Interaction gestalt: the medium for designers in digital user experience

by New Idiom


Take the analogy of creating a product from raw materials, and think how that translates into creating a digital interaction design. When Professor Youn-Kyung Lim, ID alum and assistant professor from the School of Informatics at Indiana University, started to talk about ‘interaction materials’ in her on-going project at the lunch lecture last week, I started to get exited. This sounded like a very interesting new way of looking at digital design.

It is impossible provide “user experience” like a gift box. At the very least, each individual will perceive the the design differently. That means that we don’t design the user experience, we only design FOR the user experience. We designers can only design little things that might influence the user. Because of there are so many possible factors, designers are constantly trying to understand and control them.

Finding these factors is even harder in the digital world. Designers are still trying to understand this relatively new context of design. This is the focus of Professor Youn-Kyung’s project. She is conceptualizing an “interaction gestalt” with a set of attributes of interaction that designers could control. The list is still exploratory, but she says that it is based on “digital materials” such as time, space and information.

The list is:
Connectivity (independent-to-networked)
Continuity (discrete-to-continuous)
Directness (indirect-to-direct)
Movement (static-to-dynamic)
Orderliness (random-to-orderly)
Pace (slow-to-fast)
Proximity (precise-to-proximate)
Resolution (scarce-to-dense)
Speed (delaying to prompt)
State (fisted-to-changing)
Time-depth (concurrent-to-sequential)


As an example how this applies to design, the Mp3 players, SanDisk Sansa and iPod show how “Continuity” is controlled differently - from discrete(with five buttons) to continuous(with its wheel). The differences between the “AIGA Design archives site ( ) and bbdo( show the extremes of movement. AIGA is static. is very dynamic.

The lecture somehow reminded me of my experience and learnings in Color, Material, and Finishing at Motorola. There are fundamental aesthetics that seem to always stay the same and emerging/renewing aesthetics that change over time. I don’t know what the next step is in this project, however I am excited to see how it reflects aspects of trends as well as how it can be tied into user needs and user experience.