Another postcard from New York.
It could be a result of what's happening in the US at the moment (Trump in a word), or just where the industry is at in the US, but there is definitely an emphasis on inclusive, respectful design - and a specific focus on diversity. Our relationships with each other, our relationship to nature and how design can be used for good are all seen as imperatives. However, it’s clear, that without a good set of grounding principles and sound ethics, our relationships can also result in bad experiences and concerning outcomes.
In our third day at IXD 17, Stacey Orr and I were inspired by the range of social projects profiled in a number of the sessions – many of which made for interesting parallels with issues in New Zealand – around The Treaty, the long term effects of colonisation on Maori – as well as the changing face of New Zealand – we see increasing immigration and with that increasing ethnic diversity.
A couple of sessions stood out – Dori Tunstall looked at the process Canada is going through with their own indigenous peoples reconciliation. She looked at how OCAD University is focusing on instilling an ethos of respectful design into the process, and through this, creating an environment where multi-ethnic and indigenous students have a sense of belonging and ways of knowing are valued.
Liza Kindred’s session was on 'mindful technology’, which resonated with concerns around technology and devices causing more isolation and increasing people's disconnection from each other. Rather than bringing people closer, a reliance on using devices, channels and tools can detract us from real interaction.
Closer to home we see this. In our offices at DNA we use Slack to communicate with each other, often when we're in the same room – and would probably gain a better understanding of each other and an issue if we got up and spoke to each other in person from time to time. Sure, tools and technology are here to enable us, but habits form and the medium should never get in the way of the message.
Liza's theme was technology needing to get out of the way, so we can actually connect with each other and our environment and ultimately to regain our humanity. Her argument was that by using design we can enable and encourage human interaction and connectedness rather than merely have humans just interacting with technology.
We observed many classic examples of this as we walked past a bunch of restaurants or cafes with everyone focusing on their screens and not on each other or any of the things happening around them. You don’t have to be in NYC, it happens in New Zealand, sadly nowadays it's all too common a sight.
A difference in perspective.
I had set out to consider the changes in interaction design practice globally over the last 5 years. It’s so easy to assimilate change iteratively - and miss the big step changes. The gap between Dublin in 2012 and this years IXD in New York gave me that opportunity.
IXD 12 in Dublin had a more marked difference in themes, types of projects and the technology being talked about than I saw this year - but the gulf between the two is stark. In 2012, the interaction design world was still very much about screen focused interactions with a couple of 'out there' projects where people were beginning to imagine what the future might hold. That future is well and truly here - and we as designers, business leaders and users have all evolved to inhabit a world where mobility, data, self service and seamless integration as services are delivered is our objective and expectation.
In 2017, the interactions we were exposed to at IXD, both in the awards and by the range of speakers, are no longer solely screen based and much more about physical objects and integration within spatial experiences.
The technologies have developed in ways that in 2012 would have seemed incomprehensible. With this development however, come imperatives for content, experiences that ensure user confidence is sustained, security and an increasing social responsibility.
The one thing that is constant, then as now - is the need for clear definition of user and business value as designers bring a world of services and products to users, everywhere around the globe.
Charlene Turei _ Interaction Design Director.
Gotham Hall, Broadway, New York.Credit: Main image published by Timeout.