Why designers don’t talk about interface design

In my experience, designers rarely talk about interaction and visual design at a high level. You might call this the “craft” side of software design. Here are the reasons I think that is.

Some designers don’t know what they know

A lot of interface design knowledge is learned tacitly. That is, designers pick it up when they look at other designs, or practice interface design. They don’t see it written down or have it explained to them. This means that they find it hard to explain what they know to other people.

Some designers want their process to be a moat

Designers depend on their knowledge to make a living. Some designers believe that if they share all of their “secrets”, that they won’t have a professional moat. That anyone will be able to come along and steal their clients or business.

Some designers want design to feel magical

From out outside perspective, design is magical. A designer produces wonderful artefacts that convince other people to do things. Some designers like this concept a lot. They impress other people with their magical powers. But if you show how the magic was done, it’s not as impressive.

It’s hard to write about interface design

Interaction design is a series of states through time. Visual design is visual. Text is a poor medium to show both of these things. A prototype is better to show interaction design, and a mock-up is better to show visual design. But text is the easiest medium to share on the internet. It’s harder to share knowledge about interface design than it is to share knowledge about, for example, code.

Some designers think interface design is beneath them

It’s easy to find designers who’ll talk about research and information architecture and usability testing all day. Some work is a “worthy” use of time for senior figures in our industry. Some work is handed to the intern, and that seems to include interface design.

Some designers work for companies with an anti-quality culture

Expert interface design knowledge is necessary if you want to make high quality software. But if a company doesn’t care about high quality, they haven’t got need for interface design expertise. This culture might encourage new employees to also focus on areas other than interface design.