What is Interaction Design?

It’s been a week of reading about Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby! I have to say they have left me
more confused than convinced at the end of it all. In an attempt to understand their design
principle I answered a few questions (for myself).

What is Critical Design? How does it affect Interactions?

– Design that does more than just solve a problem or make the world a better place
– Design based on critical content
– Critical Design is NOT art
– Critical Design is a tool to engage one in a conversation
– Design which makes the invisible visible
– Critical design is about mixing criticism with optimism
A world of industrially manufactured objects dictate what it means to be human in our consumer society. Would a change in the society bring about a change in our behavior? If so, then it most definitely will have an effect on our interactions with the objects.

What is Design Fiction? What has it got to do with Interaction Design?

Design fiction is essentially a term  to analyze the emerging parallels of present and future to test new ideas in design. It is design to inspire. The preface to a chapter yet unwritten. It’s design’s way of asking ‘What will you prize most in the future?’ Design Fiction is as dependent on interaction design as is the latter, on it. Fiction as a result of speculative design has a direct effect on how things will be perceived. Perception and communication are key to interaction.

So then, what is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design to me is a point where object behavior meets human behavior. A point where they stop to exist as individuals and become simultaneous, almost symbiotic. It is no more what technology can do for design but what design can do for technology. Interaction Design today is about making technology more meaningful and relevant to our lives. Products have taken a backseat. It’s about behavioral studies. Design can bridge the gap between consumer satisfaction and be a mirror to user needs. Interaction Design today is about humanizing objects.

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Design in the contemporary world

While looking up design principles of Dunne and Raby, I came across these two very interesting talks by Paola Antonelli, design curator for MoMA.
Even though I do not quite agree with her on design being treated as art, she highlights a critical aspect of design methodology – Synthesis. My first brush with that word was in biology, photosynthesis, which essentially is conversion of light energy to chemical energy in plants.
Dictionary meaning of the world ‘synthesis’ says its a combination of components/elements to
form a connected whole.


I think that is a powerful phrase and readily recognizable with designers.
Design as a medium to bridge the gap between culture and people, behaviors and objects.
Design as an instruction and not as a prescription.

In the second video she specifically talks of Dunne + Raby’s work in the field of Design for Debate. Designing not to solve a problem but to question an answer.