Jon Kolko, “Our Misguided Focus on Brand and User Experience” (2009)
Interaction design is the design of behavior, positioned as dialogue between a person and an artifact. A person commonly doesn’t talk to an object; they use it, touch it, manipulate it, and control it. Usage, touching, manipulation and control are all dialogical acts, unspoken but conversational. Conversation is only a metaphor for interaction, but it’s a useful one. Many of the same ways we “read” an actual, spoken conversation have parallels in describing and discussing interactions between people and things. Consider:
- Both conversations and interactions have flow, and often have a beginning, middle, and end;
- Both conversations and interactions act as intertwining of multiple viewpoints. In a conversation, the viewpoints come from people; in an interaction, viewpoints are embedded in an artifact by a designer;
- Both conversations and interactions act as both methods of communication and methods of comprehension; participants both contribute to, and take from, the activity;
- Ultimately, both conversations and interactions serve to affect behavioral change in participants.
This is powerful, as it describes an implicit way of extending a designers reach – and personal point of view, or message – into the masses. It is this mass distribution of dialogue that describes culture; we build culture through our objects, services and systems, as we define behavior through interactions. This is of equal prominence to the claim of “designing experiences”, yet leaves open the potential—the need—for the people (pardon, the consumers) to actually participate and contribute in a meaningful way. The things we do in the design studio have grand significance in the world. Our design decisions – even small, detailed, nuanced design decisions – resonate for years, and usually in a phenomenally large scale.