Thoughts on Interaction Design


This articles talks about my reflections on ‘Thoughts on Interaction Design’ by Jon Kolko, a well known design veteran. The author encircles his thoughts around the most important entity in the design process- the user. He also explains a formal design process for product development, originally proposed by students of Carnegie Mellon University. His profound understanding of design processes coupled with years of experience makes the article stand out on its credibility and serves as a guide for design process.

The author explains the design process for product development through a human centered lens. The process model was originally proposed by John Zimmerman, Shelley Evenson and Jodi Forlizzi of the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, for discovering and extracting knowledge during the design process. It spans across 6 sequential dependant phases of design: Define, Discover, Synthesize, Construct, Refine and Reflect. Although the phases define a distinct set of functions, practically they can’t be delineated and are highly interdependent.
Define: One of the most difficult phases of design process is defining the problem/opportunity; clear communication being one of the biggest hurdles. The designer puts his effort in understanding the problem space by empathizing with the user. Extracting the information from the user by putting oneself in the his shoes is the key to eliciting requirements. synthesizing the gathered information and putting in down in clear words, then forms the problem definition.

Discover: Once the problem is clearly documented, the next step is to identify the hidden wants, needs and desires. One key question which a designer can use as a tool is ‘The user is not like me’. Understanding the hidden user needs by asking targeted questions, noticing the subtle emotions and behaviour involved and then documenting the results to refine the problem further forms the artefact for this phase. One point worth considering is in the corporate world this phase is usually ignored due to budget constraints and comparatively low importance than the other phases.

Synthesize: The next phase in the process requires gathering all the data and synthesizing it into an artefact. This document serves as a catalogue for the design process and serves as a reference for the later phases.

Construct: Once the synthesis is performed, the designers start constructing different models for personas, use case scenarios, etc. Hereafter, the processes become more and more time and effort consuming as they require lot of design sketching, ideation, and model building.

Refine: The designers iteratively keep on refining the models and sketches they’ve build by evaluating them with the help of users and other stakeholders. Interviews, discussions, surveys are useful tools for evaluation and testing.

Reflect: Thoughtful reflections always help the designer in accessing his rational behind creating the designs and also gives him an opportunity to improve his understanding of the product. This being the final phase is critical mostly to the designer than the product.

I believe that Jon kolko’s thoughts about the design process not only demonstrate how a user centered product should be built, but also extend to solving social and political issues. I’m eager to implement the learnings from the article in the designs I create!



Thanks for stopping by and reading! 🙂