Temporal form in interaction design

Anna Vallgårda, Morten Trøstrup Winther, Nina Mørch, Edit E. Vizer

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Interaction design is distinguished from most other design disciplines through its temporal form. Temporal form is the computational structure that enables and demands a temporal expression in the resulting design. Temporal form is what enables poetry. In music, temporal form is the composition of tones, pauses, and timbre arranged into harmonies and rhythms. In interaction design it is, for instance, the behaviors of pixels on a screen or the movements in shape-changing interfaces.
In this paper we show the power of working explicitly with temporal form in designing computational things. We give a nuanced account of what temporal form is in interaction design, and we look at related work synthesizing what we already know of the temporal concerns in interaction design and HCI. In the second part we present a design experiment through which we explore the experiential qualities of a set of 11 simple temporal forms by letting a series of expert designers reflect upon them. We borrow a framework from Boorstin’s film theory in which he distinguishes between the voyeuristic, the vicarious, and the visceral experience. We show how to use rhythms, complexity, gentle or forceful behavior, etc., to create experiences of “being alive,” being entertained, or being something that we empathize with. We end the paper by arguing how the temporal form in computational things enables richer experiences than static objects do.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Design
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Computational Things
  • Design Research
  • Form-giving
  • Shape-change
  • Temporal Form


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