How Sturdy Is That Design? Analyzing the Structure of Interaction Design

Session Title

How Sturdy Is That Design? Analyzing the Structure of Interaction Design


David Rondeau, InContext Design

Session Type: Presentation

We take it for granted, that the buildings we live in, work in, and visit are structurally sound. We can’t see the wooden frame of our house or the steel girders that hold up an office building, but we know they are there. They make the building strong and sturdy while supporting the many different ways we can use it. What about the interfaces we design and use every day? Have you ever thought about what holds them up and makes them sturdy?

This is where the language of interaction design falls a little short. We don’t have a shared or agreed upon way of talking about structure. That’s not to say designers don’t create structure, of course they do — but usually not in a formal way and not always explicitly. If we can’t easily talk about structure, how can we analyze and evaluate it? More importantly, how do we know if it’s sturdy?

In this presentation, I’ll discuss the process we use at InContext Design to reveal, evaluate, and discuss the structure of interaction design.

The presentation will:
* Teach you how to identify the structure of designs using simple interaction patterns
* Use real-world examples to demonstrate how to identify and analyze structure
* Discuss how the process of identifying structure can reveal problems that would otherwise be difficult to see
* Show how structure provides a deeper and different understanding of design problems and can help you make better design decisions
* Demonstrate how structure can help you evaluate new design trends before incorporating them into your own design
* Start to define a basic language of structure that will improve your design discussions by adding clarity and reducing confusion


David is the Design Chair at InContext Design and has 18 years of design experience that spans graphic, visual, and interaction design. He oversees design at the company, provides design expertise and training to project teams, and coaches clients in the Contextual Design process. He has worked on software, web, mobile, and consumer products across a variety of industries — including medical, financial, legal, enterprise, IT, automotive, sports, entertainment, and collaboration.

His areas of expertise include paper and interactive prototyping, interaction design patterns, and helping others understand interaction design.

He’s interested in the structure of interaction design, how to make “good” design decisions through clear design thinking, and improving how we communicate about design.


  1. Amy
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    This is an interesting way to frame an important topic.

  2. Posted October 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    fascinated. i’d come to this.

  3. Posted October 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    I am very interested in hearing more about your perspective and practice, and exploring the similarities between our field and architecture/building. looks good!