Designing Interactions

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Bill Verplank

Bill Verplank is interviewed in Chapter 2 – My PC. His illustrated descriptions clarify the pioneering interaction design work of Bill Atkinson and Larry Tesler. Combine these interviews with the ideas of David Liddle, Terry Winograd and Gillian Crampton Smith for an overview of the subject.

Bill Verplank has an amazing ability to draw at the same time as he talks. If you meet him and ask him a question about interaction design, you can sit at the nearest table or desk and be mesmerized by the fluency of his answer. His words are easy to understand, and as he talks he builds a beautiful diagram that reinforces what he is saying. You can take the drawing with you as a reminder and summary of his ideas about interaction design, which have evolved over many years. His PhD from MIT was in man-machine systems. At Xerox from 1978 to 1986 he participated in testing and refining the Xerox Star graphical user interface. From 1986 to 1992, he worked as a design consultant with the author to bring graphical user interfaces into the product design world. At Interval Research from 1992 to 2000 he directed Research & Design for Collaboration. He has helped to establish the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and is a visiting scholar in haptics in the Music Department at Stanford University. He explains the context of the history and future of interaction design with paradigms that serve as patterns for the way people think about the subject. He describes the process of designing interactions with a concise diagram, and gives an example to illustrate it.

Bill says that the interaction designer needs to answer three questions, about how people act, how they feel, and how they understand. He illustrates the answers as he talks.

Bill draws as he talks for his interview in 2001. Photo Craig Syverson