Wicked Problems Inspire Creative Solutions: A case study of software design for industry

Session Title

Wicked Problems Inspire Creative Solutions: A case study of software design for industry


Jack Moffett, Inmedius

Session Type: Demonstration

We are well aware of many great examples of Interaction Design found on the web. Consumer-oriented services and mobile devices like the iPhone capture the public conscious and are the stars of our discipline. Software developed for industry, however, is much less likely to have an interaction designer involved to begin with. The irony is that there are typically much more difficult challenges to tackle in industrial contexts—designers are sorely needed.

I’ll be demonstrating a unique application that was designed to meet an interesting combination of requirements. The tool is used to record information about complex electrical systems in large facilities, such as factories and hospitals. The demonstration will show how a user interface was designed for needs and constraints such as:
• mobile use
• harsh environments
• touch/stylus input
• relatively small display
• visualization, navigation, and editing of very large, complex electrical systems
• quick, non-linear access to individual parts of said systems
• repetitious data entry
• validation of entered data

The resulting solution required creative, custom enhancements to existing design patterns. Of course, it also required close work with the technicians that were to benefit from it. The presentation will include examples from the collaborative process, from initial research and a failed first attempt to “a day in the life” shadowing and high-fidelity prototypes.

In summary, the session will present a complete case study of an industry-oriented software design project through demonstration of prototypes and, ultimately, the final, working application.


Jack Moffett has been designing web, desktop, and mobile software for industry and the military for over 10 years. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design from West Virginia University and a Masters in Interaction Design from Carnegie Mellon, and is currently adjunct faculty at WVU where he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in subjects ranging from typography to service design. As Senior Interaction Designer at the Pittsburgh-based software development firm Inmedius, Jack covers the gamut from initial user research through to implementation and testing. In addition to power systems, he has worked with customers in industries such as aerospace, oil and gas, automotive, and various organizations within the U.S. military. You can read more of his thoughts about design on his blog, DesignAday, at

One Comment

  1. Maureen
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Sounds like a great session.