What We Talk About When We Talk About Interaction Design

Technology is seductive. Whenever there's any free time between projects at the places I've worked, the designers generally focus on learning Flash or Basic Stamp or Processing or some other technology-related skill. When we sit behind a desk for eight hours a day, it's easy to just fire up php.net and dive in. But that's not the only option. What if we turned off our computers? Got out of the office? What if we focused on understanding the people we design for?

As far as I'm concerned, CMU alum Maggie Breslin has the right idea with her eloquent prescription for learning interaction design over at brightlycoloredfood.com.

Take a long unstructured walk around the city. Talk to strangers. Take pictures. Visit at least one museum. Pretend like you're from somewhere else for an hour. Stop in a park to read Raymond Carver's "What we talk about when we talk about love." (Outloud would be rad, but I leave that up to you.) Go into a music store, find two people who seem completely different from you and buy whatever they are buying. And then end your travels at a friend's house where you tell them the story of your day over a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin. The story should last as long as the bottle.
I finally decided to take her advice. This afternoon I had a couple hours of free time, so I invited a few of the other designers here at Smart Design to come with me down to Union Square for a little design ethnography. No agenda. No client. Just observing human behavior. Distilling patterns. Learning about Interaction Design.
This brings new meaning to my weekend activity of people watching at coffee houses. I hear airports a great too because you see people on their crazy little gadgets passing the time.

I feel like more and more we're so wrapped up in how and forget to consider why. A great example today is that retched Origami product. I'll be dammed if I become attached to something I can't fit in my pocket.
Airports are great. I did some observation at Pittsburgh International while I was in school and SFO is on our list of places to visit. The airport in Kansas City would be especially good because of its layout. You could just walk in a circle all day. Plus they don't separate the ticketed passengers from the non-ticketed visitors nearly as much as in most places.
Jeong Kim
Recent trip to Las Vegas Airport was interesting. Slot machines. Hmmm. Only in Vegas (?)
I did an ethnography recently in airports across the country. Specifically, I was observing behavior and interactions of professionals traveling with laptops.

The power outlest serve as sort of mini - oasis' in the desert of uncomfortable seating. The migration patterns were also plottable.

Lots of other odd behavior came along with the process making it a very rich experience well beyond the scope of my research. LA was very different from KC.

Post a Comment

URL (or E-mail Address)

Your name