Monday, May 05, 2008

The Nature of Design Practice and Implications for Interaction Design Research

For a long time I have been working on a paper about the need for interaction design research to be grounded in a better understanding of design practice. This paper has finally been published in the International Journal of Design and if your are interested the paper can be downloaded here.


Arvind Ashok said...

great article. addresses a huge problem, at least from an inexperienced designer's point of view, like me. while at school studying some of these methods seemed straightforward and application seemed trivial, it is a lot harder in actual practice, especially in a demanding environment like a startup.

As a consequence, HCI research has developed and/or borrowed approaches and methods not always appropriate for interaction design practice, even though they may be successful in their respective "home" fields or in research settings
This is a statement I find myself particularly aligned with although I might be taking it tangentially in a way you might not have meant. If you recall, me and Christian Beck's argument about how design ideas and methods suited for western contexts were being applied into developing and under-developed areas and projects is a huge problem that is going unnoticed. Maybe, part of the problem is because of what you are trying to shed more light on, the issues with HCI research not producing results which are useful in practice. But just to make sure I am not misunderstood, I realize you are talking about appropriating from different fields while my primary argument was from our own field but in different cultures and contexts.

Another thing I would like to add on is where you talk about design complexity and simplicity. Sometimes, simplicity also confuses as you expect complexity. Twitter is an example that I would like to present here. It is a simple, minimalistic tool, but it confused me (and a few others that I have discussed it with) in the beginning because I couldnt directly participate in a conversation(no threads). Yes, I know replies are possible but it is not the same. The concept of using @name to respond, via a broadcast took me a while to get, and to understand participation in twitter.

In design you have to design the "whole", and you cannot reduce design complexity by limiting yourself to those things that you have the time or resources to handle...
But dont we reduce complexity by making walls, putting constraints. Or am I misunderstanding something?

Overall, really compelling article. Feels like I am back in school.

Note: the stuff in italics, while are supposed quotations, were typed by me as I couldnt copy+paste from PDF. So, if there are typos etc, apologies.

Arvind Ashok said...

Erik, a 'design practice' category in your blog might be something which would be very useful. You talk about a number of excellent design theory and design philosophy works, and while the references section is a great start, your reflections and point of view in detail (of these articles and papers you talk about, other examples in the field etc) will provide a lot of insights for readers like me. I guess I am asking for a peep into your thought process itself but at a more fundamental( less complex :) ) level.

on another note, me and steve were told by "experienced design practitioners" in the bay area that research was not part of the design process.

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi Arvind,

It is great to hear from you and to read your insights! I think your comments are valid and interesting, and I basically agree with all your write. A couple of comments. Yes, we do reduce complexity in the way we appraoch a design, either by dividing labor, or dividing the task, etc. But at the end, any design is no matter what -- a whole. It is one thing. So it is not really possible to say "I did the visuals and they look great so the design is fine" if the other aspects of the design are not fine. But, of course we have to find ways to structure our ways of working to be able to deal with that complexity.

The other comment is on the notion of "research" in design. Of course there is research in design. Designers research all the time, but there is a great difference between how they do, for what purpose, what can be "allowed" as research, what counts as a result and an argument, between research in academia and in design practice.

Well, keep up the good work!!! And stay in touch!