HCI/d vs. HCI/e
As I research methods and theories of HCI for my capstone project I often come across authors discussing how the multi-disciplinary qualities of HCI affect an academic vocabulary. Our field is relatively new and is evolving at a rapid pace. It essentially started with borrowing theoretical frameworks from cognitive psychology but now has expanded from what seems to be everything from anthropology to sustainability (although, this is not truly an academic discipline…you get my point). What gets lost with this evolution is a well-defined vocabulary and more important to me personally, what HCI/d really is.
Often I come across papers that discuss HCI/d in terms of usability testing and maybe includes empirical evaluation of designs in terms of mouse clicks or modeled using GOMS. However, I view design more about the creation of something yet to be and engineering concerning modifying and improving the created. I don’t mean to say that engineering is not a component of design–a valuable one at that. Rather, I think the field of HCI needs to begin making a distinction between the two because I find the implications of both frequently getting muddled in design discourse.
Partly, this point-of-view is highly influenced by two of my mentors Marty Siegel and Erik Stolterman (particularly in his book Thoughtful Interaction Design), but it also reflects my experience as a design mentor in the graduate introductory design discourse. I often found students new to the field attempting to construct usability tests to discern whether a design is good. I had to point out that these methods are not suited for this but rather for honing and evaluating the effectiveness of a given design.
While there are many other methods beyond just usability testing, I use this as an example of what I have come to see as a distinction between HCI Engineering (HCI/e) and HCI Design (HCI/d). As the field of HCI continues to grow and evolve, I believe creating a typology of sub-disciplines will make the field more effective in the future.