Interaction Design – Theory & Practice

Lecture & Workshop


At the generous invitation of Chris Myers, chair of Graphic Design at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, I led a 5-day workshop with 9 juniors in his BFA program and gave a public lecture.

The basis of the visit was a workshop in interaction design. The workshop contrasted a model of conversation, represented by Conversation Theory of Gordon Pask, and the pragmatics of conversation, in the form of chat apps such as iMessage, What's App, and countless other systems with chat features. Through a deeper understanding of what conversation is and how it works—the theory—we can start from the human side (rather than the tech side) of interaction and thereby design for better conversations. Students considered a wide range of features from apps they knew and critiqued them for their strengths and limitations. They reviewed each others' chats, thereby experiencing an informal type of user research, and iterated their designs accordingly.

After the workshop's first day, I gave a lecture, "It Depends on Whom I'm With", whose title expresses what I consider the cardinal goal of interaction design: to create conditions such that each participant can be whom they want to be—or become.

On the 5th day of the workshop, after a series of iterations and crits, they presented their designs in terms of naming and branding, problems and requirements, screenshots and scenarios. While the depth of their designs was limited by time and the newness of the process, these graphic design students began to experience a user's interaction challenges, such as simplicity versus flexibility and rich features versus difficulty of learning. They gained a better understanding of designing for interaction while creating a novel entry for their portfolios.

Lecture & Workshop Materials