August 2007  
Interaction08 Registration Now Open

I am very pleased to announce that we have opened registration for the first annual Interaction Design Association's conference Interaction08, to be held in hip, historic Savannah, Georgia February 8-10, 2008. The conference features keynotes from Alan Cooper, Bill Buxton, Sigi Moeslinger, and Malcolm McCullough, and talks from Jared Spool, Dan Brown, RĂ©gine Debatty, Matt Jones, Aza Raskin, Jenny Lam, Sarah Allen, and Molly Wright Steenson. We also have workshops led by Marc Rettig, Darja Isaksson, Todd Warfel, and Jeff Patton.

We're also still accepting submissions for Lightning Sessions until September 15, 2007.

Originally posted on Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)


Fall 2007 Happenings

Some miscellaneous stuff of note.

Vote for my SXSW panels: Feeding the Creativity Beast and From Long Tail to Fuzzy Tail (w/David Armano and Jared Spool).

Come see me do my gadfly routine at the Design Research conference in late September when I do a talk on How to Lie with Design Research.

In October, I'll be in my hometown (thankfully), speaking at my publisher's conference Voices That Matter Web Design Conference on Gaming the Web: Using the Structure of Games to Design Better Web Apps.

Two Adaptive Path events: MX East, which is a retreat-like conference outside of Philly focused on design strategy and management. Then in November in Vancouver, the world-tour of UX Intensive continue. My interaction design day is the middle of a great (if exhausting) week of workshops. For both events, use my discount code of FODS and get 15% off.

Originally posted on Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


Can Anyone Be a Designer?

Probably because I sit next to trained cook and decent butcher Ryan Freitas (whose article on the similarities between cooking and design (pdf) you should read instead of this post), I've been reading books lately about chefs and cooking, namely The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain and Heat by Bill Buford. (I recommend both, simply for the appreciation you will have the next time you eat at a restaurant as to what went into making your meal.) At the same time, a recent thread on the IxDA mailing list once again had designers arguing about whether anyone can be a designer--or whether, in fact, everyone already is.

The movie Ratatouille posed this same question (sort of) about cooking: Can anyone cook?

The answer is, of course, yes. Anyone can cook, to varying degrees. But not everyone can be a professional chef, line cook, butcher, or the myriad of other positions that make up a professional kitchen and the food industry in general. It takes training and a certain temperament and physical endurance. You can be a great cook at home, but that has absolutely no bearing on your ability to be in a professional kitchen, as New Yorker writer Buford found out in Heat.

The same is true, perhaps to a lesser degree, for design (or for that matter any craft that combines artistry and skill). Anyone can design. It's a human activity, to give ideas form and expression in order to ameliorate a less-than-ideal situation. But not everyone can be a professional designer and work at the level most professional designers do: where money, time, and reputation (yours and your clients' and your users') are at stake. And for some designers, like those of medical devices, military systems, and emergency response systems, the stakes are even higher: users are literally entrusting their lives to the designers. I don't know about you, but I want someone who knows what they are doing designing the important products and services I use.

The problem is though, like the customer in the restaurant, everyone thinks they can design, and will offer an opinion, informed or not, on design work. Having an opinion on design isn't the same as being a designer. Some opinions are simply better than others. Not just from designers, either. I've stolen great design ideas from developers, business analysts, executives, research subjects...hell, anywhere I can get them. But we need to be judicial about the opinions we accept and those we reject. It's a matter of professional judgement.

What sets a professional designer apart from the amateur should be the quality and variety of the choices the professional designer makes while working. Even though it isn't always possible (ours being a subjective art), professional designers should strive to make deliberate choices in their work that can be defended. In designing your home, you don't have to defend your choices to anyone (except maybe your family). In designing products and services that will be bought and sold and used for serious purposes, your decisions had best be good: informed by an understanding of the context of use and tempered by experience, talent, and skill. This is why I get paid.

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Revising Designing for Interaction

It's been almost two years since I started writing my book Designing for Interaction. In that time, the industry and the profession has changed and so have I. If I was to write the book now, I'd write it differently. And that's what I've just proposed to New Riders: a second edition of D4I to come out next summer.

Here's the TOC I've proposed, including topics that readers thought I had left out of the previous edition and incorporating more subjects for intermediate-advanced designers. Let me know if you think I've left anything important out.

Introduction to the Second Edition
Ch.1 Three Ways of Thinking About Interaction Design
Ch.2 The Four Approaches to Interaction Design
Ch.3 A Process and a Toolkit for Interaction Designers
Ch.4 Strategic Interaction and Experience Design
Ch.5 Design Research for Interaction Designers
Ch.6 Creating Design Concepts
Ch.7 Making Good Design Decisions
Ch.8 Documenting and Communicating Designs
Ch.9 Prototyping and Creating Form
Ch.10 Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices
Ch.11 Interactions Across Applications and Platforms
Ch.12 Fixing Broken Products
Ch.13 The Future of Interaction Design
Epilogue: Designing for Good

As you can see, the book will be significantly revised and expanded, probably to about 350 pages, or roughly a third more than the current edition of D4I. I'll also be retaining some of the best features of the last book, including interviews with interaction design luminaries and up-and-comers. And yes, there will be bibliographies at the end of each chapter so the curious can read further on each topic.

Let me know what you, my loyal readers, would like to read about, and I will try to provide.

Originally posted on Thursday, August 23, 2007 | Link | Comments (4) | Trackback (0)


Review: Managing Humans

On a tip from Joel Spolsky, I picked up the informative and entertaining Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp. Not that I have read many of them, but Managing Humans is probably one of the best no-bullshit books on managers, staff, and office life in general for those of us who work in the software/web/engineering/design world. I recommend it not only for people like myself who are getting their feet wet managing people, but also for people who aren't managing anyone in order to understand what their boss (and their boss' boss) does and thinks about all day. If you've ever wondered, What do those managers do all day? this is the book for you.

Lopp goes over the basics of running a team: from hiring (on resumes: "you have 30 seconds to make an impression on me") to resigning ("Don't give too much notice") to dealing with difficult employees ("Get the freaks to solve their own problems"), Lopp (or his alter-ego Rands) has practical advice on how to deal with it. And not crap like "Get your team to be the best it can be!" but tactical suggestions on how to play common scenarios. like bad meetings, employee freakouts, and dealing with burnt-out staff. And he does it in a readable, funny way.

Highly Recommended (for managers especially).

Originally posted on Saturday, August 4, 2007 | Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)


Over the Web, But Not The Internet

I haven't worked on a web site or web application for about nine months now, so there is a joke going around the office that I'm "over the web" and refuse to do any more web projects. While that's not true, like all jokes it has a kernel of honesty in it, because the god's honest truth is that I am a bit tired of the web. I've been doing web work for 12 years now, and it's like an old marriage: I know its habits intimately. It takes a really interesting (pure) web project to pique my interest these days.

Why? Simply because the problems many sites have (How do we get more traffic? Is this web form usable? How do we make a community? How can I optimize for search engines? etc.) simply aren't all that interesting to me any more. Not compared to the vast amount of hard problems that exist elsewhere, on other devices, on the desktop, and in environments. The problems of medical devices, consumer electronics, mobile, operating systems and platforms, kiosks and in-environment touchpoints seem much more engaging and a direct part of people's lives than most web sites will ever be.

This is not to say, of course, that all web work is boring; that's patently untrue. Any problem, even the most mundane, can be interesting if you haven't tackled it before, or if you tackle it with fresh eyes and make it new for yourself. But for me to get excited about a web project now involves the app or site being the solution--or, more likely, part of a solution--of a really interesting, hard problem, the solution to which will be meaningful to users' lives. That's what engages me now. (And Allah be praised I work at a company that attracts such projects where I get to do just that.)

While my interest in the web wanes, the internet continues to fascinate. The genius of Vint Cerf and his crew in setting the 'Net up as so open has paid off so many times, in so many ways, it is unreal. I suppose it makes sense the plumber's son would be interested in technology's plumbing, but how people continue to make use of the use of that plumbing in so many unexpected ways is inspiring. I'm almost always interested in a new internet project. And I expect and hope it will always be so.

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Interaction08 Call for Submissions

The conference I'm chairing, the Interaction Design Association's first annual conference, Interaction08, is having a call for submissions until September 15, 2007. The conference will be held in Savannah, Georgia, USA on February 8-10, 2008.

Submissions are for Lightning Session slots, each of which is 25 minutes in duration around a single topic. Single or duo speakers are allowed, but no panels, please. Please submit only one idea per person. There are 14 open Lightning Session slots. Lightning Session speakers will receive free admission to the conference.

Topics for Lightning Sessions can be around anything relating to the field of interaction design; that is, anything focused on the behavior of products and services in response to human action. Our potential attendees are particularly interested in tactical, practical information around methods, prototyping techniques, documentation, mobile, physical computing, and information visualization. We are interested in fields related to interaction design (e.g., information architecture, visual and industrial design, coding), but only as they relate to interaction design.

Lightning Session speakers will be determined by the IxDA Conference Committee and announced on October 31, 2007. I really hope some of my O Danny Boy readers will submit session ideas!

Just FYI, this conference is going to be great, if I do say so myself. Check out the line-up: Alan Cooper, Bill Buxton, Sigi Moeslinger, Malcolm McCullough, Jared Spool, Regine Debatty, Dan Brown, Molly Wright Steenson, Aza Raskin, Sarah Allen, and Matt Jones. We will also host pre-conference workshops taught by Marc Rettig and Jenna Date, Darja Isaksson, Jeff Patton, and Todd Warfel.

See you in Savannah!

Originally posted on Wednesday, August 1, 2007 | Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)



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