Passion and Progression:

The Evolution of Interaction Design

Danny Stillion
May 19, 2015 · 12 min read

70mm Hasselblad camera used by Neil Armstrong. Photo: Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
A Pressing Need for Emergent Interaction Design: The Apollo Command Module Control Panel. Photo: Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

The question that comes to mind from studying the formative era of interaction design is, “How might we work on more audacious design challenges?”


Jack Kilby’s integrated circuit prototype. Photo: Wikimedia.
The first laptop computer designed by Bill Moggridge for GRiD computers. Photo: IDEO.
Original Apple Macintosh Mouse engineered by IDEO. Photo: IDEO.
Hypercard: A friendly gateway to exploring code and non-linear interaction design.
An interactive overview of the Normandy invasion: Working within constraints of technology in 1992.

Reflecting back on the 1980s, you might ask yourself, “Have you embraced constraints lately to help drive creativity?”


Apple’s 20th anniversary design introduced a very different take on how personal computers could be integrated into our lives. Photo: 512 Pixels.
Scout Electromedia’s Modo. Photo: IDEO.
Handspring Edge represented a new take on personal digital devices as lifestyle objects. Photo: IDEO.

Inspired by all that took place in the ‘90s, one might well ask, “Where are the edges of of interaction design today, the areas that lend themselves to adventurous exploration?”


Apple’s first flat panel iMac presented a thoughtful and integrated digital hub. Photo: Macworld.
Plastic Logic’s QUE proReader offered a high-end reading platform for busy executives. Photo: IDEO.

Gaining perspective from the decade of exploration, one might ask, “Are you moving fast enough in the design of elegant, integrated solutions that the market has come to expect?”


A window on the world: The UX vision for the Spark app guided the team in keeping the interface simple. Photo: IDEO.
Melon’s headband senses brain activity. Photo: IDEO.
The Melon app helps users reach a state of mental focus. Photo: IDEO.

A key question to be asking today is, “Is your guiding vision as clear as it was when you started building your project?”


An early instance of tablet computing in 1968's release of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Science fiction becomes “science faction” when concepts are grounded in timeless human needs and become reality. Image: 20th Century Fox.
Seeing is believing: The future user interface work that went into Tony Stark’s helmet interface demonstrates compelling potential.
IDEO’s early vision of mobile payments using a personal agent device and biometric touch points. This concept was created for BusinessWeek in 2001. Photo: IDEO.
Persistent user need: Apple Pay and other mobile payment methods are a response to a persistent human need for convenient payment options. Photo: Apple Insider.
IDEO’s Automobility point of view presents a variety of potential futures that could come about as autonomous vehicles become more common.
Slow is Fast: As drivers are liberated from the tasks of driving, carrying out other activities may make tomorrow’s commutes seem much shorter. Image: IDEO.
21st Century Mule : Convenient curbside delivery made possible through on-demand autonomous delivery vehicle fleets. Image: IDEO.
The Inverse Commute: A new early morning sight might include autonomous work spaces on their way to meet team members. Image: IDEO.

IDEO Stories

"It doesn't occur to most people that everything is designed" - Bill Moggridge

Thanks to Sara Breselor.

Danny Stillion

Written by

Partner & Executive Design Director, IDEO

IDEO Stories

"It doesn't occur to most people that everything is designed" - Bill Moggridge