Thoughtful Interaction Design

Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology

Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman, MIT Press, 2004

Now here is a book that:

  • a) I wish that I’d read many years ago
  • b) I wish was required reading for every designer, programmer, and manager working in the interaction design industry today

This wonderful little book lays out, with great coherence, what interaction design is, and why we (as interaction designers, or practitioners working with designers) should care about how design is practiced and care about reflecting on our design work.

It seemed to coalesce the thoughts and feelings dissatisfaction that I’d been feeling with interaction design (as exists in the “design industry”) perfectly. We, as designers, need to be thoughtful, because what we design is used, what we design has implications for society.

I also recently got around to reading McLuhan’s seminal essay, The Medium is the Message. It’s arguments have become so ingrained, so pervasive, that it reads today like a series of empty platitudes. But what McLuhan actually says—that we are affected by the technology that we make—is somehow more relevant now (or at very least, not any less relevant). Here is Löwgren and Stolterman in 2004:

…it is not a feasible position to view technological development as independent from society or as a driving force in societal development. Neither is the naïve opposing position tenable: Technology is not merely a neutral instrument of our wills and desires. We understand the situation as one of mutual influence: We shape technology, and technology shapes us.

Compare to McLuhan, 50 years(!) earlier:

The personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology

The thought I kept having reading Thoughtful Interaction Design: “yes, of course, we know that”, combined with “why don’t we practice that?” Over and over again.

I’m not going to go over all of the arguments here—just trust me, read it, it’s a short book.