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
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
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
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