Designing for Everyday Life

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Operating your TV remote should not be an intellectual challenge. This seems like a mundane and fairly obvious observation, but it articulates a basic rule of good design: the qualities we want to have in our interactions depend on the context. This is the message Bill Moggridge’s amazing new book and web site ““Designing Interactions” which illuminates our relationship with inanimate objects from the perspective of the people who design them.

Moggridge, the designer of the first laptop computer and founder of IDEO, takes the reader through the design process, from the crude napkin sketch to the clunky prototype to the final product. We take for granted the digital desktop, with its iconic trash can and rows of pull down menus, but it was an act of intentional design that appropriated the metaphor from the physical world.

A computer sofware application is no different from a lamp or a window or door handle, in that they all act as interfaces between the human user and world. Moggridge articulates a set of practices that applies to any other object, whether it exists in cyberspace of physical space. Good design includes ‘reassuring feedback’, like the satisfying click of car door closing, and ‘intuitive interaction’ so that the controls of your toaster do no not require a manual. Objects should not make demand on their user unless the user is seeking to be challenged. Because more and more of our every day objects include electronic components it is crucial to find ways of adding functionality without complexity.

At 800 pages, including a DVD and a web site, “Designing Interactions” is itself an act of interactive design, and on this account it succeeds as well as the objects it describes.

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