Interaction reaches far beyond the Web – it is central to all our work

We don’t need to be told that the future is digital, not just for design, but also for ordinary folk. We are already living the digital life in just about everything we do.

Our columnist Adrian Shaughnessy points up the way Internet use is changing our brains and social media reshaping our habits (see Private View, page 10). These phenomena can no longer be considered a passing fad keeping teenagers in their bedrooms. They are integral to business, learning and social exchange, but, as Brandwidth creative director Dean Johnson says in his Inspired contribution on the same page, there is confusion over terminology.

The word ’interaction’ is now the preferred badge of design relating to online or other digital experiences or interfaces and content for mobile devices such as the phone or the iPad. There is a good case for this: these media demand interaction of the user to get the best out of them.

But, as Johnson contends, interaction isn’t just about digitally generated creations. We interact with everything around us. In his case, pop-up books provided an early stimulation, but observe graphic designers as they pick up a piece of print and see them stroke and sniff it before giving it a visual assessment, or hear a product designer extol the virtues of the sleep function on the Apple Macintosh computer or the click of a beautifully executed car door. The delight they experience is born of interaction – and a ’moment’ the best designs seek to create for the consumer.

While acknowledging that digital design extends way beyond the Web, let’s not be too quick to pigeonhole it as the only manifestation of interaction. Concern with look, feel and function is what makes great design in all forms.

The best designers are willing to expose themselves to new experiences and draw inspiration from them, even if they fall outside their particular area of expertise. Why should consumers be any different?

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