Lost Histories

Back in February 2001, I attended a design history conference—specifically geared to graphic design history—but at the end, as I wrote up my thoughts on the lectures on my blog I asked the following questions:

  • What is the design history of interactive media?
  • Who stands out of the crowd and why?
  • Do interaction/experience designers have a history yet and can it be chronicled before everything disappears?
  • What is worthy of recording?
  • How do museums save or collect work that is dynamically driven and highly interactive or relies on lots of complex backend stuff?
  • Do the artifacts that we as IAs and Interaction designers make need to be kept as well to provide a cohesive sense of the process and effectiveness of our work?

I find it quite interesting to read these questions now that I teach Interaction Design history some 20+ years later and have just turned in the manuscript for my first book on the subject.

The question about saving work and chronicling it before it disappears was prescient since so much of the work to design and develop technology as well as the outcome of that work HAS disappeared. Websites have been erased or taken down. Devices improved up on and now filling landfills – things like Palms, Handsprings, Blackberry’s, Newtons, early laptops, the first iMacs, all the educational CD_Rom titles from the late 1980s and early 1990s, first games, early websites if we didn’t think to screenshot them, flash sites etc. So much is lost or squirreled away in personal archives.

I almost want to call the next book the Lost History of Interaction Design despite some major people and milestones being well documented. Thank goodness for the Wayback Machine – even for mining my own old webblog writings.

These questions still resonate today and I think they make a good guide as I think about how to write an overarching History of Interaction Design.

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.