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A few days ago, I read an article with the same title as this post. Oh, maybe it was How to Hire a User Experience Professional, or Interaction Designer or Information Architect, or whatever. I don’t recall. There isn’t so much difference anyhow. I do remember it said things like “look at their presentation skills”, “see if their personas are based on research” and something about their wireframes. I tweeted that’s why I wouldn’t hire a designer, which caused some kerfuffle with my followers. And it’s hard to clarify in 140 characters what teed me off about the original article.
Here’s why I wouldn’t hire someone based on wireframes, Powerpoint and persons: it’s not because these are necessarily bad (well, except the wireframes, which are so 2001 that they are the mullet of deliverables, and like the mullet I cannot wait until they are finally gone and I’m not asked to stare at them any longer.) I was bummed because these are merely artifacts and not necessarily the vital critical thinking skills you need to find in a decent designer.
I really don’t care if you never do personas, or if you make them up from a guy you talked to in the grocery story. I don’t care if you use keynote, Powerpoint or Illustrator. And honestly, I would hire someone if they did wireframes even though I hate the darn things.
So how do I vet designers, if not by their paperwork?
For the last five-some years, I’ve given up making New Year’s Resolutions. Instead I have what I call the New Year’s Project. Each year I pick a large topic, and spend my time on and off throughout the year teaching myself about it. One year it was futurism (an obvious topic, consider how many New Year’s predictions articles always get run). I read up on who were the leading futurists, joined a futurist group and went to their meetings, and worked on making predictions myself. I learned useful concepts like cone of uncertainty, and how to take the long view, and how to do scenario planning. But most importantly I learned we cannot know the future, and as we try to plan we must be always ready to shift. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying to plan; it just means maintaining a yogi-level flexibility.
This last year I decided beauty would be my project. Not art and architecture, which I have always appreciated, but traditional feminine beauty. I have always had an uneasy relationship with the ideals of feminine beauty– having been raised a feminist I suspected makeup and infrastructure garments were a tool of patriarchy to hobble us by taking away two hours of our life every morning. But hey, why not question my assumptions?