Interaction Design in Ireland: Part 1

Eoin Smith

Digital Media Designer

Over the next few days, we will be sharing a series of posts via our blog from Darren Mealiff, a student from IT Carlow’s Product Design & Innovation Department, an Interview on Interaction Design with our Director of User Experience, Séamus Byrne. Follow Along as Séamus answers some very interesting questions about Interaction Design.


Darren – 

From my experience Ireland seems to be falling behind with regards to design in an international context what are you views on this?

Séamus – 

I think we are getting better. I think Ireland is like a pint of Guinness.  If you take the creamy head, it is all about the culture of music and literature which is what we are known for.  I don’t think we are known for our design side but having said that, if you take that the Guinness analogy, if we go underneath the creamy head into the deep dark depths, there is a lot of bubbling creativity and innovation across lots of design disciplines. I would say there is a lot of talent here and great people doing great things, but I don’t think we are organised and I don’t think we are united and certainly this has a lot to do with the government taking us seriously and providing funding towards design.

If you go to regions like Scandinavia and the Netherlands you will see that there is a lot of support and funding put into design, and not only from a discipline point of view but also that there are designers connected to teams making the decisions, be it in the government, in education, etc.  I think we have our work cut out for us to change that culture, especially in the current economic climate with regards to gaining funding.

There have been some worthwhile ventures – the Pivot Dublin drive to position Dublin as World Design Capital was one. We didn’t win,  but what it did do was help unify the different design disciplines across the country into a short-term design council. We presented a pretty substantial bid document that really captured the history of design in Ireland and the multi-disciplinarian qualities of our community.  That was very successful in bringing us together but there was a backlash from the media who just highlighted the project as a €300,000 failed bid. I really thought they were missing the big picture, that there is a lot more to design in Ireland and this was one of the best initiatives. Of course, in Interaction Design back in 2012 we won a bid for the Interaction 12 Conference to take place here. We put on a very successful conference with over 750 of the world’s leading Interaction Designers from over 32 different countries.  I was screaming to everyone in the government that I knew, or could get connections with, that this was a big deal, but unfortunately I didn’t get much of an uptake from the government or the media, but a couple of years later I’m getting calls from people in the government saying there’s a conference bid, and I say yeah it was 2 years ago. To sum it up, I would say the future is in our own hands. As individual designers, we have to organise and speak with a unified voice.  There are people who have tried before and got burnt out, so I think it’s important that there is some kind of design council. It won’t work until we organise and come together and push for funding etc.

Why not check out part two in this series – Interaction Design in Ireland: Part Two