"Elements of Interaction Design"

20 May 2006 - 1:25pm
8 years ago
15 replies
734 reads
Adler
2006

I feel we have a language issue here... "elements" seems to mean
something for someone and more a general thing for others.

what do you mean by elements, then?

from what you wrote in your blog they seem to describe the elements to
consider when designing a product (digital or analog). People and
Context is shapes, constrains and influences the design. So how would
you call these 3 things (element, people, context) as a whole?

IMO, the title "_the_ elements of IxD", calls for the things we need
to look at/think about when doing IxD. And, I know that everyone
knows, people and context should be there as well.

It would be interesting to frame/place these elements (context, people
(users) and the things associated (included in people and context)
culture, social) in Interaction Design as a whole.

--Adler

On 5/12/06, Fred van Amstel <usabilidoido at gmail.com> wrote:
> Extending Dave´s vision, I think context is the broader element that
> encompass all other. Interaction designers create and modify symbolic,
> social and cultural contexts through their artifacts.
>
> Dan´s elements are resources or factors we have to deal to create the
> context, but he only elicited built-in artifact caracteristics that
> cannot grant predicted user actions, because it´s effects depends
> strongly on context.
>
> I think symbolic, social and cultural factors are much more suitable
> to be called "the elements of interaction design" instead of thoose
> isolated intrinsic caracteristics.

--
Research Assistant
Interaction Design / Computer-Supported Cooperative Work
HCI Group, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden
adler at BEST.eu.org | http://www.nada.kth.se/~adler/

Comments

20 May 2006 - 2:23pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On May 20, 2006, at 11:25 AM, Adler wrote:

> what do you mean by elements, then?

I meant the basic, raw things that interaction designers have to
manipulate within a product or service. Changing or manipulating any
of them (time, space, motion, appearance, sound, texture) can alter
the service in profound ways. An ATM machine displaying twice as fast
becomes a video game, for example. A laptop grown in size to a wall
will change significantly how and where it is used.

People and context are important, sure. I'm not discounting them. I'm
just not quite egotistical enough to suggest that interaction
designers manipulate them as directly as the other elements. It's
more of an indirect affect. I would say that through using the
elements, we are able to change both context and human behavior,
however. By putting a button in a certain place on screen, I change
the how the screen looks and cause people who need to push that
button to move their mouse there. Am I affecting people and context?
Yes, but only indirectly. It might be splitting hairs, but that's how
I chose to do it. Your milage may vary. :)

Dan

11 May 2006 - 8:19am
Dave Malouf
2005

Dan Saffer recently contributed a teaser excerpt from his upcoming book
"Designing for Interaction". It comes out this late summer. (He didn't
want to compete with all the blockbuster movies out in the early summer
season.)

The excerpt in question entitled "The Elements of Interaction Design"
were published at UXMatters.com. I think it is an excellent crack at
trying to take on the subject of elemental or foundational
deconstruction of Interaction Design. The piece is available here:
http://uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000096.php

I posted on my blog a review of his piece with some additional elements
that are not on the same exact plane that he is describing, and also
elaborate a bit on some of the ones he did mention. That is here:
http://synapticburn.com/comments.php?id=143_0_1_0_C

The big thing that I think is missing from Dan's piece is the allegory
for IxD to "negative space". I have a posting that tries to explore what
negative space might mean for IxD:
http://synapticburn.com/comments.php?id=107_0_1_0_C

The questions for the group after all those plugs (I confess!!!) are:
1) What do people think of this break down (Dan's by itself and then my
additions)?
2) What value do people find to these sorts of excises for the greater
practice, education, and advancement of IxD if any?

-- dave

12 May 2006 - 2:40am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

Dave writes on one of the mentioned blog pages:

"All in all, I think that Dan’s chapter is a great start for
important work that will be very relevant to a studio education in
IxD. I hope schools look at this type of break down and start
developing curricula around it."

As an interaction-design studio educator, my experience is that
general taxonomies such as Dan's are double-edged swords. One one
hand, they are very useful for experienced people to structure and
communicate their practical knowledge. It seems that the kind of
practical knowledge best suited for such structuring is evaluative
knowledge (the ability to assess and judge designs) as opposed to
generative knowledge (the ability to create designs).

On the other hand, inexperienced learners typically do not benefit
from reduction into aspects -- what they seem to need the most in
early stages is generative knowledge, which requires more holistic
entrances into the field. Specifically, the first priority is for the
learner to build a repertoire of examples and core ideas in the
design field or design genre of interest. (This is one of the reasons
for the long-standing tradition in any mature design field of
maintaining a canon of important designs.)

However, I am not saying that there is no value in general aspect
taxonomies. I can see how they would be very useful in structuring
reflection and discussion around examples and other, more holistic,
units such as the notion of desirable experiential qualities. This
could hold in teacher-student dialogue during the design process as
well as in presentations, critiques and other reflective assignments.

But I would certainly not develop a curriculum around it, if that is
taken to mean a module on Motion, followed by modules on Space, Time,
Appearance, and so on.

My approach is rather to structure a curriculum by design genres
(labels I would use for modules are on the level of Mass media and
interactive media, Pervasive computing, Interactive visualization,
Calm computing, and so on) and bring general aspects such as Dan's
suggestions and Dave's additions to bear as needed to support
reflection and assessment in each of the genres addressed.

Jonas Löwgren

----
Arts and Communication
Malmö University, SE-205 06 Malmö, Sweden

phone +46 7039 17854
web http://webzone.k3.mah.se/k3jolo

12 May 2006 - 5:51am
Dave Malouf
2005

Jonas,

> But I would certainly not develop a curriculum around it, if that is
> taken to mean a module on Motion, followed by modules on
> Space, Time,
> Appearance, and so on.

Are you familiar w/ the Pratt's cirriculum on Industrial Design? I have had
a cursory experience with it and found it to be like what you describe you
wouldn't do. The first year of the MA program is structured around the
aspects or what they call foundations. Whole studios are spent exploring
volume for example, then space, then color, etc. Looking at the output of
these studios, I felt them to be quite powerful tools for the next step of
engaging into more real project work. I have been trying to explore in my
mind what such a program would be like if applied to IxD. I know that not
all Ind. Des. Schools work this way and that Pratt is sometimes considered
to be an outlyer, but the Reed school of Foundation is definitely a big
influence on me anyway.

I have tried to use it in my thinking of the studio work I do as a
practitioner. Sometimes, in my design work, I will do 3 or 4 variations on a
design playing with an aspect or foundational element to see what comes of
it and most definitely I will evaluate my designs on these foundations as
they relate to cognitive issues associated with each one.

It is interesting how my interaction designers when the think of Time, think
about it at a micro-level. I think a great contribution to thinking about
Time as an aspect is Cooper's take on "posture". How much time and focus do
I spend with and how will greatly effect the result. But it can be thought
of the other way. How much time do I want or expect a user to spend infront
of the screen. Stickiness (if I may be so 90s) is a manipulation of time.
Persuading the user to remain, take more time, is a great variation on time
as an aspect.

> My approach is rather to structure a curriculum by design genres
> (labels I would use for modules are on the level of Mass media and
> interactive media, Pervasive computing, Interactive visualization,
> Calm computing, and so on) and bring general aspects such as Dan's
> suggestions and Dave's additions to bear as needed to support
> reflection and assessment in each of the genres addressed.

I think there is definitely a place for the approach above, but for me this
is rushing. These are mediums or canvases to work in. But before I start
doing project-based work like this, I need to have specific skills. Another
way to look at aspect work is to create expertise in craft before engaging
in expertise on theory. Now it could be said that you can build one without
the other, but I might hypothesize that doing so, prepares your students to
be great at interactive media, pervasive, visualization, calm and so on, but
will they be able to have a set of core skills that they can then apply to
"Next Tech"?

I'm sure there is a combination that can be done here. But I would caution a
purely reflective evaluative approach to using aspects (but I do like the
word aspects), as I do think of the aspects as different pens or inks or
paints to manipulate.

In a piece I did for <interactions> last year I suggested that the
aesthetics of IxD can be an allegory to the aesthetics of other
multidimensional art forms, such as Dance. To be an amazing director of a
dance company you need not only have expertise in movement of the body, but
you need to understand music, light, costume and other elements.
Manipulating these elements is not a point of reflection, but rather a point
of conscious intention.

Can it be suggested that if we want to move IxD into being understood as an
aesthetic form of design (as visual design is often) we need to have an
educational program (Jonas, maybe you are doing this) that uses aspects to
help draw out an aesthetic craft. Or is our only craft, how to make task
flows and widgets?

-- dave

12 May 2006 - 8:31am
Fred van Amstel
2005

Extending Dave´s vision, I think context is the broader element that
encompass all other. Interaction designers create and modify symbolic,
social and cultural contexts through their artifacts.

Dan´s elements are resources or factors we have to deal to create the
context, but he only elicited built-in artifact caracteristics that
cannot grant predicted user actions, because it´s effects depends
strongly on context.

I think symbolic, social and cultural factors are much more suitable
to be called "the elements of interaction design" instead of thoose
isolated intrinsic caracteristics.

I´m thinking the domain of the interaction designer is somewhat like that:

User > Behavior > Activities > Tasks > Actions > System
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Designer
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv
System > Controls > Flows > Environments > Adaptation > User

To anybody that can read in portuguese:
http://www.usabilidoido.com.br/o_dominio_do_design_de_interacao.html

--
.
.{ Frederick van Amstel }. Curitiba ´´ Brazil
¶ ...''''''''''|| www.usabilidoido.com.br

12 May 2006 - 9:31am
Dan Saffer
2003

On May 12, 2006, at 6:31 AM, Fred van Amstel wrote:

> I think symbolic, social and cultural factors are much more suitable
> to be called "the elements of interaction design" instead of thoose
> isolated intrinsic caracteristics.

I think how the designer uses the elements and how they appear in the
final design are influenced by symbolic, social, and cultural
factors. The elements themselves are agnostic about them. At least
how I tried to outline them.

The problem with excerpts is that, well, they're excerpts. :) They
grab a chunk from a chapter, losing some context. Later on in this
same chapter, I talk about the attributes of good interaction design,
the second one of which is appropriate, meaning: "The solutions that
interaction designers come up with need to be appropriate to the
culture, situation, and context that they live in. All of these
factors can drastically affect the type of product or service that a
designer makes."

Time and space, to use two of the elements, aren't different from
culture to culture, although how they are used and perceived
certainly are.

Dan Saffer
Designing for Interaction
New Riders, August 2006
http://www.designingforinteraction.com

12 May 2006 - 9:38am
Dan Saffer
2003

On May 11, 2006, at 6:19 AM, Dave Heller wrote:

>
> The big thing that I think is missing from Dan's piece is the allegory
> for IxD to "negative space". I have a posting that tries to explore
> what
> negative space might mean for IxD:
> http://synapticburn.com/comments.php?id=107_0_1_0_C

As I noted on Dave's blog, I think negative space is simply the
element of time, acting like a rest does in music. There is no
negative space between pressing a key and seeing a letter appear on
the screen, only time passing. It's time that creates the rhythm of a
product.

Dan

12 May 2006 - 9:42am
Simon Asselbergs
2005

H!

I think our task is related to _anything_ the user
experiences directly and indirectly related to software.
Ofcourse you can narrow it down to the most appearing tasks
on a standard job. But of course you can see interaction
design as an artform, where every new interaction statement
could also be a redefinition of the artform itself. Why
narrowing yourself if you can extrude?

But I don't use to much things like a description of
elements. They are just some criteria you can use to describe
things. When designing things, I at least have a design
rationale build from very fine grained design descisions,
most of the time I don't need to think of such huge elements.
No design context is the same. Models or descriptions of
processes don't guarantee a good interaction design. Only users
can.

The rest is only creative inspiration. In such cases I personally need
a lot of new material to get inspired to innovate. Some people
may find these elements inpiring, the others scientific stuff,
or just any kind of communicative art, or last but not least
experience. Limitations can also inspire to do new things.

Cheers,

simon

--
_______________________________________________

Search for businesses by name, location, or phone number. -Lycos Yellow Pages

http://r.lycos.com/r/yp_emailfooter/http://yellowpages.lycos.com/default.asp?SRC=lycos10

12 May 2006 - 10:13am
Tom Erickson
2006

At 9:40 AM +0200 5/12/06, Jonas Löwgren wrote:
>On the other hand, inexperienced learners typically do not benefit
>from reduction into aspects -- what they seem to need the most in
>early stages is generative knowledge, which requires more holistic
>entrances into the field.

Jonas' comment reminded me of a piece a wrote a long time ago about
how to get started on an interaction design problem, reflecting on
what the Interaction Design equivalent of the architect's reflective
sketching is. For me, it's storytelling. For the essay see
http://www.visi.com/~snowfall/Storytelling.html

--Tom
--
------------------------------------------
Tom Erickson
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
Email: snowfall at acm.org (preferred); snowfall at us.ibm.com(IBM confidential)
http://www.visi.com/~snowfall/

12 May 2006 - 10:43am
Dave Malouf
2005

Dan Saffer wrote:
> As I noted on Dave's blog, I think negative space is simply the
> element of time, acting like a rest does in music. There is no
> negative space between pressing a key and seeing a letter appear on
> the screen, only time passing. It's time that creates the rhythm of a
> product.
>
>
I didn't have a chance yet on my blog, but I might as well respond here.
I disagree with this. I do not agree that Time is the negative space.
Yes, time passes during periods of negative space, but time is an
inactive concept. What we are controlling here in controlling negative
space are moments of inactivity, or passivity. So as "white" is negative
in graphic design, passivity is negative in interaction design.

and in retrospect, I think that "time" is not a really an aspect at all.
Time is a monitor, or a measure, but is not an aspect or element. But
rather it is the duality of activity vs. inactivity or your combination
of motion vs. time combined together that are much more powerful and
that would speak directly to behavior when you think that interaction
design is a dialog of reference between at least 2 separate entities
(user and product/system).

I love the example I gave where "doing nothing" creates systemic change.
Even at the thought level. So what is the "negative" in that case. if it
is Time, there is nothing negative going on, b/c "doing nothing" still
has "motion" from the system and even change in inertia within the
system, reacting the level of "nothingness" (if you will). But user
"inactivity" is really what is "not" happening, or negative here.

I think that the notion of time being negative space, to me is not
relating to the fact that something not happening is a happening in and
of itself, it is a decision, or an action. The example of "rest" within
music is one type of negative space of music, and has tremendous effect
on aesthetics within the music. John Cale's 4:33 is a great example of
that, no? heh heh heh. (Ok, I'm realizing I have the performer and song
title both wrong ... oh well ... help?)

-- dave

-- dave

12 May 2006 - 3:14pm
Eugene Chen
2004

Dave said:
"I love the example I gave where "doing nothing" creates systemic change.
Even at the thought level. So what is the "negative" in that case. if it is
Time, there is nothing negative going on, b/c "doing nothing" still has
"motion" from the system and even change in inertia within the system,
reacting the level of "nothingness" (if you will). But user "inactivity" is
really what is "not" happening, or negative here."

...Ok, then maybe this is jumping TOO far, but if we extend this line of
thinking, maybe the IxD medium is in fact Cognition (itself? itself!)

Many people have suggested Conversation as a metaphor for IxD and this fits
quite well. But as Dave points out, things can continue going on, on both
the system side ("Erasing harddrive ... 80% complete") and on the user side
("Where's that darn link?") even when neither side is actively "saying"
anything.

You could imagine that we hook up a users brain to some medical brain
scanner and watch the readout as they use the system. The users brain is
working hard or easy in various lobes, both because of their initiatives and
in reaction to the system output. The pattern, rhythm, density, smoothness,
complexity, shape, color, cohesion, etc. of the users brain pattern is the
actual embodiment/result of the interaction design. The aesthetic is to
strive to engender patterns of various sorts: minimalist, high impact, blue
period, etc.

- Eugene

Eugene Chen | User Experience Design, Strategy, and Usability
main 415 282 7456 | mobile 415 336 1783 | fax 240 282 7452
web http://www.eugenechendesign.com

15 May 2006 - 1:31am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

Last week, I said that for curricula in interaction design, I prefer
a genre-based structure aimed at building a repertoire of example-
based generative knowledge.

Dave replied that there is a need for specific skills (craft skills),
and the aspects proposed by Dan and augmented by Dave can be seen as
a way to structure the foundational-skills part of a curriculum.

I agree completely about the need for craft skills. A designer
without craft skills generally does not understand the materials and
cannot explore the design space adequately.

I realize that I should have mentioned a couple more things to put my
comments in a proper context:
- The IxD programs I have worked on are Masters programs that
students apply to after earning a Bachelor's degree.
- Recruitment is aimed at composing a mix of students from art &
design, digital technology, usability/HCI, and media production. Each
of the students brings a set of craft skills from her mother discipline.
- In the first year of study, when the genre-based curriculum would
be applied, most of the projects are performed in multidisciplinary
groups where students combine their craft skills to learn from each
other and explore the nature of the T-shaped knowledge profile needed
in the field (significant depth in one discipline, enough knowledge
in a number of other disciplines to be able to work with the
specialists of those disciplines).

However, for the record I might note that there are no pedagogical
laws of nature stating that foundational skills must be studied
before their application. Problem-based learning approaches, which
are closely related to project-based learning, essentially ask the
students to identify knowledge needs in real-world situations and to
learn the foundations as dictated by the applications.

Jonas Löwgren

----
Arts and Communication
Malmö University, SE-205 06 Malmö, Sweden

phone +46 7039 17854
web http://webzone.k3.mah.se/k3jolo

15 May 2006 - 10:31am
Robert Reimann
2003

I'm not sure if I can quite get my own prefrontal cortex around the idea
of the aesthetics of Functional MRI scans :^), but Eugene makes an
excellent point about machine/human conversation/dialogue being at
the core of IxD.

I've always viewed the human/machine relationship as a feedback system,
where human behaviors drive the design of machine behaviors, and where
designed machine behaviors result in modifications to human behaviors.

It seems to be that a true IxD aesthetic is an aesthetic of behavior: what
makes for good machine behavior for the individual? for families and groups?

for society at large? for the environment? How does/should context affect
machine behaviors?

This kind of aesthetic is I think somewhat new, as it is not directly about
form or presentation (though it may also involve these things). To me,
Communications Design, Industrial Design, Cinema, and the various
Performing Arts all have aesthetic traditions from which IxD can borrow
to help describe form and presentation, but the place where we are
more at sea is developing a design language for behavior.

*About Face 2.0* touches on this issue in a limited way in Chapters 7 and
14,
where there are discussions on the ethical imperatives of IxD (e.g., "do no
harm")
and on the elements of "considerate" software interactions, respectively.
But
I think it's a fascinating and largely unexplored topic.

Robert.

--

Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

On 5/12/06, Eugene Chen <eugene at amanda.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Dave said:
> "I love the example I gave where "doing nothing" creates systemic change.
> Even at the thought level. So what is the "negative" in that case. if it
> is
> Time, there is nothing negative going on, b/c "doing nothing" still has
> "motion" from the system and even change in inertia within the system,
> reacting the level of "nothingness" (if you will). But user "inactivity"
> is
> really what is "not" happening, or negative here."
>
>
> ...Ok, then maybe this is jumping TOO far, but if we extend this line of
> thinking, maybe the IxD medium is in fact Cognition (itself? itself!)
>
> Many people have suggested Conversation as a metaphor for IxD and this
> fits
> quite well. But as Dave points out, things can continue going on, on both
> the system side ("Erasing harddrive ... 80% complete") and on the user
> side
> ("Where's that darn link?") even when neither side is actively "saying"
> anything.
>
> You could imagine that we hook up a users brain to some medical brain
> scanner and watch the readout as they use the system. The users brain is
> working hard or easy in various lobes, both because of their initiatives
> and
> in reaction to the system output. The pattern, rhythm, density,
> smoothness,
> complexity, shape, color, cohesion, etc. of the users brain pattern is the
> actual embodiment/result of the interaction design. The aesthetic is to
> strive to engender patterns of various sorts: minimalist, high impact,
> blue
> period, etc.
>
>
> - Eugene
>
> Eugene Chen | User Experience Design, Strategy, and Usability
> main 415 282 7456 | mobile 415 336 1783 | fax 240 282 7452
> web http://www.eugenechendesign.com
>

15 May 2006 - 10:38am
Dave Malouf
2005

Robert Reimann wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I'm not sure if I can quite get my own prefrontal cortex around the idea
> of the aesthetics of Functional MRI scans :^), but Eugene makes an
> excellent point about machine/human conversation/dialogue being at
> the core of IxD.
>
>
A great example of aesthetics of interaction design for MRI (or other
Cat Scan equipment) was the work that won Philips Design.
http://www.idsa.org/idea/idea2005/g613.htm

--

David (Heller) Malouf
Vice President
dave(at)ixda(dot)org
http://ixda.org/
http://synapticburn.com/

AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux //
MSN: hippiefunk(at)hotmail.com // Gtalk: dave.ixd(at)gmail.com

15 May 2006 - 11:02am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

Dave said:
> A great example of aesthetics of interaction design for MRI (or other
> Cat Scan equipment) was the work that won Philips Design.
> http://www.idsa.org/idea/idea2005/g613.htm

I am not sure I understand the brief description on the web page
correctly, but my interpretation is that the personalized multimedia
environment glosses over the MRI machine and distracts the patient,
while the machine is in itself unchanged by the proposed design.

If that is correct, then I am not sure I would call it a great
example of aesthetics in interaction design.

"Great" could have been to find a way to make the machine's operation
and the captured MRI data part of the multimedia environment before,
during and after the scan, to address the roots of scariness and
claustrophobia (which I assume in part to consist in unfamiliarity,
the threatening opaque-ness of the machine and its actions) through
empowerment rather than trying to hide them.

Jonas Löwgren

----
Arts and Communication
Malmö University, SE-205 06 Malmö, Sweden

phone +46 7039 17854
web http://webzone.k3.mah.se/k3jolo

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