So much has changed in the fifteen years since I purchased my Micron, my first home computer. Thinking back, the web used to have a more static purpose, providing an online presence for those exploring it as a new medium without a significant relationship with each individual user. In hindsight, I can understand why I never felt drawn to work with the internet while I was an engineer. Gradually it has evolved to include more interactivity and animation. For this reason Moggridge (2007) points out that the internet can now be designed more like software or interactive media, making it a more appealing career choice for me.
When I was an engineer I shied away from the role of designer/developer because in my experience they worked more in isolation, coding their specific piece of the puzzle. I find the collaborative description of Xtreme programming appealing; this better suits my preferred work flow and also my personality. I am intrigued by the possibility of working in open or flexible common work spaces, or at the very least working with a team of colleagues with a variety of strengths and skillsets.
Norman’s “Design as Practiced” (1996) was a really interesting read: someone who went from academia to industry! On the one hand, I took the reverse path in a sense. As an educator, I experienced the idealistic designs of non-educators when the new Georgia Performance Standards were rolled out for Math. I found the limited resources that were provided to be useful, but nowhere near complete enough or ideally arranged for the low-level or on-level student. I heard most educators complain about those who had designed the curriculum as if they were the academia Norman mentioned, and how little they were able to connect to the actual process of public school education. Chief among my issues was the decision to eliminate remedial courses in the new system. Those who made this decision seemed to have no idea the impact on both remedial and on-level students once they all were exposed to the same curriculum in the same classroom at the same time.
As I thought about this more, Norman’s discussion of transition from academia to industry is even more intriguing as I move back into industry after over a decade-long absence. I plan to follow Dr. Orey’s advice last semester to pursue only projects and topics related to business and industry, avoiding the easy and tempting choice of math education. This has proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. I believe the advantage my experience as an educator, however, will outweigh my disconnect from the culture and politics of Corporate America. In addition, working with an interdisciplinary team as advocated by Norman (2004) will provide resources to help ensure these important considerations are considered and addressed.
I found Norman’s “Emotional Design” podcast (2004) beneficial as I begin to think about the design of my project. At this point I am leaning towards creating a biographical presentation celebrating the life of my mother. It seems obvious that I should do more than present photos and information on the page in a basic journalistic fashion; I almost feel as if I have been giving permission to use the aesthetics I find so appealing since the emotional part of my presentation is a part of my purpose. Most who view my project have never met my mother and might even know very little about me. I hope to do more than simply document her life. I hope to convey her values, her beauty, and the special love between mother and child so that others might look to their own families for their own inspiration.
Heeding the advice of Moggridge (2007), I should be careful to avoid jumping ahead of myself as I begin my project, making sure not to just experiment “with the basic constraints of usability and perceived value.” As I consider what and how to present, perhaps I could create a very rough prototype using post-it notes to “organize, articulate, and visualize.” This will help me spend less time to get started, clear any hurdle of writer’s block (does designer’s block exist?) and require less time to make adjustments.
As I type on my brand new Dell, my first real laptop, I’m pleased to be able to take this change in direction in my career. Today’s version of the field of Instructional Design did not exist when I was an engineer. I would not be the same instructional designer without a dozen years of experience as an educator. So no regrets. I carry with me the inspiration of the first designer I ever knew, my mother, into my first and most personal project, and also into the interesting projects and adventures that lie ahead.
Websites that show an interactive style that I like and think might work for my project:
Moggridge, B. (2007). Designing interactions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [PDF of chapter 10, “People and Prototypes,” p. 641-755.]
Norman, D. (1996). Design as practiced. In Winograd, T. (Ed.), Bringing Design to Software (pp. 233-247). New York: Addison-Wesley. [PDF]
Norman, D. 2004. Emotional design: Presentation made at the 2004 O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference. [podcast] Available: http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail69.html