Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Understanding Interaction Design Practice

The research project on design methods that we started in September (funded by NSF) is coming along. We are now in the middle of a first interview study where we focus on a range of aspects related to design practice and particularly the use of design methods ("methods" in its broadest possible meaning).

As always when you interview professionals they impress you with the competence they express and their understanding of design and the design process. These practitioners stress aspects of the design process that in many ways are opposite to what non-designers or students believe, for instance that process is more important than outcome,  and that judgment is more important than method. They are constantly unwilling to make clear statements about "what works best", "what method is best", "what are crucial skills", etc. Instead they always bring the discussion back to the particular, the particular situation, particular user, particular client, particular technology, and particular design challenge.

It is also fascinating to find that, even though they are highly skilled and competent in what they do, they are also somewhat worried that other professionals in the field are doing things differently and maybe in a better way. This is the case even though they are engaged in professional communities, workshops, conferences, and reads a lot.

It is also clear that the level of knowledge when it comes to design methods, their names, their history, their usefulness, etc. differ drastically.

Anyway, every interview leads to new insights about the everyday conditions of professional practice for interaction design. I am now more than ever looking forward to this research and can see many exciting results in the coming years.


Anonymous said...

I’m confused. Do you mean that designers believe that ‘process is more important than outcome, and that judgment is more important than method’, or that the students believe it? As a designer I believe that the outcome is ultimately more important that any process, but achieving a satisfactory outcome requires good judgment rather than mere application of a method. Thanks for your post—I love reading your work!

Filippo Salustri said...

I'm not surprised the practitioners prefer focusing on the specific; this has been my experience too when talking to experts (as opposed to students). It seems students want to know how to do it and experts just want to know what they need to do/design.

Presumably, the experts were once students and, probably, thought like students. This raises the interesting (for me, at least) question: when did they change their thinking, and how did that happen?

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