Tags: education, experience design, foundations, general thoughts, interaction design, IxD, tools
Tonight I read an interesting interview of Andy Hertzfeld. To be honest I feel a bit ashamed that I know so little about Andy as it seems he’s done some amazing & important work in UI Design, including at Apple & now at Google–for Google+.
In the interview a key early question came up about what do you do first, and his answer was quite simple: get the idea into code as quickly as possible. Now many of you may have been reading all the other people who have had comments on this topic from various angles as it is something of a sticky point for many designers.
Tomorrow, I’m about to start a class in computational design. Why? In large part because of this debate which has been raging inside of me for the greater part of 2 decades. I thought for the last decade that I could get away with being an interraction designer and not code. I thought as many do that having an understanding of the principles of code & data management were enough o hold dialogs with teammates and collaborate towards executing designs. Many people who believe in the importance of code believe that being able to communicate with your engineering teammates is the most important reason to know how to code, or to guarantee the execution of your design. I don’t disagree.
Andy Hertzfeld in his answer says that he codes to try out ideas & refine them in the space of code. Code for him doesn’t appear to be a refined space, but a space that leads to refinement. THIS more than anything else spoke volumes to me, but alas I was already convinced. But his statement brought to mind another very important influence in my life–art.
I’d be interested to know how many of you experienced & buddy interaction designers look to art for process & method inspiration?
To be even more exact I remember an exhibit I went to of Dega. I love Dega. As an aside I love most post Impressionists like Van Gogue & Cezanne. But This exhibit of Dega hits me now square between the eyes with a lesson. Dega was an explorer of image. We all know how he was obsessed with a single subject–the ballerina. He has so many different pieces with this same subject, and one can look at all these paintings and all the associated sketches and thing that for him the frame was his code. That line & oils worked together to iterate his images again & again. They would not be wrong & this is why I agree with Hertzfeld, but there is more & maybe there is more to Mr. Hertzfeld as this is but one interview and like I said I do not know the man’s work as well as I should. However in this exhibit Degas did more. He sculpted. In the exhibit they showed 10’s of sculptures in the middle of a room with 10’s of paintings & sketches surrounding them.
Part of Degas’ process was exploring in a medium that used material that was incompatible with what he was considering as his final form. He wanted to see other angles that he could see in just the 2 dimensions of paper or canvas. The sculptures took him into new areas allowing him to see from the multiple angles that only 3 dimensions could allow.
So what does this mean for us as interaction & interactive designers? I feel 2 ideas come to the fore for me, and to be clear neither idea replaces that core need of getting to the flow of the medium you are designing for.
1) Do more. For me it means “enact”. We must play out improvisations where people act out the roles of system and user. We must use physical artifacts instead of pixels.
2) Code is now abstracted. Tools are out there that make code opaque. We no longer need to work in code to try things out. We can get to the trying of many (not all) of the pieces of an interactive experience without ever typing a line of code. I know in the end code somewhere is being created & it is important for me to understand the ramifications of that code, but writing it may not be the best use of my time at early stages in the design process.
For me #1 is necessary for every designer to consider. As systems are given more & more complex behaviors that make the computer more & more opaque, those behaviors will take on more & more human qualities in metaphor, and become characters that we engage with.
On the other hand, #2 will depend on you the designer. What are you as the designer comfortable with. Can you meet the required goals of communicating design and ensuring its execution? Does your process allow you enough fodder for exploring design possibilities?
There are so many design methods out there in the world. Many of them have produced different successes, even repeatedly. Can we be so arrogant t think that ere is only one best way to accomplishing successful design outcomes? I don’t think this form of hubris is helping anyone in the design community and it is yet another example where we as designers force ourselves to take on cultures that restrict us when in actually, it is through chaos where we really succeed.