Showing posts from October, 2009

Good Interaction Design Magazine web sites

I have followed a thread on the IxD list about good places on the web to read about interaction design. I collected the suggestions so here is a list. These sites are more like magazines, that is, they are not just personal blogs. On the list they were asking for sites for interaction design that had the same status as CORE77 for product design, that is, well designed sites with a lot of good content. If you have more good links, please let me know.

Johnny Holland Magazine
Design Observer

Design and Sketching

Anyone doing design knows the importance of sketching. Sketching is in design the tool for thinking. Most designers sketch all the time in different ways and forms. In a short blog post, Spencer Nugent describes the levels of sketching. The levels are related to different purposes and lead to different forms of sketches. This post is an example of what I believe needs to be done much more in design which is to develop a language that makes it possible to talk about what designers do and how they do it and how they use their tools. It is so easy to talk about sketching as one activity which in design is far from what it is. Sketching is a concept that covers a huge amount of activities. Sketching is, in this case, on paper and by pen, but today we also have sketching-in-hardware and other forms of sketching. Bill Buxton, Bill Verplank and others have argued strongly for the place of sketching in design, and theoreticians like Donald Schön and other have argued convincingly that sketch…

Evolution of interactive technology (again) and Buxton

In todays technology climate it is easy to believe that everything you have not seen before is also something “new”. This is understandable since it is quite difficult to know the background history of every technological solution and design and even more difficult to know how contemporary applications of that technology have evolved over time. Bill Buxton writes about this issue in a short but very good article in BusinessWeek. He makes the case that “touch technology” is not the solution to every interaction design problem. In his effort to show this, he conducts a very simple but excellent design critique of four different watches that all to some degree uses touch technology. He shows how details matter in design. He also shows quite convincingly that touch technology is not in itself a good thing but has to be designed into a compositional whole to provide a good user experience. Buxton also discusses the notion of technology development and reminds us all that touch technology …

Book review: "Dangerous Games" by MacMillan

I am almost finished reading the book "Dangerous Games - The Uses and Abuses of History" by the historian Margaret MacMillan. This is not a book about interaction design or HCI or technology, but it is definitely a book on design, and in this case, the design of history.

MacMillan shows the importance of history in todays society, for instance as a "tool" designed to deliver comfort, identity, or nationalism. MacMillan really makes a strong case with numerous examples on how history can be misused and be a dangerous tool in the hands of those who want to control our present and future. It is fascinating to see MacMillan's examples of how history is, and has been, designed to serve certain particular purposes. The real historian has a different responsibility, according to MacMillan, and that is to simply explain what actually happened, when it happened and to present some explanations of why. This is a delicate task and requires a professional competence.
It is …

The Evolution of What Is Easy to Use

Today I found this short blog post by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (thanks to odannyboy who linked to it on twitter). I really liked the post. The author makes a good argument for the dynamic and complex reality of what we consider to be "ease of use" or "user-friendliness". Pang points out that what makes a thing easy to use is not something given and stable over time. The example he uses is the development of the computer mouse. This realization also reveals that the methods and approaches used to measure usability and ease of use can also quickly become outdated. This means that neither what we consider to be correct design solutions, important design qualities, or our measurements of these qualities, or our methods to design such qualities can be fully captured, understood, and prescribed (at least not for any substantial time period). The reality of design becomes, again and to no surprise, more dynamic, more complex, and never predictable :-)

Tim Brown at TED -- and the future of design thinking

Tim Brown who is the CEO of IDEO gave a talk at the TED2009 conference. The talk is about 16 minutes and Brown makes the case that designers should think big instead of small. Brown does have a solid and good understanding of design and designerly thinking. However, when I listed to him I realized some things I had not thought about. Before I discuss them I need to say that I really appreciate the basic message of Brown's presentation and agree with him. So, my discussion below is less about his talk as much as a comment on the field of design.
It is obvious that Brown comes from a design tradition that is usually described as the art & design school tradition, that is, it is the understanding and process of design as it is taught within traditional design fields, such as product and industrial design, interior design, fashion design, etc. Even though he comes from this tradition, Brown is joking about it by calling the people within this tradition as the "priesthood"…

Book review: "Design Expertise" by Lawson and Dorst

A couple of days ago I got the copy I had ordered of the book "Design Expertise" by Bryan Lawson and Kees Dorst. I have so far only quickly read (skimmed) through the book, but it is obvious that this is one of the best introductions to design theory out there. The authors presents design as a journey. They discuss design from different perspectives, starting out with their notion on how to understand design. They discuss design expertise, how to start your journey to become a designer, what it means to be a professional designer, and how to educate designers.

The theory of design that the authors presents is stable and rests firmly on a deep understanding of design as a basic human activity, and even mroe as a professional activity. Even though the book has architecture as its primary field of design when it comes to examples, the authors do a good job in being open and broad, which means that the book can be read by anyone interested in how to understand design no matter w…

Design Research and the 'coolness' factor

Lately I have been engaged in some different forms of evaluations of interaction design research. I have read papers, watched videos and demonstrations. All these forms of research outcomes have their own merits and issues. One thing that I have reflected upon is when I read, watch or experienced these contributions is that I have experienced some problems with something I would call the "coolness" factor.
Many contributions present some design research outcomes that have qualities that make me react think: "that is pretty cool!". The problem with this reaction is that it also triggers a sense of suspicion, and I keep asking myself "am I seduced by some superficial 'coolness' factor or does this outcome really represent some more substantial contribution?"
There has been some interesting scholarly work on what signifies "interesting" research results as a contrast to "uninteresting" research, and some people talk about the &quo…


I just have to write a few lines about the application Dropbox. It is amazing how much this extremely simple application has changed my everyday life. I am constantly moving between a number of computers and have always struggled with keeping my computers as similar as possible when it comes to all the material I am working on. I used to email myself, use servers to save stuff, etc. With Dropbox all that is gone! Conceptually Dropbox is a simple design. From a use perspective it is also very simple. I find this to be an excellent example of a particular type of designed artifacts and a close examination and design critique of Dropbox would be fun to read. Anyhow, this design makes my days easier!