Paper Swans and Play-Doh



Analog In, Digital Out: Brendan Dawes on Interaction Design

There have been several events where one speaker really shone out from  the rest, and this alongside the more celebrated thought leaders in the UX field. His delivery can best be described as entertaining, humorous story-telling. As the title of the post suggests, he has a different approach to illustrate the importance of interaction design.


His book has been out since 2006 but despite the arrival of the iPhone and Wii his observations are just as important today. Brendan Dawes’ book, ‘Analog In, Digital Out‘ is an important work to this domain for many reasons.

Primarily, he doesn’t look so much at the science of interaction design or research. He believes in risk in design and playful experimentation – which  if harnessed right, can be the catalyst for innovation.His approach has resulted in numerous accolades and awards and provides a fresh way of thinking towards what we do as designers of information. He reasserts the fear that digital propagation of our lives is leading to a void of actual material things. The rise of the gigabyte hard drive has led to a removal of artifacts of experience in people’s homes.


I entirely agree with this and why I am interested in physical objects for digital inspiration. Perhaps that is what is at the heart of the matter, and the heart of this book. We as human beings enjoy the tactile, the experiences of our five senses being used and involved. Align this with our highly social nature and little wonder that the biggest winners online address these requirements well.


  • Flickr combines our love of pictures and showing the personal things of importance.
  • Facebook our need of social activity and interaction.
  • eBay the aquiring of material goods, mirroring the bazaars that go back to the start of civilisation itself.
  • Skype our need for instant communication.
  • Delicious our need to collect store and share.
  • Google our need to find our way and gain knowledge – the living library.


All these things are human needs played out in the digital world and Dawes’ book is a thought provoking and easy to read inspiring realignment of where we should be going to produce truly great experiences. Some of his chapters are specific to Dawes’ process of creativity and this is another important factor – do we create because of preconditioning or  do we always strive for a better, clearer concept?


This book will divide opinion, some will probably think it is too light weight, the images distracting, the tone too irreverent. Those people would probably enjoy a more technical approach to IXD and that is understandable.


But be aware this book represents something different to a hands-on, best practice approach to designing. This book is more Dawes’ personal manifesto that can be applied to creative work in general, regardless of medium. The iterative reflective cycle of breaking things down, experimenting and throwing old ideas away (regardless of what stage they appear) is a theme that under pins the very best design work.


Verdict: Don’t expect a step-by-step from this book, but you will find a different way to look at problems which should reassert the enjoyment of creativity and making things.


Read more about Brendan Dawes

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