UX is Not the Luxury of Screens Only

It saddens me that every time somebody talks about User Experience, there is a high-resolution display involved as a delivery system. Can’t there be good user experience without a high-resolution display? Better yet, without any display? I believe there can be. And there should be. There is a very good reason why Bill Moggridge thought of Industrial Designers as perfect candidates for Interaction Design. ID has the innate ability to look beyond the looks of things, discover patterns in behavior and furthermore turn these findings into tangible results as products. Nothing in this process dictates that aesthetics take the front seat so comfortably, leaving no room for any other criteria. Designing products should be a intermediary tool, not the end goal. The end goal should be the quality of user’s experience with a system, the impression, the benefit, the stimulation, the learning, the pleasure… Note that none of these say aesthetics necessarily.


But let’s be clear. I think we all crave beauty in our lives. We seek out beauty. We strive to be beautiful. We want it by our side day in and day out. Even so, is it the static beauty that we ultimately want? Is it the way that an object is lying dead on the coffee table that turns our fancy on? Or is it the beauty when the product is used, the motion or the animation of system? I believe it is the moment when the user utters the phrase “Wow! They have thought of everything”.

“It all starts with a sketch” many designers say. A sketch is merely a 2D representation of an idea. When you add another dimension to it, you have a mockup or a 3D model. What is it when you add the dimension of time to the mix? Is it a prototype? If it works, yes!  The power of prototyping is long known among designers and engineers. A prototype for an engineer is albeit a very different animal. Since an engineer is there to implement a function, he makes the prototype for testing. For a long time, from the designer’s perspective, a prototype was something that an engineer made. Or maybe it was something that is concocted out of whatever piece of cardboard is left over in the studio. It was not seen as a tool to explore. More a tool to convince.

For a 19th century craftsman, the grandfather of the modern designer, ensuring a good experience was not the goal. It didn’t need to be. He has already learned how to make another variation of something that has been tried and seemingly perfected for years. There was no reason for doubt. Also for the early years of design, experience prototyping was irrelevant since design was usually limited to ornamentation only. But the giants of Industrial Design towards the mid century understood what “keeping the user happy” or “making things” can improve. A good example of this is the way that Walter Dorwin Teague created a full mockup of the first commercial jet plane interior together with the simulated engine noise, stewardesses and fully functioning seats.