Visual vs. Interaction Design

I for one generally hate getting into discussions about titles, especially in the realm of design. However, I’ll mention this one. Before you venture further, I’ll also disclaim that I am not a designer by trade but merely an interested, somewhat educated bystander.

As fluffy and pretentious as the name may sound, interaction design is a skill that is very, very different from visual design. The thought process that goes into creating an application that is going to be used is a lot different from the one that goes into making a jaw-dropping mockup or illustration.

In one sense, the term designer is definitely overloaded. Beyond the obvious technical differences between designing for print vs. designing for digital there is a certain overlooked difference between designing an application where people click on things, type in data; where things seemingly appear out of nowhere, change colors and designing a visual look.

That is not to say you can separate one from the other in a clean cut fashion; you definitely cannot. A great user interaction can go a long ways by itself but if you want to delight your users, you will want to couple that interaction with some great aesthetics of your own.

However, the point I am trying to make is that interaction design is a whole different animal that can be sub par no matter how good your product looks.

I do not know what makes a good interaction designer –and I still have moral qualms about using the term interaction designer–. However, I’ll make a few relatively educated guesses:

Again, I’ll reiterate: a great designer (or product designer, whatever term you want to use for yourself) will need to have both good visual design skills and good interaction design skills.

The point I am trying to make here is that great interaction design is not something that is just a natural extension of great visual design.