Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The common mistake of seeing design as a particular field or profession

I have written here before about the mistake of seeing design as a profession and/or a discipline. To me, design is an approach, a way of approaching reality with the purpose to change it. There are no given design areas or disciplines. Instead it is the nature of the problem/situation that usually determines what is a field or discipline. So, for instance, graphic design is a field that has to do with graphic and visual artifacts, architecture is a field that engages with buildings and structure, etc. They are not by nature design fields or disciplines.

Graphic design has some similarities with architecture of course. Some of those similarities can be seen as related to materials, surfaces and structures. Some similarities have to do with how people perceive forms, shapes and colors and their combinations. To me it is obvious that you can approach these qualities either with a scientific approach or with a designerly approach or with a combination. This means that graphic design and architecture can, depending on how we understand them, be seen either as two science based disciplines or two design based disciplines.

This is why it becomes so confusing when people or companies try to state what design is based only on their experiences in one field and only from one persepctive. For instance, Zillions Design (a logo design company) puts out what they call a Periodic Table of Winning Design Elements. They write:

"The following infographic on the Periodic Table of Winning Design Elements, completely sums up what goes on in the design field right from what basic skills designers need to have to design elements to how to handle clients."

Of course they don't mean that this is table in a comprehensive way describes all design elements for all design areas. They probably think about logo design. But they don't state that, which is unfortunate. It creates a lot of confusion. It is possible to develop a periodic table of design elements that is meant to be true for all design areas (see my book "The Design way" as an attempt to do that). I would welcome anyone who would engage in the attempt to further an understanding of design, not as a discipline or profession, but as an overall human approach of inquiry and action that can deliver outcomes that other approaches (science, art, politics, etc) can not.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future

Now the article by Lars-Erik Janlert and me is published on the Human-Computer Interaction Journals website. I am very happy to see this article published!

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (2014). Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future. In Human-Computer Interaction


In the middle of the present struggle to keep interaction complexity in check as artifact complexity continues to rise and the technical possibilities to interact multiply, the notion of interface is scrutinized. First, a limited number of previous interpretations or thought styles of the notion are identified and discussed. This serves as a framework for an analysis of the current situation with regard to complexity, control, and interaction, leading to a realization of the crucial role of surface in contemporary understanding of interaction. The potential of faceless interaction, interaction that transcends traditional reliance on surfaces, is then examined and discussed, liberating possibilities as well as complicating effects and dangers are pointed out, ending with a sketch of a possibly emerging new thought style.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The importance of good design presentations

I always talk with my students about the importance of being able to do good design presentations. No matter how good design work you have done, if you can not present it, explain it, and argue for it, no one will "buy it".

I saw this article today by Mike Monterio that in a simple and fun way explain a number of the points I always stress. There are many similar articles out there about presentation techniques, but this has a different flavor and I think it works well.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Design Way -- some news

Some good news about our book, "The Design Way". The new paperback edition of The Design Way was just released by MIT Press. It sold out immediately! More copies will be available in October. And an edition in Spanish will be published in the Spring of 2015!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

new article: "Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future"

I have for many year worked with my colleague Lars-Erik Janlert (Umeå Univeristy, Sweden). Actually we were PhD students in the same department many, many years ago. Our work together has slowly developed and become more focused over the years. We just got our latest article "Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future" accepted for publication in the journal Human-Computer Interaction. We have now three articles published on the theme of "interactivity" and one in draft.

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (in progress). Increasing Interactivity.

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (forthcoming). Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future. In Human-Computer Interaction. (will hopefully be available soon)

Lars-Erik Janlert and Erik Stolterman. 2010. Complex interaction. ToCHI (ACM Transactions of Computer-Human Interaction) 17, 2.

Janlert, L-E. & Stolterman, E. (1997). The character of things. in Design Studies Vol 18, No 3, July (1997).

The plan now is to develop these articles into a book. We are convinced that the field of HCI need our book :-) There is a need for an in-depth and detailed attempt at defining what interactivity is and can be.