Interaction design

Last updated

Interaction design, often abbreviated as IxD, is "the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services." [1] :xxxi,1 Beyond the digital aspect, interaction design is also useful when creating physical (non-digital) products, exploring how a user might interact with it. Common topics of interaction design include design, human–computer interaction, and software development. While interaction design has an interest in form (similar to other design fields), its main area of focus rests on behavior. [1] :1 Rather than analyzing how things are, interaction design synthesizes and imagines things as they could be. This element of interaction design is what characterizes IxD as a design field as opposed to a science or engineering field. [1] :xviii

A design is a plan or specification for the construction of an object or system or for the implementation of an activity or process, or the result of that plan or specification in the form of a prototype, product or process. The verb to design expresses the process of developing a design. In some cases, the direct construction of an object without an explicit prior plan may also be considered to be a design activity. A design usually has to satisfy certain goals and constraints, may take into account aesthetic, functional, economic, or socio-political considerations, and is expected to interact with a certain environment. Major examples of designs include architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams, and sewing patterns.

Human–computer interaction (HCI) researches the design and use of computer technology, focused on the interfaces between people (users) and computers. Researchers in the field of HCI both observe the ways in which humans interact with computers and design technologies that let humans interact with computers in novel ways. As a field of research, human–computer interaction is situated at the intersection of computer science, behavioural sciences, design, media studies, and several other fields of study. The term was popularized by Stuart K. Card, Allen Newell, and Thomas P. Moran in their seminal 1983 book, The Psychology of Human–Computer Interaction, although the authors first used the term in 1980 and the first known use was in 1975. The term connotes that, unlike other tools with only limited uses, a computer has many uses and this takes place as an open-ended dialog between the user and the computer. The notion of dialog likens human–computer interaction to human-to-human interaction, an analogy which is crucial to theoretical considerations in the field.

Software development is the process of conceiving, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and bug fixing involved in creating and maintaining applications, frameworks, or other software components. Software development is a process of writing and maintaining the source code, but in a broader sense, it includes all that is involved between the conception of the desired software through to the final manifestation of the software, sometimes in a planned and structured process. Therefore, software development may include research, new development, prototyping, modification, reuse, re-engineering, maintenance, or any other activities that result in software products.


While disciplines such as software engineering have a heavy focus on designing for technical stakeholders, interaction design is geared toward satisfying the majority of users. [1] :xviii


The term interaction design was coined by Bill Moggridge [2] and Bill Verplank in the mid-1980s, but it took 10 years before the concept started to take hold. [1] :xviii To Verplank, it was an adaptation of the computer science term user interface design for the industrial design profession. [3] To Moggridge, it was an improvement over soft-face, which he had coined in 1984 to refer to the application of industrial design to products containing software. [4]

Bill Moggridge British designer

William Grant "Bill" Moggridge, RDI was a British designer, author and educator who cofounded the design company IDEO and was director of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. He was a pioneer in adopting a human-centred approach in design, and championed interaction design as a mainstream design discipline. Among his achievements, he designed the first laptop computer, the GRiD Compass, was honoured for Lifetime Achievement from the National Design Awards, and given the Prince Philip Designers Prize. He was quoted as saying, "If there is a simple, easy principle that binds everything I have done together, it is my interest in people and their relationship to things."

Bill Verplank American HCI researcher

William "Bill" Lawrence Verplank is a designer and researcher who focuses on interactions between humans and computers. He is one of the pioneers of interaction design, a field of design that focuses on users and technology. He was previously a visiting scholar at Stanford University's CCRMA and was involved in Stanford's He also teaches and lectures internationally on interaction design.

Industrial design

Industrial design is a process of design applied to products that are to be manufactured through techniques of mass production. Its key characteristic is that design is separated from manufacture: the creative act of determining and defining a product's form and features takes place in advance of the physical act of making a product, which consists purely of repeated, often automated, replication. This distinguishes industrial design from craft-based design, where the form of the product is determined by the product's creator at the time of its creation.

The earliest programs in design for interactive technologies were the Visible Language Workshop, started by Muriel Cooper at MIT in 1975, and the Interactive Telecommunications Program founded at NYU in 1979 by Martin Elton and later headed by Red Burns. [5]

Muriel Cooper was a pioneering book designer, digital designer, researcher, and educator. She was the longtime art director of the MIT Press, instilling a Bauhaus-influenced design style into its many publications. She moved on to become founder of MIT's Visible Language Workshop, and later became a co-founder of the MIT Media Lab. In 2007, a New York Times article called her "the design heroine you've probably never heard of".

The first academic program officially named "Interaction Design" was established at Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 as a Master of Design in Interaction Design. [6] At the outset, the program focused mainly on screen interfaces, before shifting to a greater emphasis on the "big picture" aspects of interaction—people, organizations, culture, service and system.

Carnegie Mellon University private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a private research university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie as the Carnegie Technical Schools, the university became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912 and began granting four-year degrees. In 1967, the Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to form Carnegie Mellon University. With its main campus located 3 miles (5 km) from Downtown Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon has grown into an international university with over a dozen degree-granting locations in six continents, including campuses in Qatar and Silicon Valley, and more than 20 research partnerships.

In 1990, Gillian Crampton Smith founded the Computer-related Design MA at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, changed in 2005 to Design Interactions, [7] headed by Anthony Dunne. [8] In 2001, Crampton Smith helped found the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, a small institute in Olivetti's hometown in Northern Italy, dedicated solely to interaction design. The institute moved to Milan in October 2005 and merged with Domus Academy. In 2007, some of the people originally involved with IDII set up the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID). After Ivrea, Crampton Smith and Philip Tabor added the Interaction Design (IxD) track in the Visual and Multimedia Communication at Iuav, University of Venice, Italy, between 2006 and 2014.

Royal College of Art college in Kensington and Chelsea, UK

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is a public research university in London, United Kingdom, with campuses in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. The only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world, it offers postgraduate degrees in art and design to students from over 60 countries. As of 2019, the RCA has placed first in the QS World University Rankings in the Art and Design subject area for five consecutive years, since the introduction of subject area rankings in 2014.

Interaction Design Institute Ivrea was a graduate design program in the field of Interaction Design operating in the town of Ivrea, in Northern Italy.

Olivetti company

Olivetti S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of typewriters, computers, tablets, smartphones, printers and other such business products as calculators and fax machines. Headquartered in Ivrea, in the Metropolitan City of Turin, the company has been part of the Telecom Italia Group since 2003. The first commercial programmable "desktop computer", the Programma 101, was produced by Olivetti in 1964 and was a commercial success.

In 1998, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research founded The Interactive Institute—a Swedish research institute in the field of interaction design.


Goal-oriented design

Goal-oriented design (or Goal-Directed design) "is concerned with satisfying the needs and desires of the users of a product or service." [1] :xviii

Alan Cooper argues in The Inmates Are Running the Asylum that we need a new approach to solving interactive software-based problems. [9] :1 The problems with designing computer interfaces are fundamentally different from those that do not include software (e.g., hammers). Cooper introduces the concept of cognitive friction, which is when the interface of a design is complex and difficult to use, and behaves inconsistently and unexpectedly, possessing different modes. [9] :22

Alternatively, interfaces can be designed to serve the needs of the service/product provider. User needs may be poorly served by this approach.


Usability answers the question "can someone use this interface?". Jacob Nielsen describes usability as the quality attribute [10] that describes how usable the interface is. Shneiderman proposes principles for designing more usable interfaces called "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design" [11] —which are well-known heuristics for creating usable systems.


Personas are archetypes that describe the various goals and observed behaviour patterns among users. [12]

A persona encapsulates critical behavioural data in a way that both designers and stakeholders can understand, remember, and relate to. Personas use storytelling to engage users' social and emotional aspects, which helps designers to either visualize the best product behaviour or see why the recommended design is successful. [12]

Cognitive dimensions

The cognitive dimensions framework [13] provides a vocabulary to evaluate and modify design solutions. Cognitive dimensions offer a lightweight approach to analysis of a design quality, rather than an in-depth, detailed description. They provide a common vocabulary for discussing notation, user interface or programming language design.

Dimensions provide high-level descriptions of the interface and how the user interacts with it: examples include consistency, error-proneness, hard mental operations, viscosity and premature commitment. These concepts aid the creation of new designs from existing ones through design maneuvers that alter the design within a particular dimension.

Affective interaction design

Designers must be aware of elements that influence user emotional responses. For instance, products must convey positive emotions while avoiding negative ones. [14] Other important aspects include motivational, learning, creative, social and persuasive influences. One method that can help convey such aspects is for example, the use of dynamic icons, animations and sound to help communicate, creating a sense of interactivity. Interface aspects such as fonts, color palettes and graphical layouts can influence acceptance. Studies showed that affective aspects can affect perceptions of usability. [14]

Emotion and pleasure theories exist to explain interface responses. These include Don Norman's emotional design model, Patrick Jordan's pleasure model [15] and McCarthy and Wright's Technology as Experience framework. [16]

Five dimensions

The concept of dimensions of interaction design were introduced in Moggridge's book Designing Interactions. Crampton Smith wrote that interaction design draws on four existing design languages, 1D, 2D, 3D, 4D. [17] Silver later proposed a fifth dimension, behaviour. [18]


This dimension defines interactions: words are the element that users interact with.

Visual representations

Visual representations are the elements of an interface that the user perceives; these may include but are not limited to "typography, diagrams, icons, and other graphics".

Physical objects or space

This dimension defines the objects or space "with which or within which users interact".


The time during which the user interacts with the interface. An example of this includes "content that changes over time such as sound, video or animation".


Behaviour defines how users respond to the interface. Users may have different reactions in this interface.

Interaction Design Association

The Interaction Design Association [19] was created in 2003 to serve the community. The organization has over 80,000 members and more than 173 local groups. [20] IxDA hosts Interaction [21] the annual interaction design conference, and the Interaction Awards. [22]

Industrial design [23]
The core principles of industrial design overlap with those of interaction design. Industrial designers use their knowledge of physical form, color, aesthetics, human perception and desire, and usability to create a fit of an object with the person using it.
Human factors and ergonomics
Certain basic principles of ergonomics provide grounding for interaction design. These include anthropometry, biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology and psychology as they relate to human behavior in the built environment.
Cognitive psychology [23]
Certain basic principles of cognitive psychology provide grounding for interaction design. These include mental models, mapping, interface metaphors, and affordances. Many of these are laid out in Donald Norman's influential book The Design of Everyday Things.
Human–computer interaction [23]
Academic research in human–computer interaction (HCI) includes methods for describing and testing the usability of interacting with an interface, such as cognitive dimensions and the cognitive walkthrough.
Design research
Interaction designers are typically informed through iterative cycles of user research. User research is used to identify the needs, motivations and behaviors of end users. They design with an emphasis on user goals and experience, and evaluate designs in terms of usability and affective influence.
Architecture [23]
As interaction designers increasingly deal with ubiquitous computing, urban informatics and urban computing, the architects' ability to make, place, and create context becomes a point of contact between the disciplines.
User interface design
Like user interface design and experience design, interaction design is often associated with the design of system interfaces in a variety of media but concentrates on the aspects of the interface that define and present its behavior over time, with a focus on developing the system to respond to the user's experience and not the other way around.

See also

Related Research Articles

Usability the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object such as a tool or device; the degree to which a software can be used by consumers to achieve quantified objectives with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a quantified context of use

Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object such as a tool or device. In software engineering, usability is the degree to which a software can be used by specified consumers to achieve quantified objectives with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a quantified context of use.

In commerce, user experience (UX) refers to a person's emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person's perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency. User experience may be subjective in nature to the degree that it is about individual perception and thought with respect to a system. User experience varies dynamically, constantly modifying over time due to changing usage circumstances and to changes to individual systems as well as to the wider usage context in which they operate. In the end, user experience is about how a user interacts with, and experiences, a product.

Human-centered computing (HCC) studies the design, development, and deployment of mixed-initiative human-computer systems. It is emerged from the convergence of multiple disciplines that are concerned both with understanding human beings and with the design of computational artifacts. Human-centered computing is closely related to human-computer interaction and information science. Human-centered computing is usually concerned with systems and practices of technology use while human-computer interaction is more focused on ergonomics and the usability of computing artifacts and information science is focused on practices surrounding the collection, manipulation, and use of information.

Tangible user interface

A tangible user interface (TUI) is a user interface in which a person interacts with digital information through the physical environment. The initial name was Graspable User Interface, which is no longer used. The purpose of TUI development is to empower collaboration, learning, and design by giving physical forms to digital information, thus taking advantage of the human ability to grasp and manipulate physical objects and materials.

User interface design design of user interfaces for machines and software

User interface design (UI) or user interface engineering is the design of user interfaces for machines and software, such as computers, home appliances, mobile devices, and other electronic devices, with the focus on maximizing usability and the user experience. The goal of user interface design is to make the user's interaction as simple and efficient as possible, in terms of accomplishing user goals.

A design pattern is a formal way of documenting a solution to a common design problem. The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander for use in urban planning and building architecture and has been adapted for various other disciplines, including teaching and pedagogy, development organization and process, and software architecture and design.

The notion of affective design emerged from the field of human–computer interaction (HCI) and more specifically from the developing area of affective computing. Affective design involves designing interfaces to enable human-computer interactions where emotional information is communicated by the user in a natural and comfortable way - the computer processes the emotional information and may adapt or respond to try to improve the interaction in some way. Affective design, along with the traditional HCI usability and accessibility, constitutes the important qualities of user experience (UX) as it contributes in the improvement of the user's personal condition in relation with the computing system.

Interactive design

Interactive Design is defined as a user-oriented field of study that focuses on meaningful communication of media through cyclical and collaborative processes between people and technology. Successful interactive designs have simple, clearly defined goals, a strong purpose and intuitive screen interface.

User experience design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and desirability provided in the interaction with a product. User experience design encompasses traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users. Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, omnichannel journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions. Experience design is not driven by a single design discipline. Instead, it requires a cross-discipline perspective that considers multiple aspects of the brand/ business/ environment/ experience from product, packaging and retail environment to the clothing and attitude of employees. Experience design seeks to develop the experience of a product, service, or event along any or all of the following dimensions:

Mobile interaction

Mobile interaction is the study of interaction between mobile users and computers. Mobile interaction is an aspect of human–computer interaction that emerged when computers became small enough to enable mobile usage, around the 1990s.

Sonic interaction design is the study and exploitation of sound as one of the principal channels conveying information, meaning, and aesthetic/emotional qualities in interactive contexts. Sonic interaction design is at the intersection of interaction design and sound and music computing. If interaction design is about designing objects people interact with, and such interactions are facilitated by computational means, in sonic interaction design, sound is mediating interaction either as a display of processes or as an input medium.

Semiotic Engineering was originally proposed by Clarisse De Souza as a semiotic approach to designing user interface languages. Over the years, with research done at the Department of Informatics of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, it evolved into a semiotic theory of human-computer interaction (HCI).

Hardware interface design

Hardware interface design (HID) is a cross-disciplinary design field that shapes the physical connection between people and technology in order to create new hardware interfaces that transform purely digital processes into analog methods of interaction. It employs a combination of filmmaking tools, software prototyping, and electronics breadboarding.

Joy Mountford is an internationally recognized leader in the field of computer-human interactions. From 1986 to 1994 she was Head of the Human Interface Group at Apple Computer, where she invented, among other things, the initial use of QuickTime. In 2012, Mountford won the 2012 Lifetime Practice Award from SIGCHI

The aesthetic–usability effect describes a paradox that people perceive more aesthetic designs as much more intuitive, than those considered to be less aesthetically pleasing. The effect has been observed in several experiments and has significant implications regarding the acceptance, use, and performance of a design. Usability and aesthetics are the two most important factors in assessing the overall user experience for an application. Usability and aesthetics are judged by a user's reuse expectations, and then their post-use, or experienced, final judgement. A user's cognitive style can influence how they interact with and perceive an application, which in turn can influence their judgement of said application.

William Gaver is a co-director of the Interaction Research Studio. as well as a Professor of Design Department at Goldsmiths, University of London since 2005.

Sharon Oviatt is an internationally recognized computer scientist, professor and researcher known for her work in the field of human–computer interaction on human-centered multimodal interface design and evaluation.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Cooper, Alan; Reimann, Kaye; Keezer, Leiben (2007). About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley. p. 610. ISBN   978-0-470-08411-3 . Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  2. "Integrate business modeling and interaction design". 8 June 2007. Archived from the original on 12 February 2008.
  3. "Bill Verplank - Professional". Archived from the original on 23 January 2008.
  4. Martin, Douglas (26 August 2013). "Red Burns, 'Godmother of Silicon Alley,' Dies at 88". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331. Archived from the original on 24 May 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 November 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. RCA Design Interactions Website Archived 10 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. RCA Design Interactions About Students Staff & Guests Research Graduating Projects Archived 5 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  8. 1 2 Cooper, Alan (2004). Inmates Are Running the Asylum, The: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. Sams Publishing. p. 288. ISBN   0-672-32614-0.
  9. "Usability 101: Introduction to Usability". Archived from the original on 1 September 2016.
  10. "Shneiderman's Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design". Archived from the original on 9 January 2017.
  11. 1 2 Goodwin, Kim (2009). Designing for the Digital Age. Wiley. p. 229. ISBN   978-0-470-22910-1.
  12. T. R. G. Green. "Instructions and Descriptions: some cognitive aspects of programming and similar activities". Archived from the original on 29 July 2011.
  13. 1 2 Sharp, Helen; Rogers, Yvonne; Preece, Jenny (2007). Interaction Design: Beyond Human–Computer Interaction (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. pp. 181–217 [184].
  16. Moggridge, Bill (2007). Designing Interactions. The MIT Press. ISBN   978-0-262-13474-3.
  17. Silver, Kevin. "What Puts the Design in Interaction Design". UX Matters. Archived from the original on 15 November 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  18. "Interaction Design Association – IxDA". Archived from the original on 2 June 2016.
  19. "Interaction Design Association - Homepage | IxDA". Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  20. "Interaction 16". Archived from the original on 17 November 2015.
  21. "Home/ IxD Awards". Archived from the original on 13 October 2013.
  22. 1 2 3 4 "Disciplines & Domains of Interaction Design".

Further reading