IxD as architect (was UCD a process?)

18 Aug 2007 - 2:21pm
7 years ago
15 replies
725 reads
mtumi
2004

I agree that it seems ridiculous. To me, an interaction designer is
analogous to an architect, the difference being that whereas
architects are expected to know a lot about engineering, a lot of
interaction designers do not necessarily. I think that over time the
education will be similar, and interaction designers will have a
rigorous course of study that covers human factors, software
engineering, visual design and the other disciplines necessary to
architect (at that point more complex) digital experiences.

I was wondering if everyone else thought ID as architect was valid
enough as a general way of explaining what we do. Or maybe it's just
because I always wanted to be an architect... :-)

MT

>
> 3) Why don't we recognize that our complete and total failure to
> come up
> with a simple and clear definition of our profession(s) is one of the
> primary reasons no one understands what we do (and therefore can
> think it
> valueless)? Is it really like being an "artist"? We can label it
> but we
> can't define it?
>
> It's absurd. Really, really absurd.
>
> -r-

Comments

18 Aug 2007 - 3:33pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Yes, I think of architect as a good professional model and career path
model to think about however, I think of our discipline of design is
more akin to movie/play direction &/or choreography.

Incredibly mulit-medium, multi-faceted, collaborative at the creative
level, vision leading, etc.

Also, we need to literally choreograph together so many pieces around
our center.

-- dave

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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18 Aug 2007 - 5:37pm
Stew Dean
2007

On 18/08/07, Michael Tuminello <mt at motiontek.com> wrote:
> I agree that it seems ridiculous. To me, an interaction designer is
> analogous to an architect, the difference being that whereas
> architects are expected to know a lot about engineering, a lot of
> interaction designers do not necessarily.

I think you where right the first time. In fact nearly all the
interaction designers i know use the label 'information architect',
including myself for many years.

I would also argue to be a good interaction designer you must have a
good idea of engineering, that is not let others overly dictate what
you can and cannot do because of limitations of what ever system you
are working with. BUT I also hold, that it's advisable not have an
engineering mindset to be a good interaction designer / information
architect (same thing often).

So yes architect is a good term and really does indicate where folks
like us tend to sit in a team, working with designers, engineers,
business representatives and project managers to build things.

It's worth pointing out that real world architects often train for
many years so whilst it's worth comparing the two fields our world is
no where near as mature - which nicely leads me on to what you where
saying.....

> I think that over time the
> education will be similar, and interaction designers will have a
> rigorous course of study that covers human factors, software
> engineering, visual design and the other disciplines necessary to
> architect (at that point more complex) digital experiences.

I agree. I did a university degree that did cover all those factors
but not in a focused and cohesive enough way.

> I was wondering if everyone else thought ID as architect was valid
> enough as a general way of explaining what we do. Or maybe it's just
> because I always wanted to be an architect... :-)

No, you're right. Some companies use the title 'User Experience
Architect' that really does describe what an interaction designer /
information architect does but, i find, tends to alienate some (it
does have a 'you what?' quality to it when you first hear it).

Many of us are effectively architects for, well, user experiences.

--
Stewart Dean

18 Aug 2007 - 10:52pm
Nir Yariv
2007

$0.02: there's also Mitch Kapor's concept of Software Designer. He
came up with that around 1990, and it seems to me pretty similar to
what's now called Interaction Design (perhaps it's even a better name
for it?)

Scott Rosenberg (author of "Dreaming in Code") writes about it here:
http://www.wordyard.com/2006/12/08/kapor-design/ , my own recycled and
less articulate (but slightly shorter! ;)) take is here:
http://niryariv.wordpress.com/2007/08/05/the-software-designer/

19 Aug 2007 - 8:40am
mtumi
2004

Personally I think in most situations this is more apt, and this
generally what I say I do if people ask. To me, interaction design
suggests you are designing the human side of the equation as well as
the computer side of it. Its like calling graphic design "vision
design" or something like that. We can hope to lead people a certain
way to get a certain reaction or action, but that's the same thing
graphic designers do with type and imagery. experience design takes
it to an even higher level of grandiosity. Personally, I'd reserve
this term for someone who designed something like a fully immersive
disney theme park experience. I think a good part of the reason our
industry has problems defining itself is because of our resistance to
terms that are good descriptions, but somehow not flattering enough.
Try to find someone who calls themselves a web designer nowadays...

MT

On Aug 18, 2007, at 11:52 PM, Nir Yariv wrote:

> $0.02: there's also Mitch Kapor's concept of Software Designer. He
> came up with that around 1990, and it seems to me pretty similar to
> what's now called Interaction Design (perhaps it's even a better name
> for it?)
>
> Scott Rosenberg (author of "Dreaming in Code") writes about it here:
> http://www.wordyard.com/2006/12/08/kapor-design/ , my own recycled and
> less articulate (but slightly shorter! ;)) take is here:
> http://niryariv.wordpress.com/2007/08/05/the-software-designer/
> ________________________________________________________________
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19 Aug 2007 - 12:11pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

Michael Tuminello wrote:
> Personally I think in most situations this is more apt, and this
> generally what I say I do if people ask. To me, interaction design
> suggests you are designing the human side of the equation as well as
> the computer side of it. Its like calling graphic design "vision
> design" or something like that. We can hope to lead people a certain
> way to get a certain reaction or action, but that's the same thing
> graphic designers do with type and imagery. experience design takes
> it to an even higher level of grandiosity. Personally, I'd reserve
> this term for someone who designed something like a fully immersive
> disney theme park experience. I think a good part of the reason our
> industry has problems defining itself is because of our resistance to
> terms that are good descriptions, but somehow not flattering enough.
> Try to find someone who calls themselves a web designer nowadays...

I couldn't agree with this post more. Spot on.

Bob Baxley and I use to have conversations that the only people we knew who were
"experience" designers were those who called themselves "imagineers" at Disney's
theme park division. If you look at what design firms like Tomato in the UK do,
they are also what I'd call "experience designers" but what they do is
absolutely nothing like what we do.

And FWIW, for years, I've always told people, friends, family, etc that I'm a
software designer, even using that label on my IRS tax forms. But within the
field, the only reason I use interface over software is that for legacy reasons,
people inside the technology corporations thought software designers were engineers.

But I'd love to make a push to change the title to Software Design as that's the
only term over the 15+ years I've been doing this that has made sense since day
one. It's also the the thing that will never go away when you talk about digital
product design and what is coming over the next decade or two.

Andrei

19 Aug 2007 - 12:44pm
Jack L. Moffett
2005

Michael Tuminello wrote:
> Try to find someone who calls themselves a web designer nowadays...

Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
> But I'd love to make a push to change the title to Software Design
> as that's the
> only term over the 15+ years I've been doing this that has made
> sense since day
> one. It's also the the thing that will never go away when you talk
> about digital
> product design and what is coming over the next decade or two.

We've been over this so many times, I hesitate to participate in the
thread, but it has to be said. IxD is about more that computer
software and web design. Certainly, that is what I do in my current
position, but I'm also capable of working with an Industrial Designer
to design a consumer electronic product (or non-electric, for that
matter), or work with an organization to create/improve a service
they provide. Each of these has its own specific title (product
design, service design), but my role in the project would be as an
Interaction Designer. I can answer to the names Software Designer,
Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Interface Designer, etc., but the
reason I can claim all of them is that I have been trained and have
experience in Interaction Design.

Now I'm stepping off the soap box and returning to my current role as
Course Designer. Class starts Tuesday. ;)

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.459.0310 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

To design is much more than simply
to assemble, to order, or even to edit;
it is to add value and meaning,
to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify,
to modify, to dignify, to dramatize,
to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse.

- Paul Rand

20 Aug 2007 - 1:53am
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

Jack Moffett wrote:

> We've been over this so many times, I hesitate to participate in the
> thread, but it has to be said. IxD is about more that computer
> software and web design.

I hear this a lot. In reality, it seems to be such a rarity in the context of
what people on this list do to earn their keep I'm not sure why it's an
important distinction to keep bringing up. Further, so many products in the very
near future are going to have software components, I'm not sure why it's such a
bad thing to focus on what part it is that most of us actually design, which I
would guess for the majority of this list is the software component. (Especially
if consider a web site to be software, like I do.)

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

20 Aug 2007 - 8:21am
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Andrei,
I agree and disagree w/ what you are saying about IxD as software.

I agree that the vast majority of the people in THIS community doing
IxD are primarily focused on software.

I disagree that its acceptable to keep a definition of IxD that holds
to only software.

Why?

well, first off, I'm in a position of doing hard and soft IxD and
I'd hate to think that the more i move to hardware design the less
relevant the community I helped to create would become. (Sorry, just
have to get out the selfish side.)

But much more importantly, I believe that if more software designers
look outside of their core community for connection, education, and
inspiration the more solid the discipline and practice of IxD will
become.

This directly impacts our day-to-day practice as I believe that when
we think about our craft as something inclusive of hardware design we
come up with different types of solutions that would otherwise would
have been lost on us.

To me having IxD be limited to software is like having architecture
limited to skyscrapers. Sure, its like totally different than
designing a simple house (even a mansion) but the dialectic between
the two types of practices is there and worth maintaining. Yes, the
same person can even do both and why shouldn't that be true for
software and hardware?

I have toyed with creating "sig" lists for IxDA around topics of
hardware, enterprise, mobile, etc. but have found that no matter what
the topic is, there is definitely an overlap of the people talking and
I'm sure people listening. It just never made sense to me to fracture
the community.

-- dave

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20 Aug 2007 - 2:28pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Aug 20, 2007, at 6:21 AM, David Malouf wrote:

> I disagree that its acceptable to keep a definition of IxD that holds
> to only software.

You show me where this IxD lives outside of software that isn't
already covered by what people inside industrial design learn and do,
then I'll have some place to understand where you are coming from.
(Knowing full well I don't buy that the person who redesigns a
business process has anything to do what I think people who claim to
be "interaction" designers practice on this list.) In my experience,
the "hard" IxD as it relates to more hardware related products is
basically mixing more rooted industrial design practices with still
evolving software design practices. But in the end, the software
component is still a large part of that product and still has enough
unique distinctions in the digital form to warrant not being folded
into core industrial design just yet. Hell though... given that the
term "architecture" covers so many varied types, we (the digital/
interface/software designer) could easily wind up being swallowed by
"industrial design" since all products are becoming more and more
digital and just become the digital component of the larger product
design process, which would be fine by me.

And FWIW... as you know, I've never liked the IxD moniker to begin
with as I felt it was always a strange concept, especially as defined
by people who basically did software design and were not trained in
industrial design. A lot of these same folks are people now backing
into what industrial designers are taught from the get go only to
discover that this stuff has been around for quite some time, but
just in an analog form and not a digital form.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

20 Aug 2007 - 4:13pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
> You show me where this IxD lives outside of software...

Andrei, you've clearly staked out your territory on this issue. You
consider yourself a software designer. I believe that many people on
the list would agree with that point of view when it comes to
interaction design. But not me. Instead, I agree with Jack and Mark
and others who believe that interaction design is about more than
just software. I know this is a minority opinion on the list. I
despair about that from time to time, but I'm not willing to concede
the ground.

Even though you issued your challenge with enough caveats to almost
completely insulate your position from obvious examples like ubicomp,
here are a few interaction design projects that don't rely on
software or encroach on industrial designers' territory. These
projects sometimes produce artifacts. But the projects aren't about
those artifacts. Even software design projects aren't about the
artifacts. They're bigger than that. They're about the interactions
those artifacts facilitate.

I don't expect you to change your mind based on these examples. But
I would like you to stop trying to co-opt the term interaction design
as little more than a fancy buzzword for software design when you
barely even consider yourself an interface designer.

// jeff

Kate Wells and the Siyazama Project in South Africa
http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=6&tid=13677

Design as an agent of social transformation. The Interaction
potential really isn't about the beadwork dolls that the Zulu tribe
created, though the dolls were integral to the process. Instead, the
act of constructing the dolls was designed to provide a communal
setting for the women of the tribe to discuss AIDS and its
prevention, circumventing the cultural taboo against such
discussions.

UK Design Council on Social Issues
http://www.dexigner.com/design_news/5839.html

Hilary Cottam at the UK Design council applied a design approach to
some of the UK's biggest problems: prisoner re-offending rates,
failing secondary schools and the rising burden of chronic
healthcare. ... Their RED unit is applying design in new contexts. We
use product, communication, interaction and spatial designers' core
skills to transform the ways in which the public interacts with
systems, services, organisations and policies.

Tax design in Australia
http://powerofdesign.aiga.org/content.cfm/friday_focus_cat

A bold initiative for design in the public sector is underway in
Australia. Supported by the highest levels of government, this effort
seeks to apply methods from traditional design disciplines to the
problem of creating sustained excellence in the Australian taxation
system.

Mayo Clinic's SPARC Innovation Center
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/104/sparc.html

SPARC is not simply a research lab or a medical clinic. It's both.
Real patients see real doctors and, in doing so, participate in
experiments (they're briefed and asked for permission). Instead of
being shunted off-site, the program is based in the Mayo Building
like any other clinic; it occupies a corridor that used to house
urology. The acronym, which stands for "see, plan, act, refine, and
communicate," is meant to remind participants of the design-oriented
methodology so they'll continue to employ it when they return to
their departments.

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20 Aug 2007 - 4:53pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Aug 20, 2007, at 2:13 PM, Jeff Howard wrote:

> Andrei, you've clearly staked out your territory on this issue. You
> consider yourself a software designer. I believe that many people on
> the list would agree with that point of view when it comes to
> interaction design. But not me. Instead, I agree with Jack and Mark
> and others who believe that interaction design is about more than
> just software. I know this is a minority opinion on the list. I
> despair about that from time to time, but I'm not willing to concede
> the ground.

From IxDA's own website:

"Interaction design (IxD) is the branch of user experience design [ed
note: cough cough] that illuminates the relationship between people
and the interactive products they use. While interaction design has a
firm foundation in the theory, practice, and methodology of
traditional user interface design, its focus is on defining the
complex dialogues *that occur between people and interactive devices*
of many types—from computers to mobile communications devices to
appliances." [Emphasis added.]

http://www.ixda.org/en/about_ixdg/what_is_interaction_design.shtml

I will note that "services" is appended almost like an after thought
through the rest of the definition. Why is that?

Most of the projects you listed don't seem to fall into the primary
definition. As Dave Malouf knows, I consider semantics to be
extremely important in this job, and definitions and distinctions
aren't just there to hold anyone back. The people we work with must
understand what it is we do, and the definitions we create are vital
in helping us define our role inside the corporate workflow. The
sorts of projects you list often muddy the distinctions imho, they
don't clarify.

I'm all for people broadening the impact of various design activities
into all sorts of business practices, but let's not confuse that kind
of innovation that so few get to practice with bread and butter "what
is an interaction designer and what do they do?"

> Even software design projects aren't about the
> artifacts. They're bigger than that. They're about the interactions
> those artifacts facilitate.

I simply don't agree with this. That's like trying to say a person
who designs a chair is really designing the way someone feels when
they sit down. Sure... that's the result of what the chair's final
design provides to the person and the designer must keep that in mind
at all times to achieve a goal that is larger than the product
itself, but at the end of the day, the designer made a chair. A real,
physical chair. Without the chair, there's nothing. It *is* about the
artifacts. To ignore that seems so counter to why so many become
designers in the first place.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

20 Aug 2007 - 5:10pm
leo.frishberg a...
2005

Architect? Really?

Do y'all want to sign up for 5+ years of dedicated study, plus 3+ years
of apprenticeship, government run certification exams and liability
insurance to cover the errors and omissions you make in your designs?
(Total cost: >$50K)

I've heard this claim before - that we're really more like architects,
and Info Architects are really like architects, etc. etc.

The difference folks is licensure, peer review and a "standard" level of
health and safety that Architects sign up for. How many of us are
working on mission critical systems in which people's lives are at
stake?

For all of the supposed status the title affords a professional, it
comes with far more baggage than I've heard this group (or any other
engineering discipline that's usurped the title since 1950) is willing
to take on.

I'd be happy to "earn" the title of User Experience Architect by going
through all of that, if such a licensing program was considered
necessary to protect the folks using our designs. Oh, wait a minute, I
did.

Leo
Architect. California License: C15990

20 Aug 2007 - 5:27pm
Mark Schraad
2006

Here is the real link. For years architecture dominated the hierarchy
of design conversation. And they had a right to. The organization of
a structure was the most complex and vexing design problem humans
faced. It included time and context... as well as all four
dimensions. Later, industrial design started to catch up, with
consideration for brand, motivation and goals. As software became
more complex and the internet bringing software like functionality to
the masses, the interactions designer arises. Few other than
experience designers were willing to embrace context, ethnography and
qualitative research. Valid has a voice, where only reliability was
previously heard. Currently, the forefront of design thinking is
driven by and focused on interaction and experience design. That is
where the action is, that is we stand. What will we do now?

Mark

On Aug 20, 2007, at 6:10 PM, leo.frishberg at exgate.tek.com wrote:

> Do y'all want to sign up for 5+ years of dedicated study, plus 3+
> years
> of apprenticeship, government run certification exams and liability
> insurance to cover the errors and omissions you make in your designs?
> (Total cost: >$50K)
>
> I've heard this claim before - that we're really more like architects,
> and Info Architects are really like architects, etc. etc.

20 Aug 2007 - 6:12pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Leo,
hmm? I was just thinking on my (very long) drive to work this morning
how cool it would be if some kid in High School graduates knowing, "I
want to be an interaction designer" the same way many come out
thinking that about Architect?

Why not get educated? Why not formalize an education process. Someone
said that if we really educated ourselves on everything we need to
know then well it would be quite the degree and quite honestly, since
nothing like that degree Bachelors level existed when I was younger, I
sorta feel like I missed out on a whole lot.

-- dave

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20 Aug 2007 - 6:19pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Andrei Herasimchuk said:
> From IxDA's own website...

Ah, appeal to authority. I respect the IxDA and I've done quite a
bit of work with them but I didn't write their definition of
Interaction Design and I don't agree with everything they say. Maybe
there's a little compartmentalization going on that allows me to
continue to function until that gets cleared up, but it doesn't stop
me from believing what I believe.

But back to the matter at hand. As I said, I don't expect you to
recognize these examples as interaction design but I'm pleased with
the tone of your response. Fewer sweeping dismissals and assertions.

The ubicomp example that I mentioned violates your caveats but is
maybe more of a middle ground that speaks to why it's important not
to merely focus on software design. Ubiquitous computing is a whole
range of things wrapped up in human interaction with the environment.
Software is only one component. It's vital but not sufficient. I
don't know if there are any designers on the list working in this
area. I hope so. But if not, I'd like for this to be a place where
they can feel welcome.

As for software design and chairs... When you design a chair as an
artifact you get results like the Wassily Chair and other unfortunate
detours throughout furniture design. The chair _is_ the form of the
human body sitting and when you fail to focus on that you leave
behind plenty of examples that argue the point:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chair-Rethinking-Culture-Body-Design/dp/0393319555

// jeff

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