|Review of Information Design (Robert Jacobsen)|
|Review of Windows and Mirrors (Bolter & Gromala)|
|Review of Digital Ground (McCullough)|
|More Information on Terry Winograd (People Archive)|
|Terry Winograd's Homepage|
By Gerd Waloszek, SAP AG, SAP User Experience – August 28, 2003
This review takes a personal look at the book Bringing Design to Software edited by Terry Winograd.
Winograd, Terry (Ed.)
Design: Software design, UI design
Terry Winograd's focus is on human-computer interaction design, with a focus on the theoretical background and conceptual models. He directs the teaching programs in Human-Computer Interaction and HCI research in the Stanford Interactivity Lab. He is also a principal investigator in the Stanford Digital Libraries Project. (From homepage)
Winograd promotes the idea of moving the user interface design community away from computer science and searching contact with professional design communities.
Terry Winograd is the editor (co-editors) of the 1996 "landmark" book Bringing Design to Software, which "shows how to improve the practice of software design by applying lessons from other areas of design to the creation of software." Why present a book from 1996 in our book reviews of 2003? Is it because we started reviewing books on the SAP Design Guild Website this year? A better substantiation would be that the book was still prominently displayed on the book shelves at the CHI 2003 conference. In addition, attending the past CHI conferences gave me the impression that the "design perspective" is increasingly gaining momentum in the HCI community. This trend convinced me to remind the SAP Design Guild Website visitors of this book and to draw their attention to it. Although the article appears in our "review corner," I do not consider it to be a review. There is no point in rating a book that has become a long-time success and "landmark."
According to Winograd, Bringing Design to Software does not provide readers with "take-away" insights; instead, it "brings a collection of diverse perspectives to bear on the common topic of software design." As such, it is targeted at software designers, people who manage design organizations, students and researchers in human-computer interaction, professionals in other design disciplines, and last but not least the users. The book originates from a workshop on software design in 1992, in which several of the authors participated.
The main part of the book consists of 14 essays from notable authors. These essays present unique perspectives on design, be it software, hardware, or general product design. The essays begin with the famous "software design manifesto" by Mitchell Kapor, the designer of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet software. Kapor made this pledge for a software design profession back in 1990. He definitely belongs to the people who set the ball rolling for the "software design movement." Other prominent authors of essays are David Liddle (Xerox Star), John Rheinfrank (design languages), Peter Denning (action-centered design), John Seely Brown (simplicity), David Kelley, Donald Schön, and Don Norman – the latter tells the moving story of the Apple Macintosh power switch. (See the quotes section for all authors.)
Each essay starts with a short introduction to the authors, their professional background, and points of view. It is followed by a "profile" article that highlights key points in the essay; most often, specific software products are presented. Some of these examples, such as Apple Hypercard, Microsoft Bob, Kid Pix, the Mosaic Browser, or Lotus 1-2-3 may be unknown to newcomers to the field, not to mention the Xerox Alto and Star computers. This is hardly surprising considering that the book is seven years old and covers products from the world's fastest changing industry, the computer industry. The book also overlooks the more recent commercial failure of Microsoft Bob. Most introductions and profiles were written by Terry Winograd alone; some were written in cooperation with other authors.
Terry Winograd also wrote the introduction and a concluding reflection upon the book. The introduction starts with a short outline of the history of software design from its early beginnings in 1990 to the mid 1990s, when software design began to emerge as a profession. Winograd then goes on to tackle a couple of central questions, such as "What is software design?", "What is design?", and "How do software and design fit together?", in the course of which he explains terms and positions. This introduction is extremely useful beyond reading and understanding the book. In the reflection chapter at the end of the book, Winograd poses a number of questions that the essay authors tried to address. He invites the reader to apply these questions in the context of the perspectives dealt with by the book. The book closes with an outlook for the future of a software design profession.
To wet the appetite for the book, I have picked out some quotes from the essays to give a flavor of the book. (There is some overlap with the quotes that Terry Winograd uses as introduction to the essays.) In retrospect, I found this collection of quotes very useful for my appreciation and understanding of the book.
Mitchell Kapor: A Software Design Manifesto
David Liddle: Design of the Conceptual Model
Gillian Crampton Smith & Philip Tabor: The Role of the Artist-Designer
John Rheinfrank & Shelley Evenson: Design Languages
Paul Saffo: The Consumer Spectrum
Peter Denning & Pamela Dargan: Action-Centered Design
John Seely Brown & Paul Duguid: Keeping it Simple
David Kelley (Interviewee) & Bradley Hartfield (Interviewer): The Designer's Stance
Donald Schön & John Bennett: Reflective Conversation with Materials
Michael Schrage: Cultures of Prototyping
Shahaf Gal: Footholds for Design
Donald Norman: Design as Practiced
Laura De Young: Organizational Support for Software Design
Sarah Kuhn: Design for People at Work
For some time now, the trend has been to move the HCI community away from the computer science community and towards the design community – Terry Winograd is one of its proponents. I first encountered this tendency at the CHI 97 conference, where a panel discussion was held on this topic. My reservation is that, as Mitchell Kapor puts it, software design is different from user interface design and from traditional usability. Often the architecture metaphor is used, and the software designer likened to an architect. However, the professional spectrum in the HCI field has much diversified. There is no longer room for every user interface designer to become a software designer in the sense of being an architect who can significantly shape the design of a software product. I also doubt that every person working in the HCI field has the ambition of doing that.
In any instance, the book is useful to read, helps to widen ones own perspective of the HCI and design fields, and helps to understand the background, reasons, and origins of the current trend of moving the user interface community in the direction of the design community.