It seemed like Election Day here in the United States was a good a day as any to talk about a long-standing but growing trend I’ve been seeing among digital designer – becoming technology politicians.
It is a natural response to feel passionate about something you own especially if there is a competitor who makes something similar product. Examples would be Coke vs. Pepsi, Cats vs. Dogs, Playstation vs. Xbox and Apple vs. Android. I think that it is really necessary to have this type of competition so that each side forces the other to keep innovating and making their products better. Without that competition, the products tend to atrophy as the companies can become complacent from the lack of competition. I would point Adobe as an example of this as I feel that their pace of innovation was much higher when it was Adobe vs. Macromedia instead of now when applications like Photoshop are really the only game in town.
But as designers, we are one step removed from that equation since we are the end users and designers of the experiences on these platforms and benefit from the advances that result from the competition. The thing I’ve seen as a growing trend within digital design that isn’t healthy is that people are becoming so enamored with one side of this equations that it blinds you to everything else. I would point to the current state of American politics as an example why this is such a problem and how it becomes so dysfunctional as nothing a Democrat ever says will be agreed upon by a Republican and visa verse. I have seen a parade of designers recently who will go on a great length about their love for iOS or Android and how the opposing technology is “junk”. It is then ironic to hear this speech followed by them telling me about how they believe ideas can come from anywhere.
But why is this a problem and why can’t you be a designer and be passionate about one platform? I would argue that it is a problem because to be a great designer and a great thinker you need to be able to have perspective, draw comparisons and draw ideas from everywhere. When you close yourself down to just one technology or one line of thinking then you limit yourself and your creativity. When you limit yourself in any way you weaken your thinking and your work suffers for it.
This is why personally I have my favorite platforms that I use in my personal life but I still remain open to using products and operating systems from every manufacturer because they all bring unique thinking to the table. This has allowed me to do things like to start designing for wearables on a device like a Pebble, take those learnings to design for Google Glass and then ultimately use all of that to go and work with Apple on Apple Watch. If I had been blinded to all of those options and only waited for Apple Watch then my ideas would have been weaker, my understanding of wearables would have been much lower and I wouldn’t have been able to get the outcome that we did.
So go and be passionate about your favorite technology but keep that passion in your personal life and let your experience roam around in all the possibilities because your ideas and your design work will be a lot better for it. If not then you also might find yourself in the same boat as our politicians with a really his disapproval rating, a dysfunctional relationship, and worries about your job security.