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What is a New Media Architect?

I guess I should clear this up first thing. What exactly is a “New Media Architect” and how does this relate to the web?

The field of user interface and user experience (UI/UX) has begun to sort itself out for the better. For example, If you want to build an important building, you need two things: Somebody to design it, and somebody to build it. There are two parties involved. I admire a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright’s structures, but I’m sure that whomever hired him back in the day, didn’t really expect ol’ Frank to be out there with a hammer on construction day. For all I know, he may have been a lousy carpenter. In the same vein, you may not want your contractor to be designing your important building either. But together, they can make something incredible.

User interface design is no different. I think Apple was one of the first companies to realize this. They saw early on that engineers (the constructors) were good at their job, and designers (the architects) were good at their jobs. So Apple divided the tasks and let the groups do what they were good at. In some ways, I think Microsoft has yet to understand this. Quite often, young companies will just have their engineers do the UI design. The problem here is that engineers know too much. Things that are obvious to them are not obvious to the user.

In the early days of the web, the only people making web pages were engineers. And it showed. Some of them got better at design, or maybe even studied design. There are those people out there who can do both. But in my opinion, doing both makes a sacrifice in one or the other. You just can’t be a speedboat and a race car at the same time. Different environments and different requirements.

UI/UX) design is now a specialized field. These people think about how users interact with software, not necessarily how the software is coded. As always, it helps to know a little of both and to try to stay up-to-date with current trends. Finding where you fit can be a tremendous asset. There’s no reason to feel like a failure if you can’t understand PHP, or your interfaces are always look amateurish. Too many people think that they have to be experts in both to be well-rounded. I say, just find your own path that feels natural and you’ll be happy and only get better at what you love to do.

This is why I created the title, “New Media Architect” in the late nineties. It represented where I wanted to go. At the time, I’m sure people would just lump a title like that into the IT field, thinking I was a, “computer guy”. Now the dust is starting to settle. Companies are realizing the difference between these skills and how much of an advantage it gives a product if a team is built right. People often ask me if I “build” web sites, and actually, I don’t. Not anymore. Oh I can get them built using the people I know are right for the job. I’m just not the one holding the hammer.

I currently design many things, print, online, packaging, displays, etc. I’ve specialized in corporate ID and branding for many years. I’ve honed my skills designing mobile, desktop, touchscreen and online application UIs for various forms of new media. I have found my place as a New Media Architect. And now you know what it means.