Interactionary 2000 - The Hague (CHI 2000)
By Scott Berkun, May 2001
In an attempt to create a fun way to teach interaction design, I came
up with the concept of Interactionary. The idea is to use the exposition
and competitive aspects of sports in combination with the field of web and
interaction design, to create formats and events that are both educational
and fun to watch.
The first incarnation took place at CHI 2000. I worked with
three designers and usability engineers from Microsoft to define the
details and make it happen: Chris Konrad, Debbie Cargile, and Sarah
Zuberec. The four of us took this idea and worked it into something that
could be done in 90 minutes, under the guise of a panel format at
CHI. Kudos to Jean Shultz and David Gilmore, and all the CHI folks
that trusted us to put this together.
This page describes the event, and gives some
information about how we put it together. We did a reprise of the Interactionary format at CHI 2001
Interactionary is a game show type format that allowed 4 teams to work
on the same design problem, live on stage. Each team worked one at a time,
and were given ten minutes to work through the problem. The goal is to
expose the dynamic intangibles of design in progress, and allow an
audience to listen in on
four teams and observing how they work. The challenge was two fold: To
make the session fun without being silly, to provide value, without.
Waiting teams were placed in a separator sound proof room to eliminate any
Bruce Tognazzini, Steve Rodgers, and Susan Dray were our expert
panelists, and they provided commentary and judging for the event. The
panelists were on stage, across from the whiteboards that the teams used
when competiting. The four teams were from Sapient,
IBM, Razorfish, and the University of Malmö. Every team member wore a live
microphone, an the audience and the panelists were able to hear their
conversations, and view their work as they did it.
The education value of the experience was in allowing the audience to
watch four different teams of designers approaching the same problem.
Viewers could compare and contrast the different techniques and approaches
used as they watched different teams. The hope was that we could capture
some of the intangibles of brainstorming and designing that are difficult
to capture in conference papers and proceedings. Even though this was
sport, and not engineering, we felt this simulated enough of the dynamics
to be worthwhile.
Scoring and Judging
We used a system of three categories for scoring: teamwork, process,
and final design. Each category was worth ten points, and each panelist
scored every team. Teamwork considered how well the team worked together, and how
they organized their time and approach. Process considered the
"methodology" they used for evaluating the problem, using the whiteboards,
and evaluating design alternatives. The final design considered
the usability, feasibility and quality for their final solution.
After each team was announced, and was ready on stage, we read the
problem out loud to them and the audience. Then we started the clock, and
gave the team two warnings, at five minutes and one minute left. We
recommended that teams use their last minute to describe to the judges
their final design idea.
We created a pool of potential design problems to use, pulling from a
wide set of different kinds of interaction design (web, software,
architecture, industrial design, etc.). Many problems came from interview
questions that I use when interviewing designers or UI project managers
(it's something of a hobby for me to invent design problems). The
challenge was to find problems that were broad enough that they did not
require much explanation, while simultaneously being challenging and
tractable in only ten minutes. Here is the problem used at CHI
You are to design an airport food vending machine for
the year 2005. The machine will dispense a variety of prepackaged food
items including candy bars, potato chips, as well as three freshly
brewed hot beverages (tea, hot chocolate, and hot coffee) that are
created on demand. The specific problem you need to solve is how users
purchase and select the item(s) they want to buy.
problem with Interactionary is that it's impossible to document the
essence of what took place - this is precisely why we wanted to do it in
the first place. Each team took wildly different approaches to both
organizing their time and approaching the problem. Some teams such as
IBM and Sapient, used the first 5
minutes to divide up certain tasks, such as doing a needs analysis or
developing potential approaches to the problem. Other teams such as
Razorfish used a group approach, appointing one person to run the
whiteboard, while the others discussed and communicated ideas. The
University of Malmö divided the whiteboard space into predefined
sections, which helped them to organize their time and communicate their
Some teams took advantage of the CHI audience, and solicited commentary
and informal survey information about how vending machines were used.
The final results were tabulated live on stage, while our M.C. Chris
Konrad entertained the audience. We initially reported the wrong scores,
due to human error in the tablulation process (First rule of working with
Scott: when in doubt, blame Scott). The final results are listed
3. University of Malmö
The teams, players and judges
This event required great courage from all of these
folks. They all approached this with a professionalism and
sense of humor that made it really fun to put together. My thanks go to
* denotes team captains
IBM (aka "Big blue brothers")
University of Malmo
Edison Gomez Lattes
Bruce Tognazzini , Nielsen-Norman
Susan Dray , Dray
Steve Rodgers, Razorfish (Phillips design at time of
After hours voting
We handed out questionaires to the 500+ CHI attendies in the auditorium
to collect feedback on the event. We also took the opportunity to give the
audience a chance to do their own scoring of the teams to see how closely
it would match our panelists. As it turns out, audience scores were
comprable to the judges. Here are the averages from the audience
Sapient : 27.6
IBM : 23.8
University of Malmo: 21.51
Almost 300 audience questionaires were filled out and returned to us
after the event at CHI 2000. All questions were based on a 7 point likert
scales, 7 being the most positive response.
Average Response (1-7)
Was the time limit per team the right amount of time
to witness design work without getting bored?
Was watching other designers work in this format
educational or informative?
Was this entertaining or enjoyable to watch?
Was this a good use of your time?
We have more pictures from the CHI 2000
event. Some are large, and the descriptions are sparse. View at your own
risk. Thanks to Douglas Pyle for all of these photos.
We performed a second
interactionary event at CHI 2001. Different teams, different judges.
Modified format. Trumpets included.
I'm planning on writing a paper about the techniques used by the
different teams in Interactionary, including some recommendations for how
to do well at this sort of thing. The techniques are useful for
brainstorming or design review meetings. Check back on uiweb.com if you're interested or write in.
As long as we find venues for doing these sorts of events, we'll
continue to do them, and I'll continue to post reports on them here. If
you have an idea for me, or want us to put this on somewhere, send me mail.
Have a question for Scott? Comment on this issue? write in.
Check out the previous
issues in the column archive.
© Copyright 1999-2001, Scott Berkun <
Contact scott>. All Rights