About ten years ago I was sitting on the roof of a Humvee in a combat zone with my Army unit. The sun was setting, and I believed I was very far from home. I pulled out my toothbrush, and my perspective changed. One funny thought popped into my head which has guided me since: Home is where your toothbrush is.
After almost five years living in Germany, I am moving to the US. My adult life has been one long string of perspective changes. I have come to know people from all over the world, and have spoken every day in a language that isn’t my mother tongue. I have an art degree, an international design Master’s, was in the Army, and worked with liberals and conservatives. I tried hard for many years to hold onto old identities and perspectives, thinking they were who I was. Once I learned to stop defining myself in terms, I found my real appreciation for User Experience Design.
Perspective can be found in many ways. The timeless phrase ‘Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes,’ is what we usually think of. The truth about this statement is that it is impossible to truly walk in their shoes, and therefore we should never judge. My favorite approach is to buy my own shoes, and walk the same path with them. Because the things they can tell you on the way are priceless insights we would never get when walking alone. Of course, it is impossible to always do this. There aren’t enough shoes or time. This is where empathy becomes important. Empathy is trust, that another person truly believes in what they say. Our opinions or preconceived ideas are the enemy of empathy. What we do with the information we gain through empathy plays itself out in the design process.
What does this have to do with design? Everything.
Perspective and the design process: Designers must first understand their own perspective, in order to understand others.
Design is, at its core, an editing process which brings communication. Designs themselves are not communication, the feedback process in design is the most important part. The moment we reject other people’s perspectives, we begin to design things solely for ourselves. The process is then no longer a form of communication. It is impossible to design one thing that works for everyone, but the more perspectives we understand, the more informed our design decisions are.
I’m in the process of moving to California and am excited to gain some new perspectives. I can’t wait to meet interesting people and have some new experiences. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s story, and build exciting new user experiences.