Thoughts on the future of Interaction Design

Just like the industrial revolution rendered manual labour defunct and large scale automation resulted in people switching from blue collar to white collar jobs, the information tech age is evolving its way to making a lot of what we considered to be white collar jobs or profiles redundant as well. At the cutting edge of every technology is the thought of chunking repetitive tasks and analysing them in a way that algorithmic systems can accomplish with relative ease. As designers working on software products at Adobe, we are constantly looking for ways to give users a faster and more efficient way of achieving quality results. The recent release of Adobe’s UX design tool : Adobe XD is a huge step in this direction.

With everything that’s great, there’s always of course a flipside: If you aim for simplicity, the outputs are largely like cookie-cutter designs and if the possibilities are immense, the software is sure to look and act bloated. It’s a classic conundrum.

Today’s products seem to be aiming for the former: the less the learning curve the better, essentially heading towards the ‘Instagram-isation’ of creativity. It’s good to hear murmurs of this change that is happening once in a while like here and here.

I saw this ad for product today and thought to myself that if our tools become smart enough to claim clean, aesthetically-pleasing design and efficient, fast functionality; what is it that we will build?

Interesting parallels can be drawn with photography when Instagram was launched and DSLRs became a household object- the consumerisation of a creative expression which is being mirrored now in web and app design.
With frameworks like material design, bootstrap and platform guidelines that make sure of traditionally good aesthetics+functionality for the digital realm like type/navigation/color/ interactions/animations and grids, anyone can author and ‘design’ a digital presence. Who needs trained designers anymore?

Instagram’s filter repository: Making any picture great

What that leaves us as Ixd designers is a similar problem that photographers faced a few years ago. How will we create value if most of the making is left to algorithms? As technology evolves and frees up our time to do this part of the design, we have to evolve our own roles as well. Designers always want a seat at the executive table, be a part of the vision, strategy and plan for any service or product: be a voice of the users, understanding the psychology of what motivates people and how that crucial piece of information impacts the business. If we want this, we have to start thinking at scale and stop designing for individual screens, individual users.

Tomorrow’s designers will move from creating and pushing forward mock ups,pixels and markup to managing people+systems. They will act as aggregators of information, as curators who decide which option generated by the machine is actually the most effective, and as points of contact who bridge the gaps between people in varied roles of a service/product company and the teams that touch any and every aspect of customer experience.

What are the tools we will use when we start creating for systems? Data, Algorithms, Ethnography. What will we use technology for? To collate and look for patterns and linkages between qualitative and quantitative data, and draw insights. Create living frameworks that can be modularised and updated as the needs of the market change.

These particular two talks at the recently concluded IxDA 2016 conference in particular got me thinking even more deeply on these lines and I highly recommend anyone interested in the topic to take the time out to watch them:

Anti Oulasvirta from Aalto university’s Interfaces research group: “Can computers design?” and

Matthew Milan from Normative design: “Crowds, Algorithms and Computation: The new materials for design”

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