Much food for thought in this documentary examining the state of the world of interaction design. I pop up with a few thoughts, but I was much more interested in the opinions of the likes of the ever-fantastic Blaise Aguera y Arcas, architect of Bing Maps, and Andrei Herasimchuk, director of design at Twitter.
— The Mobile Frontier is a new book by Rachel Hinman, published by Rosenfeld Media. In it, Hinman promises to help readers navigate the fast-changing landscape of mobile design. I confess, I haven’t read the book yet, but I did read the foreword penned by my boss, Larry Keeley. It’s an inspirational paean which gives some useful context to the field as a whole. Check out the whole essay on the Doblin site.
Good heaven on earth, this essay is so utterly good. Paul Ford addressed the graduating students from the MFA Interaction Design course at SVA. Contents Magazine published his words as Ten Timeframes. And now I languish painfully somewhere between developing a huge crush on a wonderful writer and cultivating pure fury that someone should write and think so beautifully. Read the piece. Just read it.
[Story via Christopher Butler.]
Story-centered Design: Hacking Your Brain To Think Like A User is a great story by Google Ventures partner, Braden Kowitz. In it, he outlines his process for managing the complexity inherent in interaction design projects, and describes how he has moved away from a screen-based approach to one that focuses on narrative and storytelling. Easier said than done, of course, and the four ways he outlines aren’t the only ways to think about this issue, but it’s an important topic that more would do well to think about seriously. After all, the impact of a more holistic approach to design can be profound.
[Story via Erik Van Crimmin]
My favorite quote in my Fast Company piece about the inaugural Interaction Awards (of which I was a judge) came from the event co-chair, Jennifer Bove: “Behavior isn’t explicit in computer chips; interaction designers are the people who understand how to make things work.” But what was also interesting about this particular awards show was that it made it clear that interaction design is stretching beyond the screen and ever further into the physical world. That’s a super interesting proposition and challenge, and I confess I was particularly partial to those entries that moved beyond the promise of technology to offer something seamlessly crafted and infinitely compelling.
How amazing is this? Greek multimedia artist, Petros Vrellis converts Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” into a swirl of animation and interactivity. The music and the movement are perfectly matched to the spirit of the original painting. As Local Projects principal Jake Barton wrote of the project, it’s “a startling flow of lines, color, sound and interactivity.” Wonderful.
Matt Rix’s app, Scorekeeper XL is an app for people playing games (and wanting to keep track of the score.) I love it for its beauty and the thought that has clearly gone into every design decision, reflected in a simple, easy-to-use interface that masks all the complexity and highlights fun and interactivity. Lovely.
[via Zach Klein.]
Lots of chatter about Google’s promotion of its own social network in its search results, some informed, some totally over the top. In Google’s Social Search, The Tech Giant’s Disastrous Decision to Muck Up Its Search Engine Results, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo is clearly not in favor of the introduction: “Google just broke its search engine,” he writes, giving examples of some of the searches he executed in the name of research (including the one above) and adding:
I think of search engines as a gateway to the rest of the world, not as a repository for stuff about me. Going to Google for pictures of my son seems as strange as going to a bookstore to look for my diary.
Designers know all too well that users often vociferously resist change, feeling safer and more assured by the way things used to be and outraged that anyone should want to buck the understood system. And designers also know that users can quickly forget the way things used to be once they’re accustomed to a brave new world. But, of course, that relies on the designers and content developers having the right instincts all along. It’ll be interesting to monitor continued feedback of “Search, Plus Your World” over the next few months.
[Story via Dan Gillmor.]
Usability guru, Jakob Nielsen of Nielsen Norman Group, weighs in on the interaction design of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet. It’s distinctly not a rave review. Screen updates are slow, the device is heavy, the programming is sloppy, the magazine reading experience is miserable. It’s worth reading the whole post for both the design dissection and the business case analysis of 7” tablets. Here’s one snapshot comment:
You haven’t seen the fat-finger problem in its full glory until you’ve watched users struggle to touch things on the Fire. One poor guy spent several minutes trying to log in to Facebook, but was repeatedly foiled by accidentally touching the wrong field or button — this on a page with only 2 text fields and 1 button.
[Story via Jimmy Guterman.]
This month, I wrote a profile of Jake Barton and his design firm, Local Projects, for the British communication arts magazine, Creative Review. Focusing on their work for the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which will debut next year, I was also particularly taken with some of the things Jake told me about the company’s process, and ways in which he tries to keep himself — and the work — fresh and focused. Techniques include asking himself, “if I were in charge, what would I do?” To my bemused question, “er, Jake, you do realize that you are in charge,” Barton simply chuckled. “I know, but it helps.” The kind folks at CR have released the piece, Storyteller, from behind the magazine paywall, so check it out—and do let me know what you think.
[Image from “Explore 9/11” c/o Local Projects.]
The Man Who Got Us to ‘Like’ Everything is a mini profile of Soleio Cuervo, designer of Facebook’s now-iconic thumbs up “like” symbol. It’s a fairly straightforward piece, which emphasizes Mark Zuckerberg’s engagement with the design process. This passage in particular grabbed me:
“People don’t go to airports to hang out. They go from point A to point B,” he said. He tries to channel the feeling of being lost. “What was it like not to find that bathroom for 10 minutes?” he asked.
Checking your Facebook page in a hurry isn’t so different from needing a bathroom in an airport, he said. “If you have 12 minutes to use Facebook before work, how do you get maximum value out of it?”
I love this insight, and I think it’s totally smart to think about interaction design in terms of physical wayfinding systems. (For some really wonderful real world examples, check out the work of Paul Mijksenaar, who designed the system at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.) Yet I’m also a bit confused by this assertion.
Perhaps if you work at Facebook then you’re not worried about figuring out how to change your account security settings or some of the deeper interactions that only some users will attempt to execute. But, to use his analogy, if I’d needed the bathroom whenever I’ve tried to figure out how to ensure my privacy settings were just as I want them, well, let’s just put it this way, it wouldn’t have ended well.
Window to the World is a concept design project from Toyota Motor Europe and the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. I love the disclaimer at the beginning of the film, which loosely translates as: “Toyota would obviously never ever encourage any passenger in any car ever not to wear a seatbelt. Ever. But in order for the child actress to demonstrate the idea here, she kind of has to not wear a seatbelt, so there we have it.”
I suppose I like the idea of transforming an auto’s interior environment, but some of the ideas here don’t really hold up. The car window will speak words to me? a) why? and b) how long will it take the driver to beg for mercy? You can trace objects on the horizon to create drawings on the window? Ok, and something passengers have done in a lo-fi way since car windows were installed. In this instance, it seems like it’d work when the car is stationary, but what about when zipping along at speed?
I hazard that the designers have become bewitched by the possibilities afforded by technology, they’ve forgotten to think what might be useful or fun for those in the car. Shame, though I suppose it does provide some useful food for thought.
(Video flagged by Marilyn Brda.)
— Ben Fry, winner of this year’s National Design Award for Interaction Design, lights up the beginning of the Eyeo Festival with a (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek statement about Processing, the programming environment he developed with Casey Reas a decade ago. Processing 2.0 comes soon. For more of Fry’s thinking about the potential of his discipline, here’s a podcast I recorded with him in 2008.