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]
We started this research project on design methods in September 2011 (funded by NSF). We have already conducted several studies, most of them are interview studies with professional interaction designers We focus on a range of aspects related to design practice and particularly the use of design methods (“methods” in its broadest possible meaning).
As always when you interview professionals they impress you with the competence they express and their understanding of design and the design process. These practitioners stress aspects of the design process that in many ways are opposite to what non-designers or students believe, for instance that process is more important than outcome, and that judgment is more important than method. They are constantly unwilling to make clear statements about “what works best”, “what method is best”, “what are crucial skills”, etc. Instead they always bring the discussion back to the particular, the particular situation, particular user, particular client, particular technology, and particular design challenge.
It is also fascinating to find that, even though they are highly skilled and competent in what they do, they are also somewhat worried that other professionals in the field are doing things differently and maybe in a better way. This is the case even though they are engaged in professional communities, workshops, conferences, and reads a lot.
It is also clear that the level of knowledge when it comes to design methods, their names, their history, their usefulness, etc. differ drastically.
Anyway, every interview leads to new insights about the everyday conditions of professional practice for interaction design. We are now more than ever looking forward to this research and can see many exciting results in the coming years.