HCI vs. Interaction Design (was Re: Looking within...)
18 Feb 2004 - 11:19pm
10 years ago
Pardon the intrusion into this otherwise unrelated topic, but I find it
interesting that you are using the term HCI (Human-Computer
Interaction) as synonymous with interaction design. I'm not sure about
the rest of you, but to me, they are related (but certainly not
identical) disciplines, each with its own history, methods, and
For starters, (and just looking at the names alone), HCI is about
digital products exclusively and, at least traditionally, is more
concerned about how people interact with machines per se than about the
meaning of that interaction (to accomplish a human-centered goal).
I feel that interaction design has a broader (some would argue less
focused) scope, looking at interactions not only between humans and
computers via interfaces, but also human-human, human-environment, and
human-system interactions as well. Some of those interactions (like
this email from me to you) are mediated by computers, of course, but
some aren't. Interaction designers are also out there designing whole
systems and environments in which computers and digital products only
affect a small or no part at all.
I'd also say that, generally speaking, HCI uses qualitative methods
drawn from cognitive psychology and computer science as the basis for
their creation of (and, especially, the evaluation of existing) digital
products. IxD can also draw from those sources, but has has a range of
qualitative sources as well, stemming from industrial design,
anthropology, art, and a host of other places.
In an even broader swipe of generalization and out-and-out slander <g>,
one could also argue that HCI practitioners are trained much more for
the evaluation, refinement, and extension of existing products, while
IxDers (and designers in general) are trained to visualize and invent
new products. There are pluses and minuses to both.
HCI is a more established discipline than ours, as witnessed by the
fact the SIG-CHI list has been around for years and this list hasn't
even cracked a year yet. HCI has a foothold in many university Computer
Science departments, yet there's less than 10 IxD programs worldwide.