Thoughtful Interaction Design – A Design Perspective on Information Technology
Lowgren and Stolterman introduced their book with a comprehensive overview of thoughtful interaction design. It highlighted the meaning behind being thoughtful—or being reflective. Being thoughtful meant that designers are critical, caring about the designs you produce and how the world will be changed by your design ideas.
Digital Interaction Design: The Endless Possibilities
“The design of digital artifacts is largely open and unbounded.”
In this section, digital technology was described as material without qualities. It is indeed made by materials but it is intangible. Its tangibility, in my opinion, comes from our human ability to conceptually map things. For example, folders on a computer do not exist as tangible “folders” but our mind can easily picture information retrieval with the concept of folders.
As digital media is comparatively new to other kinds of technologies, it is still developing and being constantly renewed. While the concept of folders still work as of now, there could always be a possibility of other means of organizing information in the future. For example, I imagined a mindmap-style system (which is actually quite similar to folders), or perhaps something very visual and image-based, as we are already moving towards those in terms of social media trends (Snapchat and Instagram versus Twitter and Facebook). All these possibilities can potentially overwhelm a designer since every pixel can be customized down to 16,777,216 possible color values (in RGB). That does not include how they are moved, how fast they move, in what direction, etc. The possibilities are endless and as designers, we need to learn which path is best for each design situation.
A Designer’s Responsibility
“Design is very much an ethical activity. Every design process is a combination of actions, choices, and decisions that affect people’s lives and possible choices for action.”
Designers are always highly involved in the design process. During the ideation until the finished product, designers have a lot of influence in how the finished product works (function) and how it looks and feels (form). These functions and forms direct users’ interaction with it and thus their decisions. Designers and their clients can push for a certain value through design choices.
For example, in Facebook and Instagram, infinite scrolling encourages people to spend longer time on Facebook and Instagram newsfeed while ‘tagging’ makes for a greater connectivity and encourages social interaction. Twitter’s 140-character limit pushes forth the idea behind the quote “…brevity is the soul of wit” (Shakespeare). Instead of having people write lengthy essays, Twitter challenges its users to convey as much as possible in as few words as possible.
Whether these values are good or bad, designers certainly helped integrate these values in users’ lives. For something that has such a great impact, we certainly hope that ideas and values pushed forth is for the betterment of the society.
Conditions—Not Necessarily Limiting
“The real task for the designer is to develop something of lasting quality in the most suitable and creative way given the existing conditions.”
As a design student, I often hear (and make, though hopefully not too often) these excuses:
“If I had more time/ could have gotten hold of ___ material/ had more money to spend on ___/ could break this and that rule …then my design would have been better.”
All of them could be valid excuses at some point of time but were whiny grumblings at others. While we as designers wish we could have unlimited resources (time included) at our hands to liberate us from restrictions, it is not highly realistic. The assumption that creativity can only come when anything and everything can be done is misleading. There are always “social and organizational contexts that have particular limitations and restrictions” in which design is carried out, as the authors said. I believe that being creative is being able to come up with original and inspiring ideas despite the limitations. For app designers, they will use the size of the phone screen as their limitations. Maybe for web designers, perhaps both laptop and smartphone interfaces are taken into account. For smartphone designers, people’s hand size or pocket sizes. The everyday practicalities should be a way to stimulate creativity and not be seen as limiting.