Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Which came first, the Interaction or the Design?

The history of interaction design ...

"Interaction Design" refers to the shaping of interactive products and services with a specific focus on their use. Broadly speaking, there are two main senses of the concept, coming out of different intellectual traditions but increasingly converging in practice and research.

One interpretation is to view interaction design as a design discipline, distinguished by its focus on the digital design materials: software, electronics and telecommunications. As a design discipline, it is more closely affiliated with industrial design and architecture than with engineering and behavioral science. The "shaping of interactive products and services" is an instance of design work, which broadly shares the following characteristics across design disciplines.

- Design work is about exploring possible futures, starting from a situation at hand.
- It intends to change the situation for the better by developing and deploying some sort of product or service, i.e., the concrete outcome of the design process.
- It considers instrumental and technical as well as aesthetic and ethical qualities throughout the design process.
- Design work involves developing an understanding of the task – the "problem", or the goal of the design work – in parallel with an understanding of the space of possible solutions.
- Finally, it entails thinking by sketching, building models, and expressing potential ideas in other tangible forms.

This interpretation of interaction design tends to combine two main strands of intellectual traditions, one involving design disciplines such as industrial design, graphic design and architectural design gradually acknowledging the influence of digital technology and media on their own core materials and practices. The other main ancestor is the Scandinavian school of systems development with its long-standing ideological and methodological aims for user participation and co-determination.

The other interpretation of interaction design is to see it as an extension of human-computer interaction (HCI), a field originating in experimental psychology and computer science and tracing its roots to the 1970s. The main concern in HCI was always to assert instrumental qualities such as usability and usefulness of digital products and services, predominantly in work-related or task-oriented use situations and typically with a focus on an individual user and his/her goals.

HCI was originally oriented mainly towards field studies (of, eg existing user populations, their cognitive traits and current practices) and evaluation (of, eg an existing product or a proposed product concept). However, it was found that the impact on the resulting products and ultimately on the benefits for the users would be greater if HCI practitioners and researchers would engage in the design rather than merely pointing out usability problems after the fact. Hence, the HCI palette of methods, tools and responsibilities was extended to encompass more creative and generative activities."    (Continued via Usability News)    [Usability Resources]


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