Who put the X in IxD?

Our organization’s name up in lights! Savannah, GA @ Interaction 10

This goes out to @woecfaun who asked for the reasoning for the “x” today on twitter:


And to @ixda who asked me to answer her. I knew it was too big for a twitter.

Well, I did of course. So now about 1/2 of you hate me and the other half have no feelings at all on the topic.

So the year was 2003. A ragtag group of designers were talking about the world of interaction design. About 600 of us were talking on a single yahoo group. There was definitely a lot of navel gazing going on, but it was fun.

At some point the topic of an acronym came up. I don’t know why exactly, but my struggling memory remembers it something like this. Someone called interaction design “ID”, then I stood up and said, what do you mean? Industrial Design, Interior Design, Information Design, and — my favorite — Intelligent Design? I brought up the problem that ID doesn’t mean one thing so we probably should figure out what our clear acronym should be.

As context, some design studios were already dealing with this issue, especially those in Industrial Design. Ideo for example may still call Interaction Design “IAD”, where the A is obviously for “action”. It could have worked, but I always hated the Washington DC airport that uses the same acronym, so I was possibly being selfish and short sighted.

After a bit though I thought about this phrase “interaction by design” and because I grew up in a hardware store and lumber/fencing yard the phasing of “2 by 4” (for international folks a piece of word that is 2 inches wide by 4 inches high) is usually written as 2 x 4. So “x” translates to “by”. And voila you have IxD and the x is lower-case to call out that yes we know it is not part of the abbreviation of either of the two words.

So now IxD is clearly different from ID whether you mean Industrial, Interior, Information, or even Intelligent Design.

UPDATE: @miniver (Jonathan Korman) informed me via twitter that independently and unbeknownst to me, he started using the X at Cooper about 3 years before me. Storified here: https://storify.com/miniver/the-x-in-ixd

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