Our CEO Joe spent part of last week digging on all things interactive design at the Interaction 09 conference. Here are some highlights from his time there and Joe’s take on it all (from Joe’s blog, Interactive Joyride):
This past week I spent a few days at the IxDA’s Interaction 09 conference in Vancouver, BC. Overall, the event was great and the energy was awesome. There were a ton of great presentations, but Robert Fabricant from Frog Design’s keynote was by far the most thought provoking in my mind. Robert did a magnificent job of defining a couple key concepts in design that I want to call out quickly. First, he referenced the example most people use when describing what “interaction design” is, and that example is typically technological in nature. He expressed his sincere belief that interaction design is not technology. While I agree, I do think that most of the employment interaction designers have and a good majority of their projects are steeped in technology and that most of the time technology can be used as a tangible reference to the interaction designer’s trade value. Again, I think this is another “form vs. function” debate, but either way, the message was heard. He used an ancient pendant as a better example citing the inscribed message, mobility of the medium and cryptic nature of the message as a more relevant use of a technology equivalent. Nice work. Output, Outcome and Impact. Secondly, he brought up the fact that it’s one thing to design awesomely and another to actually solve the problem. He used the metaphor of “purity balls”, a recently popularized ritual for evangelicals that commits a daughter’s virginity through marriage via a gala and ultimately a written pact with her father. These balls were designed to solve the problem of increased teenage pregnancy among this sect of society. He describes the output of this designed solution as purity balls, rings and contracts with the outcome being an ultimate commitment to celibacy. Unfortunately, the impact is a steady increase in pregnancy rates. This means the design works on two levels, but not the most important, the impact level. Too many times as designers, we forget to actually go back and measure whether our design had the impact we wanted. The call out here is to make sure your impact is measurable and then do it. For me, both of these areas bring up an interesting debate about whether you can talk about content without talking about the medium. In most design I think the medium is never sexier than the content, but in technology I think it’s reversed for the majority of the population. This includes most people who pay for design. For instance, many times technology is sexier than interaction design for technology devices; hence I think the line is blurred between the two. I don’t think that’s something you can consciously try to change, that’s just the way it is. Additionally I think the idea of interaction design is a complex notion for many people, especially as it relates to spending money on sound interaction design. That’s why I think aligning the content with the medium can help sell the idea of sound design, which in all cases helps the cause of good interaction design. So, I would say aligning the interaction design field with mediums like technology in many instances is a good idea. Also, as a follow-up, check out Frog Design’s homepage. Not technology? What?