Notes from Interaction 12 Dublin
I just returned from Interaction 12, the annual conference of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). This year’s conference was held in Dublin, and it offered a fantastic opportunity for interaction designers from all over the world to come together to share knowledge and be inspired by amazing work and insights over a pint (or two) of Guinness. I was truly impressed by the quality and content of Interaction 12, and found a few key themes repeated over the course of the four-day event.
One of the major themes of the conference was the monumental change in interfaces. From tablet and mobile to touch screens, what was once considered avante garde and experimental has now hit the mainstream. Speakers shared their insights into how to design for a cohesive experience across all digital touch-points. There were several presentations that pointed to clear trends with some of these emerging interface designs:
1. The Skeuomorph
Keynote speaker Amber Case used the term “Skeuomorph” to describe an ornamental interface that is designed to look like an analogous real-life object. Some examples of Skeumorphs include the Calendar in the iPad; the Desktop in the Target iPad application; and arguably, pretty much the entire Apple IOS portfolio. Thanks to Apple, skeuomorphs have dominated the interface design language, but we are seeing a rise in two interface design trends including “modernism” and “parametricism” that will become more mainstream in the future.
Speaker August De Los Reyes discussed the idea of modernism in interface design citing examples like the soon-to-be-released Windows 8 and the popular iOS application Flipboard, which both feature an interface that relies on typography, flat icons, and square angles. These interfaces depend heavily on transitions and the illusion of dimension to provide visual cues that tell the user how to interact and give feedback when an action has occurred.
In his talk, Jason Brush discussed the idea of “parametricism”–an avant-garde architecture style exemplified by the work of Zaha Hadid, Frei Otto, and Mad Architects. Many complicated definitions for parametricism exist, but in simple English, it refers to interfaces that morph, change and mimic their surroundings. They celebrate the flaws, the quirks, the uniqueness of the environment in which they sit. And most importantly, they create visual and tactile experiences that are not analogous to anything we see in real life. They are organic and mimic nature: dynamic and ever changing.
With more gestural interactions, 3D graphics, WebGL, dynamic realtime graphics, ever cheaper and faster micro processors and cloud-based content, less and less user interface is required for people to effectively navigate and complete complex tasks. Many data visualization intensive interfaces fall into this category of the parametric.
Looking ahead: Designing for the Invisible Interface
Smart system design and service design go hand-in-hand as we move forward to the next generation of non-screen based interfaces. As sound, touch, and ambient inputs and feedback gain ubiquity, the next wave is how to make the invisible apparent in a meaningful way.
By next year, we will likely see more discussion around designing for experiences across new digital interfaces (wearables, micro-interfaces, sensors, and physical space). We will also see new explorations around how to communicate the presence of an interactive touchpoint. At Fjord, we have been thinking about what this will mean for the ways in which humans interact with these systems, and how businesses can best leverage them.
As with fashion, music, and art, interaction design follows cultural zeitgeist. And eventually, what was once avante garde becomes the mainstream.