My sojourn in the field of user interface design as a specialism was never entirely exclusive but for a few years HCI was my main work.
I prepared UI guidelines for a number of major companies and oversaw the training and implementation of interface standards. In the early days the detailed work of the Apple interface design group (this book is the fundamental UI text for me) and the insights of people like Donald Norman, Jenny Preece, and Scott McCloud lit my inspiration light bulb. Even in this fundamentally graphic field the quality of the user experience came before the pure look and feel aspects. Usability always trumps good looks.
Sadly, it is nowadays but a small minority of user interface designers who work this way. The seductive nature of the graphic elements is a siren call for those not trained in and ignorant of usability.
As in so many fields of IT related specialism that require detailed knowledge and in-depth theoretical understanding this is another that is too often turned over to programmers trained in little other than coding a particular language. The results are obvious and disastrous.
In the end, after returning to very large systems design using leading edge techniques and theories and high level consultancy I became dreadfully disenchanted. Design: the one area of IT that I shone at and respected had become the pariah of IT. Cost cutting by bean counters had eviscerated what was possible.
All this time I had been exercising these new found design skills in other fields and using other materials. It was when I left IT that I found the real joy of design and formulated my theoretical appreciation of design as a discipline, a craft and, an art.