There have be many different definitions of interaction design spanning the last 2 decades and the field has been transforming continuously. The very term was first defined by Bill Moggridge
. Recently when he happened to be one of our examiners at IDII
he commented on how the practice of interaction design has been transforming based on the trends in technology and social behaviors but very core of the practice remained very much rooted in the design of behaviors and experiences.
I have been brooding over this subject for a while and in the more holistic sense today interaction design encompasses a wide array of activities that typically (and not completely) cover Graphical interfaces, Tangible interfaces, Spatial interfaces and Services. Amongst many other things some of core skills of interaction designers lie in the design of interfaces, proficiency in several user centered investigative techniques, analysis and synthesis of user needs and last but not the least the capability to design the manifestation of the behavior / experience in the form of a GUI / TUI / conceptual framework (i.e Information architecture / business model etc ). Many interaction designers come from related backgrounds like industrial design, graphic design, computer science etc and dwell upon these previous experiences to shape their career paths. In the words of Phil Tabor
'interaction design education is more often transformative rather that incremental in terms of skills, outlook and design processes'.
In a discussion with my friend Oren Horev
an interesting point emerged about the distinction of interaction design. Amongst all other classical design disciplines, interaction designers are not forced to think of their solutions in terms of products, graphics or any other singular medium. This in particular liberates the designer and enables focus on the quality of the experience and its impact. Thus it also automatically enables the interaction designer to think lot more strategically and forces them to work in collaborative teams with other professionals. Coincidentally this sense of freedom to design ideal solutions attracts designers who are driven equally by innovation as much as aesthetics.
Today in industry a lot of interaction designers work in the design of screen or software based solutions, some work in the design of products etc and relatively smaller number work in the design of services and strategic solutions. Of-course the more subjectively inclined also do some very interesting work in the form of interactive art and installations. What ever the form of practice, companies have begun to realize the potential of the field and the need for interaction designers both as specialists and generalists.
We the promotional team at CIID
have been trying to answer such questions and much more as part of the design of a new curriculum for interaction design education and any feedback would be welcome.