15 Buzzwords for 15 Years: Experience

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Maggie Hendrie April 21, 2016

As educators and students we put a huge effort in to how to become a designer, but rarely have the opportunity to understand why. Designmatters teaches why.

The program experience includes three essential factors;

– the student experience

– how the methodology transforms everyone involved

– the resulting designed user experience

photo_mhStudents are often informed, provocative, and optimistic about social issues but lack the practical experience of a mission-driven project. In studio we make to think, but in the field, through Designmatters, we begin by observing to feel and understand; we participate and co-design with other types of designers, end-users, and stakeholders. This empathetic, practical and engaged immersion, outside their usual world, develops students’ view of their role. Attempting to innovate in complex adaptive systems is daunting, but insights and collaboration, allow them to see where they can intervene with the most impact.

Designing for social change is not merely about the final design; the project methodology shifts relationships and reconfigures organizational processes that in turn transform people and policies. Stakeholders who may normally never work together forge new relationships, gain astute insights into others’ perspectives, and are engaged in the resulting design. This reconfiguration hopes to be sustainable and resilient, continuing long after the student engagement has ended.

In Interaction Design we think of experience in multiple ways, from the practice of contextual inquiry to the digital and human behavior we envision. More importantly, we wrestle with a humbling truth about our work. Meaningful interaction only occurs when someone actively uses our design. The meaning only emerges when another person finds value. We can only design for the interaction, we can’t proscribe the actual outcome. That outcome belongs in the end user’s experience. Ultimately meeting their need becomes our why.



Maggie Is the founding chair of ArtCenter College of Design’s BS in Interaction Design. She has also been a practicing designer for over 20 years developing human-centered design approaches to emerging technologies in Europe and the US.  She has worked with start-ups, incubators, software, Fortune 500 companies and non-profits. Maggie received her MA in Liberal Arts from Edinburgh University, her MS in Communication+Information Sciences from the Nouvelle Sorbonne University, and her post graduate (DEA) from the Paris VIII University in Hypermedia Design and Multimedia Communication.

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