having like a really deep understanding of a situation and using that to design the way I will approach the issue and adjusting in real time, all the time. Okay, you have a plan, but the plan is not the execution itself. Like it’s the, the kind of outcome, the vision you, you, you want to bring, you know, and you are ready to change all the means, all the processes, all the stuff, all the language you use in order to, to go in the right direction.

And then, and this is to me like the, the real work of design, like, uh, if it’s. If it’s not, uh, UX design, and if it’s, uh, I don’t know, another field, uh, if it’s designing a data set, whatever, you know, which involves designing stuff, you can do that. It’s, it’s not, uh, field dependent. It’s not, uh, expertise, domain expertise dependent.

It’s not, uh, tool dependent, right? [00:22:00] It’s something agnostic. Uh, then of course you need. to know the specifics of a domain to be able to apply it, right? But the, the, the, how you approach this, you know, this, this, um, understanding is agnostic. And then, and to me, this is where you, there’s more to, there’s more to, to what we do as designers than the tool.

And then this is why we are not doomed by AI. Uh, now the discussion about this, this particular point, I think is not about how good designers will be to use AI tool or put themselves in a, you know, AI process or I don’t know what. It’s um, it’s how, um, a business that wants obviously to optimize what they do will perceive the role of the designer in this, in this process.

And to me, it’s, it’s where it’s important. Like if we are replaced by AI, it’s not because AI is doing a better job at designing. [00:23:00] Why, why would it be? Because the process of design, it involves interacting with humans. It involves like a way of, uh, of, uh, approaching stuff that is, Like AI is just a tool, right?

It’s, it’s just another tool. But I mean, 

Vy: why, why would, why would, what, what else would replace us? I guess on that, that, that’s where I’m, I’m intrigued. Like it wouldn’t be AI really. And it would more be maybe how design is positioned in organization or that’s how I perceived it, I guess. 

Kevin: Yeah. What, what Taz was, uh, yeah, saying is, uh, if, if we, yeah, if AI, if we should he replace us is because we, the perception of the usefulness of a designer is, uh, is gone, basically.

Like if, if, if organization believe that the, that design is something that needs to be replaced is like the, the, like we, we didn’t, Do a great job of positioning ourself in, in businesses. 

Vy: I agree with you. And I think I also like to put on the Doomer hat and maybe even double click on the tools [00:24:00] obsession.

You know, not, not to kind of kick that dead horse even further today, but like I said, the other day on X just, just wrote a random note saying that the obsession of tools that are going to make you a tool and that I think it kind of highlights it because I do believe that. And another side to that is that we.

I think maybe a bit of it is generalist approach and us kind of bunching everything under UX because there’s different flavors of designers too, which I think, let’s see, if we take that article of vanishing designer that didn’t cover at all. And you know, there, there’s some people who are going to be more strategic.

Um, some people are going to be obsessed with tools. Some people are going to be obsessed with craft. And visual design and art may be even like the creative flair in, in the making production. And that’s fine. But I think that’s where maybe commoditization happened where we tried to bunch so many skills together.

And I no longer personally believe that there is such a thing as a generalist or true generalist, because if [00:25:00] you’re really that generalist, you just going to be a product manager or you’re going to be someone who’s. You know, way too abstracted or, or, or zoomed out on, on the tools obsession. It’s also kind of like, I think designers are shooting themselves in the foot when they think, it’s kind of like a forklift driver, you know, Figma is your forklift and you’re stacking ballots and, and the goods in different orders and things of that nature, doing some limited maneuvers and pushing blocks back and forth.

But as you say, It’s kind of like, if you’re limiting that much, that’s where you might be in danger of what’s to come. Perhaps it’s probably the design positioning. If let’s say your only job is to produce, and this is by way, I mean, interpreting it, so please challenge me or, you know, add to it. But if the only thing is you crafting UIs.

Or producing this web design or maintaining this website for a company, and they can do it with one click. Like why wouldn’t they? The technology is improving. Everything is improving. Everything is becoming cheaper. At some [00:26:00] point there is not going to be need for the same thing. And as such, you know, companies don’t really care about the quality.

Anymore, I would say or never did or or some at least 

Kevin: I don’t really know what we should do. Okay. I don’t have like a like if people are like, okay, now we have wasted it the situation. We understand it. But what do we do about that? Like, okay, designer has a positioning problem. Um, frankly, in most of organization, I’m, I don’t know how far or how good we are, how much we, we can change this, uh, position of design in organization.

I, unfortunately, I don’t think we have. our hands in, in defining this position. Yeah. Because, because like, if you, if you look at the, um, the, the system of hiring designers and, you know, finding a job on the market as a designer and stuff like that, the, the [00:27:00] system itself is actually filtering. The kind of profiles we want, how you should do your work in an organization and what is expected as a standard practices, even if it’s just crap and shit, and you have to play the game if you want to be in the game, right?

Even if you disagree, like really strongly, some. As me, sometimes I disagree really strongly about what some things are asked to me, uh, to be hired in a company because I just believe it’s, it’s stupid. It’s really stupid. And I shouldn’t do this because exercises and even the, you know, we, I know we had this discussion in the past, but my, the portfolio discussion is just, to me, it’s just stupid and shit.

Okay. And then we can discuss why, but truly to me, it’s just all these kinds of things. It’s just stupid and shit. And the reason for that is. Like the, the, the system of hiring. People is automatized already. Like it’s, it’s done. Right. And no one cares. No one cares, really. Like there’s no human being involved.

[00:28:00] And when it’s, it’s the case, it’s some, someone just at the touch point for some specific stuff. And they just want to do that job. Like they want us to tick the boxes, say, okay, we did the check. Like if the guy is hired and fired in, in, in two months, it’s, well, I did my job properly in the hiring process, you know, and that’s all the care, right?

It doesn’t say if the hiring person, the final person managing the team in which you will work, will be happy with the person that will be hired. It doesn’t say if, if it’s a good process at all to hire people, you know, and the evaluation is not about one specific type of profile. Anyway, the system is built for hiring.

Any type of profile for, you know, any type of expertise needed in the organization. So anyway, well, while doing some specific stuff for designers, we do it the same way for all the other guys, you know, this is where I say, well, I don’t know how, how, how much of, um, control. We [00:29:00] have on, on our destiny in some way, you know, uh, in organization, because, because this influence a lot, how design is passive, because of course, when you want to hire a designer, you, you do it within the, um, within the system in place.

So I’m, I’m, I speak, I’m speaking specifically about corporates. Uh, set up, I’m not speaking about startups. It’s the same 

Vy: though. I mean, it’s smaller systems of the same, but do you feel like, I mean, like any other system, and we discussed that in the past as well, a lot, but the system changes gradually and, and you cannot, like, it’s never a, Clear cut and reset.

And maybe that’s where we’re aligned. Most of you, I feel like with our thinking, but a lot of people and known people are going to cast and say that a lot of us are being gas lit, but it’s been years of, I guess, the systematic change where the hiring processes, the design leaders, the design operational standards.

The principles, things of that [00:30:00] nature gradually changed throughout the years. Again, challenge me. I love to hear your thoughts on that, but we, we still need to cast some sort of change, small change here and there and take up some agency. And I think my takeaway from a previous live stream has been that where I was saying, okay, this article describes it pretty well.

Yes. These are the issues, but we’re not. necessarily yet asking why that happened enough or like, what are we as individuals going to do that? And I think I would challenge you as well as in the same note that like, we do have agency to change in, you know, corporates or smallers, but like, It’s like, you need to then sign up probably for, I’m going to borrow from one of my, my dear colleagues from the past, like such a great design manager.

I worked with, um, we worked together and we were design managers and it was a large organization. And, One thing which lasered in my mind was where we said, yes, you could make this change X, but in a [00:31:00] certain environments, and I’m paraphrasing of course, in a certain environments, you would sign up for a decade worth of change.

And it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t, it wasn’t. you know, uh, like overemphasizing of like what it would require. No, he was so right. Like, and it stuck in me because, you know, you kind of then can pick challenges and say, yeah, I can make this change in one year, or I can make this change in 10 years, depending on the environment.

Kevin: No, I, I agree with you. Uh, when I say, I don’t know how, how much of, um, control we have of our destiny is like, um, I’m talking about the, you know, in general, like if we, if we wanted to change how design is perceived in, in business in general, like if you wanted to change dispersion throughout all, you know, all industries, I don’t know.

how much control we have at an individual level. I think you, yes, I think you can, you can change this perception, but it, yeah, of course you, it will take you like a while. And [00:32:00] then you, like, you know, when you pick this kind of battle that it’s, um, should be ready to, to stay and, and, and, and fight. Uh, for, for a long time, when I say fight, it’s not necessarily in, uh, you know, in an aggressive manner.

Right. And I don’t think it, it works well when you do, when you are just aggressive, because you, like, you feel like, uh, you are not understood and stuff like that. You keep this, uh, you know, you, you keep the belief in the fact that you, you are just more than what you are, you know, categorized in the organization and that you can bring more and you, you know, try to bring more.

Little by little, show that you can do, you can bring more on the table and people over time see the value of doing that, of you doing that and give you the, the space for, for training. And every time you change organization, like something that people don’t realize as well. Like if you tell me to change.

Uh, company and stuff like that, you start over. I mean, uh, so it’s why it’s, it’s never done actually. It’s, it’s never done. [00:33:00] But that’s 

Vy: where I think you do become better. Yeah. You do, you do, you know, from, from maybe this is more of a self improvement angle to that. But another thing which lasered in my mind, someone in design was just saying that you, literally the problems you’re facing today, doesn’t matter if you work for Google.

Or some budding startup or big corporate or commercial side of the business, some sort of area, basically the same problems are going to happen again and again, and just because it usually probably comes down to again, design positioning in the company or like how a design is viewed and probably highlighting or echoing your point that it’s very systematic.

Almost like, you know, the hiring practices, the job aspects, everything else highlights those things, which everybody else highlights. And that’s what probably creates some of that positioning. But, but I think you kind of have to then think, okay, I’m probably going to face the same challenge I’m facing now.

What could I do better? And when I say you, I don’t mean you. I mean, everyone in the audience, let’s [00:34:00] say, or myself included. As well, but Kevin, what could we do to decommoditize the design? Like what can we do to basically make it less of a commodity? 

Kevin: When you work as a designer in an organization, I don’t, I won’t, you know, pretend to tell you anything new here, but you, the organization use your, Competence and, and, uh, technical skills and, and whatever to achieve its own goal.

So to any extent, anyone in the organization is, uh, an utility to, towards, uh, the higher goal of the organization itself. Right. So I don’t know, uh, if it’s, uh, something you could, The only thing that can prevent that actually is something external to the organization itself is, uh, is some form of regulation, uh, to be frank.

Uh, that’s 

Vy: very European answer. 

Kevin: I know, I know, I know. Uh, but from, from a personal, uh, standpoint, I would say is, uh, Well, I was, we were discussing about that just earlier, like, [00:35:00] um, not be that fixated on, on the tool and, and trying to not just, you know, design for the obvious problem that is in front of you, but trying to design the context in which you are, you know, and, and the way you can approach it.

You can approach the problem. So the next time, you know, a similar problem arise, like you have more opportunities, more options at your disposal as well, like you, like, you know, it’s like you, each time you, you do design, you try to approach it in a, in a novel way. I don’t say you have to do novel stuff every time, you know, but you’re trying to approach the, the overall as a novel way.

Like it brings more agency to your work, truly. Like you, you feel like you can do things. If you are entirely dependent on Figma to bring outcomes in your work, then you can feel like really quickly bored. I would, I’m sure of that. And you can [00:36:00] also feel like, um, uh, once we remove part of the things you can do in Figma because it’s, I don’t know, it’s automatized or it’s no longer wanted or needed, right?

You, you, you feel like we remove. Bits and bits of your autonomy, right? As a designer, um, so to not, not be totally dependent on the tool is a good thing. And, um, I think part of the design role is, um, is to be, um, multidisciplinary from a, a personal perspective as well. You know, not, okay, you work with people from different disciplines, but you also try to use tools from different disciplines as well.

Right. Today, I think it’s, I’m still, to be frank, I’m still surprised that, uh, I, I work with designers that don’t know one single bit about web development. Um, just HTML and CSS and stuff like that. I don’t say designers should all be front end designers, uh, developers, you know, but you should [00:37:00] know and try to play with it and, you know, have like some grasp on, What it entails and how, what is the limits of it and what, what, what are the possibilities?

I know you, you did it as well with, uh, 3d printing and stuff like that. Uh, I think it’s good thing to explore other domains and trying to bring up some techniques and some tools that are different that, that, uh, this all creates more for you tools in your minds, like, uh, you know, cognitive tools. to approach problems because each time you switch the modality in which you will deliver your, your, your design outcomes, you change also the way you perceive and the way you interpret information.

And I think it’s healthy. you know, as a, as a practice. And this brings you more ways to collaborate with others, to show also the value, um, because you can speak also their language. You understand what they are trying to achieve. [00:38:00] You know, like you are just not isolated in your little corner. I’m the Figma guy and I do Figma stuff.

I think it’s, it’s, It’s, uh, commendable to be like really good at Figma, but that’s the extent of it. You are really good at Figma, you know, that’s, 

Vy: and it is a bit of a drug to, um, because what, when you were explaining this and I’m, I’m in, you know, absolute agreement. It just, what played in my mind was that Figma can be addictive as well, because, you know, Just like Sketch was back in the day, just like Photoshop provided everyone an environment to access the flow state and access it so quickly.

And I think that’s why designers, it’s almost like a child getting a new Lego set, you know, obviously, like, I’m not saying I wouldn’t, you know, totally immerse myself and go crazy, but it’s kind of the same way because you basically have infinite amount of bricks. to play with and the access to flow [00:39:00] state is like that.

And that’s why, um, you know, having worked with so many designers and manage so many designers, like I almost understand where the limits are in a way and why it’s so addictive and almost noticed. Then people, let’s say, would transition to more strategic roles, like how they would go for this, almost like a withdrawal.

And you know, that. I see versus manager path as well. You have to almost intentionally become crap at AC work to be promoted into a manager because you know, if you’re really, again, adage is if you’re super good at something, you’re just going to be expected to do that thing again and again and again for a business.

You are becoming a call in a bigger system and naturally, so like, that’s just how the things work. Unless you step out and say, Hey, maybe I’m going to sacrifice a bit of quality and then figure out some new skills and things, or, or, you know, that has been at least my observational type of experience and somehow how I perceive people kind of.

Develop [00:40:00] for us. So it’s almost, I don’t know, maybe my personal ask to the, to the audience would also think exactly like how much of that you want to do, because I don’t know, I was just thinking before our podcast this morning where I was. I just saw this again, not to go back to tweet examples, but we saw, um, someone commenting about Framer experience and how better it is than Webflow.

And I was like, I, I used Webflow last year. I used Framer then it was still prototyping tool way back in the day before it was Framer X, before it went back to Framer, I think like it was just one of the prototyping tools alongside Action and stuff like that. But in my mind. I don’t personally have a fear if, let’s say, I have a position tomorrow where I’m going to need to use Framer or Webflow.

I have full confidence that I can learn it in the weekend to a proficient effort because, again, the tools get easier, but also, Since I know what you mentioned, HTML, CSS, web technology, [00:41:00] understanding, working with a developer, like, you know, the foundational principles of how the systems are engineered or built or dependencies limits.

You also use a lot of other design tools, you know, the transition from scratch to Figma, a few weeks tops, like it’s a couple of days. So that’s why I’m like, I don’t know if anyone would take away anything from this. And from what I’m saying is like, Don’t obsess with tools because you can learn it so quickly.

Um, or you should be, your mindset should be, but you can learn it very quickly. Like what matters is other stuff, because again, other stuff is what solves those problems highlighted in that managing designer. 

Kevin: Like, I would say behind this discussion about tools and even about AI itself, right, is, um, and then the article points it like it’s the fear of being irrelevant, right?

Uh, the vanishing designer is the designer that becomes irrelevant, you know, with, with AI, for instance, you don’t, it’s not clear what is the, what is the tool of the future [00:42:00] designer that’s, that will work with AI. With AI, like, is it’s you generating on, um, I don’t know, playground. ai or whatever tool that generates visuals to generate a new, a new interface and you use bit of it and, you know, it’s unclear.

Uh, you, there’s not like a, a cohesive tool that says, yeah, that’s the future of the, you know, the future of design. And it’s true also, like, if you, if you add up to that, the fact that there’s like some. Uh, some form of, um, but at least in, in my kind of, uh, Europe, I feel like, um, the job market on design, uh, specific roles is really frozen.

There’s nothing happens really, you know, uh, that, that, um, many, uh, they have, I don’t, uh, we, we didn’t see like a lot of, uh, layoff in Switzerland, but you know, like it’s, it’s, everything is flow and it’s like everyone waits and see. What will happen? And if it generates a lot of, um, it generates a [00:43:00] tension, like it generates a lot of, um, uncertainty.

Um, and you can actually see this in the fact that people are looking for ways to understand the situation. And one of my predictions at the beginning of this year, uh, in January of the new, uh, focus in the discussions, we will see one of the theme that will. to, to light is, um, in the design discussions is, um, future thinking and, um, uh, foresight and this kind of thing.

It’s, it’s often the case that people come to this kind of, uh, tools and approaches. When things are particularly, you know, unclear and uncertain, you know, um, and then it’s like, like, it’s happening. Like a lot of people are talking about that, like, but you need to 

Vy: make a choice, right? It’s probably going to only become a trend when there’s a lot of designers choosing to use that.

Yeah, that’s 

Kevin: disgusting about it. I don’t know if they, if they are using it, but they are picking up interest in those [00:44:00] fields. And like, I feel like it’s, uh, it’s, it shows one of the signals, you know, of, uh, of this uncertainty of this, uh, of, uh, that you have specifically this year, you know, um, now, I just want to say that the layoff, like people like to dramatize a lot.

I know it’s, it’s, it’s not good to, to lose the, uh, your job, but, um, Uh, it’s not only designers that were laid off. So, uh, I think that’s really another, yeah, of a, you know, emphasis in the design field, like, well, they lay off people, designers, so they don’t need designers anymore. Well, they lay off also a lot of other, you know, people and engineers and whatever.

Vy: Very important, which is, uh, we, yeah, like we forget to zoom out to understand that marketing, sales, recruiters, um, maybe not to that extent, but still everybody got a slice off. So 

Kevin: yeah, so it’s not only designers, so there’s no one with a plan to put outside, you know, to take out all designers from organization.

Like [00:45:00] there’s no such a thing happening. Um, so I don’t feel like the, the fear of, uh, you know, being totally irrelevant because of that is justified. To be, to be frank, but yeah, there’s this, uh, ongoing uncertainty and, you know. 

Vy: Yeah, but do you, in terms of like actual market and the roles, um, I think it’s, it’s definitely, you know, the, the freeze has been the case, but I think it’s improving in UK or, or at least that’s my perception.

I think it’s also been okay ish in US as well from all the openings I’ve seen so far. Again, they could be outdated, they could be ghost openings. But I’ve noticed a bigger obsession with IC roles of doers. And I even noticed the other day that there is more UX and UI roles. And also I saw three head of UX slash UI roles, which is at least in your case, quite a typical, uh, I know it varies region to region, but have you noticed any of that?

Cause to [00:46:00] me, that’s also a signal where we might in the near future require more makers. more generalist, perhaps someone who can actually, you know, roll up his sleeves and do a lot of that hard work. 

Kevin: But also like roles where it’s not clear if they want a junior or a senior person, like it’s not really clarified and they just expect to have something in the middle.

Yeah. Sometimes they put senior, but when you, you say like the minimum amount of years, they ask, like, it’s, uh, to me, it’s, uh, it’s not senior. It’s, uh, it. 

Vy: And what, what is your take on, there is a lot of, I guess, ideas in particular from designers is to almost state that you should get out of tech in a way.

Or, you know, but people should think maybe it’s also touches the first thing we talked about the solar punk, but almost tried to look for alternatives of where design can add most [00:47:00] value. And to an extent, I also feel like a lot of the problems we’ve faced is also because everything like graphic design is dead.

Um, as in, you know, everything like arguably so, but a lot of the designers who came from visual design background kind of defaults to, to, to actual, like, you know, designing apps and interactive tools for user experiences of sorts. I’m sure you’ve thought about that as someone who thought about Solarpunk and antithesis to tech.

Kevin: Well, I would just say that Solarpunk is not, it’s an antithesis to tech. It’s, uh, okay. That’s what I, 

Vy: maybe I’m, my perception is just, no, it’s, 

Kevin: uh, it’s, um, uh, rationalization of, of tech where you did just the right amount of tech. So it’s not claiming to be against tech. It’s, it’s, uh, it’s claiming to, to want to use it like more, uh, purposefully.

For specific stuff when it’s needed and when it’s not, we don’t need it. Right. Where the [00:48:00] trend today is we put it everywhere. We can, we’ll see later if it’s useful. Yeah. So this is the kind of change, the, the change in, in mindset and, um, rhythm as well, like taking time. To agree on where it’s needed the most and where it’s not.

Also like, you know, the Solarpunk wants to, to, to, to have this fast and slow and fast when it’s needed, but slow again, you know, and, and today it’s just fast, fast, fast and deliver, deliver, deliver. And we’ll see later if it’s, if it’s not useful, like it’s, it will not work on the market, which is by the way, absolutely not true.

Like, Some unusual, like, like to believe that market is a good way to filter things that are useful and that is, it’s not that great of, uh, you know, of, um, of a tool actually, uh, to do that. So, yeah, so to the, to your question. Should designers get out of tech? Uh, that is already the case that not all designers are in tech.

Um, and, uh, there’s, [00:49:00] um, I don’t know. Uh, I’m not putting this on you, right? Because I don’t know how much of your claim it is. Uh, but that’s, uh, Perspective people in tech have that all the designers are, most of them are in the tech world. Um, I’m just taking like some, some few examples, like you have, uh, service designers, you have like systemic designers, you have like over people, like in the design field that, uh, not like if you take UX design, of course it is in tech and UX design is exist because of tech.

So I would, I would see, like, hardly see how it can be decoupled of tech, to be frank. So if you are UX designer, um, the chances really, really high that you work in tech and the chances that you, that you can, do UX design outside of tech is, are really, really low. Uh, and I don’t say you cannot do UX design outside of tech, but, [00:50:00] um, I always find it funny when, when people bring up like, um, the door handle case or stuff like that as a good example of UX, where UX designers are really not involved in this kind of process anyway.

So, um, you know, like. There’s no UX designer doing like door handle things, like it’s not the case. I think 

Vy: the premise is that they could be if they really wanted to. And that’s why I think, yeah, it’s, I mean, I mean, it’s an option, right? If anything, because I think with the layoffs of the restriction of the roles.

You know, and even newcoming designers, I mean, I get, I never want to discourage anyone. Like, I think that’s the worst thing to do. But as you mentioned, there are flavors of design too. Like if you read the book by Don Norman about design of everyday things, and you kind of enjoy the door handle design or stuff like that, that’s, it’s still a human interaction point with a very physical mean, but maybe the role is interior designer, even if you’re going to [00:51:00] design experiences in like the most.

I don’t want to say primitive, but physical space, um, instead of technology. But it’s interesting. Like, I feel like, again, maybe we are going back to the tools obsession where people who are just doing that thing, they, they don’t see a bigger world or, you know, like all those different things you could be doing with your skills if you really wanted to.

Kevin: To be frank, it’s expected. Like, um, what you do on an everyday basis. it will filter how you perceive the world, right? So this is why prior to that, uh, in the discussion, I was mentioning the fact that the more you expand your, your personal world, you know, of doing things, the more you broaden up your understanding of, of the external world.

And when I said at the beginning that, uh, we, it’s easy to confuse the reality with, with the means of interacting with reality. Okay. Um, it’s exactly that, that [00:52:00] if it’s easy to do that, then one good way, it’s not the only way, but one good way to, um, expand your, um, the way you can interact with, with reality is to expand the, the means, right, to do it.

Right. So your, your world is, um, yeah, it will, uh. Not, I mean, there’s no cause and effect per se, but there’s this correlation between what you do and what you learned to do, what you do and the way you will perceive the, the world, the world, right? I, for instance, I come from an architecture background, then I moved to web development, then I moved to product designer and UX design and service design.

So I have like some tools in mind and some frameworks and ways to approach the world that are. accumulation of all these different things, you know, and I know some UX designers that went directly through UX design, uh, to UX design. And I, I know I’m [00:53:00] expecting my interaction with, with these people to be, to be different that if you, if you, if I discuss with someone that had, I had a, a similar background or, you know, because, Because they, they will have an understanding of what they do and how they can do it and the extent to which they should do things and could do things to be, you know, to be different than, than mine.

I designed physical objects. Uh, I created interior design. I, you know, I explain these kinds of things. Um, I like to design spaces. If it’s not with physical object, it’s with people, you know, I like to do it. It’s, it’s about how I perceive things. Like to me, designing an interface involves designing the space in which we will design the interface, you know, so this is how I approach it.

I’m not saying everyone should do it. Uh, I find it’s quite fun, uh, actually to, to think it this way, you know, because it’s not just then, it’s just, just about, uh, the interface itself, but, [00:54:00] uh, more than that. Thanks. Uh, I’m fine with people that don’t want to do it differently, that just, you know, seeing the way they see it.

If you corner yourself with your understanding of the world, uh, and I’m sure it’s true for more than just design. I mean, it’s true for many things, uh, political views, uh, your view on societies and stuff like that. And as what, what, what being a citizen of a country involves and, and, you know, you can work with other things, right?

Um, that’s. claiming this to be a designer thing, but, um, the more you expand your, your, your personal world and worldview. Uh, the more touch points you have with other worldviews, right? And so by necessity, you, you expand your network of, um, of a way to understand the world. 

Vy: Yeah. And it’s kind of by definition, that’s UXing your career, like yourself, how you do it, right?

Like it’s like, and [00:55:00] I know like to some people it’s like, it’s too maybe meta or, you know, too abstracted, but that’s. It’s such an important part of it. It’s like, we don’t, we don’t pay attention enough. I think, you know, one thing which you might not agree with what you said is, or maybe it’s, it’s almost like, I don’t want to use you as an example, but since you switched from architecture to development to, I feel like people who come into UX and come into it fresh as a first step, it’s the first step.

Like that’s where. You know, likely some, half, maybe all, maybe most are going to do something else. Like that’s another thing. It’s, it’s could be that the UX is going to change, or it could be that, you know, people might be forced into something out of tech again, all those different roles we’ve discussed, but that’s kind of like my gut feel.

And, and. I’ve seen so many signals which support [00:56:00] that again, I don’t want to, you know, beat my own drum and, and kind of like say, this is it, but. I also see that, you know, the field is not stagnant and it’s not definite. We face so much uncertainty that it doesn’t matter who you are, even myself, I’ve considered what else could I be doing?

And that’s because of, you know, all these years of change and uncertainty. 

Kevin: Perhaps you’re right. I don’t know if you, but just to come back on the tech aspect, you, on the first question, like, should we, uh, should we go outside of tech? And the point that UX design is. coupled with, with, uh, with tech. That means we have like some dependency on where tech goes, right?

Um, and so, um, I think one, one good way, uh, to, to, um, to understand where it goes is to be, to be really involved in, in the tech space. But the issue with that, and this is where I will You know, [00:57:00] bring some red flags is to only see design and everything else through the tech lens. Um, and one of the, I would say a great demise of, um, the recent tech, you know, uh, try, uh, try, you know, attempt to bring up AI in many ways is a good example of that, like the human humane, uh, pin stuff, like, which is, uh, you, you don’t need to understand that deeply designed to understand how bad it is.

You know, uh, really, I’m not talking about features or, you know, how, how the tech is good or how the AI is good. I’m just thinking about the, the experience and the design, how you design the experience of that and, and how it reflects on usage and, and stuff like that. It’s not, it’s not good. It’s, it’s not good at many, at many level.

Right. And it, it, and it’s, it’s been true with the rabbit, uh, device. Mm-Hmm. . It’s, uh, [00:58:00] I mean, and, and, and people are really getting excited with this kind of thing because they, they feel like it’s a, it’s a pick of ai, like it’s a pick, uh, implementation of or way of materializing, uh, ai. Right. Um, and I. I strongly, strongly disagree with that.

Uh, yeah, people are talking about iPhone moments and, you know, uh, stuff like that. Uh, well, wait and see, I w I would say wait and see on some, uh, on some of these claims, but I have my, my dubs. It’s, uh, and, uh, but you, you can see how in a way design lost its ways, uh, in this kind of things. 

Vy: I mean, everything is designed.

At a fundamental level, like it’s just that the people maybe who design it use different processes, or maybe they are not designers. Maybe that’s what you 

Kevin: cannot, we cannot claim that for humane. I know, but 

Vy: something happened there, right? Something, something which wasn’t something happened there [00:59:00] basically where, where some bold decisions were made and maybe something we need to keep for a different session.

But yeah, just 

Kevin: my point, I think it was just that, um, it’s one of the, of the, of the limit of the, of being too much intake, right? It says you, You, you, you see only that’s. limited, narrow, uh, perspective on things. And, um, and it’s just to like, to hammer my point about, you know, um, expanding your worldview. And, uh, so I’m not saying people should go outside of tech.

But if they, if they are out going outside of tech, just to, just for like, uh, uh, a walk, let’s say, um, they might discover other things. They can bring it up back in tech if they want to. 

Vy: Yeah. Nice one. And let’s end it on this high note as well. I think there’s so many takeaways for. Everyone, I guess, um, should we guide the people to [01:00:00] your LinkedIn like, um, as before, or is there any other new place which we should bring up or anything else you would like to highlight?

Kevin: People can find me, of course, on LinkedIn, but they also can find some of my work in with the design and critical thinking community. So we. We try to think critically, as the name says, about design and design things in general. And so, uh, we recently opened up, um, a call for participation in writing about the state of design in 2024.

It’s a collaborative, um, article, um, that’s the, the deadline was for today, uh, as a time of recording. So if people listen to that, you cannot participate anymore, but, um, but, uh, I hope you will come read, uh, what, what, uh, others have to say about the state of design. Um, and yeah, so designcriticalthinking.

com. You can find it here. 

Vy: Awesome. All right. And, [01:01:00] and probably, do you know when is it launching? Like when, when do you think you’re going to assemble that knowledge piece? 

Kevin: Uh, so we have an event to discuss the article in two weeks from now. Uh, so the 26th April, uh, February, so yeah, in the coming days, uh, I would say in the coming days, uh, I will like, uh, next week, somewhere, sometimes next week, uh, I will release the article.

Vy: Nice one. Awesome. So I think we’re going to time it pretty well then, but as usual, thanks so much, Kevin, that has been a 



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