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Interface Design Positions – my own June 21, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in learning, physical interaction design, social computing, theory.
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My colleagues from university and me were hosting an event with the topic “Position in Interface Design” last week. Here an outline of my talk – feedback welcome:


(me talking without slides, Photo: J. Landstorfer)

From Physical Interaction Design to Service Design

I was talking about my personal journey from doing and teaching Physical Interaction Design and why I expanded the focus of my research towards Service Design.

Physical Interaction Design is an important area from various perspectives:

1. From the perspecitve of us humans being more than Igoe’s famous finger-eye-beings:


(Igoe, O’Sullivan: “How the computer sees us”, image source)

  • We perceive the world differently and richer than the dominating HCI model pretends that we do (example: periphery of human perception = ambient displays)
  • We act in the world differently and richer than the dominating HCI model pretends that we do (example: rich expression from stone mason to violinist = tangible interaction)
  • We learn differently than the dominating HCI model pretends that we do (example: mirror neurons = cscw)

2. From an economical perspective:

  • Number of micro controllers in the world is growing exponentially
  • Interfaces become more and more important purchasing criteria also for non IT-products as e.g. cars
  • New areas for work for designers occur as e.g. exhibition design

3. From a pedagogical perspective:

  • Doing practical projects in Physical Interaction Design helps to understand computers, which is important for academically trained designers
  • Doing Physical Interaction Design forces one to understand humans and their mental models, cognitive and physical abilities and their fears etc.
  • Working exploratively in Physical Interaction Design forces one to apply various research and evaluation methods to argue design decissions

Then I explained how doing Physical Interaction Design also led to some suffering, which I already adressed at the CHI workshop “programming reality” in 2009:

  • It is very hard and time-consuming to bring new hardware to market, be it as an start-up or with a client – and this did not improve in the last years, even though we are trying with Fritzing.
  • The introduction of smart phones brough the software/hardware-model to the world of gadgets. Prior to the iPhone (2007) there were many highly specialized computing devices as dictionaries, love-getties, tamagotchis etc.
  • Our ecological responsibility also embraces the current trend towards less specialized hardware and apps

And then I talked about how at IxDS our clients actually understood that our knowledge and our methods could also be used for other areas than Physical Interaction Design: in 2007 we were asked to do a design project on “Women and ICT (Information and Communication Technology)” – with no focus on innovative hardware, but any kind of improvements.
Especially in Germany, an economy with about 70% of its GNP, service design becomes more and more essential.

Then I explained a little more what Serive Design is and showed that the same skills that are important for Physical Interaction Design are also important for Service Design:

  • The abillity to understand the potentials of technology
  • The ability to understand humans
  • The ability to prototype and evaluate

In the final part of my talk I suggested a Potsdam Model for Service Design consisting of:

  • the strength of our university (interface design including strong links to communication and product design, media studies)
  • proximity to Berlin, which seems to become the new hub of service design and start-ups in  Germany
  • the industry and diversity of lifestyles in Berlin and Potsdam

I ended by summarizing that Physical Interaction Design will stay important, but that Service Design is a good direction for an extension of the quite narrow focus of Physical Interaction Design.

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Comments»

1. Smart Phones vs. Dedicated Hardware… « interaction design - November 26, 2011

[…] the event “Positions on Interaction Design” this year at my university I tried to explain why I moved from Physical Interaction Design to Service Design. One of the reasons is that the hope […]

2. Start-Ups by Designers « interaction design - December 8, 2011

[…] of course the very basic idea of me teaching Service Design is to prepare students also for a role as an […]


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