My Most Important Interaction Design

A few years ago I applied to be a business designer at IDEO. One of their prompts for the interview was to talk about the design I'm the most proud of, and I spent a long time considering what that was. Was it the app I designed for millionaires to make phone calls from their own phones on a plane? Mmmmmm... maybe not.

No, I had to go deeper. This is frickin' IDEO.

Software wasn't going to cut it, and I was starting to get less interested in that anyway. I'm way more interested in people, always have been.

So I pondered and sat and paced, until I saw it:

My absolute best, most intentional, committed design I've ever lived with was what I've created with my two kids.

Lemme get ahead of this one: I don't believe that you can "design" a family. I hear about designing everything these days -- it's a veiled word for controlling interactions. Design isn't about control.

I do believe, though, that you can set out to meet needs and improve things by being intentional about how you are in the world, and I am super intentional about what I'm doing with my kids.

I set up the piece the way you'd set up any presentation of user research and designs for its output: user input, user goals, results and feedback. I wrote about our evolution through early childhood, my divorce, all the way to two years ago.

I flipped through this piece to the end of it and saw this:

I started out an ambivalent, nervous mother, a drill sergeant marching toward the unachievable: maternal perfection. I didn't know that they were people too and that my job is to help them become themselves.
Today, my family is my best portfolio piece. My work, and theirs, demonstrates cognitive and emotional flexibility, a deep collaboration on and long term commitment to our quality of life, and the long-range vision necessary to consider what we want for our future as a unit.

I'm happy to report that today, at 16 and 14, we still do assessments, gather feedback, make adjustments, and change what we're doing to keep things running smoothly.


My kids are 18 and almost 16. We've had our ups and downs. The possible problems they might have, have gotten larger as they head toward independence and adulthood. We don't do formal assessments any more. But we do make requests of one another to change behavior. When we spend time together, it's really ... nice. We like each other.