Bodoni, Band-SawS, and Beer coLumn
ronments, software, policy, rules,
ideas, and actions. And so an
interaction designer’s material is
frequently a wide array of physical, digital, and cultural substance
that can be shaped over a long
period of time to effect change.
At Austin Center for Design,
we’re attempting to develop
craftsmanship in the context
of interaction design and social
entrepreneurship. Bauhaus craft
focused on fundamental knowl-
edge elements, such as color,
form, and texture; we too focus
on fundamental knowledge ele-
ments. But for us, these elements
are no longer static compositional
and formal qualities. Instead, our
“foundations” focus on empathy
through narrative, prototyping
and public action, and inference.
Empathy Through Narrative.
Narrative implies a compelling,
culturally sensitive, and emotionally appropriate story that unfolds
with, around, and for a given
user. At the most basic of levels,
this is a use case or scenario that
captures the steps a user takes to
achieve a goal. But more important, a narrative captures the
subjective and political qualities
of the society in which this goal
is accomplished. Like sketching or
painting, creating a narrative is a
skill that is learned, critiqued, and
revised over time.
Prototyping and Public Action.
We continually force a culture of
action, one in which the debate
about what could be done or
should be done is cut short by an
actual prototype that can provoke
action. This is a skill that requires
cultivation, as most students are
not used to the exposed quality of
producing a critiquable thing in
front of others.
Inference. Through practice,
design students learn to trust
informed intuition enough to
provoke the action described
above. This informed abduction—
a logical and creative leap—is
a skill learned by trying, fail-
ing, and reflecting; it requires
first a deep understanding of
data-driven design, and then a
realization of what “just enough”
means in the context of syn-
thesizing disconnected ideas.
And, like narrative and public
action, inference through syn-
thesis is learned through con-
tinual and rigorous practice.
1. Mc Breen, P. Software Craftsmanship: The New
Imperative. Addison-Wesley Professional, Boston,
2. McCullough, M. Abstracting Craft. MIT Press,
Cambridge, MA, 1998.
3. Cooper, A.l. An insurgence of quality. Keynote,
4. Wroblewski, D.S. The construction of human-
computer interfaces considered as craft. In Taking
Software Design Seriously: Practical Techniques
for Human-Computer Interaction Design. J. Karat,
ed. Academic Press Professional, Inc., San Diego,
5. Alexander, C. Notes on the Synthesis of Form.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1971,
November + December 2011
© 2011 ACM 1072-5220/11/11 $10.00