"Digital Dimensions"

In the last modules, we looked at objects and products, and transitioned into three-dimensional environments with traditional and interactive architecture. Next, we added the fourth-dimension (time), and how it added power to ephemeral atmospheres, like those found in live performance arts and venues. We’ll conclude this dimensional odyssey by looking at the “fifth-dimension” of interaction - behavior - and the common methodologies in kinetic and fluid interface designs.

designing app interface

We’ve already looked at production and stage design and how these fields communicate complex narratives through their practices. Now we’ll bridge Interaction Design (IxD) with User Experience Design (UxD) proper, and how these concepts are applied in websites, applications, and their dynamic elements.

Explore: The Age of the User

To conclude our exploration from last topic, let’s look at spaces we experience through interaction. Unlike film and theatre, these space have the potential to be entirely artificial, having no physical presence outside of our method of accessing them. The major requirement of these spaces is viewer participation with systems, and can include applications, website, processing, or all other manner of human-computer interaction.

Controlling perspective works in cinema and other passive media, but not for the interactive arts. Why?

With film, the adage is the viewer as observer.

With interaction, it shifts to the viewer as participant.

This can get tricky because it’s still so new to us, but now that we have some experience with traditional, physical forms and designs, let’s begin our transition into the digital world of interactive interfaces and processes.

“What is IxD?”

“Interaction Design (IxD) defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems. Interaction designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond. Our practices are evolving with the world.”
- The Interaction Design Association (IxDA)

Interaction designers are interested in specific interactions between users and their screens, unlike user experience designers which need to account for all aspects of the user-facing system. Common methodologies behind IxD include:

Goal-Driven Design

Goal-driven design focuses on satisfying specific needs and desires of the end-user, not the total capabilities of the technology. It holds problem solving as the highest priority of the design, and states that designers have a responsibility to combine both the needs of end-users and stakeholders (business owners) to the best of the product’s abilities.

Cognitive Psychology

This is a broad field with a lot of dedicated study. For our purposes, we as designers need to understand that users have expectations (conscious and unconscious) about how a product should behave. This means making products that are intuitive, and use common practices like interface metaphors (the trash icon resembles a physical trash can in both graphics and purpose) and affordances (a website button looking like a physical button you can push is an affordance designed so that unfamiliar users will still understand how to interact with it).


Usability, in simple terms, address how easy the product is to access. This includes learnability (how quickly can a new user learn the interface?), errors (how many errors can me made, and how are they addressed), and efficiency (how quickly tasks can be performed), among others.

The Five Dimensions

We may consider “interaction design language” to consist of five dimensions which make up the interactions themselves between the user and the screen.

  1. 1D: Words
  2. 2D: Visual Representation
  3. 3D: Physical Objects or Space
  4. 4D: Time
  5. 5D: Behavior

We use these dimensions to break down the experience a user has when communicating with the system.

“Why is it Important?”

“We are in a society where automation and algorithms are taking over lots of decision processes. We as designers can bring the human point-of-view into complex systems. Interaction designers are in a position where they are enablers of connecting people to people again.”

Viewing: The Age of Interaction - the iPhone and Beyond

The world around us is changing. Not only the physicality of it, but also how we communicate with it and each other. Societal necessities like common language, infrastructure, literacy, and organization which have previously taken hundreds of years to develop are evolving at an exponential rate, and in many ways, too quickly; we’re now struggling with how to both integrate and separate digital and analog realities.

2007: A New Age of Interaction Begins:

Apple comes up often in these sorts of discussions because of its focus on user-centered design. User-centered design relies on having a deep understanding of who will be using the product. Usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks, and workflow of a product, service, or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process.

If we need an example of how using user-centered and interaction design principles can change the future, we need look no further than at one of the most important contributions to computing history, which revolutionized how human interact with devices.

For those interested in software or game development, web and application design, it’s critical to consider interaction and user experience design practices, as your user needs to have a level of autonomy with your product:

“You give up a lot of the control - the luxury you had back in the day - where it was one user, one task, one computer; that's all gone now. It's much more like you are setting a stage, really, for other people to perform, but you can never tell them what to do. ... You have to perform surgery on the live patient, so to speak, while you have millions and millions of other users registered.”
- Jonas Löwgren, Professor of Interaction and Information Design, Linköping University, Sweden

Lab: Xd and Designing

Adobe Xd in an all-in-one solution for UX/UI designers which allows for designing, prototyping, and sharing experiences for websites and mobile apps.

Using Xd, we’re going to build a few app prototypes that will focus on intuative features, graphics, and designing flow. Please make sure you have installed or have access to Adobe Xd.

Below is a quick overview of how to navigate and utilize the basic tools of Adobe Xd:

Please login to Moodle when you are ready to access lab materials and requirements.

Project: None

There is no project for this topic.