Surfing Today’s Online Design Feeds

My internet life is fairly well curated. I receive articles filtered by the applications I use based on the tags I’ve picked and the stuff I have read before. While part of me finds it a little creepy, a huge part of me finds it convenient. There is too much for me to read, I would be overwhelmed if something didn’t pick and choose for me.

What has me confused is why my design feed rarely has any physical-world design stuff in it. It’s all technology design: UX design, workflow design, form design, mobile design. Why is none of this about buildings and hard goods? Sometimes I find information on how to “approach design” or lessons learned about the design process. But nothing about actual things being made.

Perhaps I’m searching for the wrong terms, but “architecture” does the same thing. The titles of the first three articles in my feed: iOS Architecture Patterns; Android Application Architecture; and 10 Tips for Better Redux Architecture. Not a building in sight. The world of technology has borrowed an excellent word for what they do from the IRL world.

I wonder if in our online-centric world where we confuse the systems architect with actual architects (I mean for buildings), we are forgetting we live in a physical world. My database architect is awesome but she can’t tell me if the wall I’m thinking of tearing down is something that’s keeping a roof on the building we’re sitting in. It’s not her job. But here’s the thing: she talks about what she’s doing. She gives tips and tricks (I think we call them hacks now, or maybe we’re back to calling them Q&A) to the world at large and people read them.

So the problem with my feed is probably not the filter but the content. Designers of online things talk online about what they are doing online. It seems to be symbiotic for them. Real world designers are in the real world looking at half-finished buildings to make sure they’re being built correctly. They don’t live online. So they’re being drowned out.

Drawings produced by designers are “instruments of service.” They are intended to be communication tools used to explain in detail the final design recommendations. I feel a call-to-action coming on… It’s time for this part of the design profession to communicate through more than their drawings: they need to go online and join the conversation.

I would love to see a design feed talk about how something in the physical world was designed. What inspired the designer, why they made the decisions they did. I know there are magazines doing this with the people at the top of the design pyramid of fame, but I’d like the conversation be among practitioners. That’s what the technology architects do. They share among practitioners so everyone’s code gets better. It’s time for the IRL designers to borrow some communication tools from their online doppelgangers.

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