Interaction Design is everywhere, in everything we use, and has been for a long time. However, as a practice, only now is it becoming more recognised. With the practice being so new an interesting question can be raised; what is interaction design?
The term was originally coined in 1990 by Bill Moggridge, a principle of IDEO, who had realised that for quite some time he and some of his colleagues had been creating a very different kind of design. It couldn’t fit into communication design, or product design, and it wasn’t computer science – it was something different. Drawing from each of these subject areas, it also tried to enhance the way people interact with products, and therefore the term ‘Interaction Design’ was born.
In Bill’s book, Designing Interactions (Page 14), he defines Interaction Design as:
“the equivalent of industrial design but in software rather than three-dimensional objects. Like industrial design, the discipline would be concerned with subjective and qualitative values, would start from the needs and desires of the people who use a product or service, and strive to create design that would give aesthetic pleasure as well as long lasting satisfaction and enjoyment”.
This is where Interaction Design began, and to me this quote represents what Interaction Design was, currently is, but not what it might turn into…
Mike Kruzeniski is the Creative Director in charge of the Windows Phone design team. He believes that Interaction Design should be far more about the aesthetic of the product and final experience than how it is practised today. A post he wrote on his blog talks about the lack of visual expression sessions (as shown by this word cloud below) hosted at the recent IDA ’11 conference.
He goes on to state that:
“Interaction Design, as a field that cares so deeply about great product experience, should embrace such a closely related discipline as Visual Design as integral. They benefit each other; A beautifully designed product will also be perceived as functionally better and easier to use. A design is incomplete without quality in both the surface and the mechanics.”
I particularly like Mike’s view, as I also believe that good graphic design is key to creating good interactions and easy to use products.
Finally, looking at the Interaction Design Associations definition, we find what I believe is the most detailed description of ‘what Interaction Designers do’.
“Interaction designers strive to create useful and usable products and services. Following the fundamental tenets of user-cantered design, the practice of interaction design is grounded in an understanding of real users—their goals, tasks, experiences, needs, and wants. Approaching design from a user-cantered perspective, while endeavouring to balance users’ needs with business goals and technological capabilities, interaction designers provide solutions to complex design challenges, and define new and evolving interactive products and services.”
Personally, from looking at these three designers viewpoints, I believe that Interaction Design should strive to live up to as many of the points that have been mentioned as possible. Interaction design should be all about the design of the product, but designed with the end users best interests in mind. I genuinely agree with Mike that people like the IDA should host more sessions about the aesthetic design of products, and this is something I would like to see in the future.