What is Interaction Design?

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When I say I teach Interaction Design, I’m usually asked, “What’s that? What is Interaction Design”—I’m asked right away about the interaction part, as if there’s no question about the design part, about what “design” is.

But I’d like to start with the “Design” part of “Interaction Design” in the most general way, in terms of what designers do:

“Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”—Herbert Simon

The nature of design is very nuanced, but let’s go with that definition for now.

Now, do we have to define what an “interaction” is? Had any interactions today? How do you know? The dictionary says, “a reciprocal action or influence”—is that good enough for now?

When the design situation is about an interaction, let’s say that it’s about improving the understanding needed and the actions required for someone to act in they way that they want. (Of course, we humans do something when we want to get something we want, to get to a goal, to achieve a purpose; that’s a topic for later.)

Now, that begs the question, what kinds of interactions are there? I’ll let this article called “What is interaction? Are there different types?” answer that question for now.