Is interaction design a dead-end career?

Hmm! This arose via some comments by Bill Moggridge (esteemed “father of interaction design”, at IDEO, who coined the phrase) where he implied that interaction design may no longer be necessary as a discipline. It’s such a profoundly consequential thought that I’m honestly having difficulty getting my head around it!

Here are some discussion on some blogs, by Tim McCoy at Cooper and fellow CMU IxD graduate Jamin Hegeman.

There certainly needs to be some teasing apart of the concepts, like discipline vs. practice vs. profession, skills vs. craft, in particular.

But my initial response is this:

** Moggridge is so far outside the mainstream trenches of doing the typical work of software interaction design (flows, diagramming, wireframing, spec’ing designs, prototypes) for a company, as he’s such a broad visionary thought leader that his relationship to the discipline has kinda stretched and evolved so beyond “normal” designers…basically he as different view than someone like me who just started 8 years ago.

** What’s the proposed timeframe of this “dead-ending” of interaction design? (to use Tim McCoy’s phrase) Next year? 5-10 yrs? 20-35 yrs?

** What about all those fussy, frustrating, annoying “interactions” we’ve all had with badly designed websites, complex features, self-checkout at stores, movie ticket kiosks, mobile OS’s, in-car GPS units, microwave controls, home theater systems, online storefronts, etc. Someone armed with the skills/craft of IxD is clearly still needed for the foreseeable future! There’s SO much to fix, and to innovate further. Try printing a Word doc or installing an Adobe app or returning an item on Amazon. Thorny IxD problems!

** Ask Adobe, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle, Google, oh and Apple…do they think interaction design is fading away?! Hardly! The nature of software development cycles is such that IxD is and will continue to be needed (whether these companies properly apply IxD is a different question)

Ultimately, IMHO there’s still a TON of stuff to do that require interaction design (or UI/IA/UX/etc.) even if technologies evolve into a glorious symphony of haptic/neural/gestural/holographic Star Trek/Minority Report/Iron Man goodness of “natural interaction”. Someone will be needed to drive the humanizing of those technologies, the choreography of behaviors, mapping out the system of features, etc. The job title may not be “interaction design” but again someone with those abilities will be desired I think. Craft will still matter, skills will still matter, while the tools/tech may change. Time, motion, communication, expression, feedback, affordance, etc. all still matter in defining that relationship and behavior with users.

As long as there are technologies that shape human attitudes & behaviors & perceptions, there will be a need for someone to make them intuitively simple, emotionally appealing, and behaviorally impressive.

There is a distinct applicability of certain perspectives, methods, and principles inherent to the notion of “interaction design”, as written before on this blog repeatedly.

More on this soon…

Leave a Reply