My name is Simon Tickner and I am a designer. My specialism is interaction design, which means I define and refine the range of possible interactions between a system and its user via an interface.
Over the past 20 years I've produced and led design for smartphones, tablets, wearables, desktop computers and interactive television and have worked for exceptional organizations like the BBC, Skype, Google and Apple, where I'm currently a member of the Human Interface group in California.
It's been my experience that complexity in interface design arises from a failure to synthesize the functional components into more straightforward models. I believe that by building a depth understanding of the problem, both human, technical and operational, it is possible to discover more fundamental and familiar forms.
For the natural language interface of Google Now, this meant understanding voice recognition, semantic parsing, linguistics, pragmatics and the structure of conversation. For the voice, video and instant messaging capabilities of Skype, it required a grounding in communication theory, the effects of computer mediated communication, media naturalness and network societies. For the early development of the iPlayer at the BBC it meant understanding the implications represented by the collision of linear broadcast media and on demand digital media.
As Einstein said, if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
Irrespective of specialism, design is communication. To this end, I spend most of my time draughting, animating and prototyping objective schematic models to clearly express intent and to evaluate suitability.
A designer is not an artist. A designer should not have a vision which they follow like a shaman. Instead, a designer illustrates circumstance and exposes conditions, allowing everyone involved in the process to clearly understand the implications of the decisions they are collectively making.
The process for driving quality in design is alarmingly simple: objectify the proposal in clear, coherent models, as early and as often as possible and then find the smartest people on the planet with a depth understanding of the problem to kick it to pieces. Repeat until bulletproof.
I can speak assuredly about the distinctions between artists and designers because, before any of the above happened, I studied Fine Art and imagined I might be an artist. I understand now that what this really taught me was how to think.
One day I know I will return to making paintings and images.