Johan Van Maldeghem
Johan’s experience ranges from writing technical documentation and online help to conducting expert reviews for e-commerce sites and designing interfaces for browser-based applications. When he’s not working on songs in his Big Tuna home studio he can frequently be found in the company of his two little muses, Zoë and Luca, aged 15 and 11.
You started out developing online help at Namahn. What is your current focus?
For the last four years I’ve specialised in the Namahn methodology for Interaction design as it relates to software and hardware systems. Writing online help was good training in Interaction design because it’s basically an information retrieval application. That’s what many of the interfaces I design are about—whether it’s for banks, airports, hospitals or media companies.
How does the methodology work?
It begins with a contextual inquiry, which is doing field work to understand the user’s world. With this experience, you try to capture the user’s tasks by writing scenarios. You then bring these scenarios to life by developing a conceptual design that you turn into a mock up which you test again with the user. Whenever you are stuck in the design process you return to the users and let them and their work environment further inspire your design.
You’re a songwriter with some background in the theatre and Germanic languages. What has kept you at Namahn these last seven years?
My pension plan—no, that’s the working title of a new song I’m writing. It’s the chance to mediate between the user and the developer to pull the big picture together in the design process. When clients build new interactive products there are so many questions. I love it when I can show our clients how a user-centered design process turns vague ideas and functional requirements into a practical solution that bridges the gap between development and use.
Where do you see yourself going?
I’ve discovered what I like to do best in ICT—working on the human side. I also love drawing screens with paper and pencil to escape from the computer occasionally. It’s very creative and suits me best. I want to expand those capabilities and to start training people in Interaction Design at Namahn.
Who are your favourite writers?
Paul Auster and Julian Barnes. Auster’s misfits capture the alienation of the 21st century. The Music of Chance is one of my favourites. And I love Barnes’s edge, his comedy, which treads a fine line between life’s light and dark sides and satisfies my taste for the unexpected. History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters is a great introduction to his work.