How do your skills as an interaction designer help you outside of work?

27 Sep 2010 - 11:01am
5 years ago
1 reply
1860 reads
Carmen Dukes

Wednesday, 9/29 will be beginning of our 10 week after school program, Project: Interaction, where we'll teach high school students about design and creative thinking skills.

The theme of the school’s after-school program is “My Future Self” and we want to show our students how the skills of designers can influence any career path or future endeavor.

How do your skills as an interaction designer help you outside of work? Where is the overlap between design and the rest of your life? We’ll share with our students!

More about what we’re teaching at


28 Sep 2010 - 9:21am


I am in the middle of a project, outside of work, that requires many of the skills needed for user interface design.  Aside from all the obvious steps of; research, planning, prototyping and time management for a project, a couple of other design traits came in to play.


Bear with me as this might seem a stretch at first.  I'm building a 150' traditional New England field stone wall along the front of my property.  I found myself instinctively sorting the various 'building blocks' for the project in to similar groups to aid me in finding the right stone for the right slot in the wall.  Not too dissimilar to using pattern libraries when building UIs or creating a custom stencil in visio/omni to help layout a design more quickly

The second thing that I caught myself doing, which I do all the time at work, was creating quick mental sketches of the part of the design I was focused on.  When working on wireframing with omnigraffle/visio/fireworks I'll often do a mental sketch before putting some elements on a canvas - a quick iteration if you will.  I found myself using that very same process on the wall.  Before putting effort in to laying some stones up on the wall to see if they worked together I'd try to visualize the stones (ui elements) in situ in the wall (user interface).

I appreciate some may think it a huge stretch to see correlation between putting stones on a wall and ui elements on an interface.  However the number of people that have stopped to either compliment the design or ask me if I could build a wall for them made me realise one of two things was happening.  Either (a) All Irishmen are genetically disposed to building walls or (b) applying the same skills I use to design interfaces allowed me to realise the design intent with minimum effort and maximum focus on aesthetic.

As for take-aways for your kids in this program.  

1)If working on a project where lots of components need to fit together to create a unified design that has some form of constraint (time, space, aesthetic, etc) -  sort those components and coordinate the construction of them to make the actual build process run smoothly & quickly. Also have the right tools to hand.  A messy/scattered workspace slows the designer down as they become distracted & frustrated looking for the right element/tool when they should be focusing on the vision, this is Flow.

2) Understand the cost of making a mistake and weigh that against the cost/effort of prototyping a solution before proceeding - I thought long and hard about some of the stones as they weighed upwards of 500lb and I was moving them by hand, if they didn't fit I was royally pissed about moving them out again.  Measure twice, cut once.  The sooner you can spot a mistake in a design the easier it is to correct it.


Good luck, looks like a great program, I'd personally like to see a report-out once you're done.




Syndicate content Get the feed