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March 2009
19 March 2009

Good design at Metropolis

Good Design
The March issue of Metropolis is focused on products with the theme of Good Design.

Several articles are fitting quite well with the topic of this blog:

What is good design?
By Peter Hall
The 20th-century definition of “good design” was driven primarily by form. Today the stakes are too high, and the world too complex, for a superficial response.

Good Is Sustainable (“Bending the Reeds” by Julie Taraska)
Good Is Accessible (“Updating a Workhorse”, an article on the Perkins Brailler by Kristi Cameron)
Good Is Functional (“Redefining Design” by Jennifer Kabat)
Good Is Well Made (“In Praise of the Supernormal”, Paul Makovsky interviews Jasper Morrison)
Good Is Emotionally Resonant (“Selective Memories”, Donald Norman on creating an evocative user experience)
Good Is Enduring (“Mari on Mari”, a profile on Enzo Mari by Martin C. Pedersen)
Good Is Socially Beneficial (“Products For a New Age”, Ken Shulman on how to deal with the world’s most vexing problems)
Good Is Beautiful (“Empty Promise”, a profile of Muji by Mason Currey)
Good Is Ergonomic (“A Call to Arms”, Suzanne LaBarre on the design of prosthetics)
Good Is Affordable (“Banal Genius”, Paul Makovsky on Sam Hecht’s intriguing Under a Fiver collection)

The New Reality
- Motor City Blues (Michael Silverberg on the Detroit three)
- Graduating Class (students completing ten top industrial-design programs talk about their career plans)
- Surviving the Storm (Belinda Lanks on how retailers look for new ways to attract shoppers in a hostile business climate)

Within the Product of No Product
By John Hockenberry
What are the implications for industrial designers if the strongest consumer impulse becomes not buying?

Product Panic: 2009
By Bruce Sterling
What’s an industrial designer to do in the midst of economic chaos? Our columnist offers some career advice.

Rekindling the Book
By Karrie Jacobs
Can Amazon’s new digital reader do for print what the iPod did for music?

(via Designing for Humans)

19 March 2009

Google’s Irene Au on design challenges

Irene Au
In a Q&A, user experience director Irene Au explains to Business Week how Google can manage design and consistency in its traditionally bottoms-up culture

“As Google products proliferate beyond search, design decisions become more critical if the company wants a coherent brand image. That’s where Irene Au, the company’s director of user experience, comes in. An eight-year veteran of Yahoo!, Au has worked at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., since 2006, overseeing some 200 designers, anthropologists, ethnographers, researchers, and interaction specialists responsible for the look and functionality of Google’s products.

Au recently spoke to BusinessWeek’s Helen Walters about the challenges of managing Google’s design process and consistency issues raised by Google’s own defiantly bottoms-up culture.”

Read interview

19 March 2009

Social networking’s new global footprint

Nielsen
Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time, according to a new Nielsen report “Global Faces and Networked Places.”

If data captured from December 2007 through December 2008 is any indication, that percentage is likely to grow as time spent on social network and blogging sites is growing more than three times the rate of overall Internet growth.

“Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience,” commented John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online. “While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing.”

More Time For Community
Time spent on social network sites is also expanding: Across the globe in 2008 activity in ‘Member Communities’ accounted for one in every 15 online minutes – now it accounts for one in every 11. In Brazil the average is one of every four minutes and in UK it’s one in every six minutes.

Not Just For The Young
While social networks started out among the younger audience, they’ve become more mainstream
with the passage of time. Not surprisingly the audience has become broader and older. This shift has primarily been driven by Facebook whose greatest growth has come from people aged 35-49 years of age (+24.1 million). From December 2007 through December 2008, Facebook added almost twice as many 50-64 year old visitors (+13.6 million) than it has added under 18 year old visitors (+7.3 million).

Read full story

19 March 2009

Mobile phones: the silver bullet to bridge the digital divide?

Silver bullet
In a long post Roxanna Samii reports on her blog on the role of the mobile phone in developing countries, and more in particular on the Gash Barka region in Eritrea.

Read full story

17 March 2009

Nokia’s Julian Bleecker essay on design, science, fact and fiction

Design Fiction
Julian Bleecker of Nokia calls it a “short essay”, but “Design Fiction: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact and Fiction” is really a 97 page book.

“Extending this idea that science fiction is implicated in the production of things like science fact, I wanted to think about how this happens, so that I could figure out the principles and pragmatics of doing design, making things that create different sorts of near future worlds. So, this is a bit of a think-piece, with examples and some insights that provide a few conclusions about why this is important as well as how it gets done. How do you entangle design, science, fact and fiction in order to create this practice called “design fiction” that, hopefully, provides different, undisciplined ways of envisioning new kinds of environments, artifacts and practices. [...]

The essay is a way of describing why alternative futures that are about people and their practices are way more interesting here than profit and feature sets. It’s a way to invest some attention on what can be done rather immediately to mitigate a complete systems failure; and part an investment in creating playful, peculiar, sideways-looking things that have no truck with the up-and-to-the-right kind of futures. [...]

Design Fiction is making things that tell stories. It’s like science-fiction in that the stories bring into focus certain matters-of-concern, such as how life is lived, questioning how technology is used and its implications, speculating bout the course of events; all of the unique abilities of science-fiction to incite imagination-filling conversations about alternative futures. It’s about reading P.K. Dick as a systems administrator, or Bruce Sterling as a software design manual. It’s meant to encourage truly undisciplined approaches to making and circulating culture by ignoring disciplines that have invested so much in erecting boundaries between pragmatics and imagination.

Design is about the future in a way similar to science fiction. It probes imaginatively and materializes ideas, the way science fiction materializes ideas, oftentimes through stories. What are the ways that all of these things — these canonical ways of making and remaking and imagining the world — can come together in a productive way, without hiding the details and without worrying about the nonsense of strict disciplinary boundaries?

- Read Julian’s introduction
- Download essay

17 March 2009

Multi-touch looks set to kill the mouse

Mouse
Darren Waters, technology editor at the BBC, reports from Austin, Texas on the future of touch:

“The success of the iPhone has given rise to a new grammar of touch control while the advent of multi-touch in Windows 7 will further accelerate the evolution of human computer interfaces, the South by SouthWest festival has been told.”

It is refreshing to read a BBC article that is filled with terms such as experience design, interface design, future human computer interfaces, user interface, user experience, gesture based controls, humanising techs, etc.

Read full story

17 March 2009

Innovation trickles in a new direction

ECG
Business Week reports on how some companies like General Electric, Nokia, and others are reversing the traditional process where products are created in rich nations and repackaged for emerging ones:

“This month, General Electric’s (GE) health-care division will begin marketing a first-of-its-kind electrocardiograph machine in the U.S. Although packed with the latest technology, the battery-powered device weighs just six pounds, half as much as the smallest ECG machine currently for sale. It will retail for a mere $2,500, an 80% markdown from products with similar capabilities. But what really distinguishes the MAC 800 is its lineage. The machine is basically the same field model that GE Healthcare developed for doctors in India and China in 2008.

As such, the diagnostic tool exemplifies a way of thinking that may be ideally suited to dealing with the widening recession: creating entry-level goods for emerging markets and then quickly and cheaply repackaging them for sale in rich nations, where customers are increasingly hungry for bargains. The term for this new approach is trickle-up innovation.”

Read full story

17 March 2009

Discussing the principles for a digital social enterprise

KashKlash
Over the last few months, Franco Papeschi and Tory Dunn of the Vodafone User Experience team have been doing work on a set of principles and guidelines to support the formation of ethical / sustainable social enterprise services.

They were further inspired by the KashKlash project, an open forum and web project focusing on alternative economies in a post-money future.

“Over the last few months, Franco and I have been thinking about what makes a project – a design or service design project, for instance – fall into the camp of social and ethical design. From that we ended up thinking that those categories needed to be enriched further to consider the actual outcome of the thing that is being designed and launched on the world.

Franco met up with the Kashklash crew at Lift09 and a jolly conversation started about how the ideas we were playing with could interact with Kashklash. At the core of the conversation was the nature of value co-creation, both in social enterprise and in a world beyond a monetary economy. During our discussions we found that new ideas of value and relationship are the starting point for defining a shared perspective on how society could evolve through initiatives and action outside of established institutions.”

They have now posted their initial thinking on the KashKlash site and invite those interested to participate in this discussion.

17 March 2009

Collaborative Services: social innovation and design for sustainability

Collaborative Services
“What is a sustainable lifestyle? What will our daily lives become if we agree to change some of our routines? How do we reduce our environmental impact without lowering our living standards?”

A new book, edited by Francois Jegou and Ezio Manzini (with a chapter by John Thackara in it) attempts to answer some of these questions. Collaborative Services: Social Innovation and Design for Sustainability suggests a variety of scenarios: Car-sharing on demand, micro-leasing system for tools between neighbours, shared sewing studio, home restaurant, delivery service between users who exchange goods… The scenarios looks at how these kinds of daily life activities could be performed by structured services that rely on a greater collaboration of individuals amongst themselves.

Jeff Howard of Design for Service expands:

It’s a 200-page research report by François Jégou and Ezio Manzini that introduces a mosaic of 24 community initiatives.

Even though these organisations have different goals and actors, they present fundamental common traits: they are all built up by groups of people who collaborate in the co-creation of commonly recognized values. For this reason, we will call them collaborative organisations: production and services based on peer-to-peer, collaborative relationships and consequently on a high degree of mutual trust. Production and services where the values produced emerge out of relational qualities, i.e. out of real, dynamic personal relationships.

The collaborative service case studies are gathered from Milan, Paris, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Cologne, Glasgow and Helsinki and fall into six broad categories.

  • Family-like Services organized within a household by combining common family routines with available household appliances.
  • Community Housing based on particular housing infrastructure, which could allow for sharing domestic resources and mutual assistance.
  • Extended Homes whereby a share of household activities are outsourced to collective infrastructures in the vicinity.
  • Elective Communities in which members get organised and find synergies to help each other.
  • Service Clubs are open workshops where a group of passionate amateurs share their skills and equipment.
  • Direct Access Networks whereby groups of citizens arrange to buy directly from producers.

The second half of the publication includes 14 essays by various authors including a reflection on Dott2007 by John Thackara.

Note also the older publication Creative communities | People inventing sustainable ways of living.

(via Doors of Perception)

17 March 2009

The location of anything is becoming everything

Geospatial
We live in the Global Location Age. “Where am I?” is being replaced by, “Where am I in relation to everything else?”

Penn State Public Broadcasting is developing the Geospatial Revolution Project, an integrated public service media and outreach initiative on the brave new world of digital mapping.

The project will include a 60- to 90-minute public television broadcast program, a structured outreach initiative
with educational partners, a chaptered program DVD including educational toolkit components, and a Web site with information and additional resources.

17 March 2009

Service design at Kraft

Moshe Tamssot
Reena Jana of Business Week reports from SXSW on the activities of Moshe Tamssot, Kraft’s VP of New Services.

“Formerly of American Express and G.E., Tamssot was hired about a year and a half ago to help Kraft “transform” itself by adding revenue-generating, Web-based services to its portfolio of food offerings. [...]

So far, Tamssot’s division has created the iFood Assistant, a 99-cent iPhone app which launched at the end of 2008. It helps people plan meals on the go—using Kraft products of course. [...] Tamssot’s division also works on online sales sites for kitchen goods and recipe sites on kraft.com, as well as South Beach Diet Delivered and other direct-to-consumer services.

He says that his job at Kraft is to help morph the company by following the lead of tech companies IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which successfully have made the transition away from hardware and more toward service-oriented (and software) strategies to evolve.”

Read full story

17 March 2009

A participatory website supporting families with disabled children

Di.To
The Turin-based non-profit organisation Area, which supports families with disabled children, just launched its new website, developed with the intensive support of Experientia.

The site, named Di.To (Disabilità a Torino), offers information and orientation to families of children with disabilities aged from 0-10 years.

Experientia played a key role in the project, investigating key values and researching information needs of all stakeholders (families of children with disabilities, social services, etc.), developing the information architecture, guiding the design process and supporting the implementation.

Area is a regional volunteer association that has been active in the Piedmont region in the field of disability for more than twenty-five years. The DiTo website is based on the successful printed guide of the same name, by Che Fare ["What to do?"], Area’s counselling service.

The website offers access to realistic information with no costs or queues, and is interactive, visually attractive and simple to use, with a Turin focus. As well as filling informational and support roles, the website has a participatory nature. In the Sogni segni e disegni ["Dreams, signs and designs"] section, collaborations with famous authors and artists offer families a creative space to read and design with their children. The Community section offers a mediated and facilitated space for families to exchange ideas, experiences and objects.

13 March 2009

NESTA launches innovation lab to improve UK public services

The Lab
NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts, has set up The Lab, a new UK innovation structure that will bring together all the players across public service delivery to “come up with fresh ideas and radical thinking to deliver better public services for significantly less”.

From a NESTA press release:

“The Lab is a trailblazing response to the increasing and complex challenges that society is facing. Economic turbulence, environmental threats and our rapidly ageing population are triggering profound changes to the way we all live and work. But our public services – from health to transport and education – are simply not set up to cope with the scale of the challenge or the pace of change. Fresh thinking is urgently needed.

Our ability to innovate will determine our ability to deliver better services for less money and build a more sustainable society. Government alone can’t provide the answers. So NESTA, following a request from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in its ‘Innovation Nation’ white paper, has created the Lab to meet this need for bold new ideas that work. By bringing together experience and ingenuity from across the public, private and third sectors, and drawing on the insights of citizens and consumers, the Lab plays a vital role in making public services fit for the 21st century.

The Lab is not a physical space or an institution – it’s a series of practical projects, informed by research and delivered in partnership with those that run and use our public services. It shares lessons about what works – and what doesn’t – and creates opportunities for people to solve these together. It provides the freedom, flexible capital and expertise to undertake radical experiments. It tests out new ways of finding and spreading the best ideas – this might be by running a challenge prize, building a social ventures incubator, or creating powerful new teams of users, front-line staff and decision-makers.”

Age Unlimited, the Lab’s first major new programme, aims to strengthen the hand of agencies committed to bringing creative responses to bear. Launching April 21st, the programme will centre on practical experiments to help employers better meet the needs and interests of older workers, to trial a new range of services to help individuals ready themselves for later life, to smooth transitions from working life to alternatives, and to re-cast ageing in ways that are compelling.

Download brochure
Download discussion paper

13 March 2009

Alan Cooper on the similarities between interaction designers and agile programmers

Alan Cooper
During the Agile 2008 conference, Amr Elssamadisy interviewed Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic and supporter of interaction design.

He talked about his contact with the Agile movement and the similarities discovered between Agile programmers and interaction designers.

Alan is the author of two best-selling books, “About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design” and “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum“. He is founder and Chairman of the Cooper Consulting.

View interview (44 min.)

(via InfoDesign)

13 March 2009

What Matters at McKinsey

What Matters
Consulting firm McKinsey has just launched a new website, called What Matters, that is an extensive collection of essays and interviews with opinion formers around the world. The content is categorized into ten big topics: Biotechnology, Climate Change, Credit Crisis, Energy, Geopolitics, Globalization, Health care, Innovation, Internet, Organization.

“We began last summer by asking researchers, academics, journalists, policy makers and executives to address ten big questions, whose answers will shape our collective future. In each case, we asked our essayists to take a long view and tackle tomorrow’s trends rather than today’s headlines.

We published those essays in a print collection, also titled What Matters. But our goal was always to translate that vision to the Web, to create a place where we could continue to frame the important questions and gather a wide array of thinkers, including some from McKinsey, to address them. In addition, we wanted a place where our readers could bring their considerable wisdom to bear on these crucial issues.”

Essayists are many, including Yochai Benkler, Don Tapscott, Jeffrey Sachs, Clay Shirky, Don Tapscott and John Thackara.

(via Tim Brown)

13 March 2009

Designing the democratic

Jamie Owen
Jamie Owen, a visual information specialist for a training arm of the USA Department of Veterans Affairs argues on Boxes and Arrows that thinking outside of our own cultural influences can strengthen our design decisions.

“The role of the information architect (IA), interaction designer, or user experience (UX) designer is to help create architecture and interactions which will impact the user in constructive, meaningful ways. Sometimes the design choices are strategic and affect a broad interaction environment; other times they may be tactical and detailed, affecting few. But sometimes the design choices we make are not good enough for the users we’re trying to reach. Often a sense of democratic responsibility is missing in the artifacts and experiences which result from our designs and decisions. [...]”

“I’d like to discuss several elements of democratic responsibility we might have some control over, touching briefly on potentially deeper implications for the design decisions we make. It’s folly to try to establish a canon of best practices in this regard because each of us is informed by a unique roster of experiences—personal, professional, and cultural—when making decisions that influence the user experience. Instead, I am suggesting that we get in the habit of reflecting on our decisions with special attention to the degree to which we are meeting our democratic responsibility.”

Read full story

11 March 2009

Case study: gestural entertainment center for Canesta

Canesta
Jennifer Bove, a former Interaction-Ivrea student, sent me a link to a case study on a gestural entertainment center that she and a team at Kicker Studio developed for camera maker Canesta:

Canesta, Inc. is the inventor of revolutionary, low-cost electronic perception technology that enables ordinary electronic devices in consumer, security, industrial, medical, automotive, factory automation, gaming, military, and many other applications to perceive and react to objects or individuals in real time.

In Fall 2008, Canesta approached Kicker Studio to create a demonstration of their latest camera technology for the Consumer Electronics Show 2009 and at the TV of Tomorrow conference. The prototype was to be of an entertainment center controlled by gestures alone, and powered, of course, by a Canesta camera.

This highly attractive project is well reported in a case study full of photos and videos. It is a recommended read.

10 March 2009

SustainIT – a supplement worth reading

SustainIT
The Independent today introduced SustainIT, the first in a series of three monthly supplements on ICT and globalisation. Some of the articles in the supplement (especially those not written by sponsor BT staff) are a treat:

Corporate social responsibility is vital for business survival
Corporate social responsibility used to be seen as a luxury. No longer. In today’s climate, looking beyond short-term profit is increasingly important – and ICT can help. Roger Trapp explains.

Diane Coyle: For new networking technologies, there are boom times ahead
The whole world should feel the benefit.

Closing the digital divide
How the spread of ICT is improving quality of life for millions in the Third World.

Dreaming up a connected world
Adrian Turpin on the ‘imagineers’ whose visualisations will determine the nature of future communications technologies.

Modern networker: using ICT to change Kenyan life for the better
Ory Okolloh, 32, could be seen as a face of Africa’s connected future.

10 March 2009

Tactical tech

Tactical Tech
Tactical Tech is an international NGO helping human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximise the impact of their advocacy work.

They believe that new technologies have significant potential to enhance the work of campaigners and advocates, giving them the tools to gather and analyse information and the means to turn that information into action.

Some guides could also be of relevance to our readers:

Visualizing Information for Advocacy: An Introduction to Information Design is a manual aimed at helping NGOs and advocates strengthen their campaigns and projects through communicating vital information with greater impact. This project aims to raise awareness, introduce concepts, and promote good practice in information design – a powerful tool for advocacy, outreach, research, organization and education.

Maps for Advocacy: An Introduction to Geographical Mapping Techniques is an effective guide to using maps in advocacy. The mapping process for advocacy is explained vividly through case studies, descriptions of procedures and methods, a review of data sources as well as a glossary of mapping terminology. Scattered through the booklet are links to websites which afford a glance at a few prolific mapping efforts.

Mobiles in-a-box: Tools and Tactics for Mobile Advocacy (see also this earlier post) is a collection of tools, tactics, how-to guides and case studies designed to inspire advocacy organisations and present possibilities for the use of mobile telephony in their work. From choosing an audience, to privacy and security issues and also countering technological challenges, Mobiles in-a-box provides effective solutions to enable you get started with using mobiles in your advocacy efforts.

Message in-a-box: Tools and tactics for communicating your cause is a set of strategic guides to using communications tools for social change, together with a suite of open source tools to get you making your own media.

10 March 2009

An anthropologist gone techno

Jukka Jouhki
Jukka Jouhki (blog), an anthropologist and post-doc researcher at the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, has a particular interest in technology.

He is currently doing research on South Korean new media culture (2006-2009), human-technology interaction, cultural aspects of new media and ubiquitous society visions.

Check these two recent papers:

A Modern Fetish: The Value of the Mobile Phone in South Korean Youth Culture
DRAFT for a paper to be presented at IADIS Multi Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems, 17 – 23 June 2009, Algarve.
This paper attempts to analyze the cultural significance of the mobile phone to the youths living in Seoul. It is based on the observation data produced by a group of communication students at Seoul National University. The paper presents the students’ observations on mobile phone use in the public and urban context of Seoul area as well as the students’ personal reflections on the subject. The paper further discusses the mobile phone as a significant element of Korean youth culture and, further, of the contemporary modern society.

Keeping in Touch: Notes on the Mobile Communication Culture of Korean Youth
DRAFT ONLY for Sonja Kangas (ed.): Communication Acrobatics, forthcoming in 2009
Discusses South Korean youth and their mobile communication culture. Based on participant observation and interviews conducted by Korean university students.