What is interaction design? Why is it important? What do people feel about it, and what are their opinions? It is important before stepping blindly into a field of work, to research peoples opinions and understand how they really feel before attempting to make your mark on it. I will analyse the opinions of 3 influential designers, and through it construct my own opinion on what is really going on in interaction design.
To me, the most influential designer is Jonathan Ive of Apple Inc. He is the main designer behind the device I am typing on, the MacBook Pro, and the centre of my communicative world, the iPhone 4.These devices, or perhaps the concepts that these devices originated from, define my generation. For the first time a computer was not something only a specialised few had access to, which required excessive knowledge to open a word processor for example, or simply to turn on in order to calculate basic maths. The computer became a window in which we could look into and see others communicating with us from thousands of miles away yet feeling only meters away. Computers made us able to do it, and designers made us want to.
In one interview that he gave for Design Museum, he says
I figured out some basic stuff — that form and colour defines your perception of the nature of an object, whether or not it is intended to.
I found this comment very true. In order to engage with a potential user, the item must first engage with the users vanity. If it is not aesthetically pleasing, why would it attract? Sure, it may attract a specialised audience who has an already specific interest in the product, but true design reaches further than that. It reaches to the elderly woman, the busy workaholic set in there ways or simply a curious mind. If the product draws you in, it is either pleasing to the eye, simplistic and uncomplicated or perhaps evocative and comforting.
Another specific interaction designer is Dan Saffer. He has been involved in designing the TiVo interface, amongst many other things. An excerpt from his book, Designing for Interaction, summarises what interaction design is quite well.
Every moment of every day, millions of people send e-mail, talk on mobile phones, instant message each other, record TV shows on digital video recorders (DVRs), and listen to music on MP3 players. All of these things are made possible by good engineering. But it’s interaction design that makes them usable, useful, and fun.
This continues the thought of Jonathan Ive, that technically things are possible to be created through science and engineering, but whats the real point in a consumer product if the consumer doesn’t want to use it. In my opinion, bad design eliminates the usefulness of a product.
Another lighthearted but interesting quote by web designer, Aaron Russell, highlights how good design continues to be refined to perfection.
I agree and disagree with his comment. He suggests that in order for products to become better, it must go thought a trial and error process with one becoming better only after it has been inspired, or copied, as he says. This makes sense because a product should of course be better than the last. Design should get better as time passes and not worse. But on the other hand, he suggests that there is no alternative to designing something than adopting some from of plagiarism. What about simply having a great idea! Somewhere down the line there must have been a problem that needed solving and some clever designer discovered a solution to the problem or new or better way to design it. After all, isn’t true design the process of creating something new that works well or looks pleasing. While his comment is correct to a certain extent, he fails to remember one of the most amazing aspects of human nature: the independent thought.
Clearly, interaction design is a hot topic at the moment. In the digital age we have never needed good design more. A mobile phone for example is not a mobile phone unless the user can actively call or communicate with another person through it. Design and in particular Digital Interaction Design bridges the gap between a few lines of code that technically can be initiated to preform a specific function, and having that piece of code be effortfully be launched by anyone, be they CEO of a computer company creating a digital presentation or an elderly woman recording an entire series of The Antiques Roadshow by herself.