I first caught the short film Connecting when it was posted over at ixda.org before Christmas. Although it was funded by Microsoft, which I feared could make it seem like only an advertisement for Microsoft’s flat Metro design interface, I think this short documentary captures the current status of interaction design as well as give plenty of food for thought.
It’s interesting to read the reactions on vimeo as well. Marc Rettig brings up the point that this film focuses more on the device and technology than the human component of interactions, interfaces, and objects. In general, I had the opposite reaction. I thought that those that appeared in the film explained a holistic approach that favored the overall experience rather than strictly the medium. Interaction designers do have to be in tune with the medium, but also aim for a solution that fits the needs of people.
I’ve noticed people tend to swing one way or the other as designers in terms of methodology (objective and technical vs. psychological, cultural and visceral). I’d like to see more designers and teams consider all sides of design, so that objective science and data blends in harmony with insights about emotion, tone, and unpredictable and intuitive areas of humanity.
There are objective rules to design, but computers alone can’t produce stunning designs that reach people on a intimate level. Looking at data and adapting to a screen doesn’t automatically tell you what people like. Testing and observing users won’t get you into their mind. Sometimes you can uncover great things by just asking people or formulating an algorithm, but it’s takes a multi-dimensional perspective of disciplines that will make design truly shine.
Some other commenters on the video get a bad taste in their mouth because of the control tech companies have to bombard (or connect) into our lives. Besides imagining the dark potential of unsolicited geosolicitations, I think some of the biggest problems that come with this is overconnection and impersonal connection. Information overload has never been easier in our history. More than ever have we had to battle fragmented attention and deciding what and who to spend our time with. We have to make interactions that aren’t barriers to a healthy community. We have to make things that are not a burden. Not overwhelming. Not just a link that encourages us to absorb everything imaginable regardless of how it affects us in the long run. There is more good information out there than I think is consumable for a person in a single lifetime. So now is the time to do something with it all. Let’s connect what’s important.