Deconstructing Interaction Design

This series of blog posts was created in the module "design methodologies" teached by Dr. Joëlle Bitton at ZHdK.

What is interaction design?

Today in class we started talking about the term of our studies. "What is interaction design?".
It is a question I hear a lot from my family and friends. Although I probably answered it a hundred times, I still do not have a satisfying answer to it.
Therefore it was relaxing to know that everybody in our class struggled to answer this question.

So here a few keywords our class came up with:

  • Human to human
  • Humen-Computer Interaction (HCI)
  • transfer information with all senses
  • analog-digital / physical-digital
  • experience
  • learning by doing
  • embodiment
  • speculative design

Design process

In the first semester we did not learn theoretically a design process. But in the different modules a lot of practically group work was done. So we all came up with our own "design process". In the module "digital fabrication" it looked like the following:

  1. creating an idea pool / brainstorming (What should we do)
  2. Iterative process:
    • rapid prototyping
    • learning by doing
    • what works? what does not?
    • documentation
  3. break down to reality. Especially one idea (cubic popcorn) did not solve a concrete problem. It was more of an experiment. So we tried to find a use case for it.


The excursive method

After breaking down or process Joëlle gave us an introduction to the excursive method:

  • Investigation: Literature, inspiration, moodboards, brainstorming
  • Play: experimenting, prototyping, brainstorming
  • Everyday: real world, user interview & studies, testing, culture,
  • Tensions: art vs design, compromises, limits, budget, time
  • Enactment: talks, demos, workshops, lessons, blog, documentation
  • Dissemination: sharing the knowledge, legacy, blog


Our rudimentary design process already covered most of the six points suggested by our teacher. In our future projects it would make sense to use different methods / tools for each step. For example not just doing a quick brainstorming in the "investigation" phase but also considering reading literature or creating moodboards. So that each phase is analysed properly.
Furthermore it is important to know that a design process is always a guideline and can be adapted to the situation. As well as it is not linear. It is normal to go forth and back in the process or doing steps simultaniously.

Some interesting topics that were dropped in the course but not further discussed:

  • Is solving problems the right thing to do? Is it not just generating more problems? Would it be better to question the problem / situation it self? See my reading notes.
  • Our digital gadgets prevent us from analysing our environment and body properly, because they draw to much attention from us. As tech geek myself I should maybe keep my laptop more often in my bag and totally focus on the lesson / situation.


Löwgren, J. & Stolterman, E. (2007). Thoughtful Interaction Design. The Process (15–41).

What are the new terms in this text? How are they defined? Where do they come from?

  • "action-oriented knowledge": Means that there is no right or wrong. Only actions and consequences. (Donald Schön)
  • "reflection-in-action": (Donald Schön)
  • "reflection-on-action": (Donald Schön)
  • "authentic attention": Percept the situation and environment more careful and concerned than usual to fully understand the problem and not loosing any important information. (James Hillmann)

Who are the authors? Where do they work? Who do they refer to?

The authors are Löwgren Jonas (Professor of interaction and information design at the division of Media and Information Technology, Campus Norrköping, Linköping University) and Erik Stolterman (Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington).

Both of them have a background in information technology.

In their book they refer to:

  • Harald G. Nelson (Architect) and Stoltermann
  • Donald Schön (Philosopher, MIT)
  • James Hillmann (Psychologist)
  • Dahlorn and Mathiassen
  • Grudin

What questions come to your mind from reading this text?
How to share the visions, they are speaking of?
How to keep multiple ideas simultaniously? In my experience it is often needed to decide for one to continue working on? Especially in an environment with a lot of time pressure.

How does it affect your design practice? What applications do you see in your practice?

  • I want to create visual designs much faster in a discussion. It makes the vision more understandable and helps in the discussion.
  • Instead of designing solutions for a specific situation or reacting to it with the first idea I come up with, I want to question the situation as a whole. For example, is the existence of the product or situation still justified and needed?
  • Having multiple ideas simultaniousy and keeping them a live?
  • Truth is not as important, try to specify the "perfect" design and then break it down to reality.