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Form Language, Guinness, and One Big Family: Interaction 12, Day One

Scene from the first day of Interaction 12
Scene from the first day of Interaction 12

The first day full day of the conference echoed a sense of family as Luke Williams, author of Disrupt, addressed the crowd in his opening keynote. He acknowledged interaction designers’ familiarity with patterned behavior and cognitive theory as a strength, but also as a fault. He explained that the audience should turn their lens inward, realizing cognitive bias in themselves. This bias could be a barrier for innovation and disruptive ideas, and he challenged that disruptive ideas can be nothing more than annoying, fleeting notions without the right context and audience.

Caffeinated and inspired, we all poured out of the main hall to head for the first presentations of the day. I decided to check out “Design Language for Interactions”, a talk by Ziba’s Creative Director, Michael Lemmon. Using concepts rooted in industrial design, Michael explained the concept of “form language“– creating cohesion across a product line using surface, material, color, function, brand, and customer. Pertaining to interaction design, he highlighted the use of consistent language, content, visual themes, and interaction to build a solid structure of experience across a multiple devices. Another key takeaway was his organizational approach to digital product development: form design teams around features, rather than devices, to generate higher level rules for core interactions and prevent siloing among team members.

After Michael’s talk, I took a breather and joined another SVA IxD alum Russ Maschmeyer and his co-workers for lunch at Facebook’s Dublin office. We caught up on his recent work with Facebook’s group and community features, enjoyed a view of Dublin from the roof, and headed back for round 2 of the conference’s talks.

The best presentation of the afternoon was RCA co-chair Anthony Dunne (a British Michael Rock, or the other way around) explaining his approach to interaction design and showcasing student work. He pointed out a disconnect in the design profession between problem solving and critique/commentary. His solution to bridge the gap was to generate conversation through designing the possible, the probable, and the potential future. In doing so, designers could, “shift design from how things are now to design how the world could be”. In concert with SVA’s Allan Chochinov, Mr. Dunne pointed out that designers have the unique ability to explain amorphous, forward-thinking concepts by giving them form. This facilitates dialogue around a visible object rather than around an intangible idea.

Closing out the day, a few of us, along with faculty member Jill Nussbaum, headed to a sponsored networking event a few blocks away. As we enjoyed a few rounds of Guinness, we discussed and debated the day’s events, looking forward to what day number 2 of the reunion would bring.

Dave Bellona

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