About a year and a half ago, Albert Shum and I were discussing trends in design. One of the advantages of working as an inhouse designer is having a deep focus on a particular product for a long period of time. You get to know the product, and the problem space around that product, very well. That focus can also cause a certain amount of myopia, so its important to find ways to look outwards, seek other perpectives, and to generally exercise the brain on other but possibly related issues. And so, we thought it would be iteresting to talk with other designers outside of Microsoft to see what topics were currently engaging them. The idea for the project started out as being research for ourselves internally, but quickly turned towards making something that could be shared with the larger design community.
We imagined something similar to Gary Hustwit’s design documentaries, and began to wonder why there isn’t an Objectified for Interaction Design. The work that Interaction Designers are doing is so interesting, representing such a range of problems and perspectives, and most importantly, has such a broad impact on our daily lives, that it deserves being captured and discussed. So our goal became to capture how Interaction, UI, & User Experince Design is being practiced right now, the emerging problems, and trends in the field.
We got in touch with our friends at Bassett & Partners to plan the project. We reached out to a number of designers to speak with, and Bassett helped us frame the interview questions. The designers we spoke with represent a diverse set of views on design, came from a variety of locations around the world, and work in several different contexts – a writer, an educator, entrepreneurs, consultants, a maker, an engineer, and inhouse designers. We were also lucky to be invited by Raphael Grignani and Jenn Bove to spend time with the jury of the 2012 Interaction Design awards, to film some of the jury process and speak with the judges. The questions we asked them touched on their personal philophy on design, the history of Interaction Design, emerging trends, the role that Interaction Design played in peoples lives, and what they saw in the future of Interaction Design. Here are some examples:
Personal Design Philosophy
How do you define UX & Interaction Design?
What design principles (if any) guide your work?
Shifts in Design, past & present
What shifts have you seen in the Interaction Design space over the course of your career?
What are driving forces are currently at play in the Interaction Design space?
What topics are currently debated within the Interaction Design community right now, and what is your perspective?
People & Interaction Design
What is the physical, emotional, and even spiritual impact of Interaction Design on people?
How do you feel that people are being affected – positively or negatively – by Interaction Design?
The Future of Interaction Design
Where do you see Interaction Design as a discipline and industry in 5 years? 10 years?
What are the biggest challenges facing Interaction Designers right now?
What are the biggest opportunities for Interaction Designers in the future?
From the many incredible hours of footage we had from the interviews, we worked with Bassett to condense the different topics discussed in to a narrative. Here are some of the themes that we saw emerge:
People & Technology
At its base, as you’d expect, Interaction Design is about designing for people – making things, services, and situations easier to understand and use. Without humans, what Interaction Designers make is incomplete. But, Interaction Designers also have a close relationship with technology as well. It is a material we work with and refine everyday. We are very interested and concerned with its role and impact on our culture, perhaps as much as we are concerned with solving human needs and problems with it.
The Internet of Things
Many of our belongings, even small things, will become increasingly connected to each other, and to us.
Screens are Everywhere
There are over 6 billion mobile phones in the world, over 1 billion PC’s, and over 100 million iPads have been sold since its introduction a couple years ago. On average, there are 2 internet connected devices for every person on the planet. We are surrounded by screens, making access to information common, instant, and ubiquitous.
More Natural Interfaces
Touch, voice, and gestures are becoming increasingly common means to interact with devices and our surroudings. Other sensory interfaces (mind, smell, taste, implants) are on the periphery but getting closer.
Augmenting our Abilities
Technology continues to expand our basic human abilities, allowing us to see, hear, understand, and do things we otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t.
Building Living Systems
Many aspects of design are now about setting a stage for interactions to occur. Rather than crafting a finished object, designers are creating opportunities for behaviors and patterns to emerge.
Our devices will be smarter about the way they behave in different contexts and spaces. The spaces we occupy will adapt to our presence and behaviors.
Interaction Design has a history of working directly with technology, but they are also applying the lessons, tools, and processes of the field to other problem spaces: energy, health, government, medicine, and the environment.
We see this film as a beginning for capturing conversations about what Interaction Design is; it’s not intended as a definitive piece. The nature of the field is constantly changing, and much broader than we could have covered. What seems appropriate for documenting Interaction Design would be a series of videos, each digging in to different topics and perspectives – web design, service design, architects, engineers, entrepreneurs, and “the users,” for example.
If you’re reading this post, we made this for you. We’d like to hear what you think. Does this reflect what you do? Does it inspire you, or cause concern? What topics would you want to explore, and who would you interview?
I’d like to thank Tom Bassett, Andrew Casden, Scott Fitzloff, Ambika Jain, and Cassandra Michel at Bassett & Partners for making the film possible, and to Jennifer Bove, Andrei Herasimchuk, Robert Murdock, Jonas Löwgren, Eric Rodenbeck, Robert Fabricant, Raphael Grignani, Liz Danzico, Helen Walters, Younghee Jung, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, & Massimo Banzi for taking part.
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