Interaction Design: Process and Behavior

What is this man designing?

To my eye, he is just studying process. With that understanding, he could design a teapot or a website or any number of things. Boxes and arrows are a beloved trope of the interaction designer…but it is just a way to think clearly about complex processes and interactions. It’s like math. Biologists use it and Physicists use it. Physicists just try to understand the math better. And their work flows from math more than that of the Biologist.

Carl Alviani and I had a lively discussion about his article on Core77 and the discussion that ensued on IXDA thereafter during ICFF. Does Interaction Design have a reducible skill set? Is boxes and arrows it? Right now, I’m thinking that ID is Biology and IXDA is Physics. Biology is about form and relationships. Physics is about laws, fundamentals and process. What’s Chemistry in this analogy? I don’t know yet…Graphic Design? Also, since my first degree was in Physics I might be a little biased here. 😉 When I put my interaction design hat on, I try to think about users as a set of universal abstractions….personas and scenarious are part of it…but then it come down to my understanding, empathically, of fundamental human desires and expectations. That’s my compass in the end.

So…while I LOVE this diagram from the article it begs a question about Reification…are we taking an abstraction and making it into a real thing? Where are the ACTUAL boundaries of Industrial Design? Why do we have to have so many borders? This article about design thinking shows how broad this idea of applying carefull intelligence to problems is. ID can become design thinking very quickly. So is all design just design thinking, applied to various forms and types of objects?

This makes me think of my favorite dialogue, Gorgias…Socrates points out that all the arts teach us how to talk and think…but about different things. So ID talks about form (mainly) and IXDA talks about behavior (mainly)…maybe. Just some thoughts.


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