Friday, August 24, 2007

Foundations of Interaction Design

Understanding the meaning of interaction design ...

"Somehow, products, services, and systems need to respond to stimuli created by human beings. Those responses, need to be meaningful, and clearly communicated and in many ways provoke a persuasive and semi-predictable response. They need to behave.

This basic definition of Interaction Design (IxD) illustrates the common threads between definitions crafted by esteemed designers Dan Saffer1 and Robert Reimann2 as well as the Interaction Design Association3.

It’s also important to note that Interaction Design is distinct from the other design disciplines. It’s not Information Architecture, Industrial Design or even User Experience Design. It also isn’t user interface design. Interaction design is not about form or even structure, but is more ephemeral– about why and when rather than about what and how.
For any design disciplines to advance, it needs to form what are known as foundations or elements. The creation of such semantics encourages:


* better communication amongst peers
* creation of a sense of aesthetic
* better education tools
* exploration


There are other reasons, but for now these seem sufficient for a discussion about foundations.
What Are Foundations?

“Foundations” first came to my attention while preparing for Masters of Industrial Design program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. The program was built by Roweena Reed Kostellow based on her educational philosophy of foundations (as detailed in the book Elements of Design by Gail Greet Hannah).

To Kostellow there were six elements that made up the foundations of Industrial Design: line, luminance & color, space, volume, negative space, texture. Mixing and experimenting with these was at the heart of designing in the 3D form discipline. Students at Pratt explored these foundations in a year’s worth of studio classes. They would press boundaries and discuss relationships while critiquing abstract and real projects.

I’m not the only person ever to think about this issue though I propose that we think about it differently. Dan Saffer, for example, in his book, “Designing for Interactions”[5] has a great chapter on what he calls the Elements of Interaction Design: Time, Motion, Space, Appearance, Texture & Sound. Dan’s elements concentrate on what I would call the forms that carry interactions, but to me they are not the form of an interaction, except maybe time.

If there are indeed foundations of Interaction Design, they need to be abstracted from form completely and thus not have physical attributes at all."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows)    [Usability Resources]

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