Yet more wisdom about user experience and interface design from the Signal Vs. Noise blog, this time debunking the mistaken idea that a good user interface has anything to do with just drawing a pretty picture, and handing it over to someone to implement.
One phrase in particular really caught my attention, "our designers apply their talents to the native materials of the web."
Now, I am not trying to pick on Photoshop people here, but how can you design an interface that is interactive, without using interactive tools to do so? DHH really has this right, since the web is built with HTML and CSS, a good web interaction designer needs to work with these "materials".
Likewise, a web interaction designer, might not be good at videogame design. Both the web, and console games, have their own set of standard use metaphors. Even each console has its own language, consider the vast difference between UI for the XBox 360 vs. UI on the Wii. Each has its own selection of native materials, and choosing to ignore these elements by inventing your own, makes it more difficult for users to anticipate what the software is going to do, based on their previous experience.
As such, working with the native materials of the web means conforming to a very small set of options, an exercise in constraints. This does not mean there should not be aesthetic to web UI design, quite the opposite. But it is an aesthetic based on sticking to certain forms, and the further you move away from these forms, the harder for users to adjust.
The realm of "graphic" design is only indirectly related to "user interface" design. Both require design, but each also requires certain distinct skills and knowledge from the other. A user interaction designer may work in the visual realm like an artist, but has to have an engineer's discipline, at least it they are going to be good, and not just pretty.