Friday, April 29, 2016

Books on my desk right now...

I do like books! Here are some of the books on my desk right now. Have looked at all of them, have reads parts of some and all of others....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The best short film about the design process

Today my colleague Harold Nelson sent me a link to a short film (about 15 min) about the design process made in the 1960s. It is just a wonderful film. It contains all the aspects of the design process. Watch and learn!

Monday, April 25, 2016

ACM Interactions looking for Editors-in-Chief

Ron Wakkary and I have now been Editors-in-Chief of the ACM Interactions magazine for six years. It is time to let go. We are finishing up our last year and ACM is now searching for new editors
(see here

It has been some great years. It has been a privilege to work with so many outstanding colleagues in the field, famous and unknown, old and young, academics and practitioners...those who deliver what they promise and those who don't :-) 

I have learned a lot. Read things I would never had read otherwise. Seen research and ideas that I would not have cared about. Met people that I would never have met. It has been fascinating, fun and enlightning. So, if you are interested, just apply! It is good to be two so you can share the work.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Death of Design Thinking -- a few years later

A few years ago I wrote a post on this blog with the title "The Death of Design Thinking...". This post has been read quite a lot since then. I read it myself today and realized that it is as relevant today as 5 years ago. Of course, things has changed since I wrote the post. For instance, the notion of "design thinking" has become even more spread and recognized and the prediction of its "death" has not yet been fulfilled. However, we are seeing more of critical voices that are expressing concerns. At the same time, the observations around "design thinking" that I made are still valid and maybe even more important today. I am afraid if we do not engage with design in the way I write below we will very soon experience a serious backlash and maybe the "death" of anything designerly....

"...........As someone who has been dealing with design theory for about 30 years, it is both amusing and sad to see the way the question of the status of design thinking is being approached. The intellectual development around design as a special human approach to inquiry and action has been around much longer than the "last decade" and is a deep and  profound attempt to understand a particular kind of human activity that for a long time was not appropriately understood.

Looking back through history it is obvious that some human approaches, such as art and science, have attracted centuries of intellectual interest. People have tried to grasp what they are, what their purpose is, what they can deliver, what they can't deliver, when they are appropriate, and how they relate to each other. To me "design" is a human approach to intentional change at the same level of importance and stature as art and science.

Over the last 40 years we have come a long way in developing an understanding of design as an approach in its own right. But it is still a new project and we are only taking the first steps. There are serious questions still to explore, for instance, why was design not recognized as an approach worthy of intellectual investigation until recently? What are some of the best ways to define design, how can it best be taught, what are the philosophical foundations best suited to explain design, how does design relate to art and science, etc?

It is however not, as many state, difficult to define design. At least, it is not more difficult than defining what science or art is. As we all know, there is no precise and generally agreed upon definition of either of them, but that does not really make anyone argue that neither of them exist or that it is not important to continue to study them, trying to understand them, and of course to improve them.

However, if we take on a highly simplistic view of design--if we see it as a management "tool", a straightforward recipe to reach innovative new products, or a way of "thinking" that will drastically improve  our capacities in certain ways-- then it will of course lead to failure. But if we see design as an always present human approach aimed at the creation of the not-yet-existing then the challenge and its potential contribution becomes different in size and scope.

In the last 30 years there have been a tremendous change in the understanding of design. We have seen educations, professions, and ideas of competence change. There is a slowly growing understanding of design that has real consequences in real human activities and projects. These consequences can of course be seen as a result of a "fad" that will soon go away and be replaced by something else  (like Nussbaum's attempt to launch CQ). But this is not what is going on. What we are witnessing is a broad and deep, but slow, recognition of the fact that there is a form of human approach to intentional change that is not appropriately captured by our more developed traditions. And as humans, we need to find ways to talk about what that is. We need a language and we can't just borrow that from other traditions.  Design is not a form of art, not a form of science, and not a form of management. Design is not applied art, not applied science, and not the same as business practice. It is not the same as invention or creativity in general. Design is not a simple change in practical step-by-step procedures or the use of particular tools. Design is the activity we humans engage in when we are not satisfied with our reality and we decide to intentionally change it. It is an approach that deals with overwhelming complexity, that rely on judgment as its logic, and that is focused on the creation of the ultimate particular. 

Design as an approach or as a form of "thinking" is not dead. At the same time, it is not yet  alive as a fully developed intellectual and philosophical tradition. A lot of people are doing a great job today trying to develop such an understanding, but it will probably take another century to reach a situation where design as an approach is recognized at the same level and in the same intellectual and intuitive sense as art and science."

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The new book is moving along

Well, at the moment Lars-Erik Janlert and I are working quite intensely on our book. Preliminary called "Interactivities -- the meaning of interface and interaction".

—the meaning of interface and interaction


It is exciting to work on the text now that it is almost finalized. It does not necessarily get easier when you get to the end, instead now we have to make sure that we are not contradicting ourselves in the different chapters. But, it is exciting to be almost done.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book note: "Simplicity -- a matter of of design" by Per Mollerup

One of the most discussed qualities of design is 'simplicity'. Almost every designer has simplicity as an ambition and first principle with all their design work. To make designs simple seems to be a goal in itself. But what is simplicity? We have over the years seen a lot of articles and books examine the concept from different perspectives. Quite recently Per Mollerup published a new book "Simplicity -- a matter of design".  I have found this book to be one of the best so far on this topic. Mollerup's investigation into simplicity is not a 'simple' preaching of the necessity of simplicity, he approaches the concept with more care and curiosity than most, and deals with its richness in a way that so far has been unusual.

Mollerup not only explains his view of simplicity, he also questions existing and 'simplistic'
understandings of the concept. Apart from giving some fundamental definitions of simplicity, he also examines the relationship between simplicity and functionality, aesthetics, and ethics.

Mollerup's book is also visually stunning. The images of designs that he has chosen to complement the text are quite amazing in their own right. I can see the book used as a textbook since it so carefully try to exemplify and visualize the conceptual examinations that the text is engaged with.

If the examples and the insights concerning ultimate particular designs and their relationship to simplicity is the strength of the book, personally I might have wanted some more depth in the conceptual and philosophical examination of simplicity in the text. But I do not see that as a problem with the book, instead I can see how this books opens up for and even require such further investigations.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in design and especially in what simplicity means in design. The definitions and examples will enlighten any reader and in a productive way challenge their own conceptions of what simplicity means.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Book note: Humanistic HCI

Two of my colleagues, Jeff Bardzell and Shaowen Bardzell, have published a new book "Humanistic HCI". This book is a great contribution to the field of HCI. It is no surprise that humanistic theories and approaches have been incorporated in HCI research during the last decade. Why this has happened is probably because HCI researchers have started to address issues and aspects of HCI that require other means and tools. And it seems as if the humanities can provide a set of useful approaches.

The major purpose of the book is to establish an understanding of humanistic HCI, what it is, what it can do, and how to do it. The book makes it clear that to engage in humanistic approaches is not just a 'simple' shift of research tools, it involves more fundamental epistemological aspects. I anticipate that this book will 'push' HCI researchers that are already involved with  humanistic approaches to become more aware of what humanistic research means. I also think that the book will entice researchers who has been curious about the potential usefulness of more humanistic approaches to actually engage with them.

The book is very well written and suitable for anyone in the field of HCI who either just need to get some basic understanding of what a humanistic perspective might mean to those who are already engaged with humanistic approaches.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


So, this post has nothing to do with work. I want to promote a film by my son. The film is 24 min and I think it is wonderful. You can find some information about it here and also watch it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interactivity explained

Well, it is getting closer. My colleague Lars-Erik Janlert are in the final stretch of the writings of our book in which we explore and examine what interactivity is. It is extremely exciting and fun work. But of course it takes a lot of time. We are not sure about the title yet. In the book we cover  definitions of interactivity and interface, interaction and control and complexity, character, expressions and impressions, how to measure interactivity, faceless interaction, interactivity clutter, etc. We will soon present a bit more about it. Fun stuff...

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

When design is about replicating nature

I don't know how but I ended up ordering a book called "The reality of the artificial: nature, technology and naturoids" by Massimo Negrotti. I had no expectations. However, the book surprised me and has forced me to reflect on a lot of questions I have not really thought about. The main topic of the book is "naturoids", that is, human made objects that imitate or replicate some aspect of nature. One chapter is for instance labeled "Duplicating Reality". Massimo makes the case that duplicating nature is different from creating 'new' objects. He discusses this using notions as the 'essentiality of things', complexity, transfiguration, etc. He also tries to define what is an exemplar and how it can be defined.

I find the book fascinating and insightful. Also well-written. To the point and clear. The specific perspective in the book is quite different from what we usually find in theoretical investigations into design. It opens up for new questions, such as, when is design really about the creation of something new and when it is about replicating something already existing. It also becomes a philosophical approach to innovation (it involves the creation of naturoids, their transfiguration, etc.). Very cool!