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User Experience at Hello Erik

The Birth of Human Interface Design

Posted October 29, 2012

Today, Apple posted a press release Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software & Services where they detail the departure of  Scott Forstall, former iOS Sr. Vice President.

That’s not what this post is about though. What struck me in the press release was a term I hadn’t seen used in this capacity, and especially not for someone as prominent ans Jony Ive. Let’s see if you can spot it:

Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company.


Sir Jony Ive, the father of the modern Apple hardware design paradigm, is now serving as leader for Apple Human Interface design.

Just like User Experience was this incredible new way of doing business 5-10 years ago, I am planning on HI Design (human interface) as being the next stage of interface and experience understanding. In fact, I think that the word “user” is going to be overtaken by “human.” Think about it – Human Experience Designer, Human Interface Designer. The connotation is leaps and bounds ahead of what a “user” is. We’re going to move past thinking of the user as just something that interfaces with the buttons and controls we present on the screen. Users operate and manipulate software or products, but humans are who actually experience the reality you are trying to create.

There is so much space between what happens on the computer screen and what is experienced by the human mind. Think of all the things that happen before and after a person interactive with your interface or design. How they felt when they hit the first screen, or when they open the box, or when they see the installation instructions – that’s part of the human interface.

Was your product designed to feel trustworthy? Was it designed to elicit loyalty? Did it give the human who is using it a feeling of… anything?

In a recent FastCompany article, an unnamed former Apple iPhone UI designer is quoted as saying:

The thing to remember is that UI design is like selling a restaurant, where you can’t just serve up good food in order to run a restaurant. You have to create an environment around the food that gets people in the mood to enjoy a really great meal: presenting the food really nicely, picking the right plates, the lighting on the table, the music that is playing. When you put all that together, it creates a much nicer experience than if you just were to serve up some good food.


In the same way with software, just serving up functionality usually isn’t enough to actually create a really good experience. You need to layer on some sort of environment to get people in the mood to use the software and do whatever task you’re allowing them to do. That will inspire them, and get them in the right frame of mind to use the software as best as possible.

That’s the human interface. The whole summation of what actually contributes to a person’s experience and interpretation of an event is what we’ve so longed tried to capture with terms like “user interface” or “user experience.” But as technology and products are reaching a type of parity where features and capabilities aren’t the deciding factor anymore, it’s the entire human interface experience that lets the people you are trying to serve be successful in using whatever it is you’ve created.

Human interface design. I like it.

I love all things experience design. I work as a Principal Service Experience Designer at Intuit in Mountain View, CA.

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