Computational design means simultaneously embracing two perspectives: human and computer. It means creating artifacts that make up the fabric of human experience, while also recognizing how these same artifacts are parts of larger computing ecosystems. In other words, it’s being a designer-developer using the potentials of digital as a medium.
I believe we should break down the traditional barriers between “software engineer” and “designer”. I’m happy to see the respected Design in Tech 2017 report setting out this very direction.
Background #1: Web developer
In 2005, I fell in love with web standards. I had already learned to program (using C++ at first), and tinkered with user interface design. Standards-based web development captured my interest through its intersection of human-focus and machine-focus. Creating usable websites, accessible to as many as possible via clean markup, became my thing. I still love the web, although many other forms of digital artifacts interest me today.
Background #2: Information Architect
My bachelor’s degree was in computer science, but focused equally on concepts like usability, findability, and representing information to facilitate understanding. The information architecture trifecta of users-content-context became a cornerstone as I transitioned to UX research and design.
Background #3: Teacher
While in the middle of starting my own business, I instead accepted a position as Lecturer in computer science at Malmö University. I taught courses related to the Web, programming, user experience and information architecture, and the intersection of all this stuff. Later, as program director, I led the design and introduction of a revamped Information Architecture B.Sc. program in Computer and Information Science. I am proud to have helped shape this unique blend of contemporary user experience, traditional human-computer interaction, and practical computer science.
Background #4: Researcher
As I continued to become ever more interested in theories of human interaction with technology, I started doctoral studies to really gain in-depth knowledge. My research came to revolve around a core tension: between, on one side, the strive to design technology that understands its user and context, and on the other, the realization that a person’s rich and messy lifeworld never can be fully represented. I thought a lot, wrote a bunch, and published some research papers—work that was presented at scientific conferences in North America, Europe and Asia. Although I didn’t actually finish my PhD, what I learned deeply informs my work today.
Having spent seven years working in academia, I’m eager to work more hands-on with product development. After my summer sabbatical, I’ll be doing so with the great folks at inUse.