Interview with Brian Pagán
Brian's specialties are Content Strategy, Persuasive Design, & Interactive Prototyping, and his ethical design practice includes techniques from acting & psychology. He holds a Professional Doctorate in User-System Interaction & a Master’s in Psychology. Check out The Greatness Studio here
Hi Brian, could you tell us a little bit about what led to you founding The Greatness Studio, and what your role entails?
Hey! Yes. So I found The Greatness Studio out of a need for community, that I felt for myself and also heard from a bunch of people that I'd been talking to and mentoring. Basically, a lot of UX professionals these days, especially freelancers, are finding themselves in situations where they're either the only UX professional within a team of developers or business people, or - at least, if they're in a company that has a team - there are a lot of companies that lack, let's say, formal mentorship programs, or people taking the opportunity to actually get together and support each other. So, what The Greatness Studio is trying to do, or what I'm trying to do with The Greatness Studio is - and this is how my role works - is I see myself very much as a facilitator, a connector, and a catalyst to conversations between like-hearted people, that aren't necessarily like-minded - we don't think the same, we don't have the same opinions on stuff - but we do have the same, or at least similar sensibilities, around what design should be; what UX should be; and why we're creating the world together and what it's good for. Thanks! Great question.
You've been working on the design of digital products for more than 16 years, what have been the most significant changes you have experienced in the industry during this time?
Another excellent question. So call me old fashioned, but there are two major trends or significant changes that I've noticed over the past 16 years that I've been working in the field. The first one is a bit of a negative one, or one that I don't like, and it's that with the advent or the rise in AI, voice-controlled interfaces, natural language interaction - a lot of these other technologies that are very cool and very interesting - block chain, I feel like people in the field are starting to be focused more on the technology than on the meaning behind what they're trying to build the humans that they're creating for. And so the other change it I would say is that there is a flip side to that coin, like a counterculture almost, of people who are focused - not primarily on the technology, but on the meaning and the humans for whom they're creating, and the broader vision of the world that we're putting together as a profession.
You describe yourself as a design humanist, how would you define this for a layperson, and what do you think are the essential tenets of good design?
So design humanism, as I see it, is about two things. One: it's about the way that we view people for whom we create. And, secondly: it's about the way that we view ourselves and our responsibility as practitioners. So, the first part is taking a broader view of humans: not looking at them as users, but looking at them in terms of their humanity. Looking beyond their relationship with the things that we create and looking at them as holistic creatures who are emotional, who are messy, who have dreams, aspirations, and whose ultimate goal - or better yet, I think our ultimate goal - in helping and creating things for people is to help them self-actualize and help people to increase, and not decrease their autonomy in the world. And so that brings me to the second part, which is that: as creators, as UX or design professionals, design humanism looks at us in terms of also a more holistic view of ourselves as humans, in the sense that we bring our intellect and our brains to work all the time, but we don't typically bring our hearts or our emotions into it. So what I like to do is help people to unlock the hidden potential inside our intuition, so that we can have a balance between our intellect and our intuition, and that's - in my opinion - where greatness come from, great design comes from. And that's what design humanism is all about.
As humans we are interacting with technology in an increasing number of ways, how do you think the work of a digital designer will change in the future?
So the ways the role of digital designer are changing as we move forward, is basically that we're less focused - we're going to be less focused - on the actual execution, on the actual pixel pushing, than we are going to be on the bigger picture in the future. And that's for two reasons. The first reason: automation is increasingly taking over the role of the pixel creation, the actual web design. If we see things like the grid, that uses A.I. to automate the creation of a website or web pages, web templates, based on the content that we put into it and tone of voice that we tell it to give. Basically, we give a design brief to an A.I. and it does the work for us. But as we move forward, someone has to write this design brief, someone has to understand the goals, the needs and the latent desires and needs of the people for whom we're creating, and to make the link between the human and the machine. That's where digital designer role is going to be, or it should be now, anyway. And it helps us to also realize our responsibility, our broader role within the general context of creating products and services, because it puts us more in the in the space of understanding and considering the meaning of whatever we do, for the people whom we're creating for. Thanks.
What projects are you most excited about working on in the next year, and are there any personal goals that would like to fulfill?
This is kind of a tough question for me because I kind of want to do everything, but I only have limited time. So for next year, actually, my big projects are... there are two books I want to write. The first book is about design for love: it's basically a methodology for sustainable engagement in ethical ways. Second book is about humanistic design and design humanism: what is it? What do we want to do with it? What are the techniques involved with it and what's the vision? And moving on from those things, actually my big, big, big, big longer-term project is to create and start a school of humanistic design. Because what I want to do is bring people together and show young designers, older designers, the ways that they themselves can unlock their own potential, especially when it comes to informed intuition and balancing intellect and emotion. Thanks.