Interpersonally Analogous Design

Can we find answers to our problems from looking outside our respective careers, spaces, subjects, industries?

August 14, 2020
4 minutes

Can we find answers to our problems from looking outside our respective careers, spaces, subjects, industries?

Design has a research methodology called analogous research, a practice where you observe design solutions from seemingly different industries, that may apply to your own. You may design for children entering kindergarten, but you may find design solutions from patterns in displaying driver behavior.

IDEO describes it as a form of exploration that takes a team outside of its industry to find inspiration in the ways others have tackled similar challenges.

I find analogous research to be one of my favorite things to do as a designer. I love dissecting microinteractions, information architecture, and context. It helps me practice empathy for the design of the application said application, service, and or industry. To me, doing that is more productive (and fun) finding the wrong things about them.

Analogous research could also apply to seemingly different topics like self-improvement topics such as management. As an avid reader, I find that there are uncanny similarities between designing for users (as a UX designer) and designing for your peers (as management). It's interesting to see how design can seep over to other places where you least expect it.

Users are the reason why I delve into reading about managing. Managing people is what I do already is a much deeper and cognitive level— described in user-centered design methods like user testing, research, interviews, etc.

Except instead of top-down, I want the users to feel that I am their ally. It makes them feel more comfortable, and most importantly, willing to give unfiltered feedback about their goals and needs.

I manage the reservoir of information, feedback, understanding, and assumptions they give, whether consciously or subconsciously. And, as a practitioner of this discipline, this type of management is plenty.

Because what is my goal? My goal is to create useful applications with good user experience, a suite of applications for a data-heavy, engineering-minded initial set of users. What is the mantra instilled to us UX designers? We design for and with the users.

But you know, there are overlaps between managing your peers and managing users. There are some underlying concepts and principles that you can apply on the daily grind that would help achieve UX objectives.

A proponent to I have to read about management is the focus on interpersonal relationships. Inevitably, the focus on people and relationships apply to all— users, middle managers, solution architects, etc.

Instead of:
“How do you manage your peers to be successful?”
“How do you manage your users to be successful?”

Instead of:
“How do you set your peers up for success?”
“How do you set your users up for success?”

Instead of:
“How do you measure your peer's performance, and what is the course for correction?”
“How do you measure your user's performance, and what is the course for correction?”

You start to get the idea. What is beautiful about this is that when you make the connection, everything you've ever read after begins a cognitive walkthrough: "Is this true for my users? For myself? How can I apply this to my work?"

Every bit of effort you do to understand the user is another penny in the empathy jar.