Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Assemblies, Compositions and the iPhone

Maybe one of the least understood concepts in interaction design is composition. Many interaction artifacts have the same functionality and features, but some of these artifacts are also compositions. A composition is a whole. It is a design where the relation, balance, contrast between deatils and the whole, between funtionality and appearance, etc., are all aspects of a deliberate composition that is designed to have an overall quality -- a compositional quality. The iPod and maybe now the iPhone are examples of strong compositions. This is not easy to ackomplish, so many advanced cell phones and smart phones are just artifacts that best can be described as assemblies of functions and features, without any compositional whole. To create an artifact that manifest a strong composition is maybe the most challenging aspect of any design. In interaction design, with all the technology and new opportunities, the space of possible assemblies are (unfortunately) infinite and to create true authentic compositions are the ultimate design challenge. Let's see more compositions and less assemblies in the future.

3 comments:

Åke Sundberg said...

A little hello from Umeå and your old students back home. We are actually right now ripping your book “The Design Way” apart on the Design theory course. Your old college Torbjörn is holding this class. We all have comments about the book and its actually fun to read your blogg here after reading it. You mention that you see a problem Composition in the IT-artefacts today. There was a unanimous agreement among the students that the Chapter 9 “Composition” was the hardest one to grasp. It’s hard to filter what you and Nelson are trying to say;) Funny but in a way I understand it a little better by just reading your comment on your blogg. But I also guess that is why it’s a neglected area in design theory among companies and why as you say we see so many Assemblies? Perhaps make an article about it and publish it again where we can understand you better?!? *nudge nudge* =) Nah just joking. Anyway hope you are enjoying your time and hope to see you back in Umeå sometime soon.

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi Åke

Thanks for the comments! I really appreciate it.

I am happy to hear that you are reading my book, and I understand that it is not easy to work with all the time :-) Maybe I should write a bit more about composition. It is a crucial concept in design!

I wish you good luck with your studies and say hello to Torbjörn!

Erik

Åke Sundberg said...

I'm writing a "homeexam" on your book "The Design Way" when something struck me. You and Nelson speak desiderata being the voice of design. That through desiderata we move away from negative reactive problemsolving. That through desiderata we can create a "design culture" that would guide us to a better world? Okey the last sentence might been a little bit too deep..but my question is. The title of the book isnt it just what you and Nelson are trying to describe what desiderata is? Did the two of you ever talk about giving the book the title Desiderata? ;)

As you might have figured out this is the rambling thoughts of a student with too much coffee and too little sleep. ;)

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