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Interaction designer and creative process

The designer’s role is above all to make tangible and visual what the customer thinks or what the users need. To transform ideas into application, the interaction designer will begin by analyzing then drawing.

Sketches by hand, a few key words are the first elements that will be produced by the designer. The discipline of interaction design is a creative discipline. It is analytic in its first phase, creative in its second phase and is technical and precise in a third phase.

He will execute the steps as follows:
– Studies of the brand, of the existing and of the competition
– Understanding of customer needs
– Understanding of user needs and expectations
– Analysis of current problems in order to respond more accurately
– Creative phase of research of ideas, new forms of interaction, new gestures
– Refocusing on technical, visual and budget aspects
– Delivery of adapted to his needs and budget solution.

The proposed solution is not always what the client is waiting for. If he is surprised it’s a good thing. The role of the designer is to pinpoint the problems then to resolve them. It is not always pleasant for the customer to learn about all the issues resolved or to resolve.

Creative phase is a very important part in the projects. Whether we’re talking about the designer’s creative phase or the visual designer’s creative phase. It is thanks to these phases that the developed solution will be unique and relevant to the context of each client and each project. It is for this reason among others that the fact of letting the ergonomists doing entirely the design phase is not a good solution. A team work is to prefer in the case of intervention of this type of profile.

This creative phase is done for most designers using paper and pencil. This is also the basis of all advanced training in industrial design. My first year at Strate was very formative on this point. No computerized rendering was allowed and it helped me to “learn creativity.” You should not necessarily draw well at this stage the goal is to be creative and to be understood through the sketch.

An anecdote: When I did my first year of study as assistant in industrial design, I broke several fingers of my right hand, and therefore had to draw, annotate with my left hand. This period taught me that creativity is to go to the basics and that there should be no barrier between the brain and the paper. Whether it is psychological fear of making ugly or hardware because you use a computer, these barriers are to banish to be free in your creativity. My design teacher at this time was so interested in the creative results with my left hand that he had expressed the idea of forcing all students to use their “wrong” hand. Unfortunately, the other students were not very enthusiastic about this idea 🙂

The creativity of the designer does not need advanced tools. He only needs a good pencil and inspiration and if inspiration is not there, each of us have developed techniques to find it back.

The next step in the design phase is the realization of the wireframe of the application. A wireframe can be done in different ways, but more than an aesthetic choice, the choice of type of wireframe has a real impact on the relationship with the client and users.

Extrait du Wireframe de l`application IDTGV pour Windows Phone 7

“Paper and pencil” wireframe is my choice and here’s why:
– Speed of production
– Speed of changes
– Provides high reactivity during the workshops because corrections can be done in live
– The designer retains control at any time unlike the Basalmiq Mockups effect. Often the customer takes himself for a designer and makes changes online thinking that knowing how to manipulate a mockup tool automatically gives him the designer skills. More complex then to argue and to withdraw his changes.
– The visual designer is not restrain in his creativity.
– The client and the user does not attempt to project in a graphical result and remains focused on the essentials at this stage: the content, functioning, interaction and features.

After completing the paper wireframe or other it is sometimes necessary to add a step to the design phase. For the understanding of the client and user the designer can choose to animate the wireframe. The advantage of this approach is that the interlocutors will be able to “test” the solution before that the developer and the visual designer have started working on the interface. For ardent defenders of “paper and pencil” wireframes good news, tools exist to make them interactive. Such as the wireframing tool named Indigo Studio from Infragistics. This tool also provides a navigation map that can be useful when customers need a global view on all screens. The fact of not having to do it “by hand” is a real time saver.

A little voice just told me to test Mockups 🙂