This is something that we’re not all that familiar with in creation, but all too familiar with in experience. It’s interaction design, or the art of making a person feel immediately comfortable with a product or device. AIGA has just put up a terrific interview with Dan Saffer, a guy who does this sort of design for a living, and who has just published a book called Designing for Interaction all about this stuff. The book itself, which we pick up pieces of the topic in the interview, takes a look at the history of interaction design, where it’s at now, where it’s going, and how to maybe start thinking like one of these people. Sounds like a really interesting read. Here’s a bit (of the interview):
Bill Moggridge and his colleague Bill Verplank at IDEO realized in the late 1980s that they had been doing a different kind of design than what was traditionally called “graphic design” or “industrial design,” so they gave it this name (which is much better than their alternate choice: “SoftFace:). But in my opinion, it’s something we’ve been doing since before recorded history. Aboriginal peoples made cairns to mark trails — that is, to communicate through time via a product. Native Americans used smoke signals to communicate over long distances.
The only thing new about it is that now, thanks to microprocessors being embedded into all sorts of objects that can now exhibit all sorts of different behaviors, it’s been recognized as a discipline. Somebody needed to figure out how these newly empowered objects should behave, and the tools of design were well-suited for it. Now, you can study it in school, and get paid to practice it. Whereas before, like other types of design, it was simply done without much reflection.