I attended DIS 2006 at Penn State University from June 25 - 28. DIS (Designing Interactive Systems) is a small (around 150 attendees) conference that complements CHI by focusing more closely on processes, techniques, and tools for design. DIS is held very other year; I also attended the 2004 conference, which was held in Cambridge, MA. On both occasions, DIS has proved to be a very interesting conference that challenges received ideas about how and why we design. Some themes I noted in this year's conference... There is still a need for better methods for inspiring design and creating conceptual designs. Papers examined "inspiration card workshops" for involving users in design, effective storyboarding practices, and creating personas for children. Although methods like participatory design, storyboarding, and persona creation, are well-established, they also are still being refined and extended. This line of research reminded me that it's important not to become complacent in the use of standard methods--we should continually question our methods, even as they serve as the basis for much of our work. For example, Alissa Antle's work on personas identified two distinct approaches not ordinarily seen in persona definition: using a theoretical framework to guide persona creation (in her work, developmental psychology), and getting users to do user research (in her work, she had teenagers interview younger children). I believe both of these approaches could be fruitfully applied in a variety of domains. Extending work on ubiquitous computing, several research groups looked at augmented home and personal devices, such as flashlights, lamps, and tablecloths. Continuing interest in such devices has created the need for frameworks to guide design, leading to research on "pre-patterns" for digital home applications, and "themes" for interaction design (actually, Scott Klemmer's work in this area is generally applicable, and his paper "How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design" is highly recommended). At an even higher level of abstraction, one might ask, What is the outcome of design? How do we know when design is successful? A panel on "design quality" and Sol Greenspan's keynote on "lasting principles for design" both addressed this issue, and of course delivered no clear answers, but did provoke some interesting questions:
- Could "schools" of design (such as Modernism in art and architecture) play a role in interaction design? Schools are marked by both prototypes (e..g, Le Corbusier's houses) and social dialogue. Could more explicit recognition and discussion of interaction design "schools" improve our understanding of design?
- Can we move beyond the ideal of making design "invisible" (as in Don Norman's "invisible computer" or Yoshio Taniguchi's "invisible architecture") to making it visibly supportive and empowering? We might envision a design artifact that helps one feel enabled and excited--design that serves as an aid to identity.
- Do we need to rethink the role of aesthetics in interaction design? As one questioner put it, "art is not about aesthetics," but about ideas and discussion (and sometimes, provocation). Interaction design could move from "literal interpretation" to "conceptual interpretation" by refocusing on how people interpret and discuss different types of interactive systems. Alternatively, we might try to understand more carefully the specifics of aesthetic experience in the context of interaction design. Could we identify "aesthetic bugs?"
And finally, as a nice counterpoint to the idea that we can or should always "design" an appropriate "experience" for users, consider Tuck Leong's argument that randomness should be a resource for design. -Abe Technorati : dis2006