Using ‘Design as a Discipline’ to Achieve Sophistication through Simplicity
Updated: Aug 7
Standardized and adaptable design principles will help in realizing the vision of effortless interactions with technology.
Leonardo Da Vinci established the credo that “simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” In technology, “design as a discipline” is following this cue. More sophisticated functionality will be enabled by standardized and adaptable designs that allow for smooth integration across computing devices, applications, and other increasingly connected objects.
The user interface is evolving toward greater simplicity. Character-based interactions with mainframe and DOS programs were replaced by mouse-based interactions with server and Web-based solutions, which have now given way to touch-based interactions with mobile devices. In the future, these forms of tactile manipulation will be augmented or replaced. Interaction with the user interface will rely on voice controls, gestures, and the context of the activity to trigger ambient functionality.
Consider, for example, what a shopper walking through the check-out aisle with a cart of goods could trigger without explicitly interacting with technology: identification through facial-recognition technology; calculation of the amount due by scanning technology; application of coupons or other promotions by technology that accesses social profiles; and payment via a mobile wallet.
Behind the scenes, this scenario requires a staggering level of integration—in terms of both designing a user experience compatible with the underlying technical demands and creating an end-to-end experience across the various components. In the example above, identity and entitlement management services perform the user authentication; point-of-sale scanners work with pricing engines to determine the amount due; sales and marketing engines interact with public social profiles and loyalty services to determine potential savings; and mobile wallet services interact with checkout scanners and back-end payment processors to settle the transaction.
What will it take to make this vision a reality? In many cases, designers will be creating these services without knowing exactly how they will be used, or the systems with which they will interface. The back-end aspects of design as a discipline require a services-based approach—at the business level (creating solutions to specific types of problems) and at the technical level (having a well-defined, intuitive interface compatible with Web services standards). Solution components need to be equal parts Lego and Play-Doh—well-defined standardized building blocks, complemented by solutions that can adapt to less-prescribed needs.
Industry standards will likely evolve to help unify data models (similar to protocols for the electronic exchange of financial information developed in the early 1990s). Technical components will likely continue to support open, standards-based protocols for session management and information exchange. But another turning point will likely occur when policies are encapsulated and externalized to create the business rules and analytical models that drive the behavior of companies’ underlying systems. The “plug-and-play” aspiration for design as a discipline can likely be realized only if semantic meanings of data and underlying business logic can be shared and more universally understood—within and across organizational boundaries.