Week 1 Lecture Notes

Interaction Design, as described by Bill Verplank (2001), is the focus of design for people acting upon the world and receiving feedback for said action. As Verplank goes on to explain, an Interactive Designer is faced with three questions when attempting to create a design of this type;

  • The first asks the means by which interaction will be performed by the user. In a literal sense, this could be a choice between buttons or levers on a physical object or deciding the appearance of navigational menus in a digital interface.
  • Next a designer must decide upon the feedback that will be given in response to this interaction.
  • Finally, a designer is asked to provide sufficient instruction for the user. Through an understanding of their audience’s existing knowledge and preconceptions, the designer can provide the guidance and affordances necessary for the user to navigate.
Verplank’s Interaction Design Diagram

Gillian Crampton Smith (2006) stresses the importance of providing a ‘clear mental model’ of great quality. Smith highlights the Apple Macintosh’s interface as being an example of interaction design that embodies this notion. The menu found at the top of the screen provides clear indication of where the user currently is in the interface, where they can navigate to, and what happens once they get there. As Smith explains, the ideal state of interactive design should be to capitalise on inherent preconceptions of how an interaction should play out and provide an experience that can be navigated almost instinctively.

Apple Macintosh Desktop

Final thoughts

It’s apparent through this lecture that the understanding of one’s audience is paramount to the success of an Interactive Design. As a field that is focused around the creation of systems with human interaction in mind, a designers first step should be to analyse how a human operates and understands the world around them. No two people have the same perception of the world, and therefore a designer must aim to identify and exploit the commonalities found within the majority of an audience.

This emphasis placed upon research leaves me with the indication that the role of a designer in this field is less that of a creator, and perhaps better defined as a kind of design-translator – identifying existing cultural, linguistical and societal norms amongst others before translating and incorporating them into designs so they can be universally understood.

Apple Macintosh Desktop [Screenshot]. (2007). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_Macintosh_Desktop.png
Crystal710. (2016). Audience conference [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/event-auditorium-conference-1597531/
Smith, G. C. (2006). Designing Interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.designinginteractions.com/interviews/GillianCramptonSmith
Verplank, B. (2001). Designing Interactions Diagram [Screenshot]. Retrieved from http://www.billverplank.com/Lecture/
Verplank, B. (2001). Designing Interactions [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/83683447

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