Never mind interaction design, now it's all about "design interactions"

Is this a trend or the byproduct of the fact that most often than not, people can’t commit to defining their field? So now after my earlier rant about the RCA’s new name for it’s interaction design program, i read that former IDII Bill Moggridge is publishing a book called Designing interactions.

Sounds so artsy… “oh honey, i design interactions”

PS: I find it funny he took Bill Verplank’s diagrams for the cover of his book : )

Oh yes and let’s not forget Dan Saffer’s Design for interaction.

Dilution of a field

Not sure how I feel about this latest announcement of the RCA‘s new Head of Department Tony Dunne. The Interaction design department (which apart from IDII and Umea was the only other school teaching a less Xerox park approach to the field is renaming itself “Design Interactions”.

“The focus of the department is shifting, and although electronics and computing will remain at the heart of the course, we will begin to explore how design can connect with other technologies, such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. The course has been restructured to reflect this shift and was validated in March 2006.

Design Interactions is a small change, but we think it is significant. It reflects our emphasis on designing interactions of all kinds – not just between people and digital technologies, or even other emerging technologies, but also between people and possible futures, and between design and other fields of art and science.

At the last summer show, we characterised the thrust of the department as follows: ‘Design Interactions explores new roles, contexts and approaches for design in relation to the social, cultural and ethical impact of existing and emerging technologies. Projects, which are often speculative and critical, aim to inspire debate about the human consequences of different technological futures – both positive and negative. Students work closely with people outside the College, designing for the complex, troubled people we are, rather than the easily satisfied consumers and users we are supposed to be. Project outcomes are expressed through a variety of media including prototypes, simulations, video and photography. The students have backgrounds in art and design, computer science, engineering and psychology.” from Regine’s wmmna.

I think there is something very sad here which is the loss of a focus on making technology more usable and more human in every form. Physical computing is one of the ways in which that can present itself. And a field which turn inwardly toward catering to less and less consumer-relevant ideas, quickly slips into the realm of art. If the disappearance of IDII and this shift in the RCA are to indicate a trend in my field, then i wish everyone would support CIID‘s growth even more.

In Europe and the UK, there needs to be a space for professionals to learn to understand people, their needs, the business opportunities that design can bring, that fosters the growth of user-centered design in meaningful and playful ways, instead of veering towards the edges of the Bell curve and become design “comments” like the world of product design has become.