What is meant by “product”?

In CMU-speak, a product can be a lot of things. It has a very broad, liberal interpretation, referring to anything artificial, material or immaterial, resulting from deliberative human effort and planning, not just a piece of hardware or physical gadgetry for sale.

A product thus, in this sense, can be any of the following:

  • A map
  • A poster
  • A physical object
  • A website
  • A software application
  • A network device
  • An electronic gadget
  • A user interface
  • A complex system
  • A web-delivered service
  • A business process
  • An environment
  • An organization
  • A course syllabus, even!

When you look at the possible range of what could be a “product”, you can see there’s an extraordinary range of possible arguments and forms of rhetorical communication, as well as methods of thinking to solve their inherent problems. Each of these product types is a potential argument requiring different ways of handling them and presenting them to people. It should also be apparent that each one of these product types embodies a flavor of interaction design thinking, how people engage with the product and leverage it given a particular context or purpose.

Again, there is nothing inherently digital or web-based about product design, or interaction design. Once you’re able to accept this and start from this place as your baseline, it frees up your abilities and approaches as a designer, imho.

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