One of the benefits of ditching cable and going to internet streaming TV is that I’m watching more TED talks for a mental stretch break. True, I’m missing half of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but I catch stuff like this from Paola Antonelli, on bringing video games to New York’s Museum of Modern Art …
It caught my attention because it’s all about the importance of Design, and specifically Interaction Design. Antonelli moved from architecture to a focus on design and its impact on the world, and her comments in this video draw clear connections between design and information technology. Check out the whole thing – but here are a few of my favorite quotes:
“Design is the highest form of creative expression” – Art with purpose and function; Fine Arts classes are stepping stones, prerequisites to market segmentation, product differentiation, and sustainable competitive advantage
“Design is so much more than cute chairs” – When a font or graphical style becomes part of a brand, a persona, a digital identity – the economic importance becomes tangible.
“We live to day … not in the digital, not in the physical, but in the kind of minestrone that the mind makes of the two … and that’s where interaction lies. That’s the importance of interaction” – ’nuff said
But the main point of the piece is about interaction design – how the developer presents the functionality of a complex system or data set, and through well-conceived, imaginative, empathetic ideas, makes it all accessible and relevant. Video games are the primary examples of these ideas, but Antonelli also looks at how infographics – with the now-classic Wind Map visualization (Viégas and Wattenberg) a prime example of data visualization that could easily pass as art.
The stories about how the press did not (at first) make the connection between video games and interaction design are examples of a pattern that challenges many aspects of process and systems in corporations today. In the IT world, many teams are emphasizing architecture, scale, sustainability, planning, documentation … all ideas that are, at times, sloughed off as pedantic, non-value overhead (by many areas of the business, including old-guard IT). Yet we are repeatedly faced with demand for faster development cycles, intuitive interfaces, and self-evident processes that need little to no training to be effective. These demands are based on what people see in the consumer marketplace – without an appreciation for the level of investment (resources, training, time) it takes to make the complex seem simple – via effective interaction design.
How wide is the chasm of misunderstanding? Liebovitz puts it bluntly: “Video games aren’t art because they are, quite thoroughly, something else: code.” An otherwise informed piece on copyright misses the point entirely – code is just the medium, the real success is how you shape the message / information / data / idea you are trying to put out there. In fact, the idea that MoMA is working to acquire the code for these games as part of the collection is a really fascinating concept to me – even I hadn’t pushed my own preconception of what code is (think of GitHub as an urban, concrete skate park, with rails, walls, tubes, graffiti, and music, mixed and remixed daily).