December 01, 2003
what you feel is what you get [grid::brand]
This is deliberately not thought through. I don't agree with it all. Please argue at length.
I've been doing the obvious navel gazing recently of trying to figure out exactly what I do - which recently people have called interaction design.
This is the thesis:
Interaction design engineers experiences that do not exist without a person or people being present and participating, or, in other words, what you feel is what you get.
Interaction design makes itself felt when changing even slightly the difference between what you know and what you experience. The manifestation of this tends to be an emotion.
Interaction designers need a knowledge of psychology, cognitive science, sociology and ethnography (culture), plus extra crafts for whichever media they design for.
Interaction design has many movements, including usability, information architecture, some installation art, some architecture, color theory (also see FOAC), stage design and experience design. They are movements (styles?) rather than disciplines because success cannot be quantitatively measured - they use and work with the psychological and cultural baggage of the person interacting. They also consume and reuse each other's work to further their own movement.
Branding is also a movement of interaction design, wanting to create precise emotional feelings through long-term interaction with a virtual entity. The experience of a brand is different for every person.
Should you be able to tell who designed something when you experience it?
Do you want to experience something you use every minute or hourly?
Do usability and information architecture purposefully remove the experience?
Is it possible to craft interactions for specific purposes if everyone's experience of the interaction is different?
I recently saw a talk by Olafur Eliasson, creator of the Weather Project and other beautiful pieces of installation art (it's really really really really worth watching the archived webcast, and some of the ideas here are badly paraphrased from this talk). Most of his work relies on a viewer being present for the art to happen - and indeed, he doesn't describe himself as an artist, he researches and creates experiences. His work is art rather than craft/design/science because he is not interested in the reaction to the work, and does not alter the work to subsequent responses.
Now, he is always creating physical pieces of work, but is the aesthetic primarily in the work or in the interaction? He hopes it is the latter, in contrast to, say, an Old Master painting, where the aesthetic piece exists in physical form, and exists even if no one is viewing it (aside - this is why I think that the Weather Project is less successful that his other work, in that it exists as a physical piece firstly, but to be honest it would be hard to do anything else in the turbine hall space).
A useful counterpoint to some of this:
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