Click here to buy from Amazon.There has always been a concept of reusing and reapplying known best cases in graphic design. There has always been a culture of sharing, borrowing, and building on the work of others. As graphic design (and designers) moved into and influenced interactive design, this philosophy of repurposing the best ideas, coupled with the principles of object-oriented development -— which also develops by modules and reuses components —- led naturally to the evolution of design patterns.

Patterns as applied to interactive design are much like patterns in software development. This has led to a conflict between design managers who push for repeatability and the use of templates, stencils, and patterns, and designers who want to be free to explore solutions. However, this is an artificial mismatch, arising from a misunderstanding of how patterns should be used.

The concept of a pattern was actually developed by the architect Christopher Alexander in the late 1970s. He argues that patterns are components of a language, and can be used to conduct a dialogue about building and organizing, and the nature of human existence in space. Although architecture and engineering are only so analogous to the fields of software and interactive design, the concepts did translate well.

Object-oriented software development applied the concept directly from Alexander’s early work starting in the late 1980s. This was applied as a straightforward problem/solution statement; select the pattern whose problem statement most closely matches the implementation technology problem. There is room to design the specific solution, and to modify it to meet the needs of the specific system, but they are still very plug-and-play.

While Alexander’s arguments may be hard to follow—especially when he talks of concepts such as the “life” in spaces, or underlying “morphogenesis”--the core of his process is at the core of all design processes. Patterns are simply well-defined, well-researched best practices, but fundamental principles of design must always be followed, the user must always be kept in mind, and the purpose of the design must always be considered.

In mobile interactive design, we might summarize these core principles as user-centered design, context, and other principles. A set of more specific principles are listed at the end of this introductory section. You must always consider these principles—or others you may be more comfortable with—-to ensure that the proper pattern for the situation is determined, and the correct application is created from the user’s needs, his context, and by integrating the solution into the whole system.

Next: Where Did These Patterns Come From?

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What Is a Pattern? (last edited 2013-05-30 19:24:14 by shoobe01)