“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot.” — Mark Twain

UX analysis is based on a study of the contextual environment.

UX analysis is informed by behavioral events.

UX is now so pervasive that it is becoming an implicit expectation.

and …

UX is becoming trivialized as clever design.

Soooo … Is UX History?


“Usability” is the underlying assumption that any device – particularly a smart one – is implicitly easy-to-use.

Digital Interactive UX existed previously to ~2002, but it really got an identity and flourished around then because the marketplace achieved both huge investment + huge audience. It arose from multiple disciplines

The “commoditization” argument follows on that pervasiveness theme. How that takes form within the organization will be interesting, tho I expect it will reflect the larger culture. A framing question I always ask corporate stakeholders is :

“So, Is UX under Marketing? Is it under IT? Is it under the Business? Is it (or should it be) UNDER anything?”

Implicit = invisible/transparent


In Context

This “Histomap,” created by John B. Sparks, was first printed by Rand McNally in 1931.

As a historical reference of cultural influence, it reflects some of the “western civ” bias of its own moment in history.  But it’s still assumption-jarringly informative.

Edward Tufte would be proud.

  • “The Visual Design of Quantitative Information” (1983)
  • “Envisioning Information” (1990)
  • “Visual Explanations” (1993)
  • “Beautiful Evidence” (2006)

History is helpful: If you didn’t learn the first time around, it repeats itself. — John Vaughan

An Early Model

Thanks to George Lilly for this reference. George was my team leader and mentor during the groundbreaking Booz-Allen Hamilton “Home Information Systems Study” of 1981, which established the credibility – and to a certain degree the model – for the interactive consumer services market … just a little before the Web.


Big History

Bill Gates has this idea …

… and it’s a pretty good one

“… to offer a multifaceted historical account of any given subject through a friendly user interface. The site, which is open to the public, would also feature a password-protected forum for teachers to trade notes and update and, in some cases, rewrite lesson plans based on their experiences in the classroom.”

PS: Does anyone remember Jacob Bronkowsi and his wonderful series, The Ascent of Man?

Disruptive Innovation meets History

… and receives a long-awaited, well-deserved smackdown. Read it. You’ll feel better. I promise.

 Disruption is a theory of change founded on panic, anxiety, and shaky evidence.

“Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature.

It’s an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it’s the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty.

Transfixed by change, it’s blind to continuity. It makes a very poor prophet.”

Context is Everything.

© The Communication Studio LLC