Ron Wakkary believes in making everyday count. For over a decade, the design researcher has been exploring the changing nature of interaction design in response to everyday design practices. As a Professor at the Simon Fraser University School of Interactive Arts and Technology and founder of the Everyday Design Studio, Wakkary considers people as creators and makers rather than passive users or consumers of digital artifacts. This perception continuously challenges the current practices in the field of interaction design.
“I came to realize that, in some sense, everyone is a designer of his or her everyday living”, Wakkary says. “As a researcher, I am exploring what this means for the design of computational artifacts. I want to know how to design computational things that are radically simple enough to become part of everyday life. In this way, ‘everyday designers’ can determine how the things we design fit in their lives and improve them.”
With a keen interest in interaction design, Wakkary obtained his Doctorate Degree at Plymouth University while working as a faculty member at Simon Fraser University and briefly at the Parsons School of Design. Currently, he serves as the co-Editor-in-Chief of ACM Interactions magazine and both as a Design United Visiting Professor and Chair of the Impact of Interaction Design on Everyday Life at Eindhoven University of Technology. There, Wakkary and his team are breaking new ground in the areas of wearable technology, the integration of new materials and digital fabrication, and the crossover of interaction design practices with fashion and architecture.
“The big idea behind my work is that the artifacts and systems we design are resources rather than finished products,” Wakkary explains. “The implications of this idea is that interaction designers and researchers need to learn to design or co-design with other practitioners – that is, everyday designers rather than users.” This approach is relevant to a number of emerging concepts such as the Internet of Things, Ultra Personalized Products and Services and the circular economy.
Our window to the world
That being said, Wakkary is convinced that design is fundamental to who and what we are as human beings. “In my view, there is a multiplicity of practices of creating and shaping the world that we can broadly refer to as design,” he claims. “Design is an essential and unique way of not only constructing the world but understanding it as well. In relation to other disciplines, design asks different questions and offers different propositions and ways of knowing and relating to our world. In that sense, design research is pretty simple in that it is to inquire about the world through design.”
Driven by change and the knowledge that complacency can hide many critical concerns and possibilities, Wakkary is convinced that designers should rethink how they practice design, for whom they design, and the innovations they create through design. “Design has made incredible progress,” the researcher says, “and so this is not a disavowal of what’s already happened but rather a reflective leveraging of the advances of our field.”