Design theories, you drive me crazy!

It is amazing that three classes was taught by one professor within one day. The best part is that we only discussed the theories in the first two classes, because after the second class, my head was already painful and turn into mess because of those questions and my hard thinking. After almost three hours discussion, it’s difficult to stop thinking those concepts, and terms. The interesting thought of my friend Tao is that it is so ridiculous to explain words by using words which were created by human beings. He also believes that the best tool to explain thing is image. We cannot deny that it is true for concrete things, but as for abstract words, I cannot imagine what kind of image we should use to. Maybe it is not very important to make a judgment about it rightness now, but I feel so happy to hear this kind of different sound. Even thought it just is one sentence said during a friendly dinner, it leads me to think.

We discussed what is material and what is the tools in interaction design. Bits, programs, programing language, content…. At first, I believed that the content is the material, minutes later, I convinced my self that the program is the material, but now, I think the program should be the outcome, but what is the material? Logic flies across in my mind for maybe just 0.0001s. if program is the outcome, language is tool, the bits are material!? Is what are are designing is the logics including work flows involved in a project? Then the material is maybe the mappings or connections between the e-world with the artificial world, the new world with the old world.

In the beginning of the first class, Erik wrote on the board:” the material without quality”. This is also in his book. I believe that the outcome of an interaction design has certain qualities. My question is that how can we create something with quality by using those materials without quality? The Erik said told me that it is wrong that material without quality. Now I think that maybe it depends on how can we define quality here.


  1. thismarty

    If Erik told you that it is wrong that digital media is a material without qualities, then he must have said it to get you thinking about the “seeming” lack of qualities that it has. Or maybe he’s just evil. 😉

    I think he wants to spur you to think about the unusual and unconventional nature of the qualities of digital material, which it sounds like you’ve done a very good job of. This is good confusion because it is part of the process of really understanding the uniqueness of the medium we ply.

    Whereas most media have fairly concrete qualities that change little if all, digital media is inherently malleable and plastic, both when you work with it, and over time as a whole. With the passage of relatively brief periods of time, it often gains and loses qualitiesand aspects. That can make it slippery, and makes it hard to settle on tools or techniques, but it’s obviously also a great strength of the medium.

  2. jeffreybardzell

    Great post Mingxian. One of the things that I want all of us to think about is Marty’s claim that “digital media is inherently malleable and plastic.” I don’t disagree overall, but I would point out that it is more plastic is some ways than in others. It is not universally and equally plastic. It lends itself to some things (e.g., management) more than others (e.g., creating art from scratch). What is the significance of that?

  3. mingxian

    What I am thinking about quality is that beauty, real, trust, ….

    For example website, there are “good and bad” websites, well designed in nice form, and background color…Bad designed website maybe because the fond doesn’t match with the pictures on the page. For e-commerce websites, they also need to build trust by using the components which was accepted and favored by customers.

    All of these are qualities of a e-product in my opinion. The qualities we perceived. And all of these qualities were build by using programs and content which maybe totally nonsense if put them somewhere else separately. Isn’t it amazing? Is it same with those industry design? Certainly, there is something different.

    If there are some little pieces of papers in letter forms, they are paper pieces or letters. When we put them into a certain order, most of us will try to understand the sentence instead. Suddenly, all it matters is the meaning, meanings for us as human beings, and we will try to make some kind of connection between the design with us. And now, it goes to from “product” to experience. Design from what things should be go to what we should be.

    This is what I thought in my way back home from school tonight around 9pm. Maybe it totally doesn’t make sense to all of you. Sorry, I am so confused too.


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