Design started out as a craft, primarily focusing upon the creation of beautiful objects to become a powerful force in industry. Today, design has gone far beyond its simple origins as a craft to develop powerful new ways for people to interact with the world, emphasizing experience, not technology. Moreover, it has evolved into a way of thinking, of problem discovery, and of enhancing the lives of individuals, the experience of the workforce, and even the health of the planet. Are these new developments compatible with the craft traditions of the old? Is this a fork in the road, with some continuing the craft tradition of enhancing the emotional experiences of our products and others taking the other path, moving design thinking into all endeavors, but far removed from the history and mainstream practice of today. What is the future of design? We are at a fork: Which path should we take? I take my answer from the famed American baseball player Yogi Berra who said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has asked me to return to help develop a Design program. How could I resist? Starting June 1, I return to be Director of Design at UCSD, housed in the California Institute for Telecommunication and Information Technology (Calit2). We start off with strong support across the campus. Our governing committee consists of faculty from theater, visual arts, and the schools of management, engineering, and social sciences. We hope to launch seminars, symposia, a lecture series, courses, and an annual conference, preaching and developing a truly interdisciplinary field of design, integrating across the disciplines, combining art, science, technology and people. It is too early to announce specific plans and programs. Moreover, we are intentionally vague because the creativity and efforts of the group we bring together will move us forward in ways we cannot predict. We plan to invite both practitioners and researchers, the better to advance design in important, creative, and exciting new ways. We welcome partnerships with Industry and Universities.
For design to succeed, grow, achieve its potential, and train future leaders, we envision a new curriculum. In our vision, these new programs combine learning the art and craft of beautiful, pleasurable well-crafted design with substantive courses in the social and biological sciences, in technology, mathematics and statistics, and in the understanding of experimental methods and rigorous reasoning. Programming and mechatronics are essential skills in today's product world. Not only will this training make for better practitioners, but it will also equip future generations of designers to be better at developing the hard, rigorous theory design requires. Design is an exciting powerful field, filled with promise. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, design and design education must change. So too must universities.
I'm frequently asked how to find a job or a place to study, either in industrial design or user-interface design (Human-Computer Interaction). Rather than answer it anew each time, let me summarize my answer here. You either need real work experience or a graduate degree, or both. I cannot tell you what to do. Good advice has to come from someone who knows you, who knows your interests, training, and skills. I cannot acquire that in an email message or two. So, seek out knowledgeable mentors where you live. Seek professors that you trust. Go to meetings of societies (see below). Read magazines and journals to learn who is doing what, where: then write to those people about their work.
We are now in the 21st century, but design curricula seem stuck in the mid 20th century. In the 21st century, design has broadened to include interaction and experience, services and strategies. The technologies are more sophisticated, involving advanced materials, computation, communication, sensors, and actuators. The products and services have complex interactions that have to be self-explanatory, sometimes involving other people separated by time or distance. Traditional design activities have to be supplemented with an understanding of technology, business, and human psychology. With all these changes, one would expect major changes in design education. Nope. Design education is led by craftspeople who are proud of their skills and they see no reason to change. Design education is mired in the past.
My videos have been resurrected! Let me explain.One upon a time, many years ago -- 1994 to be precise -- The Voyager Company produced a delightful CD-ROM that included copies of several of my books ("Design of Everyday Things," "Things that Make Us Smart," and "Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles." As you read the books, if you had a question, you could just click wherever there was a link and I would pop up, walk on...
The field of Human Factors and its many descendants -- Cognitive Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, Cognitive Ergonomics, Human-Systems Integration, ... -- has made numerous, wonderful advances in the many decades since the enterprise began. But the discipline still serves many to rescue rather than to create. It is time for a change. HSI must become an applied discipline, not just a research activity, not just a science (it needs all three: science, research, practice). The problem is this: suppose, magically, HSI was asked to take part in all new projects from the very start. No more fire-fighting. Would HSI be able to deliver? I don't think so. HSI has to stop being an analytical field doing analysis after the fact and become a design field, synthesizing answers on the spot. Providing answers in hours or days, not in six months. Doing quick and dirty experiments and quick calculations to ensure that the designs are "good enough." Practical designs look for large effects. Traditional science looks for small differences. HSI has to change how it thinks. Today, HSI Is not ready for real time. We need a special certification program (ideally offering a Masters Degree in HSI project management) for the management of projects involving HSI. Universities need to change. Not only are they too narrow, but they keep disciplinary walls that inhibit cross-fertilization. Professors lack practical experience and usually feel that such experience is inferior in value to theoretical and research skills. So practice is not rewarded. Only publications in refereed, research-based journals are recognized. The separation of the social and behavioral sciences from engineering is most unfortunate: they need one another. But the social and behavioral sciences shun applications except to proclaim in incredible naiveté the fanciful applications of their work, but without actually trying to do the applications. And the engineering disciplines ignore the human factor, even though, in theory, engineering builds and designs for human use and benefit. (Of course, given the theoretical bent of modern engineering, it seldom actually builds anything.) It is time for a change.
(Updated July 2012 from an earlier essay on finding a job.) I'm frequently asked how to find a job or a place to study, either in industrial design or user-interface design (Human-Computer Interaction). Rather than answer it anew each time, let me summarize my answer here. You either need real work experience or a graduate degree, or both. I cannot tell you what to do. Good advice has to come from someone who knows you, who knows your interests, training, and skills. I cannot acquire that in an email message or two. So, seek out knowledgeable mentors where you live. Seek professors that you trust. Go to meetings of societies (see below). Read magazines and journals to learn who is doing what, where: then write to those people about their work.
No, I am not in favor of deception, trickery, fraud, or swindle. What I wish to change are the curriculum and examination practices of our school systems that insist on unaided work, arbitrary learning of irrelevant and uninteresting facts. I'd like to move them toward an emphasis on understanding, on knowing how to get to an answer rather than knowing the answer, and on cooperation rather than isolation. Cheating that involves deceit is, of course wrong, but we should examine the school practices that lead to cheating: change the practices, and the deceit will naturally diminish.
We will solve the fundamental problems only through social policy, through organizational change, and through deep understanding of organizations and the people who comprise and are served by them. We need to change the way we think about education, and through that understanding, change the way we do it.
We learn not by having our heads filled with the great thoughts and ideas of others, but by constructing them within our own conceptual structures. But this construction works best when the scenario is rigged so as to lead us to the ideas, to force us to confront them and understand them. This is what the successful game designer does. This is what the successful educator must do. More...
The traditional university is all things to all people, but it is primarily a place for professors to learn, to study, and yes, to teach. The teaching follows the traditional model of pouring knowledge into the heads of obedient students. This is a teacher-centered model of education, one that has repeatedly been shown to be inferior.
- All Books
- The Design of Everyday Things, Revised and Expanded Edition
- Living with complexity
- The Design of Future Things
- Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things
- The invisible computer
- Things That Make us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine
- Turn Signals Are the Facial Expressions of Automobiles
- The Design of Everyday Things