Simultaneous with the first ever Interaction Design Association conference, IxDA founder David Malouf has an article on Core77 - Interaction Design and ID: You're already doing it...don't you want to know what it's all about? He makes the important and valid point that embedded technology requires an understanding of interaction design by IDers. The article provides a high-level overview of interaction design - it's not just about digital design, as his own examples from Motorola illustrate.
Malouf advocates that Industrial Designers need to increase their understanding of interactivity, for example to understand and design for interactions that change over time:
"So if product designers are facing a deluge of interaction design challenges (and they are), why is such poor attention being paid to bringing interaction design into the fold of the industrial design community?"
He then goes on to advocate several useful resources for interaction design, including schools, books, and organizations (like IxDA).
I found this article touched very close to my own experience. I am a member of both IDSA and IxDA, which is probably not too rare, although I went against traffic by going from working primarily in interaction design to now focusing on industrial design. In fact, a key driver of my current position was to bring interaction design and usability expertise to a predominately industrial design based firm, So with that all said, I appreciate where Malouf is coming from.
At the same time, I found his article one-sided - certainly its publication in Core77 suggests a largely ID audience, and Malouf does recognize shortcomings on both sides (ID and IxD):
"interaction designers lack access to traditional and formal general design education and training, and industrial designers lack any formal education and practice of interactivity"
But the clear message is that Industrial Designers need to get their stuff together around interaction design. I wonder if the reverse message is getting through to interaction designers - I would guess not likely. Why? In a word - specialization. Time constraints and project complexity require collaborative, multi-disciplinary teams to solve design problems effectively. There is overlap between ID and IxD, just as there is overlap between these disciplines and architecture, but overlap and awareness are not the same as proficiency, and certainly not efficiency across multiple design disciplines.
Neither IDers not IxDers "lacks access" to the training of the other, but there are skill sets that are separate and specific to industrial design as there are for interaction design. In the near-future, I would expect to see "domain designers" who are focused on multiple aspects of a given product category (e.g. mobile devices, automobiles). Such "hybrids" would have deep knowledge of ID, IxD and other relevant methods for their particular field, but at the potential loss of discipline knowledge beyond their particular field of specialization. I see this already in the difference between the analogy bases of consultants versus long-time internal/corporate designers.
Also, while Malouf criticizes last year's IDSA conference for a lack of emphasis on interaction design, he should have also mentioned that there was a great ID/IxD collaboration simultaneous with the conference put on by the San Francisco chapter of IxDA - INTERSECTION: Where Interaction and Industrial Design Meet (attendance was definitely skewed towards the interaction designers, but I represented).
For another interesting perspective on the same topics, I suggest reading Carl Alviani's Hacking the Physical Wolrd: What we taught software designers, and what they're trying to teach us.
And finally, a request to the IxDA. The daily volume of thought provoking IxDA discussion threads is impressive - but I'd love to see an innovative solution to help me (and I imagine I am not alone) more easily find content of interest without having to go through so many messages each day.