Industrial Design is Interaction Design

Here’s a whiskey glass by Kacper Hamilton * for Ballentine’s:

A hole in a glass is often a prank. In this case, it is the core of the design: the shape of this glass practically insists the drinker unconsciously swirl the whiskey, which is how we’re supposed to drink it, anyway. Doing so increases enjoyment even for (or especially for) novice drinkers; swirling increases the surface area and agitates the liquor, releasing scent and encouraging the whiskey open up.**

Good industrial design is interaction design. Both interaction and industrial designers strive to design systems so intuitive that the user doesn’t even need to think about how to use them.

Here’s a more mundane (but still boozy) example:

Beer taps are an under-appreciated example of industrial design as interaction design. If you ever watched good bartenders work a crowded bar, you’ll notice how much they are doing at once, often pouring multiple drinks, working a register, taking orders, and clearing the bar simultaneously. Anything that helps them accelerate their work even slightly is a benefit.

To the customer, a bar tap may seem like an advertisement (which it is, of course), but the design differences between any two taps can also be a critical tool for the bartender: a skilled bartender can be eyeing the level on one glass while sightlessly grabbing a second tap. The differences in shape, size, and texture all signal which tap is in hand without looking. Take the picture above: even if only slightly attentive, a bartender would never accidentally pour a Bud Light when they meant to grab the more statuesque Budweiser tap to the left. This differentiation is an aspect of interaction that modern high-style taps miss out on—those boring featureless taps have resulted in more than a few disappointed drinkers.

To users, physical form needs to signal the interaction. Next week, we’ll be unveiling Kicker Studio’s new concept project, and we’ve folded the interaction into the form in a way that’s beautiful, natural, and functional. We are excited to finally reveal it.

All right, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere: off to our neighborhood bar.

* By the way, it is definitely worth checking out KH’s sin-focused stemware, which are also fascinating explorations of interaction. back

** Ethan Kelley, the interviewee of that clip and resident whiskey sommelier at New York’s Brandy Library, is incredibly liquor-articulate and very engaging. The tasting classes the Library offers are highly recommended. back