HCI vs. Interaction Design (was Re: Looking within...)

18 Feb 2004 - 11:19pm
10 years ago
3 replies
1044 reads
Dan Saffer
2003

Pardon the intrusion into this otherwise unrelated topic, but I find it
interesting that you are using the term HCI (Human-Computer
Interaction) as synonymous with interaction design. I'm not sure about
the rest of you, but to me, they are related (but certainly not
identical) disciplines, each with its own history, methods, and
techniques.

For starters, (and just looking at the names alone), HCI is about
digital products exclusively and, at least traditionally, is more
concerned about how people interact with machines per se than about the
meaning of that interaction (to accomplish a human-centered goal).

I feel that interaction design has a broader (some would argue less
focused) scope, looking at interactions not only between humans and
computers via interfaces, but also human-human, human-environment, and
human-system interactions as well. Some of those interactions (like
this email from me to you) are mediated by computers, of course, but
some aren't. Interaction designers are also out there designing whole
systems and environments in which computers and digital products only
affect a small or no part at all.

I'd also say that, generally speaking, HCI uses qualitative methods
drawn from cognitive psychology and computer science as the basis for
their creation of (and, especially, the evaluation of existing) digital
products. IxD can also draw from those sources, but has has a range of
qualitative sources as well, stemming from industrial design,
anthropology, art, and a host of other places.

In an even broader swipe of generalization and out-and-out slander <g>,
one could also argue that HCI practitioners are trained much more for
the evaluation, refinement, and extension of existing products, while
IxDers (and designers in general) are trained to visualize and invent
new products. There are pluses and minuses to both.

HCI is a more established discipline than ours, as witnessed by the
fact the SIG-CHI list has been around for years and this list hasn't
even cracked a year yet. HCI has a foothold in many university Computer
Science departments, yet there's less than 10 IxD programs worldwide.

Dan

Dan Saffer
M.Des. Candidate, Interaction Design
Carnegie Mellon University
http://www.odannyboy.com

Comments

19 Feb 2004 - 2:50am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

I contributed a brief discussion of HCI vs ID to BoxesAndArrows a while
back [http://www.boxesandarrows.com/archives/002589.php], prompted by
the publication of the Preece et al. textbook entitled 'Interaction
design: Beyond human-computer interaction'.

Might be relevant in relation to the topic that Dan introduced.

Regards,
Jonas Löwgren

----
Arts and Communication
Malmö University, SE-205 06 Malmö, Sweden

phone +46 7039 17854
web http://webzone.k3.mah.se/k3jolo

19 Feb 2004 - 2:18pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Dan,

Well said. I might add that HCI is more focused on the science side -
sometimes that's qualitative and sometimes quantitative. There's a
great deal of focus on social networks, mediated communication, data
collection and analysis, etc. And lots of stats. It's considerably more
academic and theory based, whereas interaction design is more applied.

Not to say that they don't overlap. Nor that they couldn't learn from
each other.

We have an HCI department here at Cornell that's top-notch. And we're
starting an information science department, which will be geared more
towards Interaction Design (Fall 2004 - keeping my fingers crossed).

I would agree that Interaction Design is broader than HCI.

On Feb 18, 2004, at 11:19 PM, Dan Saffer wrote:

> For starters, (and just looking at the names alone), HCI is about
> digital products exclusively and, at least traditionally, is more
> concerned about how people interact with machines per se than about
> the meaning of that interaction (to accomplish a human-centered goal).
>
> I feel that interaction design has a broader (some would argue less
> focused) scope, looking at interactions not only between humans and
> computers via interfaces, but also human-human, human-environment, and
> human-system interactions as well. Some of those interactions (like
> this email from me to you) are mediated by computers, of course, but
> some aren't. Interaction designers are also out there designing whole
> systems and environments in which computers and digital products only
> affect a small or no part at all.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
User Experience Architect
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
web: www.messagefirst.com
aim: twarfel at mac.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.
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19 Feb 2004 - 3:33pm
Christian Simon
2003

> interesting that you are using the term HCI (Human-Computer
> Interaction) as synonymous with interaction design. I'm not sure about
> the rest of you, but to me, they are related (but certainly not
> identical) disciplines, each with its own history, methods, and
> techniques.

No worries. I appreciate your position. I disagree with your assertion that
I'm using HCI as synonymous with IxD. My question attempts to tease out an
answer specific to the computer industry. Should you interpret my question
and know an example in a related industry this would be a contrast.

Are you relating IxD to small d design? Does this include the cognitive
study of printed language, such as books, and television? The resulting
history may then become larger then your suggesting. You are finding a
relevant distinction that IxD has grown from the quantitative values from
computer interaction to assume a larger role.

You have made a clear distinction. I think you're on to something. What
other related design disciplines have you discovered this?

Cheers,
xtian

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