Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Interaction Designers, and How They Got That Way

UI jobs plentiful but what do they do? ...

"Hot, hot, hot" reads the caption under Interaction Design on the Core77 discussion boards, and with good reason. Anyone who's been following the creative job market at any point in the last few years is probably aware of the feeding frenzy currently going on, as companies large and small seek interaction designers to do...well...whatever it is that they do. For those of us not in the field, and without much exposure to the IxD (for that's how it gets abbreviated) process, it can seem a bit of an esoteric, shadowy art, attracting the attention of media and employers, but without knowing quite why. We know they work with information (usually), and computers (sometimes), and pay close attention to the users of technology (pretty much always, right?), but that's a vague enough description that it could be applied to web design, graphic design, industrial design, and a number of other disciplines. Determining how one actually becomes an Interaction Designer is an even tougher challenge.

Asking a few working designers about their jobs, the first question that gets answered is why the rest of the questions are so hard. It's a difficult to define field because it's both extremely broad and relatively young--though not as young as you might think: the term dates to the 1980's, meaning there are in fact seasoned interaction designers out there with 15 and 20 years of experience under their belt, in addition to the young cubs we might imagine negotiating six-figure salaries. This puts IxD in an identity-seeking mode that is, if anything, more profound than the one ID has been going through (blog posts and discussion threads asking "What is 'design' anyway?" are approaching mosquito swarm levels of abundance and annoyance), and certainly more frenetic than the academic queries that surface periodically among graphic designers.

What also makes the questions hard is the feeling that Interaction Design is something that happens anyway, with or without the input of Interaction Designers. As an Industrial Designer, the parallel is obvious: many of us are fond of pointing out that every product in the world gets designed by someone, whether or not they know what they're doing. Similarly, every time a user interacts with a piece of technology (there's that broad-ness problem again), someone designs that interaction, and frequently they screw it up. Hence the discipline. Interaction Designers, more than any other group of creative professionals I know, are keenly aware of their own usefulness and their own dispensability."    (Continued via Coroflot's Creative Seeds, Putting People First)    [Usability Resources]

Interface Design - Usability, User Interface Design

Interface Design

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