To anyone in the close proximity of the design discipline, be that intimately close or simply by conjuncture, the term communication shouldn't be something new. Another familiar notion is the fact that design is a problem-solving discipline. It has to do something. But in more cases than not, this is where a wide-spread, standardized, general opinion stops and subjectivity creeps in.
A more formal and complete characterization of design would sound something like a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints. ( 1 )
What I find interesting is that the human factor is slightly underrated in this context, with no direct correspondence between the technique in a specific sub-discipline and the cognitive counter-part that explains how humans respond in certain contexts. Objects, goals, environments are fundamentally human.
Humans interact with the artifact design produces. And it is humans that develop an experience based on those interactions.
Unfortunately, it is common practice in today's line of designers to conveniently package an unknown under the false pretext of a liberal art, rather than grasping the complexities of cognitive phenomena. Rather than thinking about how people think.
As it happens, the value-engineering mindset that's so crucial to profitability as a commodity trader is fatal as a purveyor of experiences.
Even in what seems to be a fairly standard activity today, like reading off a display, the brain performs a multitude of complex activities like creating information structures, modifying them, adding to them and even designing new structures.
Understanding these phenomenas and how our brain works, to what are we hardwired to respond to and how we actually respond in a specific context is vital when designing an interaction - under any shape or form - and ultimately an experience.
The fact that we have different capacities in each hemisphere implies that we should present information in a way that does not overtax one hemisphere while undertaxing the other [...] For example, heads-up displays [transparent projections of information that a driver or pilot would normally need to look down at the dashboard to see] show a lot of data. Our results suggest that you want to put that information evenly on both sides of the visual field to maximize the amount of information that gets into the brain.( Tim Buschman is a cognitive researcher working at MIT )
( Human ) Experience is a big word.
And trying to design an experience is a tall order.
Since you can look at design as a communication method that utilizes a gathering of related subjects and methodologies like linguistics and communication, cognitive and perceptual psychology, information architecture and design, sociology and social interaction, it's becoming increasingly clear that now, more than ever, design holds the tools necessary to mediate our experience. Even control it.
In looking to improve my own design process, I decided to combine multiple insights offered by existing disciplines to start to develop my own approach, which centers around how our mind fundamentally works.
Cognition at the core of human centered design.
The best work emerges from the observations of phenomena that exist independently of each other. What the designer intuits is the linkage, singular or plural. He sees a way to unify separate occurrences and create a gestalt, and experience in which this new unity provides insight.
There's a cognitive model behind Milton Glaser's statement, best described by Douglas Hofstdater as chunking ( 2 ) : our mind is constructed with an unlimited quantity of chunking. That means that primordial concepts become a larger conceptual unit. And we build our concepts by putting several concepts together. And then some internal components seem to start to disappear. And we're left with this new concept which becomes semi-visible. But if it's structured at many levels or hierarchy, the concepts inside the concepts inside the concepts are certainly just about invisible. And it takes some unpacking to get there.
It is dangerously easy to give in to a constant bombardment of materials owned by an societal apparatus that puts quantity before quality, with little regard to a more fulfilling essence of design : solving a problem. But we need to educate our mind to make associations and connections to learn and understand how our mind works. Only then we can safely say we can rigurously design an interaction. And ultimately, an experience.
It's time science and art can meet again on a higher level as friends.