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Wednesday 02|20|02
Bringing Graphic Design and Programming Together

The Human Interaction Design Protocol site is a project attempting to bring together the two fields of Graphic Design and Programming. The project is the Thesis research of Sean T. Brennan and was done as part of his requirements for an MS degree in Communication Design from Pratt Institute.

The project attempts to answer or provide opportunities to answer and discuss the a variety of questions including the following:
"How do educators ensure that designers are ready to face the challenges of understanding, communicating and integrating programming and technological issues into their careers?

As for designers, how can they ensure they are keeping up with technological changes by learning about things that may effect their work and their value?

How can the gap be bridged between technologists/ programmers and graphic designers?

As frustration between software technologists and those on the creative end increase every day, how do we ensure graphic designers entering the work force are able to interact with the technical constraints of programmers and developers?

Can a unified and mutually respectable understanding of where the other person is coming from in order to successfully see a project through completion be developed? "

These are great questions to think about and to bring up for dialog.

The site assumes each side knows nothing about the other and offers down to earth information, resource lists, definitions of typical industry terms and jargon and a notables section for each discipline.

If you have been working in the industry for awhile, most of this information is not new, but if you are having problems with a programmer not understanding where you come from this site might give them some good background information.

The site is still a work in progress and the author is soliciting contributions.

Posted by erin at 09:26 PM | in Graphic Design


I think this site misses the mark in several ways:

1. The name of the site is very unfortunate: it is, in fact, not at all about human interaction, interaction design or design protocol. I'd be interested in knowing why the name was chosen. It seems completely wrong to me.

2. It is clearly written by a designer for designers. This is most clear in the people selected as notable programmers. I mean, Bob Metcalfe and Tim Berners-Lee? Sure, they're important from a technology development standpoint, but these guys aren't known as great programmers. It seems the author doesn't understand the difference developing a technology and the act of programming.

Ok, enough of my complaining. I just thought I'd share...

Posted by Brad Lauster at February 22, 2002 02:50 PM

I think you are correct on both points - but I also think that it is a good effort by a graduate student to attempt to make the leap between the two disciplines. I have some issues about the designer's who are featured as well. The way to correct the presumptions by the creator is to weigh in with people who should be featured in a site like this.

He is asking for contributions.

Posted by erin at February 22, 2002 05:17 PM
................................................... what's in the name?

Hi Brad:

I want to thank you for posting a little blurb/blog about my project. But after reading your comment about the name being "unfortunate", I feel compelled to respond and explain the name and the goal behind the project.

While I don't know your complete background, it's fairly obvious you're into technology, programming, etc. You may even have a slight interest in design. I don't know. While this site/project isn't meant to turn programmers into designers or designers into programmers, it is, however, meant to educate and inform. The more these two fields know about each other, the better the understanding of expectations and limitations- ultimately leading to better communication and collaboration between graphic designers and programmers.

As for the name, yes, it is something that I've created- but with meaning. Please allow me to explain. The main portion of the site focuses on designers & programmers learning to work and collaborate together- solving mutual problems by working together. This is where the "Human Interaction" comes into play. "Design" is about programmers and technologists fostering an understanding that design can and should play a vital role in their work. Designers (graphic, etc.) can help people in the tech sector in many aspects i.e. interface, experience and even software design. By using the word "Protocol", I simply mean the way designers and programmers interact (and sometimes not interact) with each other. As a person with a graphic design background, I can honestly say that most designers aren't sure how to interact with programmers when collaborating. The word Protocol, of course, has several meanings. But the one I have on the home page has specific meaning which relates directly to programmers and computer scientists.

protocol n 1: (computer science) rules determining the format and transmission of data
[syn: communications protocol] 2: code of correct conduct: "safety protocols";"academic protocol"

Where it says "transmission of data" I like to think that it can mean informational/technical, but more importantly, I like to think it can also mean communicative/verbal data. In turn improving communication between graphic designers and programmers.

By no means do I mean to deceive in anayway, shape or form.

At this time, only 2 areas (Education and Resources) are available for viewing. Integration and Collaboration will soon follow. Not only does the site serve as a resource, but a 16 week curriculum is also being created that will allow for the implementation of ideas, suggestions, exercises and projects from this site into the classroom, design studios as well as the corporate environment where designers and programmers are interacting more and more on a regular basis.

This project is continually being worked on and improved. If after looking through the site you feel you have quality, related material
you'd like to submit, you can do so at:

I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your feedback.

Sean Brennan


Posted by Sean at March 1, 2002 06:33 AM

Thanks Sean for clarifying some of the points about the name. I look forward to watching the project grow as contributions come in. I think it has the potential to be very rich. as a graphic designer who works with programmers, I think it has the potential to be very informative just to help people speak the same language.

I can also recommend, for those still in school, taking a class in the other discipline to help get your head around the other space and to help see that the notion of problem solving is very similar - whether you are a designer or a programmer.

I am curious to know why you chose the designers you did as examples?

Posted by erin at March 2, 2002 08:09 PM

Hi Erin:

Thanks for you comments and I'm glad I had the opportunity to explain the project a little furhter. As for the designers I've chosen, at first the chosen designers were primarily meant to prove two main points- that technology does play an important role in the life of the designer (whether they relize it or not) and that designers need to quickly adapt to that methodology or be left behind to role of "low end desinger" (I talk more about this in my paper). The highlighted designers were those who have made a substansial mark on the design industry through their adaption and use of technology. i.e. April Greiman, John Maeda, Clement Mok, etc.

Then, I decided to make the list a little broader. I then began to list others who have a had a profound impact on the graphic design industry (in general). I also felt it was and still is, important for people in the technology industry who work with designers to at least be aware of these individuals.

Hope this helps explain things a bit more. I'm updating this list a little at a time, but I'm always up for contributions. Rick Valacenti was the most recent addition that was submitted to be added to the list.


Posted by Sean Brennan at March 4, 2002 06:28 PM

Hey Sean,

I blogged your project on iaslash a while ago. Sorry I didn't respond to your comment then. You wrote "While I don't know your complete background, it's fairly obvious you're into technology, programming, etc."

Well. no. that's not the issue. And since you've got a cut&paste response to it (identical to your response to Brad here), I thought I'd share some thoughts on why you're getting that reaction from some people.

Interaction design is a discipline. Human-centered design is an approach/design philosophy often taken by that discipline(coined by Don Norman IIRC). Human Interaction Design would then be something to do with "interaction design" or "human centered design". This is where the "tricked" feeling comes in - I was expecting things about designing interaction, and I get things about programming, and about visual design. All well and good, but didn't live up to expectations rising from the title of the project.

So I think you will continue to have this reaction from people in the user experience community - interaction designers, information architects, interface designers, information designers, usability specialists, etc.

Not that your project is not a good thing. It's just using terms that are well defined in the UX community in a way that doesn't jive with those established definitions. (FWIW, 'interaction design' was coined by Bill Moggeridge, a cofounder of IDEO) For your target audiences of graphic designers & programmers who don't come to the table with expectations of interaction design, then it's much less troublesome.



this link about IDEO's interaction design practice might be interesting

Posted by jess at March 5, 2002 10:10 PM

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