Needs and Wants Flowchart Diagram of Victor Papanek. Located at the end of his book: “Design for the Real World”

Design, Design, Design and Interaction Design

My definitions of design and interaction design

Design, design and design

Design is a word, which has different meanings when it is used as a noun, a verb and an adjective[1]. Therefore my definition of design includes three sub-definitions. In all three definitions, there are at least three actors of design: a designer, a user and a product. Let’s start with design, as a noun.

Design as a noun may include entities, either physical ones such as everyday objects, heavy machinery and environments, or virtual concepts such as softwares and systems. When it is used as a noun, design is mostly understood by its final outcome, the product.

In order to achieve a final outcome, design is used as a verb: to design something. At this stage, design is an activity, which is carried by “designers”. Designers consciously “planning” some entities to have a specific order, which creates meaning. In other words, designers aim to communicate by creating meaning through the a-forementioned physical and virtual entities. On the other hand, being a designer, carrying on design as an activity does not require a formal academic/professional training. Any individual regardless of their gender, race or their socio-economical status, may pursue the activity of design, very often unconsciously. They can plan and do/manipulate/shape their surroundings for a certain purpose.

The nature of an on-going activity/process, on the way to an end product/goal also urges a new definition of design as a state, as an adjective. Sometimes, in the progression of the design process, the end product does not immediately urge to be called “designed”. Although all entities are designed in a some way, their “designed look” does not always visible. If the “conceptual plan” of the designers goes well, their recipients, so called users almost intuitively understand their intentions, the meanings that designers convey through their “products”. Sometimes some defects or other noises can prevent a “designed-looking” product to be perceived as it is originally planned. When this occurs, designer via an end product loses the communication with the users.

A screen capture from the YouTube video: “Bull Frog Plays iPad Ant Crusher

Interaction Design or Designing for Interactions

In addition to my definition of design in general, I believe interaction design are the links that connect designers with users, as well as users with products. In that sense, I found interaction design term to be an imposition, which suggests that there should be often, one interaction that is designed and that interaction should be the only way to communicate with a both physical and virtual product. However I have witnessed that this is not the case in real world for the many years. Since users, who maybe humans or other living beings such as animals or plants, have complex systems in terms of communication and behavior, “the one and only designed interaction” mantra in order to manipulate/use/communicate-with a system does not seem working. Rather than designing one direct/strict interaction, I prefer using the term “designing for interactions”, which I believe defines the communication between two sides, users and designers, in a more flexible setting. By designing for interactions, designers may “try” to create a vocabulary for users to communicate using “the universal language of design”. But this does not necessarily mean that users will use this vocabulary in ways that designer initially predicted or foresighted.

To put it more simply, I believe that interaction design can be defined as conceptualizing and iterating any kinds of vocabularies, communication tools to establish a link between two or more parties (such as users and products). Since I found the term a little delusive in terms of its concept-to-reality sense, I suggest using “designing for interactions” to mean defining and iterating on ways of building communication scenarios (for future).

[1] Design as a noun, adjective and a verb by Nicole Phillips

[2] Image retrieved from http://designprocessen.dk/baeredygtigt/wp-content/uploads/needs-wants-papanek2.jpg

[3] Image retrieved from https://usatsneakhype.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/bull-frog-plays-ant-crusher3.jpg