I’m Allison, and I’m a baby interaction designer.

At least, that’s how I’ve been introducing myself all summer. Interning in San Francisco meant that most people I met were familiar with the term “UX” and asked if that was what I meant by “interaction design”. Sometimes they took that to mean designing hamburger menu buttons and app screens, and sometimes I let that be their impression of me if I felt especially jaded. However, interaction design means so much more than that to me, and I want to be able to convey that depth to anyone and everyone who asks–even if they were only trying to be polite.

My passion for design comes from my deep-seated belief in the worth of humanity: beauty, mess, and all. I believe in human-centered design processes, principles, and methods enough to believe that design work can be fundamentally centered around people’s experiences, relationships, and emotions. While advances in technology can be pinpointed as the reason the field of interaction design was born, our work doesn’t need to orbit around innovation for innovation’s sake. Instead of creating new technologies for the sake of the next Big Idea, I want to create and shape experiences–using technologies both new and old–that support our interactions with each other, with the built objects and environments around us, and with our world as a whole.

Dan Saffer, Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices, 2nd ed. (Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2010). It’s almost embarrassing how neatly I fall into this camp.

My hangups on technology stem from how I’ve seen our myriad gadgets disrupt the way we interact. (Yes, I used the word “disrupt” on purpose, and no, I don’t like disruption… but that’s a different conversation.) I’d love to see computing become truly ubiquitous, fading into the background like electricity already has. However, we allow our lives to buzz constantly with notifications of messages, likes, and updates as we fight to stay up-to-date at the expense of our experiences. I worry that the way we work today deemphasizes the “calm technology” aspect of Mark Weiser’s vision of ubiquitous computing, and I hope to see principles of calm technology used more widely.

Amber Case’s keynote at UX Week 2016 entitled Designing Calm Technology. I also fall into this camp.

Maybe it’s naïve to cling to a perspective that seems so contrary to the pace of technological innovations these days, but I’m still a baby interaction designer. I’ve been studying and practicing interaction design for only a year, and I’m excited to explore the depth and breadth of what interaction design has been, is currently, and can become. I hope to be able to participate in the shaping of a world where we are closer than ever before thanks to the technology that supports our human interactions and experiences.


Written for a seminar on Interaction & Service Design Concepts, taught by molly w steenson at CMU’s School of Design