Great interaction design is a delicious soup. You boil a variety of different ingredients and spices in the right proportion, and voila – pure bliss! Unlike other branches of design, however, it’s extremely hard to write a recipe for interaction design. By its very nature, the interaction design process needs to be fluid and dynamic.
Interaction design tingles the complete experience over time. It tastes most satisfying in conditions when multifaceted flavors and ingredients are brought together. The bigger the challenges are —the more diverse and mixed the ingredients need to be. This beautiful paradox sits at the heart of the interaction design menu, very differently from other design cuisines.
During my time as a Master’s degree student in Interaction Design at Umeå (Sweden), I often found our group repeatedly doing the following:
- Obsessing with finding the ‘perfect’ solution to a problem.
- Frequently questioning the value of having mixed, diverse groups of professionals studying Interaction Design together. Were frustrating debates stemming from disparate backgrounds and differences of opinion really the most efficient way to designing interactions?
I haven’t found ’the perfect solution’ yet, but I do believe the process is a lot more interesting. Having experienced the inherent value of a multifaceted approach professionally, I believe that mastery in the interaction design process lies in perfecting those moments when the room is packed with people who won’t share your views and probably don’t have your skills.
Mastering the science of ‘We, not I’.
The quest for perfection and the myth of genius are timeless aspirations that meet with sporadic and rare success. Genius chefs (like genius designers) never seem to be able to cook the same dish twice. Some modern authors, such as Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success, debunk the notion of genius altogether. According to Gladwell, even geniuses like Mozart, The Beatles and Bill Gates had more than 10,000 hours of practice at doing what they did—iteratively—constantly improving their craft while focused on process. I believe that a mastery of interaction design process does not rest in divine inspiration and confined sketching (read: genius!). The key probably rests in learning to churn together – a pool of motley professions, backgrounds, skills and interests. Interaction design is a team-sport at its most intense, meaningful climax, and we need to change the way we train for this sport. We need to rearrange our kitchen in order to cook this soup – and we need to do it often, depending on what we’re cooking.
The big hurdle – we’re conditioned to think and act as individuals, not as groups. Could this be the un-learning needed in order to be able to synthesize truly well-rounded experiences?
As a former architect, the process of design was inevitably intensely personal. My colleagues in architecture were all inspired by the singular genius of Corbusier, van der Rohe and Gehry. Moments of solitary and inspired sketching were thought to be the catalysts for the ‘eureka’ moment. Graphic and product design Masters of that era worked in much the same way. Processes in interaction design, on the other hand, seemed to work in quite stark opposites. After migrating to interaction design, students from very different backgrounds were thrown amidst multifaceted peer groups—something many struggled to cope with. A group of motley backgrounds, each with their own stubborn opinions, conflicting ideas, dissimilar skills oft resulted in frustrated groups and heated differences of opinion during projects. Many were left questioning the value and efficiency of such a process. Product and transportation design classmates seldom faced this problem. They were still relatively blissful in the peaceful confines of their work-spaces, diligently pursuing that perfect sketch.
Wouldn’t too many cooks in the interaction design kitchen spoil the broth?
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