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Thoughts On The Interaction Design Association Conference

Meaning. Framework. Storytelling. Social Good. These were some of the themes manifest during this year's IXD10 conference in Savannah, Georgia.

Since this is my inaugural post to the blog, let me start by defining what I do at NPR. I am a senior interaction designer in the user experience (commonly known as "UX") group. "What the heck is an interaction designer?" you might ask. The IxDA (Interaction Design Association) defines it succinctly:

Interaction Design (IxD) defines the structure and behavior of interactive products and services. Interaction Designers create compelling relationships between people and the interactive systems they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances; Interaction Designers lay the groundwork for intangible experiences.

Now that that's out of the way, back to my weekend in Savannah. I attended the conference with Scott Stroud, one of the senior UX architects in our group. While the mid-Atlantic was disappearing under three feet of snow, we were in balmy, snow-free Georgia, listening to fellow interaction design professionals present their research, work practices and inspiring thoughts on the discipline.

The keynote speaker, Nathan Shedroff, co-author of Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver and chair of the California College of Art's Design MBA program, spoke about innovating meaningful experiences, focusing on triggers (i.e., attributes usually associated with the end of the design cycle — sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, concepts, symbols), and significance (i.e., meaning, status/identity, emotion/lifestyle, price, and function) to create meaning from the inside out. As I sat there listening, I thought about how easy this aspect of design is for me at NPR. The meaning is there, in spades. NPR is one of those ethereal brands that speaks to its consumers on a gut level. People don't just listen to NPR or trust NPR. They love NPR on a visceral level. And it's because of the meaningful experiences we provide to millions on a daily basis.

Other highlights included a talk by Alexis Lloyd, a creative technologist with the New York Times R&D group. In her presentation, she discussed her research on the future of news consumption and how users will interact with journalism and media in the next 2-10 years. She anticipates that news providers will balance social activity, personal preference, editorial judgment and smart recommendations via real-time streams of content.

I was also inspired by Liz Danzico's presentation on improvisation's role in the design process, Cindy Chastain's assertions that interaction design has a lot more in common with screenwriting and storytelling than you might think, and especially Paola Antonelli's keynote on her work as senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. If you didn't get to see her last major exhibit, Design and the Elastic Mind, you missed out. But she's working on her next one, Talk To Me, which explores ways in which, through the products they create, designers write scripts that facilitate and shape cultural dialogue.

We hope to establish a consistent presence on this blog for those interested in how design manifests itself at NPR. Watch for us here and you can also follow us on our new Twitter account, @nprdesign.

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