Monday, June 20, 2016

The problem with 'crash courses' in design thinking

It is obvious that 'design thinking' as an approach to change has never been more popular than now. Everywhere on the web it is possible to find workshops and courses, and even 'crash courses' that will make anyone understand and appreciate the 'methodology' of design thinking. This is an unfortunate development. No one will be able to think and act as a designer after a 'crash course'. But this is not what I see as the problem with this development. The major issue is that it will lead a large number of people to believe that 'design thinking' is some kind of simplistic step-by-step method that is possible to apply to all kinds of situations and problems. The inevitable consequence will be a large number of people frustrated with what they think is 'design thinking' and they will turn to some other approach with the hope for another quick fix.

There are no quick fixes. There is no simple approach that is possible to understand and learn in a 'crash course'. As with any human approach that has evolved over centuries design is not something that you can 'use'. It is obvious to most people that a 90-minute 'crash course' in the scientific methodology is not going to make it possible to conduct any form of advanced or even useful science. "Crash courses' may have their place and a role to play, but it is a way that will make it possible to "take away some of the basic principles of Design Thinking and start to adapt them into your personal and professional routines". 

Design thinking can of course be learned. But it takes time, training and practice. And instead of 'learning' a stepwise methodology, a 'crash course' may be a way to introduce the foundational ideas behind design as an approach in a way that makes it possible to understand what it is, how it differs from other approaches and what it takes to actually perform design thinking. However, this requires maybe a bit more by those who offer these courses than what is the case today.

Workshops on designerly thinking and doing...again

I have added a page, see navigation bar, where I have added a bit more information about my plans for some workshops. Again, if you are interested and want to know more, or have ideas for me, just email me.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Conversational Agents and Personal Assistants--some thoughts

In a recent FastCompany article, Mark Sullivan writes about the "AI personal assistant wars". The main point of the article is how Apple as a company is (or is not) well positioned to compete in the new emerging landscape of conversational agents and personal assistants (or whatever the final term for this type of thing will be).

One of the main messages in the article is that we are leaving the 'app' paradigm and moving towards, what Microsoft CEO Nadella calls, the age of the 'bot'. In the article he is quoted saying that 'Bots are the new apps'.

These bots are supposed to create a new layer on top of existing applications and services and guide and support users by being the 'person' that can find the right information or service. As a user you are supposed to just talk to your bot as you would to a real person assistant or butler (which is another term used).

This development is exiting and it will be transformational in many aspects, but the question is if the present hype is maybe overestimating the potential of this new paradigm. One of the most obvious strengths of conversational agents is that they are 'faceless' (as we define it in our article on Faceless Interaction) that is, we can interact with them without having to focus our attention of a specific surface. However, at the same time facelessness poses serious problems with interaction. In the same article we for instance discuss the notion of interactivity clutter and how faceless interaction leads to new forms of clutter that are so far difficult to see how they can be solved.

The idea that agents or assistants by themselves will change interaction is of course too simplistic. It will in many ways add complexity and confusion. The more we add 'intelligence' to our technology and the more we are able to converse with them, the more we enter our daily life dealing with people with all its misunderstandings and confusions. Interfaces provide us with a simple and direct way of not having to negotiate, not having to explain, to 'discuss' things. With intelligence and conversations comes of course attentional freedom, at least spatially, though it will automatically restrict and limit us in other ways.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Keynote talks

I am very happy and honored to have been invited to be a Keynote speaker at two conferences this Fall.

I will speak at NordiCHI (more about the program here) which is one of my favorite conferences in the field of Human Computer Interaction. I have not decided the topic yet in detail but it will be based on the book that Lars-Erik Janlert and I are finishing up, so maybe something about interactivity clutter and interactivity fields.

I will also give a Keynote presentation at the Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD5) Symposium. This is an exciting symposium that is intended to develop a stronger integration between systems thinking and design. Among the other Keynote presenters are Humberto Maturana and Liz Sanders. Both of which I have already had the pleasure of meeting. For this Keynote I am even less sure what it will be about. We'll see when we get closer.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Workshops on designerly thinking and doing

I am in the early stages of planning some workshops on "Designerly Thinking and Doing" to take place at some time after summer. I will hold them here in wonderful Bloomington, Indiana.

The purpose of the workshops will be to provide a deep understanding of what designerly thinking and acting as a way of navigating a complex world means and how to do it. Professionals and leaders in all areas are today challenged with constant demands of producing creative and innovative solutions but what does it mean to do this in a designerly way? And how to you start? And how do you develop design leadership?

This will be great opportunities for you who have heard about design as an approach but have not had a chance yet to engage with it. But it will also be useful if you are already involved in design but are looking for more.

If you think this sounds interesting and you might want to participate, send me an email (

More information to come!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The implosion of design disciplines

I have seen some comments lately by designers on how to make distinctions between design areas and disciplines. There seems to be a concern that design disciplines are not se easy to separate any more and that they are becoming more similar. Even though there is an attempt to separate and define different design areas, for instance by introducing notions such as social or service design or experience design, it seems to become more difficult to define these forms of design as distinct from each other and also distinct from traditional disciplines of design. In almost all design areas today there are some design of physical artifacts, of processes and services, of visual form and expression, of relationships and systems, and not the least of interaction. An architect is involved in all these design aspects, so it an interaction designer or an organizational designer, etc.

Of course, each specific design challenge require some form of particular competences, skills, methods and tools. But at the same time, it seems as if the traditional more clear distinction of different design tasks is evaporating or maybe with a better metaphor 'imploding', in the sense that nothing disappears, it all becomes aspects of a single type of process that incorporates the full range of design 'disciplines' including their need for competences and skills.

To what extent this is reflected in educational programs and in how industry is organizing their design competences and processes today is unclear. My suspicion is that it is still done based on traditional and 'old-school' ideas of design. Of course there are examples of the opposite, for instance programs that do not see a particular design discipline as their core and instead try to educate some form of general designers. I am quite sure however that this is not the way forward. So, what is? Is it a new breed of designers that are more tightly connected to a specific type of application area, to a specific form of problems, or to a specific design process or....? I am sure we will see a lot of exciting developments in this area in the years to come. In many cases, this development will seriously challenge traditional university organizational structures with their set idea of what constitute an academic discipline and educational program.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A New Exciting Design Research Organization for US and Canada

In April this year there was the first meeting of a task force of design scholars and professionals from the US and Canada in Chicago with the purpose to discuss the need for a design organization for North America.

This work is chaired by Carlos Teixeira, IIT Institute of Design, and John Zimmerman, Carnegie Mellon University.  I am happy to be part of this initiative with these outstanding members on the steering committee (unfortunately I could not be at the workshop myself):

Carl DiSalvo, Georgia Tech, Wonjoon Chung, Carleton University, Canada, Liz Sanders, Ohio State University, US, Lara Penin from Parsons School of Design, US, Linda Wagner, University of Washington, US, Jay Melican, Intel Corporation, US, Katie Salen, DePaul University and Institute of Play, US and Erik Stolterman, Indiana University, US.

Design research societies already exist in many other continents and countries. In the US and Canada, there are already some professional design societies, but nothing that supports design researchers in academia. The participants of the workshop agreed that there might be a need for a design research society with a focus on constructive design research that intends to transform and improve artificial systems.

This new organization would have the purpose to serve the needs of academic design researchers in North America, and it could also help build a global community of scholarly researchers and practitioners who share an interest in design action as a force of intentional change. The workshop proposed an organization that can link academia, government, foundations, business, startups to help us to better develop and articulate design knowledge.

If you want to know more about this initiative or be part of it, then contact
Carlos Teixeira, PhD
Associate Professor in Design
IIT Institute of Design, USA

Monday, May 23, 2016

The meaning of interactivity —some proposals for definitions and measures

Lars-Erik Janlert and I just got our article with the title "The meaning of interactivity  —some proposals for definitions and measures" accepted for publication by the HCI Journal. This is very exciting since this article is an important part of the book we are working on.

Here is the abstract of the article:

"New interactive applications, artifacts and systems are constantly being added to our environments, and there are some concerns in the HCI research community that increasing interactivity might not be just to the good. But what is it that is supposed to be increasing, and how could we determine whether it is? In order to approach these issues in a systematic and analytical fashion, relying less on common intuitions and more on clearly defined concepts and when possible quantifiable properties, we take a renewed look at the notion of interactivity and related concepts. The main contribution of this article is a number of definitions and terms, and the beginning of an attempt to frame the conditions of interaction and interactivity. Based on this framing, we also propose some possible approaches for how interactivity can be measured."

I do not know when the article will be published, but if you want a copy by email, just write to me.

Interactivity overload: hyperreality

Take a look at this interesting video that describes one vision of what hyper-reality could look like. First of all, this is not science fiction in the sense that we do not have the technology to do this. This is quite possible already today. It is  interesting to see how our reality can become a hyper-reality when we add layer upon layer on top of it. A lot of questions arise though. Take a look!

This video works is a great example of what Lars-Erik Janlert and I are writing about in our new book about interfaces, interaction and interactivity. Especially the notion of 'interactivity clutter' that is something we develop and define in the book.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Speaking and Consulting

I have finally added a page on this site about Speaking and Consulting (see navigation bar). The reason is that I am in a situation where these kinds of activities are becoming more attractive to me than before. I have over the years realized that a lot of what I have learned have emerged as a result of speaking to people and by working together with them on their issues and challenges. So, if you are interested in working with me, check out my new page and get in touch.