By Jim Budd, Associate Professor, & Sara Salevati, MAA Candidate//
ABSTRACT// The role of design in today’s world is dramatically shifting as social, cultural, and experiential factors begin to play a more dominant role in the complexities of day-to-day life. This article frames out key elements of a design strategy to address these challenges.
CHANGES IN THE FIELD OF DESIGN// “A few years ago it was simpler. Designers just designed things: objects like lamps, chairs, computer mice, cars, buildings, signage, page and screen layouts. Of course we knew that the things we designed affected people’s experience. But still, it was enough to design the thing.” (Fulton, 2003)
THE NEED TO FOCUS ON EXPERIENCE// Today designers no longer design solely for aesthetic and usability values, but rather design for an overall experience. Bill Moggridge in his book Designing Interactions identifies a shift in priorities and suggests designers today should be less concerned about designing objects that are beautiful than they are about designing people’s interactions with these objects (Moggridge, 2007). Jon Kolko goes further in his book Thoughts on Interaction Design in saying that “design is the creation of dialogue between a person and a product, system or service. This dialogue is both physical and emotional in nature, and is manifested in form, function and technology” (Kolko, 2007). Similarly Bill Buxton the author of Sketching User Experiences argues that designers are experiencing a shift from “object-centered to experience-centered design”(Buxton, 2007). He explains, “It is not the physical entity or what is in the box (the material product) that is the true outcome of design. Rather, it is the behavioral, experiential, and emotional responses that come about as a result of its existence and its use in the real world” (Buxton, 2007).
ENGAGING THE USER// This approach to design and problem solving has led to the development of design methods that provide designers with the option to not just design products for people but to design experiences with people. This shift underscores the importance of design process along with the involvement and participation of users throughout all stages of a project. We are interested in enhancing the designer’s understanding of their users’ interactions and relationships with technology, products, systems and environments in order to design for better experiences. The outcome of design here is not a product, but the overall experience across all touch points, interactions of people with products, spaces and other people. This approach moves beyond the individual experience of users, customers and/or employees, to design’s influence within the broader context of the global economic community.
PROBLEM SYNTHESIS & DESIGN IDEATION// Designers “discover or construct many different variables” in order to frame and define the right design problem… in identifying these problems designers “set boundaries, select particular things […] and impose on the situation a coherence that guides subsequent moves” (Schon, 1988).
“Löwgren and Stolterman (2004) describe this design process through three levels of abstraction: the vision, operative image, and specification.” They believe that “vision emerges when the designer first confronts a design situation.” The initial idea is internal, “often fuzzy [and] intuitive” but crucial in aiding the designer to “understand the situation” they are working in (Hegeman, 2008). Synthesis and design thinking are about embracing the ambiguity of design and combining tacit knowledge, critical thinking and creativity in the design process that lead to an ‘’operative image”. It can be considered “a dialectic, or a conversation [because it] involves design wisdom, judgment, and knowledge” (Hegeman, 2008).
Through an iterative process designers discover, learn, and immerse themselves in the world of their users, to better understand the different perspectives and factors of the design challenge.
Designers examine and explore people’s behaviors and relationships through a set of methodologies (such as observational studies, user research, workshops, etc.) that support their vision and understanding of users in different stages of the design process. These new methods provide designers with a toolkit that allows them to design more effectively for behavioral, experiential, and emotional responses.
MODELING INTERACTION & EXPERIENCE//
Designers are visual thinkers. Sketching and drawing are fundamental skills for designers and enable them to express and communicate their mental models, ideas and decision-making in different stages of the design process. The non-permanent nature of sketches allows for experimentation and play throughout the design process, providing designers with an opportunity to fail and learn. Bill Buxton in his book Sketching User Experiences describes sketching as “quick, timely, inexpensive, disposable, plentiful, and ambiguous” (Buxton, 2007). Buxton uses the term sketching to describe a continuum of visual techniques from traditional pencil sketches and storyboards to theatrical improvisation, animated digital sequences and ‘wizard of oz’ scenarios that can be used to represent time-based events to communicate an understanding of potential user experiences. In the early stages of the design process, these techniques can serve as tools to help us understand the context, culture and intentions of users by synthesizing research data. Similarly these visual techniques can be used to portray multiple variants of prospective concepts and solutions in the later stages of the design process.
RESHAPING THE ROLE OF DESIGN// As our understanding of the role of design continues to evolve it becomes clear there will be a need to progressively update our methods and techniques to address the complexities of day-to day life. By building on design’s roots and strengths in problem synthesis and ideation together with our abilities to communicate concepts through sketching and visualization techniques designers will be able to continually leverage new methods to develop a more effective dialogue with our user community in our efforts to create more holistic solutions to more demanding and complex design challenges.
Buxton, B. (2007). Sketching User Experiences. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Fulton Suri, J. (2003). The Experience Evolution: Developments in Design Practice. The Design Journal 6 (2),39-48.
Hegeman, J. (2008). The Thinking Behind Design. A thesis submitted to the School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University.
Kolko, J. (2007). Thoughts on Interaction Design. Brown Bear, Savannah, Georgia.
Löwgren, J, & Stolterman, E. (2004) Thoughtful interaction design: a design perspective on information technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Moggridge, B. (2007). Designing Interactions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Sanders, E.B.N., Stappers, P.J. (2008). Co-creation and the New Landscapes of Design. CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation and Design and Arts 4(1), 5-18.
Schön, D (1988). Designing: Rules, Types, and Words, Design Studies 9/3 181-4.