From Usability to Sociability

When Gillain Smith discussed Interaction Design, she mentioned the phenomenon that function and usability is not the only thing designer should consider nowadays. People view digital artifacts as a way to sociability. Here are some parts of her words.

“A computer begin to shape everyday life, we’re interested not only in what this technology can do fro us, but also in what owning it meant for us……….not just because of what they meant for us, but also because of what they meant to other people.

The concept reminds me of the idea Don. Norman brought up in his bookEmotional Design. He believes that a good design tends to reflect usability, aesthetics and practicality. Design, to end users, is an expression of themselves. That means design is a product or a process to shape individual image: how people treat themselves and how they expect other people treat them. A sentence Norman stated impressed me, “Product design now is like clothes design.”

I have read an item from CNN and it said watch is no more than a decoration to lots of people at present time. Since people use their mobile phone to check the time, watch seems to lose their original function and become a product of fashion. People choosing watches in a store is just like picking up which necklace is most suitable for them.

As to digital artifacts, I think one of the important considerations (maybe the most important) to buy or use a specific technology is because that makes you look good in other people’s eyes. I totally agree with David. Symbols, fashion accessories and other forms of self-expression matter more now. I am wondering if designing experience points not only to the experience people experience when using the product, but the one people experience when using it in front of others.

ericsson T39This is the cell phone my Dad is using now. It is a 2001 model. When we went to China for a trip in this summer, the local courier teased about his out of fashion. That makes him very sad.





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  1. thismarty

    Great points, Yenning!

    Alan Kay once said that something is only “technology” to you if it wasn’t invented until after you were born. The idea being that if you grow up with a given gadget and its infrastructure, no matter how George Jetson-techy it might be to your parents, to your generation it’s basically just a consumer good.

    Lowly consumer goods can’t rely on a sense of high-tech chick to push them in the marketplace, so how is a good industrial design team suppossed to differentiate their cell phone (or toaster or etc.) from all ofthe others in the market?

    Two words: outtercase.

    Good industrial designer teams work hard to make the functional part of a design intuitive, and thus transparent. Which leaves the outter case as a platform for creating the outward personality of the product, using emotional and poetic affordances to help us relate on a truly personal level to the artifacts that we select to be part of our lives. Thus, once a technology becomes a consumer good, it succumbs necessarily to the design aesthetic of fashion.

  2. jeffreybardzell

    I love your post and I totally agree with what you wrote about watches. I have dozens of Swatch watches, and I buy them because of their outrageous colors and styles. Men’s clothing, especially professional clothing, is very bland to me. The only way to make it more interesting has traditionally been with a tie (which I never wear). So I use my watches to add a splash of color and interest to my clothes. Since I have so many, most of them have long ago stopped, and I don’t bother to replace the batteries.

  3. houssian

    Why would you need to have them going? Time keeping is left to cell phones these days right?


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