interaction design

Dunne + Raby

Photo from  Dunne & Raby's   Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots, 2007

Photo from Dunne & Raby's Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots, 2007

The pathway to becoming a UX designer and/or Service Designer is always a fascinating story. If you take the time to ask fellow professionals in the field of how they came to be, I guarantee that it will be time well spent. The beauty of this industry is the fact that people have diverse backgrounds from probably every field you can imagine. This is why I love the HCD world.

Another reason why I love the HCD world is because if you look for it, you can pretty much find it in any field that exists. And when you do, the people you meet have no idea that they are actually participating in a HCD-like manner. 

One of the places that I found Human Centered Design is in the conceptual design world. Take for instance the subject of 'Critical Design'.

Critical Design uses critical theory to approach designed objects in order to challenge designers and audiences to think differently and critically about objects, their everyday use, and the environments that surround them. Many design professors teach this way of thinking with their design students who are producing highly conceptual artwork within the design realm. Are you still interested? I'll keep going.

I'd like to introduce you to a duo who teach as design professors in London and Vienna and make projects stemmed from Critical Design. Their names are Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.

Another photo from the same series.

Another photo from the same series.

'Their work has been exhibited at MoMA, NYC, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, and the Design Museum in London, and is in the permanent collections of MoMA, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Frac Ile-de-France, Fnac and the MAK as well as several private collections. [...] In 2015, Dunne & Raby received the first MIT Media Lab Award.' I don't think that I have to justify their impact within the design world - they are well respected and consistently referred to when new work is presented to the world.

Techies - listen up.

Although the list of work they have produced is quite long, I'd like to bring attention to one of their projects called, "Technological Dreams Series: No. 1, Robots," created in 2007, which is a great example of Critical Design. It provokes the idea that ‘one day, in the future, robots will do everything for us’ and the question of how we will interact with them comes to the surface. In this project, designed robots are shown to project the ‘new interdependencies and relationships [that] might emerge in relation to different levels of robot intelligence and capability.’ (Dunne & Raby, Project Info)

I am a firm believer that it is though works like Technological Dream Series: No. 1, Critical Design ultimately takes on the role of questioning ‘the limited range of emotional and psychological experiences offered through [existing] designed products.’ (Dunne & Raby, Project Info) It emphasizes the condition of today's design culture as it ‘limits and prevents [designers] from fully engaging with and designing for the complexities of human nature.’ Although this can be seen as a negative way to view designed objects, Critical Design ‘is more about the positive use of negativity’ as it confronts designers to think critically about people they are designing for. This theory supports HCD through this confrontation and many designers have, since then, turned to HCD for guidance.

How wonderful, right? And very appropriate for our HCD/UX/Service Design field.

If you have time, watch and read about the robots. Think about what a world would be like in the future if robots and technology actually behaved in this way. I challenge you to consider why we are in partaking in this industry and to think about what ways you can use this fictional narrative to make what you are currently making more human and healthy for today's world while keeping the future in mind. If we don't start now, we could very well be living in a world where technology dictates our behaviors and way of life rather than allowing our human culture to grow organically while technology serves and evolves with us.

Industry Specific

While I was writing my thesis in graduate school, I investigated a school called the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID). I wasn't able to visit during the few days I had in Copenhagen about 3 years ago but I made it a point to visit this time around. 

I had a friendly exchange with Alie Rose who basically runs the joint (Co-Founder and Head of Education) and met her at the CIID building. She was so pleasant to talk to, gave me a tour, and I ended up hanging out with her and her colleagues in their space for a little bit. Simona, the head of the program there, saw that I had a camera and asked if I could take some profile shots of her so I did. One thing led to another and I ended up there for almost 5 hours - would've been longer if I didn't have a dinner to go to. Basically, I fell in love with this place.

I have never been to a building that was so vertically charged with positive energy.

The only way that I can describe this is through food. You know when you have a croissant that has been folded over and over again with butter and dough, and you get the feeling that this little pastry in your hand is just charged with so much goodness? Yeah, that's what CIID feels like. 

Turns out that most of the students who come here are selected to be diverse in nationality. This move is absolutely intentional and really smart when it comes to creating an environment for innovation and collaboration. It is only through cultural differences and bringing brains together that have been wired differently will new ideas form and we will also progress to live more harmoniously in this world. 

One of the things that I love about the HCD industry is that it beckons in differences and not only welcomes them with open arms but is a crucial part of the formula when it comes to designing services, experiences, interactions, etc. Without this kind of dimension, it is quite possible that whatever solution or design is made may not be as encompassing or holistic. 

This is Simona Maschi who is the Co-Founder and CEO of CIID. Pretty much a rockstar but you can already tell by the photo.

This is Chris Downs with whom I had the privilege of spending some time with talking about lots of Interaction Design and notions about Service Design. He invited me to see some of his students pitch their ideas and I gladly accepted. So fun.

Pictured here is Simon Herzog who heads up the Nest component of CIID. Nest incubates new ideas and startups in the European sector and has a bunch of stellar experts and advisors who will help you along the way. 

The top floor of CIID is 'the Nest' and it really feels like a cozy, safe place to share and incubate a delicate idea.

I met great people and have since then met extensions of great people in Chicago who have been educated in this space. Their prototyping playground is imaginative, the architecture is fitting, and the energy is just really present and spot on. They have a great business model that includes education, consulting, and incubation for new ideas and I don't think it can get any better than that.

To read more on this program, go to CIID's site

UX Notes: Creating a physical space that reflects the kind of tone of work your organization provides is crucial to the survival of your employees and work culture. If you're wondering why something is not working in a project, take a look around you to see if there is something you can change. It might an environmental fix that you need.


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