On Wednesday night I attended a meeting by the IxDA‘s New York chapter talking about the current state of interaction design. It was an enlightening conversation. If you know nothing about the topic, here’s a laundry list of things they talked about:
- There was an emphasis on “bringing design back”: the need to find a balance of the art and science of design. If you’ve no idea of what this means, Frank Gehry is the poster child for design as art; Jacob Nielsen for design as science. Each evokes fiery passion amongst their supporters. The iPhone is currently considered the best bridge of the two: cutting edge materials science combined with an artistic, empathetic experience.
- As interaction designers seek to find this balance, they’re exploring the “craft” aspect of their profession. One popular tool for this is sketching experiences: think Bill Verplank (pdf) and Bill Buxton.
- Similar to this, interaction designers are struggling to reconcile that their profession is a combination of design and engineering – which brings a set of challenges. Engineers tend to focus on one issue and keep iterating to a solution; each iteration gets closer. Designers are much more nonlinear; they iterate on mulitple rounds of designs but are constantly bringing old designs back into the process.
- An interesting concept that was bandied about talked about “great design being the embodiment of a story”. A few examples are a Nokia nano-tech phone video and the Google Chrome comic. The iPhone come up again here; the idea being that a user’s interaction with it is a narrative and it tells you what to expect.
- This led to a nice discussion about product ecosystems. From a designer’s perspective, the ecosystem enables a new set of experiences when you connect people using the products inside the ecosystem. Examples are the Nike Plus social network for runners and a Ford concept that takes performance and geolocation data from hybrid cars and shares it with other hybrid owners.
- Here are three more random thoughts from the session:
- Designers don’t create ideas, they create things that embody the idea
- Dopplr is fascinating as they created a web service that was designed to require no website; in theory, you never need to go to it – you can just use APIs instead
- Wireframes are not a good enough tool. They do not have enough fidelity as they lack the dimension of time
A small bonus: the session was held at Bloomberg’s amazing headquarters. I snapped this photo before a security guard ran me down and told me “no more photos”.