Interface Design

As someone who designs software, I’d like to consider myself an “Interface Designer” as opposed to other prevalent titles used in the industry. However, I use the word not in an industrial sense that a job description should be written for it, but in a disciplinary (or philosophical, if you will) sense as “graphic designer” or “sound designer”.

Such choice might sound trivial, but as much as it is a self-indulgence to play around with words, the language we use is important in that it very much constructs the reality we live in. Also by reasoning of words I believe one’s attitude and general inclination would be so manifested.

“Product Designer” is the most popular one today. However, product is a word of commerce, a product is created to be sold. Despite the fact that I was once a business student, I feel at odd with the utilitarian nature of the business world. Moreover, the word collides with how industrial design has often been called and—even the fact that a word is adopted by mainstream can be the very reason to jettison it.

User Experience (UX), brought into use with the intention to include more than the form of object, now is exercised to the extreme and used almost to the exclusion of the latter. I consider this usage absurd. Experience—if the word means anything, encompasses a visual and emotional element. In this way, good UX always implies good UI, and no software can excel at one without the other. The dichotomy is futile.

In juxtaposition with UX is UI, and one might well pose the question of why choose interface design over user interface design. Akin to how the meaning of UX is lopsided, my rejection to UI also lies in its semantic baggage. What’s more, “user” sheds light on only the client side of a computational system, while “we must answer the unavoidable question of what it is an interface to”1.

“Interaction Designer” probably comes the closest to what I would like to achieve, but similar to how the original sense of “experience” is broad and vague, the word “interaction” embodies too little tangibility—and tangibility is essential to design (at least to how I would define design).

Therefore, I use the word interface. To be sure, nowadays it is often used to refer Graphical User Interface (GUI), but it doesn’t have to—and probably shouldn’t be used in this way.

I use interface in its original meaning: the place at which independent and often unrelated systems meet and act on or communicate with each other2. In Jef Raskin’s definition: “the way that you accomplish tasks with a product—what you do and how it responds—that’s the interface”3 (I will substitute “product” with “artifact”, for sure4). Essentially, it is a medium, a medium that mediates interactions between entities.

Now, one might puzzle: defined in this way, wouldn’t it be as general as “interaction” or “experience”? My objection is twofold. First, it’s more concrete as it centers the “thing” that we design, and specifically digital things—as the word is mostly (almost exclusively) used in the realm of computing. My fondness with the word also comes from my interest of speculating future computational medium beyond GUI.

Second, interface is less commonly used in daily life, and it is precisely that the word hasn’t been used much before from which our opportunity to define it arises. Everyone understands “interaction” or “experience” in one way or another, but a layperson can‘t help but ask:“What do you mean by interface?”

So that’s “interface design”: a term familiar enough to be understood, but novel enough to evoke curiosity; general enough to open interpretation, but also specific enough in the contemporary context.


  1. DiSessa, A. (2000). Changing Minds (p. 125). Cambridge: MIT Press.

  2. Merriam-Webster. Interface. In dictionary. Retrieved May 6, 2022.

  3. Raskin, J. (2000). The Humane Interface (p. 2). Boston, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

  4. I would even challenge the “accomplish tasks” part. Can a software be non-goal-oriented, “useless”, or purely experiential? I think so.