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Understanding Industrial Design by Simon King, Kuen Chang

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Chapter 9. Conclusion

Expand your disciplinary overlap

Designers need more disciplinary overlap, because products today no longer cleanly fit into just one medium. From healthcare to retail, every industry is increasingly innovating at the intersection of digital and physical. Designers need to stop assuming a default medium and step back to tease out the appropriate set of possibilities for each situation. Some products that have traditionally been physical are perfectly suited to be dematerialized into an app. Others that have been locked behind a screen can benefit from extending into the physical world. The Internet of Things isn’t only about bringing computation to the physical world. We are now at a point where almost anything can be done physically or digitally—it’s now about choice.

The struggle to decide what form a behavior should take is particularly evident in products like cars, where nearly every function can be handled either digitally or physically, and carmakers are struggling to find the right balance. This possibility of choice highlights why it’s so important for interaction designers and UX professionals to understand industrial design. Even if they’re not creating the final physical form, all designers should be familiar with what’s possible and appropriate.

The smartphone may have been the bellwether for the digital intersecting with our physical environment, but a new generation of “smart” products extends this integration much more deeply. Health monitors, ...

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