Today we´re asking John Evans to give us an overview about what´s his point of view about Interaction Design (yes, here we talk a little bit about that...).
Let´s go to the questions! Hi John!
Juan Leal (J.L.) Please, give us a short description about yourself. John Evans (J.E.) My stock answer for the past few years has been that I am a Strategic, Service & Interaction Designer. I currently work for Nokia in a strategic projects team with people like Jan Chipchase and Julian Bleeker. I also happen to be one of three founders at MultiTouch which is based in Helsinki. J.L. When did you start working as an IxD? J.E. I guess my first commercial gig was back in 1999 whilst I still studying in the UK, but it was just a small project for an agency in Cardiff. They asked me to create some email campaign using Shockwave (these were the days before Flash could do things like stream audio or had a decent scripting engine).
What I would consider my first real IxD job was a year later when I did some work for Ragdoll, the company behind Teletubbes et al. in the UK. I remember that gig well, I got to work with a lecturer from the RCA in London and it was the first thing I did where we had real budgets and a longer term view of what we were doing. It actually set much of the tone for the the following decade because it was more about design strategy and research than a product that would ship in the next 12 months. I was pleasantly surprised when googling the project for this interview that this year it finally became a TV show called Tronji.
J.L. We know what are the good things about this job but, what´s the worst thing about what you do? J.E. It would be the preconceptions about what design as a whole actually does. For some people we are just 'creatives' who get all worked up over what they believe are trivial issues like fonts or a few extra options in a menu. For these people we just want to make things 'pretty' and as such I personally have been labeled the powerpoint-maker-prettier and the arty-hand-waving-designer.
Changing these preconceptions can take months depending on project cycles and it can be tough work. Dieter Rams in the Objectified documentary really gets to the crux of the issue when he says that there is only one company that really takes design seriously and leverages it as a tool properly and thats Apple. J.L. Regarding your profession, what are the main differences about what you do here in Finland and the rest of Europe?
J.E. Organization wise Finland is such a flat country that everyone and anyone's opinion seems to count. As a professional designer I'd like to think I don't deal in opinions but rather I make choices based on research, user needs and the knowledge that comes from tens of thousands of man hours doing what I do. I'm not saying it's vastly different outside of Finland but for example when a choice is made in the UK that's that and only someone more senior can change it for good or bad. J.L. How do you see the future of this profession? J.E. I think people who read this are going to not like my answer on face value, but I am sure they all know what I am talking about. I believe IxD as a pure profession is probably a dead end. What 'interaction design' means had changed over the years; for most people today when they refer to interaction design it's simply as a synonym for graphic/ui design. When I was still an aspiring student IxD he scope of the average person who called themselves an interaction designer was much broader; it was as much about physical interaction as it was about visuals.
If we look at the last decade whats happened is that graphic design has encroaching into IxD becoming broader and morphing somewhat into UI or 'digital design'. Industrial designers and software developers are also coming at IxD from the other end essentially squeezing the broader definition of IxD into a narrow ever shrinking space in the middle. This is not a bad thing of course what we are witnessing is a new industry starting to mature.
The future for those of us who fit the broader definition of IxD lies somewhere either in creative project management roles, strategic design roles or more horizontal roles across bigger organizations. In small organizations it's as key creatives supported by small agile teams of engineers and UI/industrial designers.
The real challenge for IxD, or whatever it might be called in a few years, is how we integrate with the MBA's of the world to develop not just good products and services but also creative and disruptive approaches to new business opportunities. Carving out those roles isn't going to be easy but it's already begun to some degree at places like Stanford.
J.L. Tell us about a colleague that did have an impact on you.
J.E. I'd like to be greedy and mention more than one. First Theo Humphries a really old friend and former business partner of mine. He probably had the biggest impact on me at university. I secretly aspired to be as good a designer as him and that drove me pretty hard at the time. The other two people would be Mika Raento and Tommi Ilmonen, both of them are the kind of super scarily intelligent people you hope to meet and work with one day, I got lucky and got to do it twice. It's been an honor to work with them both as they really made me realize how little I actually know.
J.L. What’s your most valuable reading on your profession? J.E. I'd say one of the best sources of inspirational material right now is TED. They can be like a drug and I'm lucky enough to work with people who have presented at TED. Other than that I'd say there is a wealth of stuff out there on the web.
-- Thank you John! It was a pleasure to read your answers.
And have a good trip ;-)