Catherine Shen
Dec 21, 2015 · 3 min read

Semester Reflections for CMU IxD Seminar, Fall 2015

Over the semester, through seminar, studio, and lab, we have done, tried out, and learned about a lot of things. Amongst many things I’ve learned is that the “internet of things” is more than just a beautiful title for my next poem about the internet — but a catchall phrase specifically referring to the development of a network of sensoried things that are part of a larger computing system (unfortunately not as poetic if you ask me).

Here are my top five lessons that I’ve learned about interaction design and design. These build upon my initial definitions from a previous post.

Design Is…

  1. hard.

Wow, mama. Probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn is that there is *what* design is and then there is *how* to design. They bleed into one another but they are still different in terms of where they come in as learning experiences. Coming into the program, I thought I knew what design is but I quickly realized there is a vast gulf between knowing and applying. I realized that my background managing and designing was very “business-focused” which only scratched the surface of an out-and-out immersive design process. I’ve learned so much from my peers in the regard of watching them work and seeing their process. This leads me to #2:

2. …inquiry (vs. Problem-Solving).

Mid-way through the semester, I had a mini-crisis. Thinking about design as problem-solving was giving me many issues. I had known at one level that the notion of “solving problems” was problematic in itself and that this ethos led to the technosolutionism prevalent in international development projects that I saw. HOWEVER, I didn’t know exactly how to escape this trap. I was still suffering from the need to try to frame things as problems. I learned that how you frame the “thing” creates the kind of path you take towards from that “thing” to another “thing.” Basically, at some point, I realized that I needed to at least practice framing meaningful questions for myself to answer — and not as problems. Communication Design professor, Stacie asked me for a project what was the question I was trying to answer and that reframing completely changed the way I started approaching my next projects. Because, this leads to:

3. …staying loose

Something you hear a lot of designers talk about is iterative design. What really struck a cord for me was really starting to understand why it is so important why staying loose is a thing and what it looks like. In IDEO alum Simon King’s talk about “Strong Ideas, Loosely Held,” he presented the notion of low-fi prototyping tools and techniques in order to stay loose and not get too locked down and over-invested in specific ideas too early in the process.

Interaction Design Is…

4. …more than just designing for screens.

While I knew that generally, now I have a much deeper appreciation of designing for things outside the mainstream IxD industry of digital devices such as embodied interaction, experimental and speculative experiences, and really specific digital interactive experiences (i.e. let’s play around with this one very specific aspect of an interaction/a relationship, and what could that mean?).

5. …part of service design…or service design is an extension of interaction design

This one’s still loose but I’m starting to have a better understanding of how interaction design relates to service design. I could go on and on here but I’ll just say that the framework in this paper is a good way to think about where one places themselves on the spectrum of service design.

So here we are…

…at the end of one cusp and onto another…breaking down and building up again… well, onward.

Many thanks to our seminar professor, molly w steenson for making this experience possible.

A Group Photo (but missing a lot of people :(! ) // Photo Credit: Calvin Keetae Ryu

Interaction & Service Design Concepts: Principles, Perspectives & Practices

Graduate Seminar 1, Fall 2015, Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Collection of the Seminar’s Work

Catherine Shen

Written by

designer. thinker. @CMUDesign masters. @NorthwesternU econ. catherine-shen.com.

Interaction & Service Design Concepts: Principles, Perspectives & Practices

Graduate Seminar 1, Fall 2015, Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Collection of the Seminar’s Work

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