Product Design Speak 101: What is an Interactionary?

by Montie Roland, Montie Design

Morrisville – Last week, I had the honor of being selected as a judge for an Interactionary Design Competition held by the Triangle chapter of the Usability Professionals Association (www.triupa.org). According to Scott Berkun (www.scottberkun.com), an interactionary is

an experiment in design education. The idea is to explode the process of design by forcing insane time constraints, and asking teams of designers to work together in front of a live audience. From what weve seen, it forces the discussion of design process, teamwork, and organization, and asks important questions about how designers do what they do.

 

 

The event was a lot of fun and helped the participants (and maybe even the audience) sharpen their design skills. The event began with a keynote presentation from Anthony D. Hall. Hall is responsible for making sure that the IBM.com website is easily usable by a worldwide audience. He spoke from the perspective of a usability professional who has a staff of researchers and developers whose only job is to make a website (with millions of pages) easier to use.

The Interactionary was driven by three teams and a panel of judges. The teams had ten minutes to design an interface to a voting booth. There was a twist however. The interface had to allow the user to find out more information about each candidate before voting. The interface also had to allow the voter to change his vote if the candidate that he voted for was not currently in the lead. The event started with first team being introduced to the design requirements. They were then give ten minutes to find a solution. During those ten minutes they were encouraged to do user research by polling the audience. They then had two minutes to present their solution and answer questions from the judges. We (the judges) rated the team on teamwork, approach / process, and the validity of their design. This continued until all of the teams had an opportunity to create a new interface based on the criteria.

This event didn’t teach the team members, or the audience, how to design. Instead it helped them sharpen their design skills. By creating an absurdly constrained situation, the format of the event forced the team members to act in a bold way, while having fun. Design is about pushing the boundaries and talking bold risks. Events like this make design fun. They make it easier for all to stay passionate about design. That passion gets translated into better products and services. When that happens, everyone wins.

The pictures from the event are at:

http://flickr.com/photos/waynesutton/sets/72157603027654523/

Montie Roland is President of the Carolinas Chapter of the Product Development Management Association. Roland is also President of Montie Design, a product development and prototyping firm in Morrisville, NC and the RTP Product Development Guild. You can reach Montie by email at: montie@montie.com

Montie Roland

Montie Roland is President of Montie Gear, a manufacturer of outdoor sporting equipment in Sanford, NC. Montie is also employed at Pentair in Sanford, NC as a Mechanical Engineer on the New Product Development team. Montie enjoys finding innovative solutions to customer requirements. He has 15 years of experience engineering products in diverse market spaces including industrial, commercial and military. Montie earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University. He is also the President Emeritus of the Carolinas chapter of the Product Design Management Association (www.pdma.org/carolinas) and a founder of the RTP Product Development Guild (www.rtpproductguild.com).

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