ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

The Age of Designer’s Revenge

8/16/2011 6:33:25 PM

Photo by Dan DeLuca

Back in 2004, when Transvaal Aquapark collapsed in Moscow, I remember reading a very long rant by some structural engineer about what she thought was a global root of the problem. I couldn’t find that post right now, but I remember the point of it vividly.

In USSR no one really cared how buildings looked. It was important that they don’t collapse and primitively serve their purpose. Structural engineering was way above than architecture in the ranks. Architects were sort of oppressed by engineers.

Sounds familiar?

Then Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly everyone wanted their buildings to be pretty. The balance between architects and structural engineers switched. And architects held a grudge from being abused and disregarded for all these years. So they started oppressing and disregarding engineers. The point of that lady was that it got to the point where engineers had no say in what makes sense and what doesn’t, which eventually led to tragedy.

If we take a look at software engineering, it’s difficult not to see the parallels with soviet structure engineering. Programmers “oppressed” designers for decades. In engineering driven companies like Google or Microsoft this is probably still the case. Listen to this episode of “This Developer’s Life” where Microsoft’s designer Michael Bach complains about this still being the case and mentions the Douglas Bowman’s post (linked above) about Google. But look at Windows Phone and you will see that the situation is changing.

This post was inspired by this tweet by Aral Balkan.


Aral is a well known user experience designer and speaker from UK. His talks are really inspirational and very well presented (even if a true geeky developer could argue that he is selling common sense ;).

Immediately after seeing this tweet I’ve remembered that architecture/engineering rant from 7 years ago. If you’ve never lived in USSR you’ve probably never seen this transformation. But worst type of tyrant is someone who was oppressed before and is holding a grudge. Or is this the only possible type?

So we’ve oppressed designers for decades. Some of them are definitely holding a grudge. And it seems that now is their turn to rule. Hopefully it won’t result in any global tragedies, but we, developers, should prepare to be abused. Or, you know … switch to user experience design.

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