A film about interaction design: what it says about us

12 Dec 2012 - 3:03pm
3 years ago
6 replies
8711 reads

Hello. May I vent? {smile}

I just watched Basset & Partners' nicely-produced short film about interaction design, called "Connecting." You can watch it here on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/52861634.  It's well done, it's full of people I like and admire, and I'm glad it exists. *Thank you* to the people who made it and the people who paid for it.

But it pushes a button, so, this post....

Every time I'm around a bunch of interaction designers (and I still consider myself one, at least some of the time) it jumps out at me: the field is SO so device- and content- fixated. Watch that video with paper and pen, and make tally marks every time someone says, "device, product, service, network, content, data, information, interface,..." You'll fill the page. Do it again, and see if you hear "care, relationship, learn, belong, accomplish, confidence, ability, self-image, manage, relate, heal, wellness, reach, empower,..." any human-value words. I'm not sure you'll get to 10.

Where are the people-words? I'm sorry, but to pick on one example, ubiquitous data and distributed interfaces showing up in the hospital system does not equal more care. (The "service designers" are a little better on this point, but still....)

There are lots of designers in this video, but all the rest of the people are fake-people. Architectural-model-people. Stock photo people. Let's make another movie that has at least the same number of people who have to live with the designs as there are designers. And hey, sometimes, if you catch the right day, there could be both kinds of people in the same shot!

Yes, at the end there is excitement about connected society and social impact (with devices assumed, to my ear). And I know enough of the people in the video to know they really do care about people and are driven by that care. I'm not knocking them.

For me this is a snapshot of the times. Design in general has been so thoroughly enfolded in a culture of business and technology that it has a hard time finding an identify of its own APART from business or technology. It has allowed itself to be defined by its clients. That doesn't have to be the case.

The design process, the methods designers employ, and the people and institutions who make up the practice have great powers and possibilities of their own, independent from clients, silicon, bits, atoms, or contracts. Let's be identified by the possibility we bring into the room, not by a co-dependent relationship with our usual sponsors and materials.

I believe this can change, and I'm doing what I can to help.

- Marc Rettig


12 Dec 2012 - 4:23pm
Dave Malouf

Thanx for posting this Marc. Glad I gave you the kick in butt w/ Gilles to post it here instead of leaving it burried on Facebook. 

-- dave

12 Dec 2012 - 5:35pm

Hey Marc (& Dave), this is great! This kind of conversation is exactly why we wanted to make the video. It's not meant to be a definitive piece. There are many perspectives on what Interaction/UX/UI/Experience Design is, and we wanted to try to capture some of that. The field deserves something on par with Helvetica. This isn't that, but its a start. Its a beginning, not an end. 

BTW, we opened up comments on the Viemo video, so if you want to drop your feedback there too that would be great: http://vimeo.com/52861634#at=0




12 Dec 2012 - 5:43pm
Eric Harris

Thanks for the great read & observations. The reminder to see that the tools of design don't eclipse the design process is always a timely one. I, too, will try and do what I can within my own circles.


13 Dec 2012 - 10:02am

Hey, the video is impressive!
I took some notes and I wrote a sinopsis to share it with my colleagues, this is what I came up with:

 "We're confused about what's important, we have to understand the ecosystem. Products are going to start to understand where we're goingt what we need and how we like to digest information, there's going to be software in everything.

 What emerges as a by-product of this intense connectivity is that a super-organism is building up, there's a new power that's delivered purely by good interaction, the good ways of connnecting people, a collective behavior that's mediated by ubiquitous mechanisms of connectivity"

What I read here is something that science fiction has been preaching: skynet, singularity, matrix.
The point that Marc raised is clearly evident: we're letting our tools become more important than us. I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I can be excited about such future.
Perhaps it's important that we, as designers with ability to shape the world, start questioning what kind of world we would like to create.
What do you think?

13 Dec 2012 - 10:25am
Steve Portigal

Let's make another movie that has at least the same number of people who have to live with the designs as there are designers.

I make those movies all the time. I just can't share them beyond my client.

But yes, this is an exciting call-to-action. I wonder if anyone will take you up on it?

7 Feb 2013 - 9:31pm
Nasir Barday

Waking this thread up again. Has anyone watched the companion DVD to Bill Moggridge's Designing Interactions? It beautifully exposes the story behind the design of so many things we've come to know and love over the past decade or so. I wonder if a film could be made that follows a similar format through a few projects, with interviews with "people who have to live with the designs" peppered throughout?

A lot of people in our industry bemoan that our craft is misunderstood. I'd be interested in helping to define a format for such a film that shows how we do what we do, and the impacts that are possible. Almost a "look-over-the-shoulder" expose. Then we can find people who'd be willing to help make it.

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