Poetic Strangeness and Interaction Design

Session Title

Poetic Strangeness and Interaction Design


Ian Curry, Local Projects

Session Type: Presentation

Quite often, we focus our efforts as interaction designers on increasing the utility and efficiency of the products we design. And while this may lead to solutions that are highly usable, such methods do not necessarily increase our chances of creating something moving, desirable, or even interesting. This presentation will examine the role of poetic strangeness in creating emotionally rich and engaging interactive experiences. While strangeness is often viewed as a force antagonistic to usability, I hope to show ways in which it can be used to augment traditionally usable designs and create more compelling interactions.

I’ll begin with a brief history of strangeness in philosophy and art, centering around the idea of “aletheia” as the uncanny revealing of things. I’ll also look at the relationship between humor and strangeness and the strong influence of humor on design.

From a practical standpoint, the presentation will explore strangeness as a tool to encourage discovery and stimulate thought. I’ll examine several of Local Projects’ and other studios’ recent works in light of the notion of strangeness. Examples will include Local Projects’ recent “Make History” website for the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, which allows users to overlay images of 9/11 on to Google Streetview. By making 9/11 imagery once again strange, the site helps restore the power and emotional impact of the original images.

While the infusion of poetic strangeness isn’t appropriate for everything you design, it can be potent even in small doses. And while employing it defies easy formulation, I’ll discuss methods that can help reveal ways to creatively infuse your work with strangeness.


Ian Curry is the Senior Interaction Designer at Local Projects in New York. Local Projects is a media design firm for museums and public spaces. Clients include the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, NYC&Co., StoryCorps, and the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Prior to Local Projects, Ian worked with frog Design where he helped create websites, large-scale interactive displays, product UI, and iTV interfaces for clients including MTV, BBC, and Microsoft.

His independent work includes projects for Eyebeam R&D, and the United Nations. He has an M.P.S. from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU, and a B.A. in Comparative Literature (focusing on Peruvian surrealist poetry) from The Colorado College.

One Comment

  1. Posted October 1, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Sounds very interesting; would love to attend.