Wright, P., Blythe, M., Mccarthy, J. (2006). User Experience and the Idea of Design in HCI

The authors argue that the shift in the concept of the user (from a person that communicates into a person that experiences) has implications to the current concept of design and the design process. Their main argument is that UX-design requires collaboration with designers from different backgrounds, they suggest the use of design-as-engineering and design-as-crafts to supplement each other and contribute to the understanding of design. In particular they present a dialogical approach between these design-methods as a new design process.

The traditional design-as-engineering approach (define the problem -> various replicable steps -> a specified solution) is described by a list of some common qualities of this approach:
– The user or use context is represented as well-defined goals, tasks or needs
– the typical user is represented relatively abstract
– orientation to a task or scenario procedural methodology
– usable design is attempted to be encapsulated in terms of principles, guidelines or methods that can be re-produced by engineers who are not HCI-experts
– usability is seen a s a property of the interface
– attempt to control interaction with the user through design
Later on in the text, the authors say that using solely this approach would eventually lead to reducing the concept of experience to properties of the interface and issues of control and prediction.

The authors say that the design-as-craft approach emphasizes the process of making sense of the situation, which affects the designs and vice versa. The outcomes are usually somewhat unique, in contrast to the design-as-engineering approach where outcomes are reproducible. The basic idea is that the intended user participates to the design process as a source of inspiration, not as a resource to understand requirements. This emphasizes the importance of empathy in design.

The authors don’t exactly define their view on experience, however, they do present three approaches that are affect their view of it. The first approach discusses experience as a holistic concept that is affected by various things (cognitive, rational, intellectual, emotional and sensual) simultaneously. The second approach says that experience is a continuous engagement, which is affected by everyone’s own personal qualities and past experiences. The authors present an extremely long example of watching a movie (including the social aspect, past experiences, feelings etc.). Then third approach of experience describes it as a dialogical or relational issue, which means that there are at least two centers of meaning or consciousness in any experience. The meaning communicated is affected by the interaction itself, thus the meaning of communication is open. Another aspect of the dialogical component is that the dialogue itself affects our views on the participators of that dialogue.

The authors present that using only one approach, be that design-as-engineering or design-as-crafts, limits the solutions provided to design problems. They continue that the basic aim of design is to provide a single set of solutions to a problem. A multi-disciplinary approach the range of these solutions becomes wider and might be better. They discuss a dialogical approach to design, which seems to mean a multi-disciplinary team that uses dialogue to get inspiration to design, not to acquire requirements.

The authors also address the difficult communication between actors from different disciplines. As a solution they provide various methods, such as the use of conceptual tools (e.g., doctrine of placements, building as a physical space vs. as an emotional space). The authors also provide the concept of liberal arts as a way to enhance communication between ‘artistic designers’ and ‘engineer designers’. The basic idea of the approach is that by teaching students in high-schools the basic concepts of design related disciplines (e.g., engineering, visual design, psychology) would enhance the dialogue in multi-disciplinary design.