The IxDA Student Design Charrette (SDC) is kicking off next month. This year’s brief asks practitioners and students in interaction design to “explore how our approaches to higher education and our workplaces are changing” by examining “how rethinking systems can enable cultures of inclusion and equity”. It will be interesting to determine how loosely one may interpret the “systems” in question.

For those who are unfamiliar with IxDA, Interaction Design Association is a network of 100,000 designers, developers and researchers. It serves as a creative platform for professionals and volunteers to congregate at annual conferences and education summits. Members can share their proudest design stories for the prestigious Interaction Awards – public voting opens 1st ~ 26th April.

 

IxDA Student Design Charrette

Student Design Charrette is a guided, minified Interaction Awards for juniors. Incorporated in 2010, it “champions the next generation of interaction design – fostering community, collaboration, and nurturing good practices by new designers”. Participants are typically in their 20s, comprising undergraduates in engineering or art academies, and interns from design studios. But there is no definitive age requirement.

Applicants mix and match with fellow designers from over 25 different countries. What’s more, chosen teams receive creative coaching from Amazon Design, this year’s exclusive sponsor, as well as Student Design Charrette alumni. They will squeeze by intensive pipelines starting with research, concept development and prototyping. All this builds up to the final presentations in front of an international jury composed of the IxDA community.

On top of free tickets to the flagship ‘Interaction’ showcase, winning students have the enviable opportunity to present their work in Zurich, Switzerland. Successful teams would do well to focus on addressing barriers and biases that marginalise participation.

 

So What Exactly Is Interaction Design?

We can trace its naming roots to computer science: user interface design. It harks back to the 70s, a nascent era when extensive research into UI took shape with the rise of Xerox Alto computers.

UI/UX is quite the buzzword these days, popularised by marketing campaigns for digital user engagement within the web-app sphere. So this term is often used interchangeably with interaction design. But this is a grave misnomer!

Like all design fields, an object’s form and layout is of particular interest in interaction design. What sets it apart is its unique focus on human behaviour. UI by and large deals in computerised systems. And we can view UX as the union of interaction, visual, industrial, sound and information architecture design fields. Essentially, interaction designers are solely focussed on the moment when a user interacts with a product or service. Most importantly, practitioners must consider: “What’s there” VS “What’s wanted?” in the user market.

interaction design lifecycle prototpying wireframing

Interaction design lifecycle can generally be divided into: ethnographic analysis, product ideation, prototyping, and user testing.

Interaction designers take a “human-centered approach to bring to life intuitive, unified experiences” according to famed design company IDEO. Notable for their cheeky mantra – “Ask for forgiveness, not permission” – this Silicon Valley consultancy embraces designers from across all backgrounds. Engineering, psychology, economics, biology, geography, you name it. Diversity throbs and thrives at IDEO.

Check out the ABC Nightline segment below from 1998 showboating their brainstorming efforts to recreate the optimal shopping cart. It has since become textbook footage for aspiring students in interaction design. Above all, it’s a joy to be privy to their thinking process!

 

Learning + Networking

If compassionate creativity sounds like your department, check out the following credible courses and local chapters in your vicinity:

Courses
Virtual Workshops And Mentorship Programs
In-person Socials

If you’re more of a face-to-face socialiser, hop over to your local IxDA community above. It’s an invaluable chance to connect with fellow designers on “topics that are at the intersection of emergent design practices, novel uses of technology, and human behaviour”.

 

[Next week, we will explore the best tools for prototyping and wireframing favoured by past SDC winners.]