One of the arguments UX’ers love to have is about job titles.

It’s up there with ‘defining the damn thing’, ‘UX vs. UI’, ‘should designers code’, ‘should designers draw’, ‘do I need a UX portfolio’ (I bought into that one), ‘what’s the best background’, and ‘can you really design an experience’?

I don’t deny beyond all the semantics there are some real issues, which is one of the reasons I started a blog: when you unpack all the arguments..ultimately they all boil down to one issue, but I’ll get to that later.  Plus, there are already some great articles that discuss the nuances between terms, and I know the history and domain has influenced a lot of that.

The reason I’ve adopted the term User Experience Design as what I do, is pragmatic.  It’s what the market decided:

If I’m looking for work, I do an search.  Here’s what happens (results from 1/8/2015):

Sure, there is a lot of overlap and it depends on your search phrasing, but if you look at a posting they are looking for the same person roughly.  I will state that I am a generalist vs. a specialist, which may be why I take a broad view on the field.  I’ll do what it takes to solve the particular problem (including front-end code if need be).

I’d also mention that only once have I had the opportunity to work in a large UX group where we had the luxury to specialize — there we had user researchers, UX architects, information architects, interaction designers, and visual designers.  ‘UX Designer’ seems to fit as a generalist title more than the others.

Industry is confused on which term to use (many postings will throw in multiple terms for coverage).  This is an ongoing problem. But they know they want some of that design-y stuff. Easy to use. User friendly. Fahrvergnügen. [Edit: how about Nutzung Vergnügen!!  utilization pleasure!]

Personally, I’ve been doing the same thing for most of my career: using the human centered design framework and methods to make products easier to use.  My job titles have adapted to the times (and job postings):

  • Behavioral Scientist*
  • User Interface Analyst
  • Human Factors Lead
  • Interaction Design Manager
  • HCD (Human Centered Design) Lead**

*Note 1: as a Behavioral Scientist for the US Air Force, I was mainly doing Industrial/Organizational Psychology, but with some research in instructional systems design and usability of computer based training.

**Note 2: at Emerson, we adopted ‘Human Centered Design’ because that’s the international standard (ISO 9241).

This Google chart shows the ‘popularity’ of search terms over the years. IA & IXD are out, UX is in. somewhere around 2009-2010 you see the change (the classic ‘X’ interaction graph experimental psychologists look for).

What’s In a Name
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2 thoughts on “What’s In a Name

  • January 9, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    Just when it seemed the world was starting to unify on the term, UX. A new faction forms, dropping the U for user, which is more or less implied, in favor of further emphasizing that it is an Experience that is being Designed. Enter XD.

    Though not yet widely adopted across the industry, some companies have internally switched over to having eXperience Designers and XD departments.


    • January 9, 2015 at 4:10 PM

      Funny, I was just commenting on a discussion in LinkedIn User Experience Group ‘What is an Experience?’ re: the argument that experience can’t be designed (it’s internal to the person), you can only design *for* experience. I commented that the Stanford Prison Experiment is an example where you can design an experience.


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