I have a Bachelor of Science in “Interaction Design”. It’s not a major that Stanford offered officially, but one that you could petition to take under the Individually Designed Major program, essentially a system that allows students to invent their own major if they can convince the faculty that it “by virtue of its focus and intellectual content, cannot be accommodated by existing departmental or programmatic majors.”
The name of the major was influenced by the work and thinking of Bill Moggridge, one of the pioneers of design for high technology products. The name needed to stand the test of time, as it would appear on my resume for decades to follow.
After graduating, I went to work at Adobe. I was hired as “User Interface Designer”. There was a lot of debate on the team about what various designers were called and what the team should be called. I would enumerate the list of possible options, but I don’t feel like typing the whole thing out. It included different combinations of terms like experience, architect, design, user, human.
I left Adobe in 2005, and subsequently the team changed the name from “Interface Team” to “XD Team”, and people changed titles from “User Interface Designer” to “UX Designer”.
Transitioning from working at the company to being a customer of their products, the whole debate felt very artificial. Ultimately what mattered to me as a customer was the quality of the products, not internal titles or the design of the team t-shirts. I was also worried that time spent thinking about these labels was time not spent thinking about the products.
I applaud Jack Dorsey for thinking of ways to build a more customer-centric company, and he has a number of interesting ideas in his latest proposal “Let’s reconsider our ‘users’”, but it’s important to remember that internal nomenclature discussions only matter when they concretely improve the products customers use.