What does it mean to be an interaction designer?

25 May 2006 - 7:16pm
8 years ago
10 replies
1191 reads
Simon Asselbergs
2005

Hi All,

I am toying around with the idea to write some articles based on the high experience density on this list. My situation, coming straight from my education to setup my position on a medium sized company where it didn't existed before, leads to questions valuable for other newcomers who might want to do just the same. It is a experience which leads to questions why things are and how they are from a fresh point of view. When you're doing you Masters (or Bachelor), the main focus is more about "what is interaction design" than "how is it to be an interaction designer in an company as a professional". The every days' life of an interaction designer might seem obvious if your organisation has enough experience with it, but it is certainly not when your organisation hasn't any. As a newcomer to this list I found answers of the experiences from the more seasoned interaction designers deeply invaluable.

Three simple questions:
1. How many books do you know about "What does it mean to be an interaction designer"?
2. If I would write such article which organisations (for example similar to ixda.org) would be possibly be interested to publish these articles?
3. a)Would any of you see the value of such articles? b)What do you think would be interesting issues based on your own experiences?

Cheers,

Simon

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Comments

25 May 2006 - 9:34pm
LukeW
2004

Simon,

Frank Ramirez recently published a post about getting started with
interaction design and has a nice list of books:
http://www.ramirezdesign.com/2006/04/getting_started_with_interacti.htm

I have two resources which might also help. The first is a list of
online design magazines that would be interested in publishing the
type of ixd article you described:
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?346

the second is a post about why being an interaction designer matters:
http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?23

hope this helps~

On May 25, 2006, at 5:16 PM, Simon Asselbergs wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> Hi All,
>
> I am toying around with the idea to write some articles based on
> the high experience density on this list. My situation, coming
> straight from my education to setup my position on a medium sized
> company where it didn't existed before, leads to questions valuable
> for other newcomers who might want to do just the same. It is a
> experience which leads to questions why things are and how they are
> from a fresh point of view. When you're doing you Masters (or
> Bachelor), the main focus is more about "what is interaction
> design" than "how is it to be an interaction designer in an
> company as a professional". The every days' life of an interaction
> designer might seem obvious if your organisation has enough
> experience with it, but it is certainly not when your organisation
> hasn't any. As a newcomer to this list I found answers of the
> experiences from the more seasoned interaction designers deeply
> invaluable.
>
> Three simple questions:
> 1. How many books do you know about "What does it mean to be an
> interaction designer"?
> 2. If I would write such article which organisations (for example
> similar to ixda.org) would be possibly be interested to publish
> these articles?
> 3. a)Would any of you see the value of such articles? b)What do you
> think would be interesting issues based on your own experiences?
>
> 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
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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::
:: Luke Wroblewski -[ www.lukew.com ]
:: Principal, LukeW Interface Designs
:: luke at lukew.com | 408.879.9826
::

25 May 2006 - 9:48pm
Dan Saffer
2003

On May 25, 2006, at 5:16 PM, Simon Asselbergs wrote:

> Three simple questions:
> 1. How many books do you know about "What does it mean to be an
> interaction designer"?

Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann's About Face 2.0
Designing from Both Sides of the Screen by Ellen Isaacs and Alan
Walendowski

I'm sure Bill Moggridge's upcoming book "Designing Interactions" will
address this as well.

> 2. If I would write such article which organisations (for example
> similar to ixda.org) would be possibly be interested to publish
> these articles?

Boxes and Arrows
UXmatters
ACM's Interactions

Dan

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

26 May 2006 - 5:57am
Meara NI
2005

Simon wrote:
> I am toying around with the idea to write some articles
> ...
> how is it to be an interaction designer in an company as
> a professional.

Simon,

This sounds like a fantastic idea.

> Three simple questions:
> 1. How many books do you know about "What does it mean to be an
> interaction designer"?

I'd second Dan's excellent suggestions - About Face 2.0 and Designing
>From Both Sides of the Screen - but also add Adrian Shaughnessy's How to
be a Graphic Designer: Without Losing Your Soul <
http://tinyurl.com/kgtz3 >.

This sets out to be 'a career manual for graphic designers' and may have
some parallels for the type of articles you're looking to write.

It's an excellent read and, as you say, covers a lot of practical things
that aren't necessarily taught at school (although, for me it focused
too much on graphic design 'rock stars', despite Shaughnessy's stated
intention not to). Anyway, might be worth a look to see one approach to
this subject from a different design discipline.

Cheers,

Nick.
.................................................
Nick Meara Senior Systems Implementer
Information Systems Aston
Aston University, Birmingham

26 May 2006 - 6:19am
Simon Asselbergs
2005

Hi All,

> > 1. How many books do you know about "What does it mean to be an
> > interaction designer"?
>
> Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann's About Face 2.0
> Designing from Both Sides of the Screen by Ellen Isaacs and Alan
> Walendowski
>
> I'm sure Bill Moggridge's upcoming book "Designing Interactions" will
> address this as well.

Maybe I need to refine my explanation.
I am not speaking about what an interaction designer is, but what it means to be an interaction designer inside an organisation, in practical terms.
I do want to adress issues like:
* with who interaction designers can communicate (based on different approaches how organistions are structured, only roughly speaking), for example how Marketing and interaction design can benefit from eachother in practical terms, how visual designers can cooperate with interaction designers, and some references to discussions about empowered design.

I sense that a lot of interaction designers from my organisation are working for media companies (mostly webbased solutions) and I get the idea there are still so many medium sized organisations which don't know what interaction design is and have no clear immediate thoughts how to integrate an interaction designer into their organisation. This situation seems at least to be the case in The Netherlands (I have not yet an idea how that is globally). I can imagine seasoned interaction designers are sometimes the first interaction designers to be the companies first, but apparently new fresh graduated interaction designers (like me) also see possibilities to prophetize interaction design to less typical companies which weren't aware of the existence of interaction design.

>From the point of view of these new interaction designers it might be interesting to have some guidelines about how to define interaction design in such a company. And from the point of view of these companies it might be interesting what issues should be adressed when contracting a interaction designer for the first time (management considerations about the integration in the organisational structure and some thoughts about managing innovation and client satisfaction). I am interested in how people from this list would value such articles.

Simon

--
_______________________________________________

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26 May 2006 - 7:12am
Simon Asselbergs
2005

> I sense that a lot of interaction designers from my organisation
> are working for media companies (mostly webbased solutions) and I
> get the idea there are still so many medium sized

Correction, I of course "organisation" in this sentence has to be replaced by "education"

--
_______________________________________________

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

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26 May 2006 - 8:49am
Greg Petroff
2004

Being the first to promote and implement IxD work within a large company,
b2b style space is challenging. Especially if the development environment is
established and set in their methods of operation. I spent a couple of years
working within the development group at the NYSE which had a good track
record of engaging outside IxD consultants for their trading systems but no
understanding at all on its merits or use on internal development projects.
Here are some first hand experiences as a recipe for how to build
understanding from within.

1. Read Alan Cooper's "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
2. Read Cooper and Reiman's "About Face 2.0"
3. Find an executive in the organization that thinks that the current
process of development is too slow, or missing the mark, or is confusing
etc. (Not hard to find in a most IT related organizations).
4. Convince him to read the "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
5. Make a presentation to him on Goal Directed Design (GDD) process as
detailed in "About Face". Focus on the premise that this method should
provide a faster development time frame, more accurate product definition,
simpler and more usable software etc. Tell him your not sure it will work in
this environment but we should test it. De-emphasise the persona
development process if you sense that they feel uncomfortable about it.
They will get it later and you must do this part to succeed.
6. Get them to "try it out" once as an experiment on a small project.
7. Make sure you have access to real users as part of the agreement to do
the work. (end run the requirements gathering teams if you have to).
8. Develop your solution with a robust prototype with sound IxD work. (Can
be a paper prototype)
9. Show it to users and evaluate (testing can be informal).
10. Incorporate user testing info and refine your prototype.
10. Present solution to Manager and MAKE SURE that he knows that the whole
GDD process was his idea all along.
11. All of a sudden everyone will be running around in the org talking about
GDD (IT shops love their acronyms).
12. Your next project starts the right way!
13. Developers actually begin to like you!

-gp

On 5/26/06, Simon Asselbergs <interaction-designer at lycos.com> wrote:
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
>
> > I sense that a lot of interaction designers from my organisation
> > are working for media companies (mostly webbased solutions) and I
> > get the idea there are still so many medium sized
>
> Correction, I of course "organisation" in this sentence has to be replaced
> by "education"
>
> --
> _______________________________________________
>
> 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
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> List Guidelines ............ http://listguide.ixda.org/
> List Help .................. http://listhelp.ixda.org/
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://subscription-options.ixda.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixda.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixda.org
> Home ....................... http://ixda.org/
> Resource Library ........... http://resources.ixda.org
>

--
Gregory Petroff
Mobile # 646 387 2841
greg.petroff(at)gmail.com

26 May 2006 - 8:59am
Dave Malouf
2005

Having read a bit more about Simon's question, the one source that jumps
to mind is Guy Kawasaki's work on Evangelism.

I'd say 75% of building IxD in an org where it hasn't been before is
about evangelism. You need to sell design, UCD, and finally interaction
design at various points. Then you'll need to sell even more
methodologies and processes.

Guy does a great job of describing the work of an evangelist.

the other piece to this puzzle is just what I call the "just do it"
approach. It means long hours and a big pain point, but until people see
models it usually really difficult for them to imagine the intangible
value that IxD brings to them.

if you have a shop that is already pretty design centric like a media
organization, you still will probably have to evangelize UCD and UX
within the organization.

-- dave

26 May 2006 - 10:36am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> Maybe I need to refine my explanation.
> I am not speaking about what an interaction designer is, but what it means
> to be an interaction designer inside an organisation, in practical terms.

Seems to me this can vary widly depending on the company. If you're in a
situation you think is fairly representative of how IxD should be done, then
it sounds like a great idea, but as you can probably see from this list, the
way it *should* be done varies just as much. Still, it would be pretty cool
to read an insiders perspective. Nice idea.

-r-

26 May 2006 - 10:58am
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

> 1. Read Alan Cooper's "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
> 2. Read Cooper and Reiman's "About Face 2.0"

2A. And then read Norman's article on Activity-Centered Design and start
re-evaluating your approach. :)

4. Convince him to read the "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"

Good luck with this one. I've found the best way to demonstrate what IxD can
do is to do the work and prove it the hard way. Cooper suggests that in a
perfect world, on an 18-month project, design would be given 12 months and
dev would be given only 6. (I could be misquoting this, but you get the
point, I'm sure.) Most companies would never agree to this (possibly because
they have to keep the developers busy), and even if they did, it would be
pretty extreme and potentially counter-productive to burn up a year without
a single functioning feature. You can't really prove something works until
it works.

5. Make a presentation to him on Goal Directed Design (GDD) process as
> detailed in "About Face". Focus on the premise that this method should
> provide a faster development time frame, more accurate product definition,
> simpler and more usable software etc.

It will also result in a longer design period. I wouldn't gloss over this
fact.

6. Get them to "try it out" once as an experiment on a small project.

Excellent idea. I'm all for it.

13. Developers actually begin to like you!

I'm sure you meant this as a joke, but I wanted to make a point anyway. The
best way to get developers to build what you want is to give them something
they want to build. Often this means designing reusable interface elements,
because they love reusable code. Fortunately, reusable interface elements
also contribute to a simpler, more elegant design, so it's a win-win. No,
this doesn't always work, but if you can do this a couple of times right out
of the gate, they'll find it a lot easier to trust you later on when you're
asking them to build something less exciting later on.

The best way to get them to *like* you, on the other hand, is to make sure
they know you can get your hands dirty. Cooper's "skin in the game" notion
means different things to different people, but I have a programming
background, and the developers I work with trust and respect me so much
because of this. I always talk to them when devising my plans so they have a
technical voice (they dont usually get this, so they love it when I come to
them first), I know what they're talking about when they launch into
daydreams about how to create something, so they know they can talk to me in
their own language and that I'm on their level. With me, their constraints
are considered and their voice is heard.

I'm not saying everyone should become a programmer, but every IxD should
know exactly how difficult it is to pull off any given feature or UI. If
you've felt the pain yourself, you understand what they have to deal with,
and they love you for it.

That said, you obviously should sometimes ignore them, just like you should
sometimes ignore your users.

-r-

26 May 2006 - 2:06pm
Greg Petroff
2004

Hey Robert,

Good adds. The advantage I had was there was something not working in
developer land and it was not the developers fault. I think IxD as a process
can help reign in user requirments and keep stakeholders on task as to what
is going to meet the needs of the users the products were developed for. I
earned alot of credibility with the dev team becasue they were frustrated
that they were building great software that no one used or even worse they
had to change constantly to address ill defined requirements. This is where
the ROI of IxD can pay dividends in a smoother development process and even
a shorter one start to finish as resources are utilized more succesfully.

As David aluded to, building advocacy for IxD within our work environments
should be everyones responsibility. Context is everything, so each work
environment will have different issues, decison makers etc that will require
different ways to build awareness of the benfits of IxD and bringing about
organizational change to make IxD a part of their process. It would be great
to see other examples of how IxD starts in organizations and its recognized
value over time. I would also love to hear about where people have felt that
it has failed and for what reasons.

-gp

On 5/26/06, Robert Hoekman, Jr. <rhoekmanjr at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
> 1. Read Alan Cooper's "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
> > 2. Read Cooper and Reiman's "About Face 2.0"
>
>
> 2A. And then read Norman's article on Activity-Centered Design and start
> re-evaluating your approach. :)
>
> 4. Convince him to read the "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
>
>
> Good luck with this one. I've found the best way to demonstrate what IxD
> can do is to do the work and prove it the hard way. Cooper suggests that in
> a perfect world, on an 18-month project, design would be given 12 months and
> dev would be given only 6. (I could be misquoting this, but you get the
> point, I'm sure.) Most companies would never agree to this (possibly because
> they have to keep the developers busy), and even if they did, it would be
> pretty extreme and potentially counter-productive to burn up a year without
> a single functioning feature. You can't really prove something works until
> it works.
>
> 5. Make a presentation to him on Goal Directed Design (GDD) process as
> > detailed in "About Face". Focus on the premise that this method should
> > provide a faster development time frame, more accurate product
> > definition,
> > simpler and more usable software etc.
>
>
> It will also result in a longer design period. I wouldn't gloss over this
> fact.
>
> 6. Get them to "try it out" once as an experiment on a small project.
>
>
> Excellent idea. I'm all for it.
>
> 13. Developers actually begin to like you!
>
>
> I'm sure you meant this as a joke, but I wanted to make a point anyway.
> The best way to get developers to build what you want is to give them
> something they want to build. Often this means designing reusable interface
> elements, because they love reusable code. Fortunately, reusable interface
> elements also contribute to a simpler, more elegant design, so it's a
> win-win. No, this doesn't always work, but if you can do this a couple of
> times right out of the gate, they'll find it a lot easier to trust you later
> on when you're asking them to build something less exciting later on.
>
> The best way to get them to *like* you, on the other hand, is to make sure
> they know you can get your hands dirty. Cooper's "skin in the game" notion
> means different things to different people, but I have a programming
> background, and the developers I work with trust and respect me so much
> because of this. I always talk to them when devising my plans so they have a
> technical voice (they dont usually get this, so they love it when I come to
> them first), I know what they're talking about when they launch into
> daydreams about how to create something, so they know they can talk to me in
> their own language and that I'm on their level. With me, their constraints
> are considered and their voice is heard.
>
> I'm not saying everyone should become a programmer, but every IxD should
> know exactly how difficult it is to pull off any given feature or UI. If
> you've felt the pain yourself, you understand what they have to deal with,
> and they love you for it.
>
> That said, you obviously should sometimes ignore them, just like you
> should sometimes ignore your users.
>
> -r-
>

--
Gregory Petroff
Mobile # 646 387 2841
greg.petroff(at)gmail.com

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