Three design theories

This week, Meredith Davis of the NCSU School of Design (go Wolfpack! I’m a NCSU alumni, forgive me), gave a “lecture” to us at work, speaking about the interdisciplinary nature and the changing nature of design. I am going to attempt to summarize the three views of design theory that she presented, but I will start with a huge caveat that I might really butcher her message with what I took away from her presentation. (I did do some Googling, and I found these three articles or resources that echo some of what I summarize below: Mapping the Field of Design, Part 1; Design, Where Do We Go Next?, Part 2; and What is Interaction? Are There Different Types?)

The first design theory focused on artifacts. Most people in the general public hear “design” and they think of artifact-based design: objects, spaces, messages from the real world (furniture design, fashion design, or other industrial design objects). The artifacts are not released until they are “almost perfect.” She listed IBM and Apple as pioneers in good artifact design.

The second design theory was interaction design. This is focusing on the user behavior and the interactions that we have objects or systems. It is the tools, or simulations, or the performance of the system. She once again mentioned Apple as a pioneer in good interaction design (iPod, iPhone, etc). Here, the products are released with the idea that they are “good enough for now,” and with the intention of planned updates to come along soon, as you refine the design. Most design work today is in this space, focusing on interaction design.

The third design theory moved into conversations. This design focuses on services, platforms, or communities. It talks about forming relationships between designers, producers, and users, who become ultimate fans and a key part of the communities. Here, design focuses on the services and community aspects, such as the Apple Store, and how interconnected it is to the site, the community, and so on. The entire service experience. She also mentioned Amazon as being a pioneer in designing a conversation.

Davis spoke to leaving artifact driven design behind, and instead push ourselves to even move into and beyond interaction design into designing true user experiences by focusing on creating conversations.

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