Spontaneous Interaction Design Group Work Styles

There was a New York City IxDA event at Roundarch last night that challenged 10 teams of designers to invent the portable electronic ink magic paper of the future. In addition to the usual functional stuff, fun ideas emerged like using it as a yoga mat, a DDR mat, or modules that could be connected together to make various sizes.

There wasn’t enough time to do a lot of critique of the designs, but it was fascinating to see how each group of 3-4 people self-organized. One group compared their process to speed chess — each person took a short time to iterate on the design and then ‘hit the clock’ passing the baton to the next person. Two groups talked about working together to define the problem and environment, then working independently on separate tasks. One of these groups actually moved apart physically.

The composition of the groups of course was pivotal. One father of a 3-year old was inspired by his son’s toys. A business analyst on another team ensured specific requirements were achieved.

And the methods varied too. Most accepted the advice in the brief to prescribe and describe scenarios, but others just picked a strong theme like “magic” and riffed on this pleasingly, having the device learn your gestures and automatically load images from a camera. It was a great reminder to me that the questions you ask determine the conclusions you reach.


  1. Sounds like a excellent exercise in terms of observing how groups of people approach arriving at design concepts. Looking forward to see how you tie it back to the concept design topic.

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