Why Ford Hired a Furniture Maker as CEO

ur lives are made up of human-machine interactions—with smartphones, televisions, internet-enabled parking meters that don’t accept quarters— that have the power to delight and, often, infuriate. (“Maddening” is Hackett’s one-word description for 90-button TV remotes.) Into this arena has stepped a new class of professional: the user-experience, or UX, designer, whose job is to see a product not from an engineer’s, marketer’s, or legal department’s perspective but from the viewpoint of the user alone. And to insist that the customer should not have to learn to speak the company’s internal language. The company should learn to speak the customer’s.

LinkedIn lists tens of thousands of UX job openings; the role has become a fixture on those year-end “hottest job” lists. If you want to study UX, you now have the option at some three dozen institutions in the United States, including Carnegie Mellon and the University of Washington. But Ford is one of the few major industrial companies in the U.S. to put a UX guru in charge.