Thoughts on Interaction Design

I want to start by pondering over the question of what “design” really is. It is interesting to note, as as I have over the last few days, that perspectives on what may appear to be a fundamental question are extremely personal and vary wildly.

To me, design has always been the process of identifying a problem and understanding the context it exists in, simplifying the complexities of the situation, and trying to find the most efficient, and visually appealing solution. The objective is to devise the best way possible of doing something, and one that is driven largely by logic and rationality.

Design is also an important tool for communication, whether it’s through a publication, a space, a product, or something else. There is an indirect empashis placed on the owner’s perspective over the user’s— the form is shaped by the message that originates from the owner. A good design, however, will be able to translate this core message into emotional value for the user.

The other component of interaction design are the “interactions”. An interaction occurs when two or more entities — people, things, spaces, systems — mutually affect one another and form relationships.

I see interaction design as an approach to problem-solving that is informed first and foremost by these relationships, and that is what draws me to it. It is an approach concerned with not just one component, but entire systems. It demands that the user’s environment — or the context in which the user exists — guide the design solution, rather than forcing the user to adopt behaviors to fit into a system that doesn’t account for his practical needs. It requires that one consider not only the precise moment of the interaction, but also the things that surround it spatially, temporally, and emotionally.

It asks questions that are concerned with human behaviour, cognition, learning patterns, and why people do the things they do, and how to leverage these findings to build products or services that are not only efficient and desirable, but also useful and usable, and that are equally valuable to all stakeholders.

Because interaction design is an inherently human disciple, it is a heavily iterative process that relies on extensive research, thoughtful assimilation of results, careful execution, and feedback through repeated prototyping and testing. Well designed interactions can create a positive, effortless, and delightful experiences, an outcome whose value should not be underestimated.