Lecture slides on HCI and Visual Design for UX

It’s been a while since I have uploaded lectures slides on SlideShare. Here are some of the presentations that I have made for lecturing human-computer interaction and visual design for user experience. They are a sample of the themes I have taught at Indiana University Bloomington. However, I do hope you enjoy the slides and find them useful ūüôā

Summer 2016 Course: INFO-I 400: Special Topics in Informatics (Visual Design for UX)

Fall 2016 Course: INFO-I 300: Human-Computer Interaction/Interaction Design

Guest lecture for INFO-I 300. Instructor: Gopinaath Kannabiran.

Sketchnoting Tutorial

As part of the course INFO-I300: Human-Computer Interaction Design in Indiana University, I’ve created a small tutorial about sketchnoting. This is the first time that I write down the rationale for the way in which I take notes. It was an insightful and interesting exercise. My quick insights are:

  • Sketchnoting helps to organize and synthesize information
  • Sketchnoting helps to develop metaphorical thinking
  • Sketchnoting helps to develop a personal visual coding for information
  • Tools are important (e.g., needle point marker, brush tip marker and¬†good quality sketchbook)
  • Drawing skills are not that relevant. Notes should make sense to you first.
  • Consistency is a key aspect for sketchnoting

Based on my experience, the steps for good sketchnoting are:

  1. Listen
  2. Filter
  3. Write down
  4. Code visually
  5. Relate content

I hope the tutorial shown below can be help you for anyone interested in sketchnoting.


Google’s material design

Google has launched its new design guidelines called¬†“Material Design”. The name caught my attention, since I’m convinced, as visual designer, that observable pixels are really¬†material to play; that is, to create user interfaces. What’s the possible meaning of this¬†called design language?

Well, I bet that my understanding of observable pixels as actual material is not new or unfamiliar to other visual interaction or information designers whatsoever. Also the principles¬†that lead¬†material design.¬†Yet, Google takes advantage of this metaphor to easily convey the role of visual design in systems design, interaction design, experience design, or whatever name you want to pick. Besides, material and design is a hot topic in Human-Computer Interaction research. I think that Google is not saying something new. However, by talking about¬†material, Google attempts to foreground the value of the interface in the success of their products. This is not a naive viewpoint. It represents a Google’s stance before its competitors; in particular,¬†I’d point out to Apple. Hence, material design is a business strategy, similar to others in the last decade, in which design is a¬†marketable entity that is supposed to make a difference. A design-laden discourse that is getting worn out more and more.

Illustration for the principle of meaningful motion in Google's Material Design guidelines
Illustration for the principle of meaningful motion in Google’s Material Design guidelines

Don’t get me wrong though. I think material design is¬†both appealing and useful for the Google’s IxD/UX community. Yet, I glimpse¬†material design as that medium by which Google can create this design-driven cult, √† la Apple. It’s unavoidable. Steve Jobs as the material signifier of profitable design for technology is gone. It’s a tough war out there. And Google of course that wants a big piece of the mobile apps cake.

Illustration for the principle of emphasize actions in the Google's material design guidelines
Illustration for the principle of emphasize actions in the Google’s material design guidelines

As a HCI researcher interested on metaphors and visual design for interfaces, these are my quick insights from this case:

  1. Metaphors are effective. Moreover, they can help to unify concepts and actions that are supposed to be understood already. The simple metaphor of material design is an example of this effectiveness that also shows the benefits at a business level.
  2. Visual design might be an old and many time revisited topic. Yet,¬†it’s necessary to state the principles that will lead the visual design in interaction/experience design.¬†In this regard, I argue for paying more attention to visual design, particularly as study object in HCI.
  3. Visual design might be taken for granted for clients, users, and other stakeholders. Yet, it’s clear that conforming a¬†design language is necessary in the IxD/UXD professional practice to build a¬†branding umbrella.¬†IxD/UXD/HCI pedagogy should take this aspect into account and educate future designers with the better understanding of visual principles, both static and dynamic, and the connections not only with the interface design, but also with other communication aspects, such as branding.

I wonder what my very experienced colleagues think about material design. Cheers!



Art vs. Design. Should we stop asking that?

The Academy of Art University in San Francisco received to John Kolko and Donald Norman ‚Äďtwo of the most known theorists in the field of [Interaction] Design. The first question they were asked was to point out the¬†key differences between art and design. I really do believe that making this question in this context is more than reasonable, particularly for the new students. In fact, it’s not hard to notice that trying to answer this question is a pivot in many¬†basic discussions around design. Nevertheless, I believe this question loses its validity eventually. At both levels, research and practice.

Affinity Diagram. Photography by Sam Xia.  http://mypointofview.info/
Affinity diagram.
Photography by Sam Xia.

If we consider the case of scholarly research, we can notice that as we go forward in the study of design, the latter becomes into an¬†abstract concept, where art is just a¬†small piece within all the¬†lenses¬†with which design can be studied. I’m not talking about diminishing the value of design whatsoever, but other fields like¬†psychology, philosophy, anthropology,¬†or¬†communication studies¬†can also provide foundations, tools, and methods applicable to the discipline. By being involved with scholarly research, I’ve been witness of my colleagues’ attempts to amalgamate knowledge from other fields with the field of Human-Computer Interaction Design in order to reinforce both our understanding and discussion about design in a¬†broad sense. As Paul Rand said,¬†“design is everywhere.”¬†It’s a human activity, and that’s why we can¬†find it in every [academic] field, in one way or another. Humans cannot scape from design.¬†We design just in the moment¬†we intentionally decide to transform reality. Thus, any design activity would occur in fields like¬†mathematics, chemistry, physics, business,¬†and others that we would not relate to design. The interesting¬†game¬†here is to discover and analyze¬†what design is for these disciplines, and how their approaches to design can affect what we could call “designerly disciplines” like architecture, industrial design, interaction design,¬†and so on.

On another hand, from the research that my colleagues and I conduct at Indiana University about [interaction] design practice, I’ve noticed that design professionals clearly stop paying attention about the relation of art and practice. This is somehow¬†obvious. In the [interaction design] practice, they have to pay attention on how to success in every project, ¬†and this discussion (about design and art) is apparently ¬†left aside. What my colleagues and I have noticed is that practitioners actually care about knowledge that can be applicable to their everyday practice ‚Äďsomehow similar to what scholars do. This doesn’t mean a rupture in the relation with art. But it’s true that practitioners want to employ [design-related] knowledge that makes them more competitive.

Indiana University HCI/d students testing a prototype.  Photography by Sam Xia.  http://mypointofview.info/
Indiana University HCI/d students testing a prototype.
Photography by Sam Xia.

So, we should stop discussing about the relation or differences of art and design? Obviously,¬†the answer is no.¬†However, we should recognize that design is more than answering this question. Since the moment we wake up, we face ourselves with¬†designed products, designed services, designed spaces, designed information,¬†and other¬†designed¬†products. Hence, design becomes and involves more than aspects of art. Design needs to consolidate as a discipline that [effectively] gathers knowledge from diverse disciplines, but that stands by itself ‚Äďas it happens with other disciplines, Computer Science for instance. In this sense, [design] knowledge should be¬†digestible¬†so practitioners can apply or adapt it in their work contexts, in addition to straightforward ways of communicating it to non design practitioners.

I think no one is closed to design. It’s obvious that we’re exposed to a¬†design explosion nowadays. But it’s in the moments when design is¬†transparent¬†(in the everyday) that design is not viewed as art but as design itself.¬†It’s when design is recognized as it is, as another human discipline with its own knowledge set, values, tools, and methods. Education becomes critical for this¬†mind shift. Although design is commonly taught in¬†art schools (or related with¬†art¬†somehow), we should recognize that a current design discourse is quite complex ‚Äďit should gather and synthesize all these efforts to¬†expand¬†and compact
[design-related] knowledge from scholars and practitioners respectively, and it also should find a way to permeate the mainstream easily, with the intention of reaching out the non designers. This task is not easy whatsoever. However, early stages in¬†design pedagogy ‚Äďwherever it’s carried out, either named art/design school or not‚Äď should transmit this broader perspective of design, so the students’ mindset will evolve and mature with this ideas.