Thursday, August 30, 2007

Success Stories

Discussing the book Designing Interactions ...

"Success is a difficult thing. What exactly does it mean? Rising to the top, or getting what you want? Having respect for your achievements? Whatever it means, it’s a regular expression in The Netherlands. You know, that funny place sometimes referred to as Holland, where, as they say goodbye, they wave and say, ‘Success!’ Now, I’ve seen it happen occasionally in other places, but never with the same degree of bitter humor or comical irony. Whatever it actually means, the Dutch seem to suggest, ‘Success… it’s a new thing.’

The Dutch are, historically, very good designers, seeing design as a facet of their culture. Like architecture, design is a public necessity and a purveyor of improvement (or ironic comments on improvement). So, when something becomes improved, like the design of an interface, it is a success, but it’s still only a stepping stone to the next improvement. This idea hints at the problem with success stories. They capture the moment very well, but lead to the feeling that you have reached the end of the improvement, when quite regularly it is the opposite–you have simply just stepped a little farther towards a relatively unknown goal.

Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge1 does an excellent job of revealing the people and the work behind many of the most important interactive products of our time and discussing their impact on the field of interaction design. The products with stories in this book have dead simple design approaches behind them and should give us pride as designers, knowing that the best things out there have come from a relatively painless approach. We should be honest, however. This isn’t the whole story, as most of these products come from the efforts of multiple people, from integrating the opinions of the general public, to copying other designs, and, in fact, almost always some combination of all these things.

While it’s a great read, this book might lead you to believe otherwise, slightly, as it is biased towards the perspectives and histories of a few ‘successful’ designers, and not the entire output of any given design culture, never mind the much larger international culture of interaction design. One of the central themes is summarized early on in the book saying that the core skills of design are synthesis, understanding people, and iterative prototyping. While most designers can agree that this statement is very insightful, especially coming from Stu Card, one of the computer science brains at Xerox Parc in the seventies, it doesn’t take into account simple influences like access to production lines, distribution, backing, and the aforementioned. In that light, the statement comes off like a sales pitch to gain access to things that are necessary, but only relevant when you are already part of the industrial complex."    (Continued via )    [Usability Resources]

Designing Interactions

Recommended Book

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