Why #uxforarchitects

Transdisciplinary collaboration is fast becoming the norm. UX designers and architects need a platform and a #hashtag to get this discussion blazing.

When you start comparing the skills of UX designers and architects, there’s a fair bit of similarity in their interests and design processes. Both care about the human experience and practice degrees of empathy. Both love design. Both are about structuring and organising for best results. And both have that particular type who dive into research and data and materials and details and new technologies and the sublime with jubilant enthusiasm, creating extraordinary experiences.

Architecture’s problem…

Differences arise across the scale, scope, timelines, and processes of UX designers’ and architects’ projects. These differences make UX design an attractive career option to architects, some so disillusioned with their current architecture jobs they morph into UX designers at software companies. Then there’s bright-eyed architecture students asserting empathetic and idealistic spaces, irked by tales of architecture as a dying, draconian industry.

Architecture’s problem is framed in many ways: a technology problem, an engineering problem, a business problem, ‘design’ problem, ethical problem, [descriptor] problem… you know what? There’s a common theme among them.

… is a communication problem.

The Digital Age progresses, and there’s developing talk of the Data Age, and an ‘Experience Age’. And there’s a budding awareness among architects about the significance of data, but honestly that sounds boring (read: confusing). But here’s where it comes together: designing with data is old hat stuff to UX designers, and they know communication of that data is the key to their success. So it’s time for #UXers and architects to hook up, @uxforarchitects.

The software design industry makes no secret of repeating its architecture-software analogy, to the point where if you ask an IT professional about theoretical links to Architecture, you get a look that professionally says ‘well yeah, duh…’.

— UX for Architects in ‘Has Architecture forgotten its own history?

This isn’t Information Architecture

UX for Architects isn’t an IT endeavour: its soul lives in the ‘ineffable spheres of knowing’ that architects nurture among themselves. Architecture’s communication problem is that architects insist on keeping others out of this bubble, and it’s killing Architecture (as in the built-environment type of Architecture).

UX defines the verbs ‘interact’ and ‘use’ synonymously with ‘communicate’, remembering that not all communication is verbal. UX designers work with the ‘human-computer interface’; the architect deals with the ‘human-building interface’.

#uxforarchitects is embracing transdisciplinary approaches via an open discussion about architectural ‘secrets’, combining them with research across other disciplines including psychology, technology, sustainability, and business management.

If you think our built environment has veered too far from aesthetics, comfort and liveability, you ineffably know Architecture fails when the ‘object’ and profitability is favoured over human experience. Words are mostly impotent in the conversation between human and object. UX process isn’t. Architects can learn UX process, scale it up and widen the scope.

If we’re to see a culture change within Architecture that de-prioritises ‘value management’ and ‘architecture as an object’, we need show that it’s actually economically and environmentally correct to design for the human rather than the wallet or ego.

Let’s do it together — follow @uxforarchitects on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article was first published in Issue #01 of UX for Architects ZINE in January 2020. Download it for free here.