Sometime last week, I turned thirty. A few days before that, I woke up in a cold sweat having realized I’d no longer be in my twenties. With prolonged hyperventilation preventing my return to Slumbertown, I decided to explore the issue, you know, talk some sense into myself.
“Listen man, you did your twenties alright. You lived in some real cool places, met a whole bunch of kind people, finished school, started your design career and even set out on your own as a self employed independent web designer—your freakin’ dream come true. And listen man, you did all that stuff while working from a junior-sized wooden chair that you got for free from your soon-to-be mother-in-law. Think about it.”
“Mikey’s twenty something wooden work chair.”
It was true, all of it. The people. The stuff. The chair. I decided, right there in my bed, that looking back will do this man no good. If the twenties were that rad, the thirties will be even radder.
That next morning, I went Bobby Knight on my twenty-something wooden work chair, making room for a proper work throne, none other than the Herman Miller “Embody” chair—the one Gizmodo deemed “the best chair we’ve ever sat on.” Double true.
“Michael Shaun’s thirty something war pony, aka the Emboner.”
We spend a lot of time in our chairs, and I want to make the most of my time in-seat. I want to create the best possible work for my clients, and for myself. And upon my trusty new steed, I will have no excuses but to produce the best work that I possibly can, and that is what I aim to do.
I should preface this—I’m new to the study of interaction design. A lot of the ideas in this book are new to me as a whole. I’m sure a seasoned Interaction Designer / UX person would have a totally different experience with Kolko’s book. But here’s an art director’s take on it.
As the title suggests, Thoughts on Interaction Design (Second Edition): A Collection of Reflections written by Jon Kolko, is in fact a large collection of [rather deep] thoughts on the practice of interaction design. This book is not a how-to for aspiring interaction designers. I found that out the hard way (this book was not an easy read, as it may provoke a lot of your own reflection with each topic discussed).
You’re not going to come away from this book with actual code, templates or quick tricks to implement on that UX project you’re diving into. You will, however, be left with a better, deeper and broader understanding of the many challenges a respectable interaction designer must face throughout his career. And you might be able to apply these concepts to your day to day designs.
Besides, anyone quoting Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark in a design book is alright by me. Here’s me quoting someone’s quote of a quote:
“The famous flutings on the famous columns—what are they made for? To hide the joints in wood—when columns were made of wood, only these aren’t, they’re marble… Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are, making copies in steel and concrete of copies in marble of copies in wood…”
Kolko’s point, as he considers the design of Chrysler’s “Woodies Edition PT Cruiser,” is that one must approach design with integrity, and strive to create for honest interactions. To do so, you will have to FIGHT to make sure middle management doesn’t convolute a pure idea, or to make sure that you’re brought into the design from the beginning, so as not to be left with the task of “prettying up” a flawed design. Or as Kolko puts it, slapping lipstick on a pig.
I’d also never really considered designing with the 4th dimension in mind—behavior. What?
“Quality engineering methods are established to ensure that the product is exactly the same, time after time. Yet experiences are not the same, time after time. A focus on the mass produced ignores the subtleties of human behavior and human emotion.”
We as designers / brand owners want full control of the experiences we’re designing for. But the fact is people use products in many ways, for many reasons, for varying amounts of time over different courses of time. Because of this unpredictability, we can try to anticipate “things a person might do, want, need or desire throughout their relationship with a product, service or system…” To focus even further on a humanitarian approach to design, as Kolko later writes, we can design “with” instead of “for.” Or letting the user complete the design.
“The role of an interaction designer is less about creating a beautiful, appropriate, or even usable form or artifact. Instead, the designer now plays the role of facilitator and translator, one with deep material expertise and the ability to make connections between a wide range of seemingly disconnected ideas. Design becomes a public activity, and the designer is now the choreographer.”
I didn’t totally get what the author was writing about co-design until I considered the Lego, and the idea of letting the user complete the design. That is truly human focused interaction after all.
Some deep ideas in this book, and I’ve totally skimmed over or skipped most of them. Check it out for yourself if you’re either an Interaction Designer, User Experience designer, or are just interested in learning about the field of IxD.
One or two updates to the site. I just finished reading Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, an interesting look at what happens when companies measure their employees by results and only results. Here’s that recap. I’ve also added one or two new bits of work in the portfolio and work archives sections, including this little gem of a music video I made back in 2007.
I’ve been driving a lot too and marketing legend Seth Godin has been kind enough to tag along reading me two of his books, Linchpin and The Big Moo. That guy just gets it. I’ll try to post some stuff from those two books in the near future. Thank you Cincinnati Public Library.