Saturday, June 08, 2019

Nice review of our book "The Design Way"

Linda Naiman, founder of Creativity at Work, has written a very nice review of our book "The Design Way". I really appreciate her review because she is seeing the big picture and understands what we are trying to do.

She writes that the authors "offer not a recipe for design practice or theorizing but a formulation of design culture’s fundamental core of ideas."

She also writes "The Design Way provides a broad and deep understanding of design as a philosophy and a practice. It offers illuminating insights for leaders and managers interested in bringing the design way of thinking to business."

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Explainable AI and what it may mean for human-system interaction

The quest for explainable AI is ongoing and there seems to be a universal belief that if AI systems could explain their behavior then all will be good. A great overview of the field is found in this article "The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem." by Will Knight.

To HCI this is a growing concern. If AI is able to produce systems that are intelligent enough then the way we interact with them will drastically change. 

Instead of asking if a system can explain its behavior and decision, we could ask the question "what form of interaction with things and systems do we prefer?" For instance, when we interact with a colleague at work trying to solve a problem or develop something, we usually want the colleague to interact with us, give her feedback, argue strongly for her view and position. We use this interaction as a way to explore and develop a position that makes sense to us. This is a process that goes back and forth, sometimes smooth, sometimes difficult and full of controversy.  It is seldom a process that is fully rational where we expect each interactant to be able to fully explain his or hers or its position. But we engage in this form of interaction because we know from experience that it commonly produces a better result.

So, what would it mean if AI systems would be able to engage in that form of interaction? It would change the way we look at these systems, away from providers of final answers to companions in a process. Instead of trying not to see AI systems as humans (by forcing them to be fully rational and transparent) we would do the opposite, that is, see them as 'humans' with all the flaws and issues that we know we have to deal with when we deal with people.

This would have the consequence that we would automatically not trust systems, in the same way we do not really trust people. And as a consequence of that, we have to foster ways of interaction with these systems that make sense based on that realization.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Design Thinking: Slow and Fast, Part II

[In an earlier post, I mentioned some research aimed at applying the extraordinary popular theory of the two modes of thinking, fast and slow thinking (developed by Kahneman, ref below) to design thinking. That attempt was quite theoretical, trying to merge two theories of thinking. But I think it is interesting to consider the fast and slow thinking in a more practical sense, that is, how do the two forms of thinking apply to designers in general and their practice.]

First of all, let's assume that Kahneman's theory is a good description of two forms of thinking. One that is intuitive and fast and one that is reflective and slow. I have been teaching designing for many years and I have found that students commonly have problems in knowing how to apply the two forms of thinking.

In many cases, students engage in slow thinking when they are facing design situations where they have to act and do things, for instance, generate ideas, sketch, explore, develop concepts, etc. This is the kind of activities that in general is suitable for fast thinking, intuitive and instinctive thinking. Instead, they engage in slow thinking, they try to figure things out, they try to use reflective thinking to do it. This usually does not work so well, they get stuck, they do not make progress, they are not creative and innovative. They get very insecure about their own actions and if they are doing things 'right'.

My impressions is that these students and inexperienced designers are afraid of fast thinking. To them it goes against what they have been taught their whole life in school, that is, to carefully plan, think through, find the right way of approaching a task and then apply that approach. To act based on intuition and intuitive thinking feels wrong to them. And they commonly admit that.

They are usually better at applying slow thinking. They do want to reflect and think about their practice. Often they are intrigued by Schon's ideas about reflection and its role in designing. But at the same time, they miss the message from Schon about the act of designing which is that you have to trust your experience and your built up repertoire of design knowledge, and just do it.

Designing truly requires both fast and slow thinking. But it is crucial to understand when which form of thinking is appropriate.


Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Interaction Design Is Changing

We have seen some dramatic shifts in interaction design the last couple of decade. Interaction design has gone from being focused on providing good information in a functional and useful way to the design of interactions that also include the overall experience. There has over time been several of these shifts (sometimes called waves or paradigms). This constant development of the field is what makes it an exciting area to be in, and forces everyone to continuous learning and competence development.

I believe we are moving into another shift. It is not an obvious shift but over time it will lead to an important challenge when it comes to all interaction design. Once again technology development is the force behind the shift. The shift can simply be seen as having to do with the implementation of interactivity. Or where interactivity will be 'living'?

It is possible to think about three main forms of future interaction in relation to where it is implemented.

#1- we will always have the traditional form of implementation in stationary setups, that is the traditional interface (surface based),  any kind of interactive setup (interface) on a thing, machine, or equipment.

#2- we are already living with a new form of implementation, that is, the implementation in personal devices that we carry with us,  such as smartphones and other small devices.

#3- finally, we are seeing an emergent new form of implementation when we infuse our environments with interactive power where we interact just by doing things, moving around, without any designated surface/interface to engage with. The store door is an old but typical example. We interact with it just by walking towards it.

A lot of things differ between these forms of implementation. I will not go into any detail here since my purpose is to make the case that this ongoing shift in implementations of interaction will radically change interaction design.

We have seen many examples where interaction designers have moved the interactions from one implementation to another. For instance, doing online bank business was early on always done in a stationary setup which led to certain forms of interaction, and now it has (in many cases) moved to a personal device. This has not only changed where you can interact, but also how and when. And it has changed the overall experience of being in touch with your bank, accounts and money.

We also see a lot of interaction moving into the environment, where people do not have to 'interact' in any traditional sense. The house changes its temperature when you enter it. The environment knows where you are and what you want and acts accordingly.

So, as an interaction designer, when should your interaction be implemented as 1, 2 or 3?

This will become a hugely complex design problem. It is difficult to fully understand how a specific interaction can be implemented in all these forms. The technological possibilities are expanding. People's expectations are changing. To individual designers, this may be an overwhelming problem. But every interaction has to be implemented in some way so the decision is there to be made.

The shift from #1 to #2 has been exciting and is ongoing. The shift from to #3 has only just begun but will maybe, or probably, be even more dramatic. Are certain interactions not possible to move between the implementations? What are the proportions? Will we one day only have #3....

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