Christopher Fahey - The Human Interface (or:Why Products are People too)

26 Feb 2010 - 6:15pm
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Nasir Barday
2006

In the half-century since the first transistor was invented we’ve seen radical changes in how humans interact with computers and digital systems: We’ve gone from punch cards to text commands, from mouse pointers to touchscreen gestures, from menus to voice recognition.

What all of these user experience innovations have in common is an inexorable movement towards interfaces that behave more and more like the way real humans have interacted with one another for millenia.

Our interactions with systems increasingly feel like interactions with real people because our systems are increasingly designed to sound, look, and behave just like humans do. We’re interacting with web sites and software on a conversational, physical, and emotional level. In a way, our interfaces are actually becoming more human.

We can no longer ask users to think like machines just to be able to use software. Instead, our systems must act more like people. User experience designers, in turn, need to stop thinking about interfaces as dumb control panels for manipulating machines and data and start thinking about them (in many ways literally!) as human beings.

This talk will explore diverse areas of non-digital human experience – including language and theater, neurology and sociology – in order to frame and showcase some of the most exciting current and emerging user experience design practices, both on the web and in other media such as video games and the arts. The objective is quite simply to inspire designers to humanize their interfaces. This new way of understanding user experience design crosses many disciplines, from branding and content strategy (your product’s voice and personality) to interaction design and information architecture (your product’s behavior and motivations), and has many practical applications at every point in current and future design scenarios.

More importantly, this kind of thinking can be framed as part of a longer term trend in interaction design generally: Looking even further ahead – but probably sooner than many of us might imagine – future UX designers will almost certainly be moving from designing screens to designing actual personalities, for example artificial intelligences, virtual characters, and even human-like androids. We’ll peek a little further out and look at what the next generation of human interfaces will be and discuss what skills future interaction designers will need to have.”

 

Christopher Fahey is a founding partner and user experience director at Behavior, an award-winning New York web design consultancy focused on building compelling and elegant user experiences for business and culture.

At Behavior, Chris has led the IA and UXD strategies for clients and projects in many industries, including BusinessWeek, The National Geographic Channel, UNICEF, HBO, The Smithsonian Institution, McGraw-Hill, JPMorgan Chase, XM Satellite Radio, AARP, the AIGA, and The Onion. In his 14+ years as a professional interaction designer and manager, Chris’s projects have covered everything from business- critical web applications to sci-fi adventure games and artificial intelligence chatbots.

Chris is an active speaker on user experience design, with recent events including SXSW, An Event Apart, the ASIS&T IA Summit, Euro IA, The Society for Technical Communications Summit, and the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo NYC.

He teaches at the School of Visual Arts’ new interaction design MFA program in 2009, and has also taught at FIT, Brooklyn College, and the City College of New York. His internet artwork has been featured in the Whitney and the New Museum. Chris also blogs about design, technology, culture, and whatever else he’s interested in at http://www.graphpaper.com.

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