by Carin Rogoff
Richard Buchanan was the keynote speaker Friday morning and gave an untitled, un-powerpointed(!) talk focused on three questions:
Who are we?
Where are we?
Where are we going?
I thought the talk was one of the most engaging of the conference and you could see attendees intently jotting down every juicy quote, social theory reference, and joke peppered in.
He worked the early morning crowd in an energetic yet relaxed mood and gave us gems like "Design has no subject matter. We make our own subject matter." He identified this as one of the reasons it can be so hard for us (interaction designers) to define what we do.
In the evolution of what we call design, Buchanan calls interaction design the third new area of problems to solve, following graphic and industrial design.
And interaction design has another definition: how we design environments in which interactions take place. So if in industrial design a chair is an object, in this 3rd order, a chair is not a thing but a place of activity. And to be clearer, by activity we mean actions or interactions.
After all, as he says:
"Rocks move, people act".
Soon after came another definition of interaction design:
"Designing how people relate to other people through the mediating influence of products" with the caveat that a product is not just a thing but can be a law, an organization, video, or interface.
He explained what his Carnegie Mellon students dubbed the triangle of doom:
A product must be three things in order to succeed: Useful - usable - desirable
And then he introduced what he calls the 4th order of design: environments, the basis for participation. How can we design systems and frameworks so people feel like they are part of something?
For more on Buchanan's talk and the rest of Friday's speakers check out the great reporting at Johnny Holland magazine: Interaction 11 report: day 2
And I'll leave you with my favorite quote:
"I don't go to your godd%@m website for the clicks and to see the pretty colors. I go there because I have something to do."