The focus of this paper is interaction design research aimed at supporting interaction design practice. The main argument is that this kind of interaction design research has not (always) been successful, and that the reason for this is that it has not been guided by a sufficient understanding of the nature of design practice. Based on a comparison between the notion of complexity in science and in design, it is argued that science is not the best place to look for approaches and methods on how to approach design complexity. Instead, the case is made that any attempt by interaction design research to produce outcomes aimed at supporting design practice must be grounded in a fundamental understanding of the nature of design practice. Such an understanding can be developed into a well-grounded and rich set of rigorous and disciplined design methods and techniques, appropriate to the needs and desires of practicing designers.
Stolterman, E. (2008). The nature of design practice and implications for interaction design research. In International Journal of Design, 2(1). [Paper]
This paper presents findings from semi-structured interviews with professional interaction designers. The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between interaction designers and their design tools— specifically the reasons behind their choice of tools. The findings show that the relationship between designers and their tools is more complex than commonly assumed. The paper argues that a deeper understanding of the complexity of the designer-tool relationship can make a difference for both education and practice.
Stolterman, E. & Pierce, J. (2012). “Design tools in practice: Studying the designer-tool relationship in interaction design”. In DIS 2012, June 11-15, 2012, Newcastle, UK
Erik Stolterman, School of Informatics, Indiana University
James Pierce, Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
An assumption behind this paper is that research aimed at improving interaction design practice is not as successful as it could be. We will argue that one reason for this is that the understanding of what constitutes designerly tools is not enough recognized among those who propose new tools for interction design. We define designerly tools as methods, tools, techniques, and approaches that supports design activity in way that is appreciated by practicing interaction designers. Based on a two empirical studies, we have developed a framework and a way of studying designers and their tools. We discuss some insights about what characterizes designerly tools and what kind of implications these insights might have for the further development of tools aimed at supporting design practice.
Stolterman, E., McAtee, J., Royer, D. & Thandapani, S. (2008) “Designerly Tools”, DRS Conference, July, Sheffield, 2008. [Paper]
Erik Stolterman, School of Informatics, Indiana University
Jamie McAtee, School of Informatics, Indiana University
David Royer, School of Informatics, Indiana University
SelvanThandapani, School of Informatics, Indiana University
There has been an ongoing conversation about the role and relationship of theory and practice in the HCI community. This paper explores this relationship through a tentative model, which describes a “trickle-down” of theory into practice, and a “bubble-up” of ideas from practice to inform research and theory development. Interviews were conducted with interaction designers, which included their knowledge of two design methods—affinity diagramming and the concept of affordance—as well as a description of their use of design methods in practice. Based on these interviews, potential relationships between theory and practice were explored through this model. Knowledge of the history or key steps of executing a design method was not found to negatively affect the ability of a designer to apply the key concepts of a method in practice. Opportunities for future research, based on the use of the tentative model as a generative model, are considered.
This note describes our analysis of 35 papers from CHI 2011 that aim to improve or support interaction design practice. In our analysis, we characterize how these CHI authors conceptualize design practice and the types of contributions they propose. This work is motivated by the recognition that design methods proposed by HCI researchers often do not fit the needs and constraints of professional design practice. As a complement to the analysis of the CHI papers we also interviewed 13 practitioners about their attitudes towards learning new methods and approaches. We conclude the note by offering some critical reflections about how HCI research can better support actual design practice.
Roedl, D. & Stolterman, E. (2013) Design Research at CHI and its Applicability to Design Practice. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Paris, France). ACM Press, New York, NY. [Paper]
Research on design pedagogy has shown that students progress through a variety of barriers on the path to becoming a successful design practitioner, and that frameworks for explicit reflection can be beneficial to the development of design students. Schön uses the concept of reflection-on- action to describe one form of reflection on design practice, with the eventual goal of improving design processes and judgment. In this study, sketching is used as a form of reflection-on-action in a first semester intensive course in interaction design (IxD). This sketch reflects the student’s current understanding of the “whole game” or holistic view of design in IxD. Current practitioners in IxD companies were asked to draw the “whole game” sketch as well. Parallels among the sketches and areas of divergence are discussed. In summary, students shifted from abstract, linear representations of process early in the semester to more concrete, iterative representations by the end of their first semester. Practitioner sketches were more abstract and linear, but also included representations of business terminology and design teams.
Gray, C. M. & Siegel, M. A. (2013). Sketching Design Thinking: Representations of Design in Education and Practice. DRS // CUMULUS 2013: 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers, Oslo, Norway, 2007-2031. [Paper]