Designers of all sorts, be they information architects or interaction designers, have a excessive amount of personal identity embedded in their profession. This makes it very hard for them to grow. I’ve talked about it before… I’m hoping this diagram might shed some light.
Career paths in design seem to fall into a pretty stable path for all the “makers of stuff” professions. You are a n00b, a raw bit of talent, and some company picks you up cheap and gets to teaching you. What they teach you isn’t usually to revolutionary, but it provides a good foundation.
Now you get to be a Journeyman. Many young designers call me up asking what they should do next, because they are leaving their company. The answer is typically “go inhouse” to consultants and “go outhouse… er, join a consulting firm” if they are in house. There are things you can only learn by being one place or the other; even somewhere as diverse as Yahoo can’t teach you consulting tricks, and no matter how many companies you think you’ve seen into you don’t know them until you’ve walked a mile in their excel sheets.
So after awhile you get pretty high up the org, and you think, now what? Do I have to become a … gasp… manager? If you are lucky the company might offer you two choices, manager or senior practitioner (master, in this chart). And now the cycle is complete, right? You can stay in your spot, or twitch back and forth between the two for the rest of your life, right?
Don’t be afraid, little sufferer of ADD…. there is hope. Get the f*ck out of the boxes!
Designers get stuck because they are scared of losing their identity, and IA’s are certainly among them. How many folks stood up at five minute madness and declared, “I am a IA, and these are my people!” Giving it up means loss of who you are, and who you love, right?
Well, the good news is it ain’t so. Lou Rosenfeld, the publisher. Frank Ramirez, the children’s book creator. Christina Wodtke, entrepreneur (hey, all of us are in publishing. Well, ya can take the girl out of IA, but…) all will be at the next summit, with our “peeps.”
And that’s the point. You are you. You know what you know. If I chucked it all tomorrow and became a food writer, well I would certainly organize my articles intelligently.
Don’t fear growth. A sapling is a tree, as are old-growth redwoods, and they know it at their core.