ThoughtWorks XD skills visualization (2013)

Concept, IA, UX, UI

What problem is this trying to solve?

For many companies, the term experience design (xd) is still a black box. I wanted to find a way to help dissolve the question,

Aren’t all designers the same?

I believe that the challenge is not that XD skillset is a mysterious black box, but that it is a big box. Like many other professions, XDs come in a variety of specializations. XDs have plenty of common ground, but we need to define our strengths with respect to peak performance level.

XD skills viz 1 XD skills viz 2

How would a non designer benefit from this seemly esoteric distinction?

At a multidisciplinary consultantcy, like ThoughtWorks, resource management (RM) is arguably the most difficult job in the company. RM’s job in short is to staff project needs with the people who have those skills. Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

These brave souls are constantly learning juggling projects that come in-and-out of a sales pipeline on an daily (or hourly) basis then communicating with consultants and projects leads to ensure that they understand the capabilities of as many people as possible. When you throw a new skillset into that mix, you can’t expect RM to drop everything just to learn the evolving details of how you define a specialization.

XD skills viz 3 XD skills viz 4


So how can we visually show present this skillset? I considered 3 primary visuals: spider chart, rose chart and a bar graph. Then executed the visualizations through dynamic, hand-spun svg graphics.

Sort the data

In order to show variations of data, we needed to define a consistent set of skills. Note that you could slice this skillset a bagillion different ways and they would mostly all be correct in some form or another. This slice was agreeable for our design practice. Agreeable enough.. for now.

XD skills viz 5 XD skills viz 6


We want people to know some information. They don’t have time to learn it, so how can we teach it to them? We need to integrate small amounts of digestable information into their daily workflow.

People recognize patterns

Designer or not, everyone recognizes patterns. If we come up with a good way to visualize this skillset, then perhaps we can integrate those visuals into a staffing tool. Over time, perhaps these small amounts of information will sink in.

XD skills viz 7 XD skills viz 8

Trello wall

I do love Trello. It may not replace mind maps, but it sure does aid in keeping my priorities in order and helps me to communicate an action plan to others.

XD skills viz trello