A Can of Worms: Has Visual Communication a Position of Influence on Aesthetics of Interaction?

By Dave Wood.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Interaction Design is a young discipline that grew out of an overlap of other science and design disciplines, its remit was the design of interactive products, services and systems for human behaviour. Visual Communication and its output of graphic design once had an early influence on Interaction Design, but this has since been devalued by the influence from more functionalist disciplines, leading to two myths about Visual Communication: it just does the ‘aesthetic bit’ on the interface, and that aesthetics has no real use or function beyond ‘beauty’. But aesthetics cannot be reduced and measured as a functionalist equation of ‘means-end’. By understanding aesthetics from a Pragmatist philosophical position, the aesthetics of interaction can be explored from a situated and culturally connected embodiment of an interactive experience. From this position aesthetics is viewed as emergent from the interactive experience through three factors: a socio-cultural context, a personal embodiment and finally a means-to-many-ends instrumentality. It is a cultural phenomenon and not an engineering problem that can be explored quantifiably. This makes this a phenomenological study, and closer to Visual Communication. The rhetorical nature of Visual Communication affords a change in human behaviour, evoking a cognitive and emotional response, making its remit about framing decision-making from use of image and text. Experience, emotion, and interpretation can only use qualitative methods to explore an aesthetic experience. This raises a more vexing question: what other design disciplines also share or rather claim a phenomenological position on aesthetics? This paper will set out to explore these amorphous boundaries to decide if Visual Communication still has an actual support position of influence on Interaction Design.

Keywords: Aesthetics, Pragmatism, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Interaction Design, HCI, Visual Communication

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.463-476. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.328MB).

Dave Wood

Lecturer, Graphic Design for Digital Media, School of Engineering and Computing, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK

Dave is a lecturer in Digital Design at Glasgow Caledonian University in the UK. In 2008 he began a practice-based PhD at Edinburgh College of Art, researching Interaction Design from a Visual Communication perspective. His first PhD paper “Interaction Design: Where’s the Graphic Designer in the Graphical User Interface?” was presented at IASDR2009 in Korea in 2009. His second paper “Moving Across The Boundaries: Visual Communication Repositioned In Support of Interaction Design” was presented at CREATE 10 in Edinburgh at the end of June 2010. This current paper is his intended third theoretical paper setting the context for his future practice-based PhD research.

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