Do you ever feel envious of the trendy two-letter acronyms used by practitioners in User Experience (UX), Information Architecture (IA) and User Interface (UI) design?
Well, I’m not embarrassed to say that I do. I long for a contemporary acronym I can say with a confident toss of the head. An acronym that sounds so right, the uninformed will think they should know what it means and will never ask.
For those of you who don’t know the history, here is a brief and biased summary of the titles used to describe our field.
The ISD Era. At one time our field was known as Instructional Systems Design (ISD). It’s not that ISD was a bad acronym, but the systems part felt a bit like instructional engineering.
At some point, the acronym began to lose its relevance. We were no longer creating systems. It also sounded somewhat dull. And as we all know, anyone who finds joy in creating courses about HIPAA law or copier repair is anything but dull.
The ID Era. Though no date has been recorded for this event, the word systems was mysteriously dropped from instructional systems design. As we began to design more varied and richer learning experiences, it just disappeared. Poof. It happened quickly, almost as though everyone telepathically agreed to the change without uttering a word about it.
But there was one problem. This left us with the forgettable ID acronym. When capitalized, these two letters can stand for anything from Industrial Design to Information Design. In fact, ‘Acronym Finder’ lists 102 meanings for ID. It is simply too common.
In addition, the term instructional feels a little dated. It focuses on materials rather than users, and may summon images of filmstrips and overhead projectors. If you are too young to know about these technological relics, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter at this point.
The Learning Architect. Several years ago, aware of the need for a new name and a new way of designing, Clive Shepherd wrote The New Learning Architect.
I wholeheartedly supported this moniker and used it myself for awhile. It implied our field could be known as Learning Architecture. The metaphor is nearly perfect and expresses the unique nature of how we design. Yes, I could see myself as a learning architect. Unfortunately, this label was not adopted by a sufficient number of practitioners.
Learning Experience (LX) Design
This brings us to my vote as the ideal replacement for instructional design that is slowly creeping into use. It is Learning Experience Design, also known as LX Design. Here is why I think this title is relevant and meaningful.
Focuses on the User. As noted, Instructional Design implies a focus on materials. That’s the wrong perspective. Learning Experience Design, on the other hand, focuses on how a person learns. It suggests a user-centric mindset, which is more effective for understanding an audience, meeting audience needs and thus, creating better solutions.
Based on Learning Science. Learning Experience Design emphasizes the learning rather than the instruction. Having the word learning in the title may remind us of the body of scientific research (although not perfect) underlying how people assimilate and apply knowledge and skills.
Designing Experiences. Calling ourselves Learning Experience Designers acknowledges that we design, enable or facilitate experiences rather than courses. This gives us a broad license to empower people with the tools and information they need to do their jobs, regardless of the chosen format.
In conclusion, LX Design is a title for the 21st century. I can almost see a generation of children who are eager to become LX Designers when they grow up. Most important, saying that you are an LX Designer puts you on an equal footing with peers who get to use trendy acronyms every day.
What are your thoughts fellow LX Designers?