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Putting People First

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October 2007
17 October 2007

The LIFT08 conference programme is out

LIFT08
Bruno Giussani reports on the press conference announcing the LIFT08 conference programme (backgrounder):

The conference LIFT08 will take place for the third time in Geneva, Switzerland, on 6-8 February 2008. The main structure of the programme has been presented tonight in a trendy bar downtown Geneva by organizer Laurent Haug and editorial producer Nicolas Nova.

And again, like last year, they seem to have got a knack of seeking out many new voices and speakers that haven’t made the rounds yet – but have interesting things to say. The programme is structured in thematic “tracks”, four per day on Thursday 7 and Friday 8. On Wednesday, a pre-conference will present a series of focused workshops. Thursday evening will feature the now-traditional fondue for 500+ people. Alongside the main conference there will be a “blogcamp”-like space for unplanned discussions and presentations, as well as an “off” space dedicated to design, art and games.

Here a quick rundown of the main tracks:

  • Internet in society — With Jyri Engestrom (he just sold microblogging platform Jaiku to Google), Jonathan Cabiria (on virtual environments and social inclusions) and others
  • User experience — With two tech anthropologists, Younghee Jung (Nokia, Tokyo) and Genevieve Bell (Intel, Seattle) and UC’s Paul Dourish.
  • Stories — With serial entrepreneur Rafi Haladjian and others.
  • A glimpse of Asia — With Marc Laperrouza, a specialist of new tech in China, Heewon Kim, a Korean researcher on teens and social networks, and others.
  • New Frontiers — With “cyborg” Kevin Warwick, Henry Markram who’s trying to simulate the functioning of brain cells, and Holm Friebe talking about new forms of cooperation and collaborative work.
  • Gaming — With Robin Hunicke (who worked on games for the Nintendo Wii) on gaming trends, and others.
  • Web and entreprises — With David Sadigh and David Marcus on how the web is reshuffling work practices.
  • Foresight — With future researchers Scott Smith (Changeist) and William Cockayne (Stanford) and Nokia designer Francesco Cara.

Haug also announced that LIFT is exporting itself to Asia: after a successful small launch event a few weeks ago in Seoul, South Korea, they’re now planning a full LIFTAsia in September 2008, again in Seoul.

I am very pleased to notice that Genevieve Bell, Paul Dourish and Francesco Cara are amongst the speakers.

17 October 2007

Mobile phone makers go user-friendly

Symbian
Business Week reports on how, with the success of the iPhone, mobile-phone players want to improve menus and other navigation tools on their handsets.

“Of all the ways Apple’s iPhone is disrupting the mobile-phone industry, one of the most tangible is in how it’s shaking up the user experience. The release of the music-playing mobile phone brought many people a whole new way to call up services, navigate from one section to another—even dial a phone number. Apple may raise the bar further in January, when it’s expected to make it easier for outside developers to create tools and features for the iPhone.

Competing makers of smartphones—wireless handsets that double as mini computers—have gotten the message. And in the wake of the iPhone launch, many are taking pains to improve their own software and hardware to eliminate the often arduous or non-intuitive task of gaining access to even the most basic information.”

Unfortunately, the article confuses usability and user experience with “adding bells and whistles to cell phones” or feature richness, which they think will make the phone more expensive.

Read full story

15 October 2007

Ethnographic research by Japanese firms draws attention

Bruno Marzloff
Phil Keys writes in Tech On how Japanese companies drew the attention of participants to their research at “Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC2007),” an event concerning ethnographic research at companies.

There were programs related to researches conducted by Fujitsu Ltd., Hakuhodo Inc. and Ricoh Co. Ltd.’s U.S. subsidiary, Ricoh Innovations Inc.

Read full story

15 October 2007

The fifth screen of tomorrow

Bruno Marzloff
The always very well-informed Internet Actu blog has posted an article by Bruno Marzloff, a sociologist and the driving force behind the Chronos Group, a research lab specialised in mobility and dislocation. Marzloff reflects on the future of our relation with the city, with our urban environment, to better understand how we will interact with it, and how this environment itself will become the support of our media. Has the urban become the media? [The translation from French to English is by Mark Vanderbeeken]

People are the new media“, said Pierre Bellanger in a recent article in Netéconomie (“The social network is the telco’s future“). If this means extending the collaborative approach also to the mobile phone, it is not really much of a surprise. For sure, “the new culture is participative” and extending this approach to the world of mobility seems rather straightforward, even if one can only guess the shapes this culture might take once it is detached from the PC and the big stationary screens. But Bellanger, who is the founder and CEO of Skyrock radio, goes quite a bit further in this reasoning. What he has in mind is nothing less than a revolution taking place, with him sitting in the front row. Or said differently: the mobile person is the media (and the individual gets mixed up with his mobile). Therefore the mobile (individual and machine) becomes the fulcrum of his communication and his outreach. The mobile is receiver, sender and relay station.

This central role of the mobile in our media world becomes amplified, adds Pierre Bellanger, because “Who knows better what I am doing, what I am watching, what I am listening to, with whom I am talking or where I am, than the machine that carries all these activities?” The media inserts itself in the mobility of the user while at the same time giving him “full control of his exchanges. The modest size of the screen and the keyboard is no limitation: it can connect to whatever other machine, appear there as a virtual support and therefore use the connected machine, including its peripherals, as an extra resource“. The mobile takes control of its surroundings: “A bit like the iPod takes control of a stereo system to which it is connected“. Bellanger concludes: “It is the small terminal taking charge of the big one“.

The “small terminal” is the new screen that comes in the wake of others that mark the history of communication. The first screen in the history of technology was a public one: it was the big cinema screen. The second one was a collective one, but it wasn’t public: it was the television set. The third one, the computer screen, was personal but could be shared. The fourth one, the mobile, is on itself, intimate, not to be shared, and accompanying me wherever I go.

And the evolution isn’t finished yet. A fifth screen is already on the horizon. A screen perhaps without a screen, without contact even, or on the contrary connected through a multitude of extensions. A screen that will highlight the evolution towards more autonomy and more mobility (i.e. the capacity to mobilise our resources, which the English call “empowerment”).

This fifth screen covers a collection of things:

  1. public technological devices (displays, kiosks etc.),
  2. public infrastructure without screens, that enter into a dialogue with our personal terminals that have screens (mobiles, smartphones, iPod and other mp3 readers, audio-video, game consoles…),
  3. or, by extension, with other terminals which are not “enabled” (contactless cards, RFID tags…),
  4. the mobiles themselves, because “the capacity of exploitation contained in the device itself becomes the capacity of a server“, as Bellanger explained.

Now set up as a human cyborg through the mediation of the mobile, the individual enters into a dialogue with tags, that become increasingly pervasive in the city. The urban nomad navigates along the structure of his own information system; in a dialogue with real time and real places; in continuous interaction as well with other nomads.

This media complex integrates the individuals in a moving tissue. The fifth screen marks the arrival of ambient technology, of the Everyware that Adam Greenfield calls it in his book Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing (see here and here). This Everyware is the field of development of the fifth screen and the new online service and media perspective of thecity. It is also one of the open topics to be addressed in the Villes 2.0 [Cities 2.0] programme, and a challenge to understand the city of tomorrow. Everyware is a real revolution due the way extends the power of us all (but also of the various operators and of authorities) in the public realm. This is why in the city of tomorrow, the urban is the media.

The “familiarity” one can feel towards a city or a neighbourhood, even while discovering it, is the real stake of the fifth screen. We will rather speak of a “permanent process of familiarisation” in a city where everything changes and moves all the time. Or in the words of Peter Morville, author of Ambient Findability, it is crucial to provide people the tools for their autonomy, their wayfinding and their choices – the author speaks of freedom that is granted to individuals (“empowering individuals with information and choice”). How? The answer to him requires a neologism: findability (which describes “a world in rapid emergence where one can find whoever or whatever, from wherever or whenever”). What does that mean concretely? One goes from the web to the city, and from the link to the place. One googles the city like one googles the Web. “Findability” applies to the existence of signs, reference marks, beacons and other types of information in the city, links as it were to real times and places, that allow us to navigation and to be secure in the city.

The goal of the fifth screen development, as some experiments are already showing, is to make the city familiar, to provide useful information and transactions, to enable a dialogue between citizens, and to allow the population access to participatory information, without forgetting of course some space for the imaginary. The fifth screen is the city. It is the urban as a media. They are waves, labels, signs, screens, traces, … A city augmented with information, information augmented with geolocalisation. One can feel the pulse of the city in real time and one can even participate in its beat, as demonstrated by the projects Real Time Rome and WikiCity.

The fifth screen is the next lever for urban governance. It allows the urbanite to express himself. The urbanite becomes the media in the city, just like the desktop user is in the world of Web 2.0. The fifth screen opens up a space to a wide range of actors that will use these opportunities of dialogue to share information, entertainment, services, and all kinds of offerings.

But if the field is wide open, so is Pandora’s box! The fifth screen can also become a tool for repression, for surveillance and for all types of intrusion. It could be the opposite of the collaborative media of sousveillance (with the system allowing us to see our voyeurs and therefore establishing a balance of reciprocal transparency, as outlined by David Brin in The Transparent Society). The history of the fifth screen will need to be written together by citizens, companies, and regional entities.

Bruno Marzloff

15 October 2007

Top 100 user-centred blogs

Virtual Hosting
Virtualhosting.com has published a top 100 of user-centred blogs, that provide “the latest and greatest in the people-centric field of design”.

The selected sites also cover themes such as accessibility, web standards, and interfacing.

I am pleased to say that this blog is also included in the list.

15 October 2007

Amazon launches customer-centred redesign with new navigation

Amazon redesign
Amazon is in the process of rolling out a redesigned site with a completely new primary navigation.

As it is being tested, only some users get to see the new navigation and UI right now. However, Amazon have a “remodel” page (UK version) where they go through the changes and display a screenshot.

They seem to have done extensive usability testing based on a user-centred design approach:

We consulted the foremost experts in the field: our customers.

We traveled around the world, inviting customers like you to come and try out the new features and design. We listened to their feedback and made changes based on their opinions. Then we asked more customers for their advice, and we made more changes from their feedback. The design you see today reflects the input of many real-life customers of our U.S. and international websites.

We concentrated on shopping, searching, saving, and buying–the four activities that customers have repeatedly told us are the most important to them. They’re now prominently featured at the top of every page on the site.

(via Experience Solutions)

13 October 2007

Pop!Tech conference on the social impact of technology

Pop!Tech
The Pop!Tech conference is a four day summit that explores the deep forces shaping our collective future, the social impact of new scientific insights and emerging technologies, and the new approaches humanity is taking to address national and global challenges, with the aim to accelerate the impact of world-changing people and ideas.

It draws together world-leading speakers and 550 attendees that include some of the highest ranks of science, technology, business, the arts, culture, law and the press; the participants include Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur ‘genius’ award winners, and uncategorizable thought leaders who come together to look collectively at the future of the world.an elite annual gathering of “visionary thinkers”.

At this year’s conference, which runs from Oct. 17 to 20, the theme is “The Human Impact,” and the eclectic lineup of speakers ranges from the Grand Mufti of Bosnia to digital toy designer Caleb Chung. The list also includes Nathan Eagle, the mobility expert from the MIT Media Lab, Jonathan Harris, an interactive designer, Joe McCarthy, global mobility researcher, Dan Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind”, Steven Pinker, the preeminent cognitive scientist, and Katrin Verclas, mobile activism researcher.

This year the entire Pop!Tech conference (schedule) will be webcast for free between 9am and 6.30pm EST, October 18-20, 2007. Viewers can even submit questions to our stage live by emailing questions@poptech.org.

Videos of previous presentations are also available and I selected some that match the focus of this blog.

Losang Rabgey (26:34)
Anthropologist and Tibetan studies expert Losang Rabgey shows how technology is being used to open up Tibet to the world, as well as connect lives across the region, in ways true to their various experiences. [Most of the technology she is talking about is available on the site of the Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library]

Bruce Sterling (08:09)
Author, journalist and contributing editor at Wired magazine Bruce Sterling understands why people get confused about new technology concepts. In what he sees as a culture war of web semantics, Bruce gets the audience’s attention with a unique call for a new vocabulary to better describe experiences with technology.

Neil Gershenfeld (26:13)
Twenty minutes may not really be enough time to fully understand the implications of the so-called Fab Lab, invented by the director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. But it’s a mind-blowing place to start!

Chris Anderson (24:32)
What happens when material things become free? Long Tail author and Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson examines new models of wealth distribution and claims we’re moving from economies of scarcity to an age of abundance.

In an effort to make conference content more accessible to a wider audience, Pop!Tech is now teaming with dotSUB.com, a new site with Web video subtitling capabilities, to offer podcasts of selected events in eight languages—including Chinese, Arabic, and Swahili.

Business Week reports on this.

13 October 2007

Creative Conversion Factory

Creative Conversion Factory
Just when you thought that science parks were based on a paradigm, a new mixed science, technology and business driven initiative – the Creative Conversion Factory in Eindhoven, Netherlands – will launch on 12 November. Note the current focus areas though!

Turning bright ideas into brilliant products
Many bright innovative ideas fail to be developed into exciting, new products simply because they see the light of day in the wrong place or at the wrong time. For example, a company may decide not to pursue an idea because it doesn’t fit in with their strategy, or an idea may never get off the ground because the inventor doesn’t know where to find appropriate partners. It’s precisely to prevent such a waste of good ideas that a number of partners have now come together to found the Creative Conversion Factory (CCF).

What does the CCF aim to do?
The CCF aims to facilitate and accelerate product innovation in the field of high-tech systems by encouraging collaboration in design and ICT between participating companies and knowledge centers. It provides a place where inventors, manufacturers and investors can come together in a spirit of open innovation to turn promising ideas into viable products.

What does the CCF offer?
The CCF welcomes the submission of any patentable creative and technological innovation as a potential project. Submissions will be evaluated on the basis of a number of criteria, including the extent to which they enable participating organizations to achieve synergies and improve their capabilities. Once a project has been adopted, the CCF investigates whether there is a market for a product based on the idea and whether such a product is technically feasible. The CCF coordinates contacts among the various parties. In principle, the outcome of the project is a product prototype.

What capabilities are covered?
The CCF has so far defined three main areas of capability that it can apply in adopted projects:

  1. Sensor technology, including sensors and actuators, software and hardware platforms, wireless communications and high-level end-user programming solutions;
  2. Lighting, focusing on creative solutions based on new technologies that enable highly controllable lighting to be integrated into the surroundings; and
  3. Psychology, especially techniques for positively affecting people’s behavior and attitudes.

What are the current focus areas?
Projects undertaken by the CCF focus on Ambient Experience, i.e., the embedding of intelligent technologies into the surroundings to make people’s lives more enjoyable, easy and productive. During the initial phase, the emphasis will be on two themes within this topic: Mobility & Navigation and Care & Wellbeing. Participating partners will collaborate to develop new concepts in interactive gaming environments that facilitate navigation in complex environments and stimulate social contact and physical exercise.

Who are the participating partners?
Partners participating in the CCF include the Technical University of Eindhoven (Faculty of Industrial Design), Stichting Brainport, Design Academy Eindhoven, Philips Research, Philips Design, Dutch Polymer Institute, Holst Centre, NH Hotels (Koningshof) and Living Tomorrow.

Creative Conversion Factory is an initiative of Emile Aarts, Scientific Program Manager of Philips Research. The concept and the business plan have been developed by Brainport Foundantion in conjunction with the Faculty of Industrial Design of the Eindhoven University of Technology, Design Academy Eindhoven, Dutch Polymer Institute, Holst Centre, Philips Design, Philips Research, NH Koningshof, and Living Tomorrow B.V.

12 October 2007

Philips Design tracks emerging developments through design explorations

Off the grid
Visitors to the Dutch Design Week will be able to see two projects from Philips Design’s ongoing ‘Design Probes‘ programme.

These projects – SKIN; Tattoo and Off the Grid; Sustainable Habitat 2020 – take a provocative and stimulating look at subjects that could have a profound effect on the way we live 15 years from now. In doing so, they also help improve the chances of innovation success.

The Philips Design Probes program is a unique foresighting initiative which tracks emerging developments in five main areas – politics, economics, environment, technology and culture. The outcomes of this ‘far-future’ research are used to identify systemic shifts that could affect business in years to come and that could lead to new areas in which to develop intellectual property. The main objective of this program is to stimulate the discussion and register the feedback of our stakeholders.

A tattoo that changes
The SKIN; Tattoo project investigates the use of ‘electronic’ ink that would allow people to have dynamic tattoos with an infinite number of display options. In much the same way as make-up is put on and taken off to suit the occasion, a tattoo could alter whenever desired. The tattoos could even change in response to gestures or emotions, which opens up novel ways of communicating and interacting with others.

Active buildings
The Off the Grid; Sustainable Habitat 2020 Probe looks at scenarios in which the built environment becomes active; the walls, roofs and floors have much more than just a structural function. Outer shells of buildings may be made to trap rainwater so it can be purified on-site for drinking. Sunlight is captured to provide electricity and water heating, while the wind outside could conceivably be harnessed and channeled into the building for air-conditioning.

Read full press release

12 October 2007

How Britain jumpstarts design in SME’s

Synature
Business Week reports on a network of regional programmes, headed up by the UK Design Council that help harness the creative energy of small businesses as an engine for national growth.

How can small and medium-sized businesses grow more competitive? Britain’s Design Council reckons it has the answer: Designing Demand, a support program that helps businesses boost their performance through the strategic use of design. The brainchild of Design Council Chairman George Cox, the program, which is being initiated nationwide this year, is supported by $40 million in funding from England’s nine regional development agencies.

To date 1,000 businesses, from high-tech startups to well-established brand names, have completed the program. And Cox hopes to reach more than 6,500 by 2010. “There are legions of small businesses, which account for more than half of the [British] economy, which are not making full use of innovation,” Cox says. “The goal of Designing Demand is to show them how.”

Here’s how it works: Interested companies apply to the Design Council to take part in a free, one-day workshop to show how investing in design might affect their businesses. A team of four independent experts in branding, product development, and design management, led by a Design Council design associate, is dispatched to the company to identify areas where design could be used to develop new products, services, or branding methods. They act as mentors to management during the day, highlighting potential design opportunities and offering advice on how to implement them. If the company wants to use any of the team’s recommendations, the Design Council will help refer them to independent local designers whom the company will then pay for their services.

- Read full story
View slideshow

12 October 2007

Catching the human factors fever

Symbiq
The American Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry magazine has published a long story on why device companies are increasingly incorporating human factors into their product development processes.

“Only a few years ago, human factors was a discipline virtually ignored in the medical device world. Device design was a field dominated by engineers, and their main concern was whether the device functioned properly or not. How easy it was to use, how well it fit into a caregiver’s workflow, and whether the design contained the potential to prompt use errors were factors considered secondarily, if at all.

But that is changing. More device companies are incorporating principles of human factors and ergonomics into their designs. Some are hiring human factors experts for their staffs, while others are using consultants. More devices go through some form of usability testing before hitting the market. And FDA has begun refusing to accept “it was a user error, not a design problem” as an excuse for problems in the field. [...]

What follows is a look at some of the trends that are forcing medical device manufacturers to change their design practices, and should force those who haven’t to reconsider.”

Read full story

12 October 2007

The Economist on open innovation

Economist special survey on innovation
The Economist has published a good, and critical, overview article on open innovation – the notion of looking for bright ideas outside of an organisation – that also features Professor Eric von Hippel, head of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The article is part of a special report on innovation published today in The Economist.

“Eric Von Hippel, of MIT, has long advocated user-driven innovation. He says you can see it all around you. Users who feel passionate about certain products often fiddle around with them because they fail to provide exactly what they want. It might be a mountain bike, a kayak or even a car. He reckons open innovation misses the point if it is not inspired by users, because companies are then “just talking about a market for intellectual property rights, it’s still the old model.”

Mr Von Hippel thinks that firms that are close to their lead users can come up with much better designs for new products and get them to market faster.”

Read full story

10 October 2007

Presentations online of the INDEX: 2007 conference

Index: 2007
The Copenhagen Prelude Conference inaugurated the alliance between INDEX: and AIGA/Aspen Design Summit on the role of design to improve life for people around the world.

During four sessions in two days late August 2007, leading international design and innovation thinkers and doers from around the world lectured on, debated and engaged in conversations with the audience on four themes and sub themes within the realm of user-centred design, innovation and design to improve life.

Audio files and presentation slides are now online.
 

SESSION ONE: THE ROLE OF USER CENTERED DESIGN AND INNOVATION WHEN DEALING WITH GLOBAL CHALLENGES

Global Challenges and User-centered design and Innovation
Speaker: Ged Davis, Co-President of Global Energy Assessment [and formerly in charge of scenario-based foresight at Shell]
Audio (5.4 mb, 23:42) | Presentation (pdf, 1 mb, 34 slides)

Case: Dongtan Eco-city, China
Speaker: Alejandro Gutierrez, Associate Director at Arup and design leader of the Dongtan Eco-City project
Audio (5 mb, 21:55) | Presentation (pdf, 6.5 mb, 34 slides)

Users in architecture or rather proactive design?
Speaker: Bjarke Ingells, Founder of BIG, one of the leading Danish architectural companies
Audio (4.8 mb, 21:10)

UCDI version 2.0
Speaker: Arnold Wasserman, chairman of The Idea Factory, Singapore
Audio (6.4 mb, 28:01)

Panel debate on UCDI & Global Challenges
A conversation between Ric Grefé, Ged Davis, Alejandro Gutierrez, Arnold Wasserman, Bjarke Ingells and the audience
Moderated by Alan Webber
Audio (5 mb, 21:55) | Presentation (pdf, 6.5 mb, 34 slides)
 

SESSION TWO: THERE IS A WORLD OUT THERE – UCDI IN THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN 1. AND 3. WORLD

UCDI in the dialogue between First and Third World
Speaker: Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, Cape Town, ZA
Audio (9.9 mb, 43:14)

User = consumer?
Speaker: Anna Kirah, acting dean of 180 Academy, Denmark
Audio (6.2 mb, 27:12) | Presentation (pdf, 572 kb, 24 slides)

Life Straw and Space Safe – two examples of non-users
Speaker: Torben Vestergaard-Frandsen, CEO Vestergaard-Frandsen A/S
Audio (3.6 mb, 15:50) | Presentation (pdf, 1.9 mb, 19 slides)

Panel debate and dialogue with the audience
Panel: Anna Kirah, Ravi Naidoo and Torben Vestergaard-Frandsen
Moderator: Ged Davis
Audio (6.4 mb, 27:51)
 

SESSION THREE: INNOVATION ON A CONSCIOUS AND STRATEGIC LEVEL – EVEN RADICAL INNOVATION?

Radical innovation on a conscious and strategic level?
Speaker: Dan Buchner, Vice President of Design Continuum, USA
Audio (4.8 mb, 21:00) | Presentation (pdf, 2.1 mb, 36 slides)

The sharp end of innovation – making ideas happen
Speaker: Pontus Wahlgren, Senior Industrial Design at IDEO, UK
Audio (6.5 mb, 28:24) | Presentation (pdf, 2 mb, 23 slides)

Get rid of the crap!
Speaker: Christian Madsbjerg, partner at ReD Associates, Denmark
Audio (2.4 mb, 10:32)

Case: service and welfare design in the elderly sector
Speaker: Heather Martin, co-founder of CIID, Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design, Denmark
Audio (3.6 mb, 16:00)

Panel debate and dialogue with the audience
Panel: Dan Buchner, Christian Madsbjerg, Heather Martin and Pontus Wahlgren
Moderator: Finn Lauritzen
Audio (7.5 mb, 32:42)
 

SESSION FOUR – WHERE TO TAKE IT FROM HERE?

Concept Design – How to solve the complex challenges of our time
Speaker: Finn Lauritzen, Director General, Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority
Audio (13 mb, 56:46) | Presentation (pdf, 2 mb, 23 slides)

Creating Value by Design
Speaker: John Heskett, Chair Professor, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Audio (10.6 mb, 46:18) | Presentation (pdf, 580 kb, 36 slides)

Closing Panel Debate
Kigge Hvid, CEO of INDEX:, and Ric Grefé, CEO of AIGA, close the conference by discussing the future collaboration between their design organizations with the audience and which issues to pursue
Audio (11.8 mb, 51:51)

10 October 2007

Motorola director of customer experience design lecture

A local Illinois newspaper has an exclusive report about a talk by Jim Wicks, Motorola’s corporate vice president and director of consumer experience design, at the University of Illinois.

Wicks spoke at the UI in connection with Designmatters, a campuswide lecture series organized by the School of Art and Design and sponsored by the provost’s office and the colleges of Engineering and Fine and Applied Arts. The series explores the interdisciplinary mixing of design, engineering, technology and business to create innovative products and services.

“When Wicks, who formerly worked for Sony, talks about “convergence” in mobile phones, he isn’t necessarily talking about the devices taking on more general-purpose computer-like and multimedia functions, although he obviously sees that happening.

He also sees convergence as meaning the successful marriage of the phone as an object of self-expression and the phone as an object with a utilitarian purpose – or, more accurately, purposes – in our lives.

Read full story

9 October 2007

Interview with Jonathan Kestenbaum of NESTA on innovation and design

Jonathan Kestenbaum
A few weeks ago Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken interviewed Jonathan Kestenbaum, the CEO of NESTA, the UK Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

The interview, which is now published on the website of Torino 2008 World Design Capital in both English and Italian, deals with innovation and design. Kestenbaum explains in great clarity how NESTA works to stimulate innovation, and how design, and in particular human-centred design, is a central part of that approach.

Some quotes:

“Much of our practical experimentation and much of our reflective research is suggesting that the next bounce of the ball, as far as innovation is concerned, will not necessarily take place within disciplines but between disciplines.”

“Design to NESTA is a tool for innovation. Basically it is a problem solving process, which is highly visual and very human-centred because it starts with the needs of people. Design is key to good innovation. For NESTA, design and its visual processes allow the early testing of ideas, leaving space for early and relatively cheap failure and reducing the risks and costs for innovation. This design approach also makes sure that the testing and the prototyping are very human-centred. If people do not want the product or do not know how to use the product, if they cannot understand the product, you will never get it to market. Design is the process through which all of this happens.”

“We sat down with the heads of the Royal College, Imperial College and Tanaka Business School who were planning to support interdisciplinary projects on a major scale and discussed the formation of an incubator for some of these projects – projects that would be the result of the integration of design, engineering, science and business. Across the organisations involved in what has been named ‘Design-London’, several million euros have now been invested and we have managed to get that matched by Government. This month the incubator and rest of Design-London will open and be the first of its type, bringing together artists, engineers and business graduates- to all work on new product development.”

Read full interview

9 October 2007

Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?

Newseum
“Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?” is the rather outlandish title of an otherwise good Washington Post article about the future of museums in the age of networked computers and virtual worlds.

“As the Newseum puts the finishing touches on its new building in downtown Washington, a second version of the museum of news is being developed for the online society Second Life.

This novel way to experience a museum [...] raises questions about the very future of museums. Indeed, it can make one ponder whether all those granite and limestone mausoleums that litter Washington have a future at all.

In the age of the networked computer, museums are being fundamentally challenged in the same ways that other bastions of education and entertainment — from libraries to the music industry — are being rocked to their cores.

The arguments swirl. Are museums in the bone-and-pigment business, reliquaries of the past? Are they in the theater business, telling stories through sensational lighting, presentations like stage sets and costumed interpretive actors? Are museums in the experience business, forced to reach for ever fancier gizmos and blockbusters to compete with the sports world and Disney for family time and money?”

It seems to me that new media usually don’t replace old ones but just provide an alternative experience. Just like television didn’t kill the radio, and movies didn’t kill the theatre, virtual worlds will not remove the need for real museums. They will just provide an alternative window into their collections and the story they are telling.

And in the end, that’s what the author thinks too. I recommend you to read the conclusions of the article.

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8 October 2007

Second Life: virtual worlds and the enterprise

Second Life
Susan Kish, vice president of the network and community practice at XING, has posted a long essay on how enterprises should look at Second Life and, more generally, at virtual worlds.

“Is the topic still too early or too distracting from “real business”? Or is SL actually close to the tipping point where, like so many technologies before, it will flip into the mainstream with unanticipated results?

This essay looks into these and other questions relevant to businesses in relation to the emergence of virtual worlds. We consider here particularly Second Life as the most important and fastest-growing, but there are several other similar entities.”

Susan Kish has been working with networks and communities for over 10 years. This essay, completed with a glossary and a bibliography, is available in pdf for downloading here (1.4 MB).

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(via Lunch over IP)

8 October 2007

The user experience of a designer clothing online store

House of Fraser
House of Fraser, the UK designer clothing retailer, has recently launched their first e-commerce site.

Paul Rouke has posted a long user experience review “looking at how persuasion architecture has been adopted, key browsing functionality provided and the overall shopping experience you can expect at this new luxury online store”. He calls it a “user experience triumph“.

Putting brands at what appears to be the forefront of their online strategy, the new House of Fraser website provides an almost immediate synergy between their online experience and the aspirations of the brand hungry visitor. On first view the site provides all the features and functionality you would expect from a site which has been developed using what I expect would have been a user centered design approach – high visibility of the search functionality and shopping basket (inc. summary of key info, a useful mini basket dropdown feature and the login/register links), clearly labeled and intuitive category navigation, a clear, best practice modeled checkout process and a strong focus on persuasion architecture.

He concludes:

Irrespective of the possible user experience improvements that could be introduced, House of Fraser have produced an excellent e-commerce website which perfectly suits its target audience and compliments its high street presence. With a degree of richer user experience functionality introduced, and a clear focus on branding and imagery, whilst adopting very much a user centered design approach and significant persuasion architecture techniques, House of Fraser’s first transactional web presence is destined to be a great success and very much a destination website for style and brand driven online shoppers.

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8 October 2007

‘My mobile is me’ – a story about mobile design in India

WikiCity
India is one of the world’s hottest mobile design locations today. The Hindu Business Line reports on what handset makers think of design in India, and how they track trends and make gadgets that reflect people’s personality and needs.

The article features quotes from people at BenQ, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Vertu.

Here a quote about the Nokia design process:

“Our entire design process is influenced by the consumer and their behaviour — how they want their mobile to look, function and fit into their lifestyle. We take a human approach to design in an industry that tends to focus on just pushing technology. We are creating stylish products that work just the way people like them to. This combination is central to our design work and brand,” says Jan Blom, Head of the Bangalore design team of Nokia, which recently tied up with Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to set up the first of a series of satellite design studios. The Bangalore studio “reflects India’s status as one of the hottest countries for design,” according to Nokia’s Chief Designer, Alastair Curtis. [...]

“The [Bangalore studio] will look at a range of design trends and themes, including: visual perceptions: researching key colour and material trends in India and their cultural significance; Internet mobility: understanding how people in India are accessing the Internet via mobile phones, why and what are they using this for, the impact on behaviours and culture, and how can we identify these and other signals that will help us come up with relevant and compelling devices designed for Internet usage and even social applications for mobiles — how can mobile design be used to address issues in more rural areas of India, for example access to education material.”

The article ends with some hints at what is coming up “by 2010″.

Areas to watch, according to the maker, are new shapes, materials and features, creating new ways for people to interact with their device, how to make the mobile Internet experience compelling, and broader adoption of multi-media features and content. “Mobile design is a fascinating and dynamic area. Design will be much more based around the experience people want from their device — what they want their device to do and how it needs to fit into their everyday lives. Given that we are not all looking for the same experience, there will be a number of different trends,” says Blom.

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8 October 2007

More Internet users getting a virtual life

vSide
The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about how virtual worlds are becoming more and more popular, and provides an extensive update on how the playing field is changing.

The online universe is brimming with dozens of virtual worlds vying to build sustainable life.

From Gaia, a Japanese anime-inspired site, to vSide, a hip nightclub scene, they represent the latest way people are interacting through the Internet. Users create alter-ego avatars to navigate these online worlds, where they meet and hang out with other people, go shopping, watch movies, even start a business.

And they’re live: Day and night, they change as people join in.

Though the idea is not new, the technology and the business to support these virtual worlds are starting to catch up. And now a new generation, inspired in part by Linden Lab of San Francisco’s Second Life, is starting to evolve.

The article features Gaia, Habbo, IMVU, Kaneva, Metaplace, MTV, Second Life, There, vSide, and Zwinky.

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