The Michael Hawley “Design Research Methods for Experience Design” article for UX Matters last week pits user experience (UX) design against “genius” design, listing drawbacks for each. He ultimately favors a hybrid approach (bold emphasis is mine):
New methods and approaches for experience design merge the best of traditional user-centered design and genius design. The goal is to obtain insight into the attributes of an experience that would help or delight people based on research evidence. However, the process does not rely on following exactly what users say during research interviews and instead leverages the talent and imagination of designers to look beyond what users are saying to envision creative solutions. The goal is empathetic design, or experiencing a solution as a user would.
Ultimately, user research gathers data which may or may not be useful to the final design. A talented and knowlegeable designer (or design team) can refine user and business data into actionable information through analysis, then blend user and business needs and wants with (dare I say it?) a dash of “genius” or creative design. The resulting design would not be as compeling without this holistic approach.
I also like Hawley’s focus on “delight” and “pleasure” – including emotional outcomes like these in the project requirements can make the design process and resulting product or experience equally meaningful to design participants, product users, and business stakeholders.