Academic Design Baggage

I recently listened the Web2.0 Show’s interview with Jason Fried of 37signals. There are many gems in here for designers/business folks. Something that struck me was the discussion about background. What sort of background prepares you to run a small business or to be a designer with vision?

In the interview, Jason touches on his own background in…finance. Finance? The obvious question was then, how did he first become a usability expert?:

I made myself an expert. We all did!

What about the rest of the 37signals team?

We all just came from different backgrounds and I think that gave us a huge advantage.

I’ve often thought about the kinds of experiences that make us designers and entrepreneurs. And, most of those experiences don’t necessarily seem applicable at first glance. Within our own team, we have a mix of academic and self-taught experience in music and video production, design, programming, anthropology, linguistics, art and so on. Sure, there are pros and cons on both sides of this argument, but we’ve found that, perhaps because we did not come from strictly academic design backgrounds, our process has emerged organically and we’re not afraid to change; we’re not encumbered by what Jason referred to as academic design baggage.

Kandace Brigleb

Producer, co-founder of Needmore. Currently residing on the left coast.