T-Shifting Identities and Practices: Interaction Designers in the Fourth Industrial Age
Jamie Steane, Jo Briggs, Joyce Yee


We report findings from our two-year research study to investigate the practices, processes and roles of professional creatives working on interaction design and wider digital design projects. The study contributes insights from interviews conducted to support the development of 13 high profile industry case studies involving 21 of their creators. Through thematic analysis of interview transcripts we constructed key themes of project scope, design stances, skills sets and studio practice. We discuss these as representative of the perpetual shifting of the cornerstones of how designers have traditionally understood and embodied their own and peers’ roles and combinations of competencies. This, we argue, is challenging perceptions and expectations around designers’ traditional “T-shape” organisation of skills and knowledge. The article goes on to identify areas of emerging design practice brought about by rapid technological changes associated with the fourth industrial age that warrant further research. These include anticipatory design and personalisation, branded interactions and magic technology. The article concludes by calling for wide sharing of designers’ stories as a pragmatic resource to demonstrate and communicate emerging practices that support the development of graduates and other designers entering this rapidly-changing field.

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