I always think I’m not qualified to be called a ‘product designer’ because I’m not interested (or talented) in designing pretty stuff at all, and it is the interaction between humans and products that attracts me more. Recalling my undergraduate life, I spent much time extracting aesthetical patterns, designing fascinating appearance, and telling stories about my products. But periodically, there would be nothing but a question mark in my mind, ‘what’s the meaning of my exquisite design?’ That’s also the time when I start to think about human factors and human-machine system design.
Inspiration sometimes comes from other design fields.
From my perspective, system design is more complicated than pure interaction design or UX design. In the commercial market, ‘system’ is the sum of all services and products, including multiple devices, user experiences, and related interactions. For instance, the ‘system’ of an IT company contains not only the communication between the front and rear end but also organization, business processes, facilities, etc. As Andie Nordgren mentioned in Alibis for Interaction (2014), sometimes, the interactions among users are far more critical than human-machine ones, especially in online game design. This good example indicates the current trend of transferring the focus from users to the system. Consequently, system designers should not be restricted by linear thinking but need to look at the overall situation.
The boundaries of design start to blur.
In the ‘system’, the relationship between human and machine are determined by automation level. Historically, the industrial revolution brought out the concern of whether the machine would replace humans. Even at present, the impact of automation has on labor composition is enormous. The effects can be different, and the most common ones are replacement, complementation, and job creation. Firstly, since machines can accomplish tasks faster and better than human (sometimes costs lower), the requirement of process-oriented jobs, such as clerks, mechanical workers, and metalworkers, becomes lower and lower. This would lead to a shrinkage of mid-class. On the contrary, some occupations are allowed to use machines to get superior output, which thickened the barriers between the upper class and others. Therefore, automation aggravates inequality. Another effect of automation is the trust problem. Humans want to dominate and control machines, but also expect them to maximize their effectiveness. These can be contradictory. All in all, assessing the level of automation is essential.
By the way, I just got stuck on the highway because the ETC was broken, which reminds me that maybe we really rely on automation too much.
Autor, David H., and David Dorn. "How technology wrecks the middle class." The New York Times 24 (2013)