I had the opportunity to be a part of the jury at the Croatian Biennale of Design — 1314. My focus was on Digital and Interaction Design, and the text that follows is my overview of the exhibited work, taken from the catalogue.
New media, Electronic Media, Design and Digital Media, Interaction design… The very frequency of the (category) name change implies that there is a constant evolution of design activities and our perception that follows. On the other hand, we need to step back and make a difference between interaction design and some of the other names. While with new, electronic and digital media we are primarily focused on the medium (which is constantly developing), in case of interaction design the focus is on the two-way communication between the user and the product — they can be mechanical, analogue and partially or completely digital.
In interaction design the basic focus is put on satisfying the user’s need and the discipline itself is by default connected to a series of other disciplines such as industrial design, ergonomics, psychology, design research, information architecture, interface design, etc.
Although this year’s biennale showcased some restructuring in other categories as well, Digital Media Design strives to comprise heterogeneity and a great number of digitally produced projects. This year’s applications thus incorporated projects ranging from artistic web pages, corporate headquarters, media portals, videos and mobile apps to a few interactive installations, which I find extremely noteworthy. It is also plausible to see that in comparison with the last biennale, this year we have almost twice as many works. The trend is by all means a positive one, however, the absolute numbers are not so impressive as compared to the number of applications in the leading professional category, i.e. Visual Communications Design. From the market perspective, design production in digital media has been significantly expanded but the number of applications apparently does not follow the trend. Is the quality of work below the level meeting the selection criteria? Or, maybe, the producers of this type of content do not find professional exhibitions and awards interesting enough…
Every professional award focuses on a different set of values such as strategy, design, production, copywriting, innovation, successful outcome and so on, but such criteria or parameters would call for an open discussion on the most important values in a broader social context in order to establish a more transparent approach to potential applicants for some future exhibitions.
The Biennale is important primarily as a record of our time. For this we need quantitative and qualitative indicators of the direction we have taken.
In the professional category we see an explicit trend in the segment of responsive design — production of web sites allowing for an optimal display on any device. Inspite of the fact that everyone thinks that those devices are mobile phones, tablets or personal computers, the aim of responsive design is to adapt the product to various kinds of devices, resolutions and screens, including those which have not yet become standard.
This year definitely marks a breaking point after which all quality digital solutions have to be produced in line with the above described principles.
We hope that this will lead to complete elimination of distinction between the responsive and nonresponsive very soon.
In the context of the category in which I have been one of the jurors, I think it is very important to explain the use of the syntagm ‘product design’. Outside of our country, product designers deal with the process of creating new products in the broadest sense of the word. In Croatia we tend to use the term interchangeably with ‘industrial design’, although the term ‘product’ actually implies more than physical artefacts, i.e. services or software. Product designers in this sense often work on digital products exclusively but they also participate in all processes and phases related to that product. The so-called start-up culture has additionally added to that kind of perception so when we talk about digital companies we actually make a distinction between products and service ones.
In the following period interaction design deserves a stronger and more prolific presence in this category. We are talking about products designed according to the user centered design principle, with a tested set of user scenarios, taking into account all variables related to the device, human factors and outside impacts. Works have to be responsive but not in the previously mentioned sense; but rather to be attuned to the spirit of time as well as global trends (strategic, technical, creative and visual).
In our post-industrial society digital products are shaping the global innovation scene. I sincerely hope that this trend is becoming our future as well.
Edited by Marko Golub
Translated from Croatian by Mirna Herman Baletic
Online version additionally edited by me