What is conversation? How can we design for effective conversation?

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly and Paul Pangaro.

Interaction describes a range of processes. A previous “On Modeling” article presented models of interaction based on the internal capacity of the systems doing the interacting [1]. At one extreme, there are simple reactive systems, such as a door that opens when you step on a mat or a search engine that returns results when you submit a query At the other extreme is conversation. Conversation is a progression of exchanges among participants. Each participant is a “learning system,” that is, a system that changes internally as a consequence of experience. This highly complex type of interaction is also quite powerful, for conversation is the means by which existing knowledge is conveyed and new knowledge is generated.


Models of Models

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly.

Models are ideas about the world—how it might be organized and how it might work. Models describe relationships: parts that make up wholes; structures that bind them; and how parts behave in relation to one another.


What is Interaction? Are There Different Types?

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly, Usman Haque, and Paul Pangaro.

When we discuss computer-human interaction and design for interaction, do we agree on the meaning of the term “interaction”? Has the subject been fully explored? Is the definition settled?


An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research

Written for Interactions magazine by Liz Sanders. Edited by Hugh Dubberly.

Design research is in a state of flux. The design research landscape has been the focus of a tremendous amount of exploration and growth over the past five to 10 years. It is currently a jumble of approaches that, while competing as well as complementary, nonetheless share a common goal: to drive, inspire, and inform the design development process.


Design in The Age of Biology: Shifting From a Mechanical-Object Ethos to an Organic-Systems Ethos

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly.

In the early twentieth century, our understanding of physics changed rapidly; now, our understanding of biology is undergoing a similar rapid change.

Freeman Dyson wrote, “It is likely that biotechnology will dominate our lives and our economic activities during the second half of the twenty-first century, just as computer technology dominated our lives and our economy during the second half of the twentieth [1].”

Recent breakthroughs in biology are largely about information—understanding how organisms encode it, store, reproduce, transmit, and express it—mapping genomes, editing DNA sequences, mapping cell-signaling pathways.


Learning Curves for Design

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly.

When businesspeople discuss growth, they often refer to S-curves or “hockey sticks”—diagrams depicting quantity changing over time, typically units sold per month or quarter. Growth begins slowly and gradually increases to an inflection point; from there it accelerates. Eventually, growth begins to slow and tapers off, for instance, as a market saturates or a system stabilizes at a new level.


The Experience Cycle

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly and Shelley Evenson.

In this article, we contrast the “sales cycle” and related models with the “experience cycle” model. The sales cycle model is a traditional tool in business. The sales cycle frames the producer-customer relationship from the producer’s point of view and aims to funnel potential customers to a transaction. The experience cycle is a new tool, synthesizing and giving form to a broader, more holistic approach being taken by growing numbers of designers, brand experts, and marketers. The experience cycle frames the producer-customer relationship from the customer’s point of view and aims to move well beyond a single transaction to establish a relationship between producer and customer and foster an on-going conversation.


The Analysis-Synthesis Bridge Model

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly, Shelley Evenson, and Rick Robinson.

The simplest way to describe the design process is to divide it into two phases: analysis and synthesis. Or preparation and inspiration. But those descriptions miss a crucial element—the connection between the two, the active move from one state to another, the transition or transformation that is at the heart of designing. How do designers move from analysis to synthesis? From problem to solution? From current situation to preferred future? From research to concept? From constituent needs to proposed response? From context to form?

How do designers bridge the gap?


Toward a Model of Innovation

Written for Interactions magazine by Hugh Dubberly.

For the last few years, innovation has been a big topic in conversation about business management. A small industry fuels the conversation with articles, books, and conferences.

Designers, too, are involved. Prominent product design firms offer workshops and other services promising innovation. Leading design schools promote “design thinking” as a path to innovation.

But despite all the conversation, there is little consensus on what innovation is and how to get it.


Simple for beginners, rich for aficionados: How Starbuck’s drink framework and ordering language 
engage customers at all levels

Starbucks Drink Platform

Starbucks has grown to be a world-wide brand with over 15,000 locations. Its extra-ordinary success is often attributed to providing a high-quality customer experience.

An important aspect of the Starbucks experience is customizing drink orders. In order to support a high degree of customization, Starbucks has created a deep and flexible framework, and a language for describing the framework and progressively introducing it to customers.

This article examines the Starbucks drink framework and the language that describes it.