Yesterday, I attended the NYC Teen Design Fair, produced by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. A few hundred teenagers showed up to speak to 70 professional designers, myself among them, to learn about different design disciplines and the people working in them. Tim Gunn spoke about what it takes to be a designer and gave advice to the attendees.
Pretty Extreme was categorized as falling into the “Interactive/Communication” discipline. I spoke briefly with an architect at the next table about terminology. His field is well-established and defines a lot of standard nomenclature that translates well from one architect to another. One has many options for studying “Architecture” in a formal setting. I, on the other hand, ended up describing myself as an “Interactive Software System Designer,” which was universally met with blank stares.
What I do is certainly not graphic design, though I do work with a lot of graphics. What I do is not really interaction design, though I design a lot of user interfaces. My work spans a lot of design disciplines and, more than anything else, still involves writing a lot of code. As Mr. Gunn suggested at one point, my particular discipline didn’t really exist 20 years ago. Maybe not even 10 years ago. The integration of A/V hardware and complex data and graphics software systems is a pretty new field, but it turns out that it’s an interesting one. I was certainly able to hold the attention of the students, and I was pleased to see a few of the more technically-oriented students express particular awe and interest that one could make a career of doing what I do. Hopefully by the time they are experts in the field, the field will have a name. Most of the obvious choices already mean something different. Any suggestions?