Reflection | CH1 from Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman, Thoughtful Interaction Design

In this reading, the authors gave a brief overview of what makes a thoughtful interaction designer, as well as the challenges a designer might face. The discussions mostly concern the field of interaction design. However, as the authors mentioned, the terms are kept general and I feel that many concepts they touched on can be applied to other fields of design as well.

Firstly, this reading has suggested an answer to a question I have always had about the design process: “What is the most important skill of a designer?”. The authors suggest that the most important skill is making judgements. This skill is developed through a constant process of questioning and reflecting on what constitute good designs, formulating personal beliefs and choosing suitable frameworks for particular design situations. As there is never a perfect design and there will always be conflicts to handle as a designer, having a clear design compass and understanding our design capabilities will help tremendously in making difficult design decisions. In this reading, the authors also suggest that good design considers not only for the client and users but also for the environment and society at large. A thoughtful designer is aware of the impact he is making to the world, no matter how small the product seems in relativity.

I remember the advice from my mentor Rahul at TUMCreate : “ the worst thing you can do when designing is to be unsure or regret about a decision you made ”

Secondly, the authors also introduced the concept that digital technology is a “material without qualities”. Digital technology is a fast changing material that designers have not enough time to comprehend and understand how to make the best use of. Also, the constantly changing nature also allows digital technology to keep evolving and creating new qualities and possibilities, without having a fixed inherent quality that designers can confidently rely on. In this way, I believe the role of the designer is to define the form and select qualities of digital technology that best suits the design project, with considerations for the purpose, design situation, user and impact of the product. Also, in this regard, many companies and design houses have been arguing for their views on how to best utilise this digital technology material, especially in emerging fields such as user interface design, user experience design, interaction design…etc. Each of this argument represents a certain design theory or philosophy that influential designers wish for other to adopt. This includes examples such as Jacob Nilsen ‘s 10 Heuristic of UI Design or Google Material Design concept.


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For examples, Google Material Design is a design theory by Google that aims to “create a visual language for our users that synthesizes the classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science”. Their core principles are “Material as metaphors”, “Bold, graphic, intentional” and “motion provides meaning”. This is how the team at Google partly interpret and understand their digital material, as well as how they believe it should be used.

Lastly, I agree fully with the authors that design is a knowledge construction process, both for the designer and the world. In reality, especially in my field of industrial designs, many projects are concepts and many are speculative. Also, as design process usually takes place in situations with many constraints and conflicts from multiple stakeholders, it is likely that a concept never gets materialised. Nonetheless, I believe the process that the design team goes through, be it user study or technical development, builds up the knowledge and capabilities for the team and their clients at large. Hence, subsequent design projects can get increasingly effective, meaningful and relevant to the end user.

New vocabulary to note: thoughtful designer, design as knowledge construction, design situation, interaction design