What is Interaction?

I like to think of Interaction Design as the work towards creating models/experiences that attempt to closely represent people's imagination or conceptual models. Chris Crawford’s metaphor of conversation is the most concise and enlightening explanation I’ve read so far. Luminaries within the Interaction Design realm such as Bill Moggridge or Gillian Crampton have wonderful explanations, yet Crawford’s self contained metaphor gives IxD’s explanation an elegant simplicity with just one word. From the implications of conversation that Crawford describes, there are a couple concepts to highlight. The cyclic nature of the conversation between actors, and fun as key qualitative factor for high interactive designs. To guarantee this cycle, he addresses the importance of the 3 equally necessary factors –listen, think and speak– to consider a conversation good. This is certainly an entertaining challenge when designing interactive works.

Crawford goes on pinpointing the revealing differences between IxD and other similar disciplines such as Interface Design. This difference relies specifically in the in between factor of a conversation, thinking. Interaction Design differs from Interface Design by addressing how will the work behave, through algorithms. He ensembles an articulate comparison that sets the stage for an afterthought analogy, Interaction Design is to Interface Design as Industrial Design to Graphic Design. He describes that, “[...] the user interface designer considers form only and does not intrude into function, but the interactivity designer considers both form and function in creating a unified design.” A systemic approach that never gets easy, yet enormously fulfilling whenever “people identify more closely with it [interactive work] because they are emotionally right in the middle of it.” In other words, interaction design is amazing thanks to the engaging and earnest-provoking experience.

In the end, Crawford finishes with a cautious call for action encouraging the reader to “exploit interactivity to its fullest and not dilute it with secondary business.” Exactly what prodigious creator and visionary Bret Victor denounces about nowadays consumer tech panorama. He is alarmed by the status quo’s acceptance of the narrow vision in interaction’s future-concept behind a flat surface. Victor advocates for tools that “addresses human needs by amplifying human capabilities”. Its through everyday objects’ properties how Interaction Design feedback should be crafted. He wittily highlights haptic feedback and explains haptic typology –power, precision and hook grips–. These premises will allow Interaction Design craft more intuitive works where hopefully people can seamlessly converse with –fingers crossed– other people and seamlessly experience works and devices. Victor wraps it with an encouraging suggestion to “be inspired by the untapped potential of human capabilities” and as Interaction Design “[w]ith an entire body at your command, do you seriously think the Future Of Interaction should be a single finger?

Even though gestured Natural Interfaces cast an interesting future for Interaction such as Disney Research's lovely concept, there is still fine tuning within the Beneficial Aesthetic realm.

Aireal: Interactive Tactile Experiences in Free Air. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2014.

Crawford, C. (2002). The Art of Interactive Design a Euphonious and Illuminating Guide to Building Successful Software. San Francisco: No Starch Press.

Victor, B. (2011, November 8). A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design. Retrieved September 8, 2014.