What I know about Interaction Design

I am a Product Designer from India who worked as a user experience designer for two years in Mumbai. On my first day of work I walked into my new office quite timidly having no prior idea of what was expected of me or what they really did for business. All I had read on their website was that they were leaders in creating user experience design. When I googled more about it, it led me to reading the definition of interaction design and I mugged it up without really understanding anything. This was my first introduction to these two words. Later during the week, my manager asked me the question, “What do you know about interaction design?”. I smiled internally as I had the definition and whatever little I could understand of it on the tip of my tongue. But I was instantly corrected and given a definition which aligned with the company’s motto making it a revised version of the definition for me.

In about some months, at a client site this same question was thrown at me but this time it was asked by an overly judgmental client who was just waiting to rip me apart based on the very little net research he himself had done. I confidently coined the term to what I had learned by then in my company. I was not surprised when he did not hold himself back to share his understanding on the subject which was smartly positioned to get what he expected out of me on his dear project. Thus making me rethink on what was interaction design and also putting a light on how various people perceived it.

Curious as I am, I decided to have my own perspective on interaction design by studying it in depth during my masters at Carnegie Mellon University. On my first day and the very first class of school I was asked to write this post of what is interaction design. Having not yet dived so deep into it I decided to question everything that I knew till now. Is interaction design only about the interaction between a user and technology with the medium majorly being small and big screens? Is it just about user interface principles? Is it just to do with the usability aspect? Does making interactions by hand and body gestures mean interaction design? Should it be all of the above? Or should their be more to it? Should the goal to design for interactions always mean to make it digital and technologically smart? Doesn’t touching a leaf mean interacting with it? This leads me to say interaction design is all of the above and more, something that we might be missing out on as our attention is driven towards making more mobile applications and digital screens.

If we observe a child playing with his toy, the playfulness of the toy and the interaction with the toy is very enjoyable. Interacting with the toy and figuring out how to play with it is something that the child learns almost instantly. Soon the child has an emotional attachment with the toy, something that triggers emotions in him such as laughter, joy and even anger if his best friend touches it. The toy has a meaning or purpose such as making the child understand shapes, color, recognize sound etc. I thought I could apply this observation while designing interactions. Interaction design is making the interaction to be more playful, enjoyable, being meaningful, something that triggers emotions and may lead to a final goal or achievement. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a digital screen but could also mean something just physical or even purely imaginative.

My understanding of interaction design is it being a very broad term which has many factors to it and has full potential to be explored more.