Expanding UX Beyond the Screen

We’re now entering the final stretch of our Interaction Design Master’s program, and I’m beginning to see new frontiers and possibilities in what my field will allow me to do.

Up to this point, a lot of what we have been studying is web and mobile centered, with good reason. But it’s clear that the designed elements of our society that any person will experience in a given day goes far beyond these two things. So how do we bring our digital intuition into a more analog space?

One class in particular is helping me to expand that boundary, and really driving me to think about interaction in a larger sense. In this class, our group is tackling the problem of how to incorporate nature into the home, beyond houseplants and fish tanks. 

The topic was one that everyone on my team was excited to explore, but equally unsure about how to approach. 

We found that it was valuable to begin with a wealth of psychological research to gain a fuller understanding of the problem. I’m beginning to find that many of the problems the tech industry tries to tackle can be informed by academic research. With respect to nature, there are numerous surprising and valuable insights into this interaction, beyond the expected “people like pretty views and being around plants.”

Once it’s viewed through a psychological lens, empathy in design takes on new dimensions. Interaction becomes much more than a website or an app. It requires you to step out and take a holistic view--what is the essence of “experience?”.

Our group, in particular, is looking to bring all the psychological benefits of being outdoors in nature, into the home. It’s a big challenge, but the act of trying to tackle it is helping me to reframe all the things I’ve learned in the past year. 

When I began the program, I imagined that I would graduate and go to work designing websites or apps, but I’m really beginning to see how valuable a design-centered approach is to many different aspects of our lived experience, and I’m excited to stretch the definition of where UX lives and what it means.

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