Design and Innovation Daily

David Airey on letterpress; Decision-Based Design

Posted in culture, graphic design, interaction design, theory by Dan on January 25, 2010

In a post about letterpress (an early printing technique used from the time of Gutenberg up to the beginning of the 20th century), graphic designer David Airey shared a video about Hatch Show Print: a 130-year old letterpress shop which has preserved the old printing techniques as well as the associated design styles for many decades: Hatch Show Print

On a completely unrelated topic, Dan Brown republished a 2005 article in which he describes an unusual approach to software design. Instead of using functional specifications, information architecture, or user personas as the main drivers of the design process, Brown focused on the large and complex set of decisions that users must make while using the software; he treated the software as a system built primarily to support the users’ decision-making: “Decision-Based Design.”


Two months of paper prototyping

Posted in methodology, user interface by Dan on January 22, 2010

Microsoft Office Labs recently released a new add-in: Ribbon Hero is a game that can improve your skills with Microsoft Office. In this interview, software engineer Jonas Helin discusses the development process for Ribbon Hero. His team spent two months designing with paper prototypes before writing a single line of code.

(Found via Steve Portigal and Lost Garden.)

What type[face] are you?

Posted in emotional design, graphic design by Dan on January 20, 2010

As expected, not as much time for reading this week. I did, however, enjoy the entertaining “What type are you?” quiz from the design firm Pentagram. No, it’s not a Facebook quiz—it’s a clever, interactive, four-question quiz presented almost like a digital therapy session. In order to start, the password is “character”. Fitting, because the quiz itself has character; the counselor fidgets while he waits for you to answer each question. See what happens when you make him wait for a while.

“What type are you?”

Escher-inspired typeface; the design of boarding passes

Posted in graphic design by Dan on January 19, 2010

These links have already been around most of the big design blogs, but they’re still pretty cool.

A font inspired partly by the “visual conceit in the work of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher:” Priori Acute

Tyler Thompson challenges the lazy, low-quality visual design of airline boarding passes; the project has turned into a small movement over the past several weeks: Boarding Pass/FAIL

Steve Krug on the least you can do about usability

Posted in usability, web design by Dan on January 18, 2010

This week I’m going into intense-code-writing-focus mode. It is my self-imposed requirement that, regardless of how complete they are, my website and blog are uploaded and running by Saturday; I better make sure they’re functional and presentable by then.

So, this blog will receive less attention this week. Soon after I get my site running, this blog will move over there, either in its current format or in some new format.

Meanwhile, here’s a talk from the Business of Software 2008 conference by Steve Krug, the author of the essential web usability book Don’t Make Me Think. The talk, as well as the book, is a must-see for anyone who does web or software work, but designers in other areas will learn a lot from what Krug has to say about how users approach and interact with the medium: Steve Krug on the least you can do about usability

TED talks for the weekend

Posted in creativity, methodology, product design, theory, user experience by Dan on January 15, 2010

Ghost in the Pixel: Uday Gajendar’s blog

Posted in philosophy, theory by Dan on January 14, 2010

Only one link for today, because it’s such a good one.

Recently, I linked to a piece by Uday Gajendar about designing for panic. That post, although great on its own, wasn’t a good representation of his blog as a whole. Often, he writes incredibly deep, insightful analyses of design theory and philosophy. He discusses challenging issues (with challenging responses), such as the definition of interaction, how a product conveys meaning, and the role of integrity in design. In this post, he reflects on some of the lessons he learned while he was a grad student at Carnegie Mellon, which include a few approaches to understanding design that are completely unconventional and different from what we read in most other places. Follow the links within the post to read some of his other writing, which is equally challenging and insightful. It’s well worth spending two or three hours reading his old posts.

Ghost in the Pixel: CMU grad seminar diagrams & lessons.

Recommended blogs: Pasta&Vinegar and 52 Weeks of UX

Posted in interaction design, theory, user experience, user research by Dan on January 13, 2010

I was going to post another link from Nicolas Nova’s blog, but then I realized that I’d like to share just about everything he writes, so instead I’m going to recommend that you read his blog in general. From the description of his blog: “I study people’s practices as well as usage of technologies and turn them into insights, ideas, prototypes or recommendations to inform design and foresight. This blog is a selection of the material that I collect, especially in fields such as mobility, urban environments, digital entertainment and new interfaces.” Pasta&Vinegar: mind/tech bazar from outer space.

Another promising blog, which just began last week, will present weekly entries on user experience: 52 Weeks of UX: A discourse on the process of designing for real people.

The future of industrial design; Decisions by Design

Posted in philosophy, product design, theory by Dan on January 12, 2010

Brian Ling posted a cool presentation about the future of industrial design. He outlines the 11 design strategies which he believes will become the most prominent and important over the next decade. Also see a comment from yours truly on the same page. (And, you could actually win an HP laptop by posting a comment, so join the discussion!) I think this is a fascinating topic; the trends he discusses are not just about products themselves, but about the way social, cultural, technological, economic, and environmental forces change over time and influence design. “11 Design Strategies of the Next Decade.”

In another video from The 99 Percent, Ji Lee talks about a personal experiment from 2002 in which he printed stickers of speech bubbles and placed them onto public advertisements in New York. “The masses responded and the project went viral;” people wrote all kinds of jokes and satirical comments onto the speech bubbles, and others eventually imitated the project by creating their own speech bubbles. “Ji Lee: The Transformative Power of Personal Projects.”

Continuing on yesterday’s theme of design thinking, Colin Raney and Ryan Jacoby, business designers at IDEO, recently published an article in Rotman Magazine about using design thinking in the process of decision-making in business. As I see it, the concept of design thinking doesn’t involve anything new with regard to the design process itself, but it’s new in that it’s an abstraction of the problem-solving processed used by designers. Along the same lines of what Roger Martin, Tim Brown, and others have been writing recently, this article provides a good overview of design thinking and how it can be applied in new contexts. “Decisions by Design: Stop Deciding, Start Designing.”

Business strategy, design strategy, and competition robots

Posted in philosophy, product design by Dan on January 11, 2010

A couple cool products were posted on Core77 this week:

Roger Martin, the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and one of the popular advocates of the “design thinking” movement, wrote a short piece at the Harvard Business Review explaining that, in a good business strategy, “where-to-play and how-to-win choices fit together and reinforce one another.” This is a basic but often-missed principle of business strategy, but its relevance is not limited to business. A solution that is both innovative and effective must implement a carefully chosen method (how to win), while the method must be developed in concert with equally careful choices in users, culture, and physical environment, as well as the problem itself (where to play). “Why Most CEOs Are Bad at Strategy.”

The where-to-play and how-to-play questions are especially important in the design of competition robots—and speaking of which, this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) season began on Saturday with the release of the rules for the game “Breakaway.” High school teams participating in the program each have six and a half intense weeks to analyze the game and then design, build, program, and test a 120-pound robot that will play this game. Among FRC’s many challenges in engineering, problem-solving, and teamwork, the robot design process is interesting because teams must develop the same two elements of their game strategy. At first glance, the game rules seem to tell you “where to play,” leaving teams to decide “how to win.” The best teams, however, will design a strategy that aims for mutual reinforcement between their robot’s functions and operation (how) and considerations of which field structures to interact with, which area of the field to play on, and how to interact with other robots (where).

Watch the three-minute animation describing the game itself and check out the FRC home page for more information.

Ritual in innovation; the story of the ribbon

Posted in culture, methodology, user experience, user interface by Dan on January 8, 2010

Bruce Nussbaum wrote some interesting thoughts on the role of ritual in technology and innovation. “I was once nearly thrown out of a brainstorming session at IDEO and it marked me for life.” His brief post: “The Ritualization of Creation—The Role of Ritual In Innovation.”

For your weekend viewing, here’s an interesting presentation from 2008: Jensen Harris, a user interface designer at Microsoft, talks about the process of developing the ribbon in Microsoft Office 2007. Back when Microsoft began developing the next version of Office in 2003, their team found that, while Office was fairly complete in its range of features, the user interface was insufficient for the software’s complexity: “The user interface was failing our users.” Harris and his team set out to reimagine, redesign, and evaluate the interface.

In the presentation, from the MIX conference in 2008, Harris describes the design process for the ribbon, including some of the team’s iterations, prototypes, and mistakes. Video, audio, and slides from the presentation are available on his blog. Although the video is a bit long, and even though “Microsoft” connotes “boring” for some, watch at least the first 4 minutes to get a taste; it contains valuable insights and design lessons.

Here’s the blog post: The Story of the Ribbon

Marriott rapid-prototypes a hotel lobby

Posted in methodology, user experience, user research by Dan on January 7, 2010

In the process of redesigning Courtyard by Marriot, a project which addressed the hotel chain’s lobbies along with the overall brand and customer experience, the company prototyped an entire hotel lobby with foam core, allowing them to quickly test and iterate on the lobby design. In Mark Hurst’s interview with Brain King, VP and Global Brand Manager for Courtyard, King discusses the user research strategies employed during the project. (Found via Jared Spool.)

Yesterday’s article on Johnny Holland—incidentally, also by Jared Spool—was a bit ironic because I’ve been writing website reviews and recommendations over the past couple weeks. Spool warns of the risks of making recommendations as a designer, suggesting that experimentation is a better way to arrive at decisions about a design. The lesson is also important when we, as designers, give each other feedback; a particular suggestion could be right or wrong, but our feedback is more valuable if we first aim for a better understanding of the problem. “My Recommendation: Stop Making Design Recommendations.”

The “of course” factor

Posted in entrepreneurship, user experience by Dan on January 6, 2010

Om Malik quotes the designer Christian Lindholm:

Most companies (including web startups), he said, are looking to “wow” with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an “‘of course’ reaction from their users.”

The concept of user-centered design is now commonplace, but it is not so commonly understood that the ideal user experience is not made up of flashy features that capture one’s attention but of functions that seamlessly fall into the context of the user’s natural behavior. Malik, drawing from the documentary Objectified, discusses the importance of the “of course” factor: “User Experience Matters: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From ‘Objectified.'”

Colin Raney extends this idea to customer experience and business design: “Of Course…”

Quotes on Design and the Useless Machine

Posted in creativity, emotional design by Dan on January 5, 2010

Another great site I discovered over the holiday is Quotes on Design. If you subscribe to the RSS feed, you’ll see new quotations posted every day.

Two of my favorites from the past week are:

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.
Albert Einstein

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
James Joyce

Speaking of RSS, I’m going to take this opportunity to recommend Google Reader, the web-based tool I use to keep track of 200 different feeds (which I really don’t have time to read). I’ve tried quite a few different feed readers, but only Google Reader is both easy to use, designed well, and complete in its range of functions.

Finally, watch this video of “The Most Useless Machine EVER!” If no other machine does, THIS machine has character.

Creativity and innovation are not innovation and creativity

Posted in creativity, emotional design by Dan on January 4, 2010

Happy new year! I’m going to start off with a few things I missed since I last posted.

Uday Gajendar wrote an article about designing for panic. How do you design for the infrequent situation in which the user is panicked, anxious, stressed, and in a hurry? Some suggested strategies: “Panic! at the user interface.”

Andy Rutledge republished his (perhaps contentious) article that challenges the common understanding of creativity: “On Creativity.”

On a similar vein, Scott Berkun challenges the doubtful idea that “creativity” is the secret of innovation: “The secret about innovation secrets.”