Should we take off our black turtlenecks and give up “ownership” ofinteraction design in order to take it mainstream?

Shailesh Shilwant and I submitted a discussion topic to the Interaction 2010 conference yesterday on a something that’s near and dear to our hearts: Product Discovery as a transparent and facilitated process. I encourage you to comment on our proposal and offer your suggestions.


As we evolve interaction design as a field, one approach we should consider is to open up the facilitation and ownership to people that don’t have the word “design” on their business card (e.g. product managers, development leads). We’ve recently tried a number of techniques that does just this at eBay and would like to discuss with you the following topics:

  • Giving up “ownership” of design (how to do it, pros and cons)
  • Impacts this shift has on the role within the company and our field
  • How language and terminology can help or hinder you
  • How to build on initial successes and institutionalize the methodology

In this discussion you’ll hear real world examples from companies such as Facebook, Intuit, Yahoo! and eBay. We hope to create some healthy debate so come with your strong point of views to share.

IxD10 Topic Submission

Reflections on Interaction08

Wow! What a terrific conference! I’m fired up about Interaction Design following the inaugural IxDA conference in Savannah, GA. As I reflect on the conference, here are the highlights for me:

Bill Buxton [video, book] – We must embrace our unique qualities as interaction designers, respect the talents of others (e.g. developers), and together change our organization so that our talents are used. We must “stop whining!” Buxton pointed out that Jonathan Ive was at Apple for 5 years before the Steve Jobs came back–and yet made little difference on the products. Jobs first move was to use the existing design talent at Apple to turn around the company. Finally, Buxton pointed out how Moore’s Law and the Growth of Features run counter to the fact that human capacity is not increasing.

Bill Buxton on Moore’s Law, Buxton’s Law, and God’s Law

Aza Raskin [video] – Aza is the first second-generation interaction designer I’ve met which I think is pretty cool. His late father, Jef Raskin, of course is responsible for designing the Macintosh and Aza founded his company Humanized to continue his father’s work. Aza is a refreshing speaker and clearly articulates his strong point of view that the best user interface is no user interface. In other words, selection and direct manipulation in the modern GUI has gone too far and we’d be better off with a recall based smart command line (see my previous post on his product Enso). By focusing hard on simplicity and reducing interactions where possible we just may fit under what Buxton’s called God’s Law (see above).

Chris ConleyiPhone Home ScreenChris spoke on how the use of dramatic features in interaction design yields more enjoyable and engaging products. He defined drama as “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events”. Furthermore he described how it’s only thru drama that you create truly meaningful products. Chris described how Pixar approaches this subject thru the heavy use of storyboarding. They spend years honing the story and using a series of design critiques, until it is just right. Only then does production begin. As interaction designers we must choreograph these dramatic elements in order to delight our customers. One example he shared was how to customize icons on the iPhone home screen. When you move into customization mode all the icons start jiggling and then jump out of the way as you drag icons. Very fun indeed.

Matt Jones [video, deck] – Matt is the designer behind Dopplr and his witty British humour was a joy to listen to. My favorite quote from his talk was a definition for serendipity (something we regularly discuss at eBay):

“Serendipity is looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter” – Sir Hans Kornberg

He also built on the notion of delight as a key to product design. For example, one hotel left him a rubber ducky in the tub on the 4th night. On Dopplr they surprise their customers with customized Dopplr logos based on their travel history.

Jon Kolko – While Jon was not an official speaker, as a former professor at Savannah College of Art and Design he played a key role in bringing Interaction08 to SCAD. A designer on my team, Riaz, was a former student of Jon’s and introduced me to him over pizza and beer at VinnieVanGoGo’s the night before the conference. Jon cuts right to the point and is very direct about his POV on design (as well as other things). I found his attitude refreshing and it has motivated me to be less nuanced in my opinions. I’m halfway thru his book which I’d highly recommend.

Quick Tidbits:

  • Bill DeRouchey: Conversations w/Every Day Objects [video, deck] – How button’s have evolved and their affordances…
  • Gabe White: Ethics of Design [video] – Should we discourage addictive or compulsive behavior (e.g. twitter)?
  • Sarah Allen: Cinematic IxD [video, deck] – How to use visual cues in transitions to maintain context…
  • Gretchen Anderson: Concept Ideation [video] – If meeting with the CEO, tell a story about your customer and be dramatic…
  • UI Design in Agile Environment [video] – How to use a design studio and team offsites to make Agile work…

List of all video available from Interaction08.

Event: CHI2007 Next Week

CHI is returning to San Jose for their 25th anniversary and I’ll be attending for the fourth time. While the conference at times is more academic than I would like there are always some good sessions.

Here’s what I’m most excited about:

Welcome Sarah!

One of my favorite designers, Sarah Culberson, made her blogosphere debut today where she reflects on her experience at SxSW. Here are some excerpts I found interesting:

  •  “It is better to be flamboyant failure than mediocre success.” Jeffrey Zeldman on being fearless with design. Lots more great quotes from Sarah’s notes.
  •  Lots of great advice from a panel on creating a “Kickass Design Team” including providing direct mentorship/coaching, importance of outsourcing and junior designers, and feeding execs great UE questions. Love it.
  • How designers can add value in big companies by helping them get Unstuck.

Thanks Sarah and Welcome. 🙂