Schulze and Webb: Interaction Design, Products, and Generation C

by February 3, 2007

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jack Schulze and Matt Webb’s discuss the importance of tangible interactions & physical computers when designing products and experiences for the creative generation. Here’s what I heard:

A new generation of products is making its way into the marketplace.

  • These products concentrate on enriching experiences and not on enabling tasks
  • Selling products that focus on tasks is easier than selling products that are about experiences.
  • Example: Carbon Copies uses the ashes of a loved one to create a closed system composed of a pencil box & sharpener.
  • Example: Otoizm – a virtual pet that lives between an mp3 player and its earphones and “eats” music.
  • Example: Singing Sock Puppets –set to different scales and sing when mouth is manipulated.

Generation C is defined by…

  • Communities –part of many groups
  • Connected -socially & through digital networks
  • Creative –expression through blogs, bands, etc.
  • Controlling –i.e. watch tv when they want to
  • Complexity -can absorb the complexity required for all the aboveabove
  • The creative slice of our population is increasing and has influence in many areas where often only companies were in charge (clothing manufacturing, services, etc.)
  • How do we design for the people who knit, make music, and build things in the physical world?
  • Generation C understands products are about the means not the ends.
  • They live alongside and are peers with their products.
  • Generation C expects experience enriching products.


  • Experiences can be enriched through design, manufacture, discovery, being wish for, selection, purchase, begin shown off, discussion/review, re-sale
  • Amazon is present in many of these points of engagement with books. They understand that books are part of our lives.
  • If you were to focus on the moments of engagement with a VCR vs. the tasks it enables, the product design would be less about time more about the relationship between people and the shows they are interested in.
  • Thresholds are boundary between one thing and another; public space & private situation. The act of giving is the crossing of a threshold and often more important than the gift itself. The unboxing of products is the crossing of a threshold -make unboxing an experience.
  • Friendship: the act of being friends is more important than tangible things. In small groups of 5-12 people, social dynamics takes care of administrative issues without needing technical safeguards.
  • Sports: in sports, we celebrate the thing itself as much as outcome. Many sports, like soccer & pool, are about tidying up. This concept can be applying to products like vacuums, photo tagging, email response, and more. Information & activities can be managed in subtle ways through processes like tidying-up.

In Summary

  • Generation C expects experience enriching products.
  • Designers need to look at places where process is celebrated to get new ideas for experiences.
  • In particular, look at: thresholds, friendships, and sports
  • Tangible interactions are more familiar than current computer inputs/interactions.
  • Tangible interactions and physical computers (that take the network for granted) have been validated in the marketplace by the Nintendo Wii & Apple iPhone
  • The potential of tangible interactions and physical computers for fun & enriching experiences will drive the “next big thing” after the Web.