Design Issues

There’s one week left in the masters-level class I’ve been teaching. It is mainly a seminar-style course with a few complimentary projects. The semester was organized into seven units. These are the readings that my students were required to write responses to and then discuss in class. This is a good survey of the current state of design theory.

Defining Design
Beautiful Diversion - NextD Journal
Are Designers The Enemy Of Design? - BusinessWeek
In which design is subjected to Lakovian analysis -
Defining Design -

Design Leadership
Design Vision
Managing is Designing? Exploring the Reinvention of Management - NextD
Design Vs. Design Thinking. - BusinessWeek
Leadership Is THE Strategic Issue - AIGA

The Design Landscape
What is graphic design? - AIGA
What is Industrial Design? - IDSA
What is IA? - IAI
Definition of IxD - IxDA
Designing for Interaction - Dan Saffer (pages 2-8 and 20-22)
Ladder of Fire: Unpacking Advocacies - NextD
IA Summit 09 - Plenary - Jesse James Garrett
What is Design? (Yes, all 10 definitions!) - Demystifying Usability
Why Does Interaction Design Matter? Let’s Look At The Evolving Subway Experience - FastCompany
10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design - Mashable
What is service design? - Design Council
Engine Service Design
Richard Buchanan Keynote – Emergence 2007 « Design for Service
An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research - Dubberly

Design Methods
The students researched specific methods individually and presented them to the class, rather than having assigned readings, but I did provide the following resources as starting points.
Stories - Boxes and Arrows
NASA - Process: User Centered Design Methods
Use our methods - Stanford 
Design methods - Design Council

Design & Business
AIGA Center for Practice Management - Trademark Basics for Graphic Designers
AIGA | Aquent Survey of Design Salaries
Intellectual Property: What does “Work for Hire” mean for designers? - AIGA
Why Does My Firm Own Everything I Do? Intellectual Property & You - Core77
The State of our Contracts - AIGA
American Firms Now Embrace Design, But They’re Aging Fast. What’s Next? - Co. Design
The Cost of Frustration - UIE
No Accounting For Design? - Fast Company
Dos and Don’ts for Designers Dealing with Business - Core77
On Being T-Shaped - Core77
Ten Ways to Measure Design’s Success - BusinessWeek

Social & Organizational Change
Hourschool: Learn from your network, one hour at a time. - AC4D
AIGA | Design for Good
Redesigning America’s Future
Introduction: Design and Organizational Change - Richard Buchanan
Marc Rettig - How to Change Complicated Stuff - IxDA Library
RED Paper 02: Transformation Design
The Designers Accord
Navigating a Sea Change - Lauralee Alben

Design Ethics
AIGA | Ethics and Social Responsibility 
AIGA | Logo Warehouses, Crowdsourcing, and a Lack of Understanding 
AIGA | What’s the harm in crowdsourcing? 
AIGA | AIGA position on spec work 
AIGA | Design Business and Ethics 
AIGA | AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest 
What is AIGA’s position on spec work? And how are ethical standards determined?
AIGA Standards of professional practice
Ethics in the Design Field - Webdesigner Depot
The Politics of Desire and Looting - Design Observer
"This is what I have learned" by Milton Glaser
First Things First 2000
First Things First 1964
In Search of Ethics in Graphic Design — AIGA

Design Education
Design Research and Education: A Failure of Imagination? - Core77 
Why Design Education Must Change - Core77 
Teaching Social Innovation - Austin Center for Design
What this Country Needs is a Good Five-Year Design Program - AIGA


There’s one word that can sum up the difference between Apple’s products and most others on the market: delight. There was an update to the software on the AppleTV last week, which I didn’t think much about when I told it to install. I assumed it contained some bug fixes, perhaps a security patch, or an improvement to iCloud integration. I hadn’t read anything about it and figured it was a minor thing. 

One of my favorite features of the AppleTV is its “screensaver,” which randomly displays photos from the thousands in my iPhoto library. Every time it comes on, it randomly selects one of a number of spectacular display themes. When I’m not watching the television, AppleTV turns it into a huge, high definition, dynamic, digital photo frame.

Some time after I had performed the update, I noticed a screensaver I hadn’t seen before. It was panning across a wall adorned with picture frames of different sizes and styles, each featuring one of my photographs. Some rested on a wooden shelf at the bottom of the screen. Then it panned up the wall, away from the shelf, bringing additional rows of frames into view. Eventually it reached the corner of the room, rotated, and continued panning. It was attractive. It was surprising. It was delightful. It was new content of a quality one would expect to pay extra for.

Delight is not the result of focus groups, usability testing, or agile development approaches. Delight is the result of impeccable design.

Not a Specialist

The British Author Graham Swift said, “One of the attractions of being a writer is that you’re never a specialist. Your field is entirely open; your field is the entire human condition.” In much the same way, a designer is not a specialist. A designer becomes an expert on whatever content, medium, and industry he is designing within. He must learn to think like those who will utilize that which is being designed. He must understand context: time, conditions, constraints. And once it is mastered, the problems solved, a solution reached, it is time to move on, perhaps to something completely different. That is part of the attraction of design, part of the challenge, and part of the reward.

Champions of Quality

I have a Ryan home that I had built in 2003. Overall, it’s a nice house, but when you have a contractor erect a cookie-cutter building, they are going to find ways to cut costs. Last weekend, the counter weight spring on my garage door, well, sprung. My wife called a local garage door installation specialist, and he informed us that they see this problem quite often. When the house was built, the contractor installed the cheapest spring they could get. We actually got about five more years out of it than some people do. It cost nearly $700 to replace, but the new one has a lifetime warranty. I would have preferred putting the extra for the quality spring on my mortgage to begin with, but I wasn’t given a choice.

How do you approach designing and building software for your customer or employer? Do you put in the extra time and effort necessary to deliver a high-quality, maintainable product, or do you make compromises to save time, money, or effort—compromises that may result in higher maintenance costs, poorer user productivity, or early obsolescence? I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve been on both ends of that yard stick, but I strive to always deliver the highest quality product I can. Designer’s should be champions of quality, pushing their companies, coworkers, and clients to take the long view.


David Malouf, Professor of Interaction Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, recently published an article on Johnny Holland titled Motion and the Clay of Interaction Design, in which he hesitantly proposes motion as a fourth foundation of Interaction Design. The first three, described in an earlier publication, are time, metaphor, and abstraction. The article is very well reasoned, I whole-heartedly vote for it. Ever since taking Dan Boyarski’s Time, Motion, & Communication class at CMU, I have considered time and motion both to be core foundational elements.

I’d like to suggest another one. I haven’t done the scholarly research and deep thinking to write a paper on it, but it seems to me that “state” is a good candidate. The understanding of state is fundamental to interactions. State must be tracked and communicated. State may be changed as the result of actions performed by the actors. State may restrict the possible actions permitted to the actors. It has close ties to time. And while we immediately think of state in the context of software, it is an element of any type of interaction.