The Disciplines of User Experience Design is a mega Venn diagram that attempts to tackle the relationships of UX within design.

It rightly acknowledges the role of topics like architecture, which the lay person might see as tangential.

But it also overlooks some fields. Where is service design, for instance?

That said, it’s a graphic that will leave you thinking--and appreciating the work all our friends in UX do every day.

Infographic: The Intricate Anatomy Of UX Design

This mega graphic attempts to tackle the relationship between UX and all other aspects of design.

We toss around the term “user experience” (UX) a lot, mostly as a shorthand for something like “where industrial design meets interface design.” But to be perfectly honest, that tendency does this branch of design very little justice.

The Disciplines of User Experience Design is a mega Venn diagram by Dan Saffer (given a pretty makeover by Thomas Gläser) that explores all of the overlap between UX and other fields of design. You’ll see UX’s overlap with architecture, human factors, sound design, and computer science--and you’ll also see its sweet spot, interaction design, with user interface and all of its tentacles at its heart.

To be fair, it’s impossible to present a thesis on design like this without inviting the Internet masses to scrutinize its organization. As one commenter pointed out, where is service design in this mix? Meanwhile, I wondered how “psychology” or “cognitive science” can possibly be outside of the realm of UX, as understanding user thought process and cognitive loads are two massively important parts of the field. And how come sound has no place in the “interaction design” sweet spot? Can interactions only be visual in nature? Of course not.

But to critique a piece like this is to ungratefully overlook its utility: Don’t see this as the only road map for the entire UX design industry, but a postulation as to why it’s so darned complicated to nail good UX. To think anyone could be an expert in each of these circles is sheer absurdity. Scratch that: To think any designer could be an expert in each of these circles is sheer absurdity, but to recognize that every end user is an expert in each of these circles is highly important. As humans and end users, we might not know what makes an experience right, but we certainly know when it’s wrong.

See the original here. See the update here.

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20 Comments

  • jmco

    Good and maybe even very good attempt. I like it.
    - It is interesting to see that Communication Design (AKA Graphic Design) is at the CORE of User Experience. This makes sense, if a human user cannot understand the type, color, form, systems, etc. - all the things that are graphic and typographic in nature - the experience will be a bad one. Read Edward Tufte or Paul Mijksenaar (and see his work) for more on that.
    I would argue that for anyone to fully be a UX expert, they also need to be a educated graphic designer (with a degree or years in the field or both) with an emphasis on and love of typography - which still remains a key element of communications for all users. No, taking a few design or type classes while in CS, engineering, or a Design MBA program does not make you a designer.
    - BTW: a graphic designer's experience can be in any media, print, or digital. As Clement Mok says, he is media agnostic. Good design can happen anywhere.
    - The only flaw in the the information graphic is that Communication Design and Industrial Design are not overlapping. They *do* overlap (or should in practice). Apple is a good example of when the two are connected and more importantly coordinated, good stuff happens!
    - I also agree with comments on other smaller overlaps or terminology simplification. Missing for a few decades is the use of an editor or writer. Even small startups should hire editors/writers (freelance to start) to vet ALL the written and designed materials they produce. Well worth it! I love editors!
    - These is one MAJOR circle missing. History. Somehow, all of these need to have the influence of history in the broader sense with context (why is that Futura/Helvetica, et al is so common?) but more so within each profession and the satellite areas. As a trained designer and design educator, I am always shocked to see people copying design they see with out knowing the context. This is where, hiring trained, professional designers pays off. You are original.
    Jobs saw this in Ive a decade ago. The rest is history.

  • Jared Fossey

    JMCO - your distinction that "for anyone to fully be a UX expert, they also need to be an educated graphic designer" might be true for elements which require graphic or typographic input. But what of experiences where graphics and text are comparatively unimportant? 
    An example is a fashion store. This is a business that has users, and its users thus have experiences in it. I imagine you have had an experience of buying jeans before? 

    Hointer is a company that has designed an experience whereby users walk into the store, jeans are hanging, and minimal stock is on the shop floor. Users select which jeans they'd like to try on using a scanned code on a downloaded app. The app tells them which fitting room the jeans will be delivered to. 

    Users then go to the fitting room, try on as many pairs of jeans as they like, and if a pair isn't great, they drop it down a chute to send it back to the warehouse. If they want a size up or down, they can request that too, again using the app. 

    http://www.hointer.com

    There are obvious typographic requirements here - in the app itself and its interface, and (arguably) in the logo (personally, I think it sucks). But the reality of this project is that the typographic elements of this experience pale into insignificance next to the actual spatial and emotional experience that has been created here.

  • Ted

    Great diagram... my only issue is the small overlay for "Writing".  The writing is the narrative--the "voice" of the experience much like the dialogue in a play or movie. Writing plays a much larger role in my designs--from well stated descriptions, and captions to friendly directions written in a natural, friendly voice.

  • Rwesterv

    The more accurate discipline would be interior design or interior environments rather than architecture. Architecture is about the relationship of building to site, whereas inside of the building is where the environments reside. What constitutes an environment, though, doesn't necessarily require an enclosure of walls or a ceiling, and there can be multiple environments within an interior. It is instead predicated on shared activities and rituals of the occupants as part of a group, or a culture.

  • Alex Vasquez

    as a web design student, our current focus is UX/UI Design. I've read some of the negative comments in the thread regarding the the simplification of what UX is. I don't see this infographic as a justification of what UX Design is.  I see it as a broad overview as to what designers should be looking at. 

    If you're complaining of the complexity of design architecture, that's because it is complex. An app is more than content wrapped in pretty packaging. It's ideas, hopes, hidden expectations, and reality all wrapped in one. It's our jobs as UX designers to figure out what our customer wants, set the expectation of what we can deliver, and innovate past something that might currently exist. That's where everything else comes into play. 

    The conceptual models are more than just that. They form your blueprints to what actually is going to be created. They set the tone of your app/website's purpose. They are the virtual threads that tie every single element together. 

    I appreciate the infographic and look forward to more positive discourse regarding the matter. 

  • Robin Barrow

    If I see one more infographic that tries to explain what UX is, I'm going to do my nut in. UX is just the output of 'DESIGN' the big circle that encompasses everything...that's DESIGN, everything else is a component of Design and it has different attributes, skill sets and disciplines.

    UX needs to be quantified because it's now a profession of ubiquity, so there needs to be a value assigned to what its worth.

    still putting UI with UX, awesome...you are having an experience by interacting with something. no way...really. Remember the holy grail of video games some years back to make a person emotionally connected to a game...thats UX. It really isn't rocket surgery, stop trying to overcomplicate this very simple notion.

  • Leban Hyde

    I have been contemplating the similarities of UI/UX with Industrial Design and Architecture as of late. I feel vindicated after seeing the overlap in this infographic. As it is still a fairly young discipline by comparison, I think students and professionals alike can borrow and learn from the older disciplines. The medium may change, the principles do not.

    Thank you for the article. Cheers!

  • Marina Kobayashi

    I think the important thing to understand about conceptual models is that this is not meant to be strictly a venn diagram showing relationships by discrete quantities, overlaps, and positive or negative space.

    I look at it as more in-line with cubism or abstract expressionist art like that of Picasso or Willem de Kooning. It takes a perspective and illustrates the subject, maybe flattening some dimensions or opting to include a few angles, but effectively conveying the subject in a way that sheds new light an inspires different understanding. 

  • Jochen


    Quoting Tufte, I would call it information junk. 
    According to the graphic Ubicomp has nothing to do with Computer Science and is the intersection of architecture, industrial design and interaction design?

  • Phil

    And the point of this is?.....

    For me it sums up exactly what's wrong with both infographic design and UX design - it overcomplicates something that essentially should provide clarity.

  • Richie Brumfield

    It would be interesting to look at experience with more focus on the human element where this is the absolute center focus: i.e. emotion, intuitiveness, functionality, content, all of which is relative to different cultural backgrounds and various levels of personal development.

  • GarageFounders

    There's unending talk of UX.
    What's missing is for customers to understand it's importance. Rarely do we see customers involve Team UX in product strategy & planning. The gripe is mostly from larger UX teams at Tech companies, where everything has a 'looming' deadline.

    If anyone comes across an infographic of the UX design guidelines / process for Tech companies / Digital Agencies, please share. Will pin it at every tech company I know.

  • Mahendra

    I like the design of this page.

    I love the concept of the author when he says that more than being an answer to map all things that make Ux right, it could atleast point things that are imbalanced, excluded or incomplete.

  • Hsushs

    The problem is Venn diagrams and human beings building of  abstract models which are just pieces of art that people take way to seriously, of a world in which they are in a circle and inherently...

    any representation that is static (a snapshot "like tears in the rain") is only true for the "political" perspective of the moment in time for which it is created.

    I love Dan. I love the politics of the IxD wikipedia change history on the subject.

    But this is why as soon as the IxDA spun up, I was one of the first 20 people or so and immediately left. As soon as human beings get into a group, you got issues.

    So if you have time, say, you are working on applied HCI in a PHD program, I challenge you to take this and make it dynamic, slap big data analytics control interfaces on it, and populate with longitudinal long term internet data aggregators.

    That way, anyone can adjust this to their view of the world, and, get back to solving real problems in the world!

  • WeaverJ

    What about Economics and Regulations? UX designers strive to maximize the impact of the resources available for each project. In certain circles, laws and other regulations must also be considered. I recommending titling the grey background "Economics," then add yet another shade of grey behind/around it and title it "Law and Regulations."

  • Andew

    Well done! I really like how HCI is a just small part of User experiences design and Industrial design remains the bigger part! 

  • Adrian Bee

    Great article, Mark.  While there are some missed connections in the graphic, I think the discussion of those missing links speaks to something larger - the work of a designer is not easily boxed; each of us plays a different role as a designer. The venn diagram of my realm of work would inevitably appear much differently than another designer's.  While we both may be "UX Designers," our abilities and actions in the field vary.

  • Jason C Wise

    I agree with the Author. Though I personally find issue with the assumptions presented in this diagram, I find it a valiant attempt to define this complex and extremely dynamic space.

    To me, it is an excellent snapshot of one (or two) person's view of UX Design.

  • Jesse Kinsman

    I wonder if the proportions are actually scientific or if this is just how the creator saw UX design? For instance, did they study UX design and determine the amount of motion design is included or for that matter the architecture?

    Very interesting though