Design and Innovation Daily

More from Interaction10

Posted in culture, interaction design, philosophy, product design, theory, user experience by Dan on February 26, 2010

Picking up on yesterday’s topic, here are a few more highlights from Interaction10, the recent conference on interaction design. Talks at the conference presented an interesting mix of theoretical and practical insights into design (and not just interaction design).

Yesterday, I pointed to summaries of the talks from the first day of the conference. Johnny Holland Magazine also published summaries from the second and third days (their server was down last time I checked, so here are Google’s cached versions of the articles from day 2 and day 3).

On day 2, Ezio Manzini discussed the role of digital platforms in the economies and communities of the future. Christropher Fahey gave an even more fascinating (and perhaps bold) presentation about the humanization of technology, which implies that technology will become more human-like without replacing or replicating humans; in addition to the overview in the above article, take a look at his slides. From day 3, Dan Hill’s talk is interesting because he brings the subject of urban design into the context of interaction design—similar concepts applied to very different time frames.

Since I wrote yesterday’s post, I also found the slides from Nathan Shedroff’s talk about the forms and roles of meaning in experiences and designed experiences. The slides can be downloaded from Shedroff’s website.

I highly recommend Nicolas Nova’s reflections on the conference. He pieced together many of the theoretical elements of the talks and made an interesting comparison of the design models that appeared throughout the conference.

Sarah Mitchell traced a few of the core themes from the talks and posted photos of her notes.

Finally, Dave Malouf, interaction design professor at SCAD, wrote a compelling (if cryptic) piece about the importance of social responsibility and even activism in interaction design.

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Lessons from the Interaction10 conference

Posted in interaction design, philosophy, product design, theory, user experience, web design by Dan on February 25, 2010

Around three weeks ago, the Interaction Design Association held its annual conference, Interaction10. I finally got around to reading some of the attendees’ recaps and notes from the conference. I’ll post a couple highlights today, and more tomorrow.

Johnny Holland Magazine published daily synopses of the conference sessions. Two notable talks were those given by Nicolas Nova and Jon Kolko, both towards the end of the article: “Live at Interaction’10: day 1.”

To go along with that, Nova’s slides can be viewed here; I think the compelling title speaks for itself: “Design and Designed Failures: From Observing Failures to Provoking Them.”

Jon Kolko followed up on the conference in Design Mind: “An Emerging Divide: Some Thoughts from the IxDA 2010 Conference.”

The traffic guru; UIs that lie

Posted in architecture, interaction design, psychology, theory by Dan on February 4, 2010

The Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman had surprising insights into the effects of warning signs, traffic lights, and other elements of traffic safety infrastructure. His most famous idea, which hasn’t made it into American traffic engineering but has been influential in Europe, was that removing most of that infrastructure could make streets safer. By redesigning aspects of a certain town to make it seem more “villagelike,” he was able to change drivers’ perception of the environment and encourage them to drive more slowly and carefully without the influence of signs and other interventions. This article by Tom Vanderbilt explains more about Monderman’s approach and how the traffic insfrastructure affects individuals’ behavior in unexpected ways: “The Traffic Guru.”

This is a remarkable phenomenon. It shows that the framework for the usage of the system, which is, in this case, a traffic system, informs the way people use the system—but not through constraints, not through direct communication, and not through affordances. Users’ perception of the environment changes how they think they ought to drive, even though the surrounding town might have nothing to do with their intention to travel to a destination.

David Lindes writes about a similar pattern in a completely different environment. In the process of redesigning an application for a certain business process, he set out to learn about the clients’ workflow and found out that it was excessively complicated. This reflected a problem with the client’s old application. It wasn’t just that the old program was a bad match for the process, but that the program’s complicated workflow had actually changed the way the client understood the process. Even though the original business process was not to be driven by software, “user interfaces are one of the principal sources from which a person learns about his or her work.” The implication for our own design process is huge. “UIs that lie & the users who believe them.”

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.”

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.”

Personality, perspective, and funny pencils

Posted in theory, user experience by Dan on December 17, 2009

“Shifting perspective,” as mentioned on the Adaptive Path blog, is an important strategy when designing something that will be used by other people. This video shows a series of experiences, each from an object’s point of view; whether the object is a skateboard, a railroad gate, a robot, or a door handle, each perspective you consider reveals new problems, concerns, and contexts. (Maybe the next step is to consider the pen from the paper’s point of view and the robot from the ball’s point of view.) Anyway, here’s the post/video: “Shifting Perspectives” / “From the Object’s Point of View”

Obviously, these objects aren’t alive. But on the other hand, personality can be a useful device for communication and usability. Cennydd Bowles writes about the forms of personality that appear in technology and their relevance to a product’s usability and effectiveness. “Does technology need personality?”

On a side note, here’s a funny idea: a pencil with a pencil on the other end, so you can celebrate your mistakes instead of erasing them—mistakes are, of course, an essential part of the process.

Cultural context: app design and restaurant menus

Posted in culture, graphic design, theory by Dan on December 16, 2009

I’m always fascinated by the complexity of the interdependence of technology and cultural context. I touched on this last week when I talked about TV, web, and music, but entertainment isn’t the only place where social and business contexts define what’s appropriate in a design.

Jack Moffett wrote yesterday about the forces which affect the features that are included (and excluded) in a tool as simple as a note-taking application. This excerpt from an upcoming book by William Poundstone reveals how the layout and graphic design of a restaurant menu is determined by the way the restaurant wants the customers to perceive the prices.

On the other hand, Scott Berkun’s criticism of a particular interactive visualization shows us that the expectation for “whizzy fun visuals” sometimes competes with the effectiveness of the visualization as a communication tool.

Where else do these sorts of expectations conflict with each other?

An update on “Technology First;” new (free) book from Godin

Posted in philosophy, theory by Dan on December 15, 2009

When I posted last week about Don Norman’s article, “Technology First, Needs Last,” I didn’t mention that the article has produced a great deal of discussion around the blogosphere, both in agreement and in disagreement with Norman. I haven’t come to my own conclusion yet, but the topic is certainly more layered and less black-and-white than he makes it out to be. If you found the original article interesting, then Nicolas Nova’s discussion as well as Todd Zaki Warfel’s rebuttal will give you something to think about (also read the comments on the second one).

On an unrelated note, Seth Godin announced a new, free ebook yesterday. “What Matters Now” is a collection of ideas from over seventy “big thinkers,” including Chris Anderson, Dan Pink, Guy Kawasaki, Mitch Joel, Dan and Chip Heath, and Dan Ariely (those are some of the names I know, but I’m sure there are others in the book whom you’ve heard of but I haven’t). Download the book here, or read the announcement, or see more information about the book and its authors.

TV vs. Web; the Amen Break

Posted in culture, theory by Dan on December 10, 2009

In a recent post on Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox (a column in which he posts summaries of his valuable usability research findings and advice), he compares the differences between the way media is consumed on TV and on the web. Even if it’s not relevant to your work, the comparison is an interesting reflection of the way content, hardware, process of consumption, form of experience, and social context all determine and depend on each other.

A couple days ago I heard a track by Wax Tailor, “Once Upon A Past”, which cleverly samples audio from a short documentary about the Amen Break, produced by Nate Harrison. Can I Get An Amen? “unfolds a critical perspective of perhaps the most sampled drum beat in the history of recorded music,” exploring its role in the development of hip hop and electronic music and its implications for copyright law and the world of art. Like the TV vs. web discussion, it also addresses the relationships between technology, culture, and the transformation of content (that is, music). You can watch the 18-minute documentary here, but if the QuickTime file disagrees with you, it’s also on YouTube.

I’ll be back with more on that topic tomorrow.

New Don Norman article: “Technology First, Needs Last”

Posted in theory, user research by Dan on December 9, 2009

This blog has been missing in action for the past two days. I’d like to make the excuse that that was some kind of a lesson in design, but I’m not yet sure what that lesson might have been.

Since I last posted, Don Norman published an essay arguing that major conceptual breakthroughs in design, as opposed to incremental innovation, are driven by the exploration of new technologies rather than the desire to meet needs: “Technology First, Needs Last.”

Norman’s other essays are available here.

Trap streets are a clever idea.

Insights on designing for the web

Posted in graphic design, interviews, theory, usability, user experience, web design by Dan on December 1, 2009

Paul Boag writes about the current trend of poster-like web pages. As always, one must design for the medium, and a designer cannot treat a web page like a poster. Nevertheless, poster design has a few lessons for web design: “Stop designing websites, start designing posters.”

Mark Riggan takes the same approach, but from a different direction: “6 Things Video Games Can Teach Us About Web Usability.”

In this interview, Matthew Curry talks about running the website for Wiltshire Farm Foods, which sells food mostly to consumers over 80 years old, online. Targeting this audience means addressing the most extreme instances of users’ needs and disabilities. Yes, it’s possible—it’s all about usability: “Q&A: Matthew Curry on selling to older folks online.”

Can bankruptcy and vulnerability be good things?

Posted in entrepreneurship, theory by Dan on November 16, 2009

Morten Lund is an entrepreneur who, despite having founded 88 startups in the past, is (as of last month) bankrupt due to his latest investment–but doesn’t seem to be unhappy about it. He discussed this at a conference last year, shown in this 13-minute video. (Found via Pamela Slim, who wrote a little more about this last month: “The beauty of dirty laundry”)

A recent BusinessWeek article discusses why “a sense of vulnerability” is important to an innovator: The Innovator’s Vulnerability

Barcodes redesigned; wristwatches reinvented

Posted in product design, theory by Dan on November 11, 2009

The company D-Barcode takes a creative approach to barcodes:
In Japan, Even the Barcodes Are Well Designed

Michael Surtees (whose blog, Design Notes, I recommend in general), reviews a watch made by Nooka, who has continually reinvented the way time can be displayed:
Looking at the Nooka Zem Zenv Mr S and some of the other Nooka brand shapes
See also his Flickr gallery of Nooka products.

Third, a thoughtful article by Don Norman: “A product is actually a service.”
Systems Thinking: A Product Is More Than the Product