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Understanding the Role of Designers’ Personal Life Experiences in Interaction Design Practice


User-Centered Design (UCD) has established itself as the de facto standard for the design and development of quality products, systems and services. Related to UCD, the concept of “user experience” is the central concern of researchers and practitioners in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and interaction design. Designers are trained that understanding physical, cognitive, emotional and aesthetic needs of users leads to better interactive systems and products. As a result, formalized methods for HCI and interaction design practitioners are mainly orientated around users, and user research forms the heart of HCI research.

However, some studies have proposed the need to study designers in order to better support interaction design practice through research. This research project takes up the challenge proposed by the authors to investigate first-person experiences of designers.

Other related research on designers includes the study of design methods and design thinking. In previous years, considerable research was undertaken that focused on designers’ cognitive activities in the process of design problem solving.

This study, which is different from the existing research on designers, focuses on designers’ day-to-day, lived experiences of their daily lives and the application of these experiences in interaction design practice. We claim designers’ personal life experiences inevitably play a role in their design practices – and our aim in this study is to describe how this occurs.

In this research, interaction design practice refers to professional design activities intended to create commercial products. We refer to a designer’s personal life experiences as the accumulation of his or her experiences that emerge from daily routines and interactions with design artifacts and systems whether digital or not in non-professional and personal contexts. For example, designers relayed their personal experiences of using an iPhone or Facebook, or the experience of being in an audience at a musical festival, or travelling in a foreign country.

In this research, a designer’s personal life experiences are separated from his professional design experiences. Professional design experiences refer to the accumulated experiences of a designer mastering competence in developing products and systems over a period of time from training to professional practice.

The aim of this research project is twofold: (1) to explore the role of designers’ personal life experiences in interaction design practice as a way to advocate for designer-oriented research; (2) to present the contributions of designers’ personal life experiences to interaction design practice as a way to encourage the need for research of first-person (designers) life experiences and first-person design methods.

In this research, we set out to answer the following questions through employing a descriptive multiple-case study as our research method and selecting professional designers as cases, who have been working professionally as an interaction designer for a minimum of 4 years and who are from recognized and international professional contexts:

• In professional interaction design practice, what role does a designer’s personal life experiences have on his or her professional practice?

• What kind of influence does a professional interaction designer’s personal life experiences have on their practice and resulting interaction design products?


» Ron Wakkary

» Xiao Zhang

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