We are going on a journey together: you are going to discover the mode of thinking that will enable you to design for the screen and devices, but most importantly for people with specific needs, capabilities and intentions. This class is here to empower you to start cultivating those skills in a way that will enable you to create the career you want. Some basic ideas I hope to impress upon you:
- The best design does not happen in isolation. I will make sure you speak with each other and with me during each class. I will encourage you to work with each other outside of class. Network with your classmates, develop a crit club in which you can work out your ideas. This is invaluable in school and in life.
- Empathy is of huge importance to a good designer. It is not about being the hippest in my class, it is about serving your end user and your client to the best of your ability in a compassionate and circumspect way, using design fundamentals to guide you.
- Discover that which obsesses you now, then use it to guide your every choice. You are the only one charting your career as a student and later as a professional. You can become what you want to in this life if you do the work each day, little bit by little bit.
History/Future of the Web
Here is a look at the very first page on the internet, ever. Hold on to your skirts!
Here is a bit of a dry video on the history of the web. I find it fascinating, but students have told me it is a bit boring. Watch it if you want.
Internet of Things/Web 3.0
These are slightly dated looks at what is happening now. Once again, sorry if they are boring but they provide some context that you may find useful.
What is Interactivity? Why become an Interaction Designer?
Interactivity is defined as “acting or capable of acting on each other”. In order for it to happen at all, there have to be at least 2 entities which are able to communicate with each other, the output of one affecting the output of the other. The thing is, your brain is hungry for input, eager to learn anything and everything it can about the world around it. The best way for you to help it out is to interact with things and people around you. The more you actively participate in an event or experience, the more useful information you glean in a meaningful way.
Now, as designers, it is our duty to create the most appropriate solutions for our clients, solutions that are significant and enjoyable to the user. The better we engage the viewer, the better our message is conveyed. As such, interactivity is about genuine human engagement, and our designs have to compete with the whole of human experience, not just other posters or websites. In terms of humans, interaction is a conversation between at least 2 people. One person speaks, the other listens, thinks and responds, and so forth. In terms of humans and computers, it is the dialogue that occurs between a person and a computer program, both directly and indirectly. The user clicks a hyperlink, or drags an element, or fills in a blank, and the program takes this information, processes it, and comes back with some form of response. There are other processes that go on behind the scenes like batch processing that constitute an indirect interaction.
Interactivity on the web was fairly limited until the introduction of dynamic technologies like DHTML. Regardless of how long it took to get here, it has caused a revolutionary shift in our society. The invention of the hyperlink changed everything: users could blaze their own individual paths through static content, leaving them free to access and organize all kinds of data in their own particular way. Interactive design is, for our purposes at least, the act of creating compelling, valuable, empowering information and experiences for a user (to use Nathan Sherdroff’s words). It involves both user control and dynamic or responsive experience. It pulls from a lot of other disciplines and theories, and has been evolving rapidly over the last 40 years. It is a term that came originally from the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), and its meaning has been hotly contested at times by people within and without the web development industry.
What does an Interaction Designer Do?
An interactive designer is a person who designs and develops the behavior and appearance of the interactive design. She must be intimately aware of the meaning of the content with which she designs, and must always be an advocate for the end user. Certainly, she must also meet the needs of the client, but if she creates something that is difficult to navigate or load, the entire site is a wash.
How does this apply to Web Design?
Web design is one of the most common instances of interactive design today. It was born in the midst of the internet’s inception, springing out of interface design. Originally, websites were basically designed by the programmers who built the site. Later, it became apparent that there needed to be someone in charge of creating the online interface, and that role is called a variety of names: Web Designer, Interface Designer, Experience Designer…it doesn’t matter all that much what the position is called, what matters is that the person filling that role is able to empathically design interfaces and experiences that are useful and satisfying.
User-centered design (UCD) is an approach to design that grounds the process in information about the people who will use the product. UCD processes focus on users through the planning, design and development of a product. It just means you always keep the needs of the end user in mind at all times.
Project definition: identify client and scope
Change the world!
You will spend the last bit of class researching causes that you really care about. Why? Because you are going to develop an idea that you will eventually turn into a design for laptop, tablet, and phone for this cause. You are going to figure out a way you can change the world.
Fighting the Good Fight
Once you enter the working world, you may find it hard to fight the good fight: you will have bills to pay, rent to earn, demands on your time. You may have an employer who needs you to produce work for people or businesses you do not care for. This is life, and we all have to do it sometimes. I have found that giving back in some way enriches my entire life, not just my career. The project I am proposing is in some ways a luxury: you will rarely get to design a project that is truly your heart’s passion when you are working for someone else. That is fine–like I said, we all do it–but if you can find a cause you can find for throughout the years, not only will you have work you can be proud of, you will make a huge difference with your consistent effort over time. Develop the habit of giving back now and you will reap massive rewards later, be it a sense of satisfaction that you did the right thing, be it some lovely side projects for your portfolio, or be it connecting with others of like mind.