STS ITALIA CONFERENCES, A Matter of Design. Making Society through Science and Technology

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Foretelling and shaping the future of technology: the role of communication designers in the design of innovation. A Design driven approach to enhance communication of digital interactive solutions
Margherita Pillan, Marco Spadafora, Annamaria Andrea Vitali

Building: B9
Room: Castiglioni
Date: 2014-06-13 02:30 PM – 04:30 PM
Last modified: 2014-06-06


The design of digital interactive artefacts based on innovative technologies requires the cooperation of different actors - designers, engineers, marketing experts – to create suitable solutions, and a specific design action to communicate the product itself and prepare the ground to innovation. Nevertheless, the effort required to create successful innovative solutions (products or services), is still huge and the failure rate very high.

Recently, some authors have presented new approaches to interaction design, in which communication designers are involved from the real beginning of a project process to simplify the dialogue between the actors involved in the innovation process. Our paper explores the role of communication designers in a multidisciplinary project team working on the design interactive solutions and it is based on a two year long experience. While scenario based project approaches have been already investigated in literature, we intend to discuss the influence of different communication tools in real team work, analysing their utility to manage complex project goals and constraints, to focus design efforts toward users needs, to foster creative and critical contributions toward the search of best solutions. The main role of designers in the design of innovative solutions is in terms of languages (physical attributes, symbolic interaction, metaphors).

In our opinion, in order to produce effective solutions, the design of innovative solutions should be guided by preliminary design activities aimed to prefigure metaphors and communication main frames driving the development of technological solutions so to lead them to the implementation of acceptable and desirable proposals, not requiring overexertion from the final users to be understood. The design driven method we adopted is based on the aimless ethnographic research as first step to explore users relation with technologies in everyday life, showing undisclosed needs and motivations. The objective of the ethnographic research is to provide inspirations for the designers to define the unexpressed interactive solutions: communication design knowledge are employed to recognize the aesthetic and formal attributes of different acts of use supported by technologies, and to understand the rhetoric load of actions, gestures and interactive procedures. A second task is to “make visible” solutions resulting from the different competencies of the innovation process.

In this paper we will describe the results obtained employing this approach in a multidisciplinary project team in cooperation with Telecom Italia S.p.A. and in university course (Master degree in Communication Design). Our experience support us in the believe that the invention of languages and metaphors can anticipate and lead the development of innovative concepts of products and services based on digital technologies and in the paper we will report the methodology and techniques adopted in our design experiences together with some results


This work was partially supported by the Joint Open Lab "S-Cube" - Telecom Italia S.p.A. – Innovation division, Italy

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