Two Implications of Action-Centric Interaction Design

Ian Bellomy
Assistant Professor Communication Design
Myron E. Ullman, Jr. School of Design
University of Cincinnati

This presentation covers two implications for visual communication design education that stem from an action-centric view of screen-based interaction design. Brief excerpts of two student projects will be presented in support of the main theoretical argument. The premise, which will be taken for granted here, is that interaction can be accurately described in terms of action on malleable form. It follows from this that visual designers are well served by approaching screen based interaction design through the lens of information navigation, and that instructors can effectively constrain specific projects through action related variables.

The design of malleable screen form is predicated on basic human needs and entails unique but reoccurring communication design challenges. First, malleable form is not just an opportunity, it is a technical and human necessity—because digital devices can carry more information than they can display at once, their forms must be malleable. This also applies to screen-based control surfaces (e.g. a car dashboard) that have more functions than fit into a given rectangle. Second, malleable form entails the need to communicate the form’s malleability; as all screen form is malleable in some way, this communication need, or information navigation design problem, is very common. This makes it an appropriate foundation for studying interactivity in a visual design curriculum.

The action centric perspective also clarifies opportunities for defining project level constraints. An instructor can limit the kinds of forms allowed (type, photo, graphics, etc.), their capacity for transformation, and the kinds of input that affect these changes (clicks, swipes, drags, etc.). Such constraints can guide students into novel situations requiring thoughtful problem solving as opposed to interface convention regurgitation. Constraints can also be tailored to fit different prototyping technologies so that students can explore the limits of their materials while simultaneously engaging in human-centered problem solving.