The Art of Interactive Design
by Chris Crawford
Crawford presents a lively argument for a redefining of interaction and interaction design; in which he describes a strictly dialogic… or explicitly reciprocated series of actions between two or more agents. While Crawford seems to fixate at times in an oddly anti-academic stance he does raise some valid arguments centered on an apparent divide or diametric between the exciting “new” realm of interaction design (described as an emotionally engaging platform) and the more analytical fields spanning Frederick Winslow Taylor to Ergonomics. While Crawford’s portrayal of the two fields as being oppositional isn’t incredibly useful or in line with his attempts at a non-categorical viewpoint, it does present how important it is to take previous research in ergonomics, cognitive science, psychology into consideration when attempting to build anything that people will interact with. Even the most introductory understanding of such fields of study can offer huge insight into not only how things can be designed better but also why things have been designed the way they have already… often times dated designs continue on unquestioned even though the social or economic conditions that formed them have ceased to exist.
The User Illusion
By Tor Norretranders
A great introduction to many core concepts of cognitive and brain related studies that are hugely relevant to human – computer interaction. A good supplement to much of what Norretranders touches on can be found in a number of Jeremy Wolfe’s Intro Pysch lectures available through MIT OCW… in particular: Lecture 5 (Limiting information). While Intro Pysch is usually grueling… Wolfe has a talent for making it entertaining with useful and relevant examples. Other related material that might be of interest:
Internet’s effects on cognition and the brain:
Design of Everyday Things
By Donald A. Norman
While Norman raises many great points the one that resonated most for me was his notion of the psychology of design… something that I feel isn’t explored nearly enough especially in the burgeoning market of mobile devices.
I believe that as designers / artists we have at our disposal a range of materials, various physical forms, and a number physical processes that can be applied to them… these combined constitute a powerful vocabulary, not only in functional terms, but also in visual / tactile psychological terms… that is… that each material and its possible combination with others through a range of different processes contain a specific significance to different people in different ways. Sometimes incredibly specific (the smell and feel of a certain kind of leather conjures some distant childhood memory of sitting in my grandfather’s armchair) and then sometimes far reaching and general across certain cultures…
Apple Computer Corp. has proved well that soft curves in milled anodized aluminum assert a very specific gesture that is well received… while an aluminum box of any shape is not the best way to keep a processor cool… the psychological / emotional link that effectively transmuted materials have on the user effectively make the object of interaction work better anyway… so much so that they can often outmode technically superior competing products. Sadly few companies as visible as Apple have been able to be as unified and effective in their understanding of the psychology of material and design, and thus we are left with no well formed or inspired alternative. A personal desire of mine is to somehow promote an alternative device / design vocabulary that might offer an ultimately more viscerally human inspired language of material… after all the clean cool bezier symmetry that Apple has forged in shiny aluminum and black plastic is well executed but can seem emotionally impenetrable or simply cold at times. I think that we can offer more… If you have the opportunity to shop for mobile phones in Japan or Korea it becomes immediately apparent how incredibly diverse the design language of such devices can be. A range of well understood materials… lacquered steel and matte plastics were very popular last year… a few years prior chunky square buttons… the entire device design language snapping to a grid.
Seen here are just a few examples of some successful designs by Naoto Fukasawa and his firm iida for KDDI.
The well articulated translation of form into simple materials creates playfully tactile and inviting objects.
The thing that has baffled me about Japanese cell phone design is how such a diverse range of designs can supported by a market isolated to Japan alone while a such a broad demand outside Japan is left with such limited choices. (almost none of the phones that are developed in Japan are ever exported due in part to Japan’s proprietary CDMA standard, but perhaps also because everyone else dominates the export market with more profitable but poorly realized injection molded designs that function well enough.
Getting back to a more general understanding of the psychological / social impact of design and material… a larger viewpoint with a similar concept can be seen in initiatives such as the City Beautiful Movement for urban planning that centered on the idea that the creation of beautiful places in cities promoted social wellbeing and greater quality of life. -which Masamichi Udagawa from Antenna Design happened to mention during their Applications lecture. Antenna’s NYC subway cars are successful in this sense for the time being and hopefully into the future. In these terms it’s really left to a designer’s speculation… will the material vocabulary used today that effectively evokes a positive response from the user now continue to do so in the future? In the case of the MTA’s subway cars I imagine that much will be determined in how the materials used age. While things bright and new may effectively present a comfortable environment that discourages vandalism and littering… once the plastic begins to yellow, the rubber starts to crack, the fluorescent bulbs become mismatched in color temperature by accident and begin to flicker on an off… and so on… the vocabulary begins to break down and so does the user’s response to it… changing from respect and enjoyment to indifference, neglect, and even defacement… though not everything has to be clean stainless steel with ambient lighting… degradation has its charm at times as well.
By David Hoffman
Truly fascinating stuff… whether you are a hardened structuralist in your views of consciousness or not it’s incredible when we catch these functional glimpses of the mechanics of our experience at which time we realize how incredibly beautiful the machine is and how little we understand it.
A few links that might be of interest:
- Contralateral Neglect
- Unilateral Neglect