XVII.5 September + October 2010
Page: 5
Digital Citation


Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko

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Frequently, designers find themselves reflecting on the nuances of what makes us human—matters of cognitive psychology, social interaction, and the desire for emotional resonance. This issue of interactions unpacks all of these ideas, exploring the gestalt of interaction design's influence. Sarah Kettley, a researcher and an artist, is most interested in understanding the relationship between wearable computing and body adornment. She writes about the relationship between craftsmanship and authenticity, illustrating a potential divide between design and craft. We can see a similar exploration of the ethereal in William Odom, Richard Banks, and Dave Kirk's piece "Reciprocity, Deep Storage, and Letting Go: Opportunities for Designing Interactions with Inherited Digital Materials"; these authors are looking to understand "how the digital residue of a person's life could become the property of someone else and be representative of a person after they have passed on." And Liz Danzico's column focuses on the nature of serendipity and design. If design is careful planning, and serendipity is a desired state of unplannedness, what can interaction designers learn from serendipity—and what can we reappropriate in our work?

Several pieces in this issue look less at how to integrate human qualities into design, and instead at how to evaluate the qualities of design on human problems. Steve Baty examines why design is suitable for—and perhaps best prepared for—handling complex problems, and Graham Pullin and Andrew Cook show how this form of problem solving can lend new capabilities to those with a form of disability. In Dana Chisnell's review of Pullin's book, Design Meets Disability, she explains that the text is "a call to action against an old way of thinking, in which design for disability is solving a medical engineering problem rather than meeting a cultural, societal challenge." Our old friends Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen take gestural interfaces to task, exploring the usability—or lack thereof—in a number of the most popular touch devices we've come to take for granted.

Our cover story offers a thoughtful reflection on the qualities of affinity—of emotional attraction, nostalgia, identity, and language. Matthew Jordan describes affinity as the "emotional connection someone feels for a product or service as driven by these notions of beauty and identity. Unlike usefulness and usability, affinity is about unexplained desire or want. It is often irrational, fluid, and intense. Affinity is the opposite of aversion, and affinity is always positive. Along with usefulness and usability, affinity is the third influencer on a design's success." While Norman and Nielsen remind us that usability is still not "solved," Jordan's cover story creates a framework to extend design judgment beyond the old metrics of usability.

And there's more: Lisa Nathan and Batya Friedman describe projects in Rwanda; Jodi Forlizzi teases apart "experience design" and "service design"; Valérie Bauwens offers insight into the capabilities and approaches of Swisscom; and Nicolas Nova describes how we can learn from our failures in design.

This issue is about authenticity, complexity, and design—and the political, social, and human qualities of our work. We hope you enjoy it.

—Jon Kolko

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DOI: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1836216.1836217

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