Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Multi-Sensory Experience

Obviously the web offers a great platform for telling a story, and in the past this was usually done in a very linear way. There was only one way to view information, and really no way to interact with any of the content.

“Interaction Design” in the past only referred to having the user move through the content on the entire site from an information architecture point of view, but didn’t allow any actual interactions or choices within the article or posting.

Now the options are endless. The way we tell stories on-line have become more non-linear, and now allow the user to view the content in any way they choose. Previously static stories (news articles etc.) are now able to offer alternate ways to engage with through streaming web-cam, animation, feedback, comments, sound, video etc.

You prefer reading your information? This is possible. Are you more of a visual thinker? Check out the video. Care to listen to the content while working? Stream the audio. Wonder what other people are thinking? Read the comments.

Web design is moving into a realm where we have to think of all the possible senses, all the possible preferences, all the differences of all the different users, and it’s slowly becoming the most tailor-made experience you can have with a product, brand or service.

This is exciting stuff…

With the up and coming of blogs as a legitimate source for information, Web 2.0, social network sites, and the prevalence of broadband, what “interaction design” means is changing. Web designers are now designing less in the traditional sense (sure we’re still interested in type, color and layout, but it doesn’t end there anymore), and we are now focusing more on designing highly personalized experiences.

Today’s web designers are looking at the whole thing more holistically. Before any design even starts we are now interested in telling a compelling story, and creating a memorable experience. The whole focus has become much more user-centered.

We listen first, and design later…

When you enable your users to choose their own path through your content, and allow them to have a highly interactive and personalized experience you can make them feel less like a faceless user and more like a human being, which sometimes we forget that the users accessing our sites, are well… euhm, actual people.

Good human-centered design is now not only simplicity, support, clarity, encouragement, satisfaction and accessibility, it's also about creating a platform for a highly personalized experience. Allowing the user control of your content is a great way to create affinity and foster positive attitudes towards your brand, company, product or service.

The Pratt Preview of "A Day in the Life of a Networked Designer's Smart Things or A Day in a Designer's Networked Smart Things, 2030"

Tom Klinkowstein and I have been working on this project for about 6 months now, and last Friday was the preview mini-opening of the project at Pratt. Which means, well... it's finished! The project was made for the Singapore International Design Festival and is about an imagined designer's day in the year 2030.

The diagram goes through her day and explains how she gets things done with the help of all her smart things.

We began with 4 presentations, Tom Klinkowstein spoke about "Experience Design", Leo Bonanni from the M.I.T Media Lab spoke about "Living Objects", Anthony Townsend from the Institute for the Future spoke about "Living Environments" and I spoke about "Blogs".

It was really a fascinating night about what the possibilities could be in the future of design.

Smarter Design Choices for the Environment

Okay so sustainability is totally hip right now. Everyone cares about the environment. Green is the new black. Al Gore's film was the most watched documentary ever. Yes, yes, yes and yes, but what can designers do to help the environment?

Not many designers know how to properly design with the environment in mind, and us designers are some of the world's greatest polluters. Packaging, printing, recycling, paper-making, inks, foil stamping, binding... All this and more is what we are putting out there in terms of energy (ab)use. According to the Environment Protection Agency, as much as a third of the developing world's non-industrial solid waste streams consists of packaging.

There are some myths out there that the energy needed to recycle minimizes any savings in the use of recycled papers versus virgin paper (paper directly from trees), but by using recycled papers there is less energy consumption, fewer greenhouse gases, less waste paper and less solid waste.

So designers. What can we do? Turns out we can do a lot. Here are some ideas.

Plan ahead
Consider 100% PCW uncoated paper, or elemental chlorine free or totally chlorine free paper.
For long shelf life, choose a paper that meets the American National Standards Institute standards for product longevity.
Plan ahead to avoid air shipping, and use targeted, updated mailing lists.
If designing packaging, design it to last, can it be used for something else?
Design packaging closest to the product's size, and at a most efficient size for shipping. As much as 50% of packaging waste is from the outer packaging that the consumer will never see.

Use the fewest materials necessary to be effective.
Consider standard paper sizes to maximize positioning and bleeds (4up? 6up?).
Design with multipurpose use in mind (can an invitation also be self-mailer?).
If the printed piece isn't reusable, ensure that it is recyclable.
Use digital photography when possible.
Use PDF digital proofs instead of paper printouts.

Inks & Finishing
Consider vegetable-based inks.
Use fewer ink colors, consider 2 color jobs over 4 color jobs (less inks are also cheaper for the client, and can have amazing graphic impact).
Consider less ink coverage.
Avoid metallic and fluorescent inks when possible.
Consider using aqueous varnishes and coatings instead of UV coatings and laminates.
Consider alternatives to foil stamping.
Consider water-based glues.

Choose an FSC-certified printer.
Consider filmless and plateless digital printing for small runs over off-set printing.
Send artwork to printer electronically.

Then lastly there is that old myth that recycled papers always look, well, recycled, and that 2 color jobs miss out on the graphic impact. I couldn't disagree more. Here's a self-mailer I designed that was printed on recycled paper and made by only using 2 inks (purple and black).

Can you tell it was designed with the environment in mind?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Posted by Pantopicon

For those of you who have not heard yet: Superstruct is live! Our colleagues over at the Institute For The Future have launched the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game.

“By playing the game, you’ll help us chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how we might solve the problems we’ll face. Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. It’s about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.”

Superstruct is developed by the IFTF’s Ten-Year-Forecast team led by Kathi Vian. Jamais (Cascio) is scenario director. Jane McGonigal (cf. iLoveBees) watches over the gaming aspects. Game interaction is a perfect match to the ‘what if?’ question central to futures studies: people are presented with challenges, they make choices which have consequences leading to new challenges. Several have advocated tapping into the opportunities that games offer to explore, learn about, envision and prepare for futures and future-oriented action (e.g. Eliane Alhadeff at Future-Making Serious Games ).

While gaming in general is getting more serious attention, especially so called serious games are on the rise within educational, corporate and policy contexts (e.g., see here). As such, the timing of Superstruct probably could not be better. In a recent blogpost Jamais notes how once again we are ‘flirting with the boundaries of the participatory decepticon’, as also Superstruct uses the fakes-as-real strategy (e.g. news items, commercials, blog posts, etc.) to bring the future to life. Yet again, these ‘alternative realities’, even infused in real reality (e.g. ARG’s), are exactly what attracts people as well. Considering its massive size as well as its develop-as-we-go approach, as a learning tool - not only for the IFTF - but also for their player audience, Superstruct offers lots of potential.

Stay tuned for more reflections …

Everyone could help to invent the future, this game is so attractive cause we all curious about tomorrow. The more people join in this game, the better we can augment our collective human potential. Also this game has serious meaning to evoke thinking of changing the world.

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Hog
Posted by John Thackara

Harvesting rainwater is key for any town or city determined to use its water sustainably. Rainwater HOG is a rain rescue and storage tank designed as a water-filled building block. It was conceived and developed by an Australian architect, Sally Dominguez, who had been designing drought-ready buildings but was frustrated by a lack of options for domestic scale urban rainwater catchment. HOG’s flat walls, and use of through-holes as bracing, allow water to flow in any direction. This enables HOG to store water horizontally and vertically. Because HOG modules are deliberately slim and compact, they are easy to retrofit into the tightest spaces. As Dominguez explains,"the problem with a drought is that when it rains, it often gathers in the wrong areas for it to be of use. As an architect I wanted to fit in rainwater storage without giving up valuable real estate". The product has taken off so fast in California that Dominguez has moved her family and the business to Marin County. Hog is on display at the Autodesk Design Gallery in San Francisco as one of the winners of the Spark design awards.

I can't judge whether the system can be used as it stands in a European context, but the potential market in London must be 35 million units on its own. It never rains but it shines, at least for this designer.

Good design. We designers should always concern about environmental conservation. 

Food information systems
Posted by John Thackara

Two days ago I was in London to talk with design school tutors about the design competition concerning food information systems that the Royal Society of Arts is running together with Dott07. Today I learned from CalorieLab via SmartMobs that McDonalds is now placing codes on the packaging of many foods so that eaters can scan the package with their cell phones and find out the nutritional information. "Known as a QR Code, these printed codes look somewhat like a barcode and are scannable by many photo cellphones. All sorts of information can be packed into these little codes, from the website to find the amount of calories and fat in a Big Mac to a company's contact information on a business card," the site explains. This is good news for any young designers seeking to win a trip to Doors 9 (the prize for winning the RSA competition): you don't have to invent a QR food application - McDonalds has done that: take that as your starting point and amaze us with how much further it could go.

This is a good idea. It saves time for the eaters looking for nutritional information printed on the packages. Another good idea leaped into my mind. Perhaps we can import our health information into our cellphone. When we scan the packages, our cellphone will automatically tell us wether the food is suit for us. Then we do not need to check the nutritional information.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Maps to Change the World
published by pantopicon

Our friend and Berlin-Based-Belgian-Blogger Regine over at wemakemoneynotart recently hosted a panel on Cartography of Protest and Social Changes at Conflux 2008. “The panel was an attempt to demonstrate that maps have the potential to bring about social changes.” Check out her blogpost for some fascinating examples of “mapping for social change”.

Although maps are often portrayed as an objective spatial basis on which to ‘map’ data, they are always about perspective and the change of it: which country is in the center, where does most projection-distortion occur, which colours are used, … As tools of communication, they can easily become tools of manipulation, allowing one to lie with maps as easily as with statistics. Yet, put in a positive sense they can convey and enhance complex messages in a powerful visual way and shift people’s perspective on even abstract developments through spatial contextualization.

As such, Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map is a famous example of a map, specifically devised to minimize distortion caused by projection. In its modular form it is a powerful tool to shift perspectives on the world and assess developments from a variety of angles.

Related to maps as tools for thought or insight, there are of course also the cartograms. We blogged about them before as a powerful means to visualize information otherwise obscured by statistics or illegible, unattractive text. Some of you might have played around with Show/World as well, an online tool which allows you to create your own cartogram-like maps (within a limited range of dataparameters).

Harman Kardon Makes Crystal Bling Speakers

Posted by: elle

Ok, we're over the crystal-bling craze, but crystal-bling-steampunk?! Yep. Hold onto your blowtorches n' chisels, design fans, the new Harman Kardon GLA-55 speakers are exactly that. Kurt Solland, the VP of ID at Harman and Core 77's very own 1HDC judge, gave us the low-down:

"The idea was to meld high-tech with craftsman styling and pushing 'Steam Punk' in an elegant way. For the technology side, there are integrated digital amplifiers with special drivers and a proprietary port to allow this to be your complete sound system. All you have to do is plug it in, throw away your old 'boxy' speakers and enjoy. For the design side, I balanced the outside, inside and refractive aesthetic. The outside surfaces had to work harmoniously with the inside surfaces which both had to combine with the refractive nature of the facets…whew! It a way it was kind of like painting with light by utilizing each individual interior as an art installation, it certainly was a very delicate 'chord' to balance just right."

And when you consider these are stuffed choc-full of treats like a 100-watt bi-amplified digital amplifier coupled with DSP equalization, Atlas AL drivers and woofers, PLUS a CMMD tweeter as well as optimisation for digital sound -- oof! -- these beauties won't stay quiet for long. To top it off, the faceted cut-glass enclosures house touch-sensitive volume controls. Yowzas.

The Big Picture
Published: September 26, 2008

The same week that scientists at the CERN laboratory outside Geneva were getting ready to fire up the Large Hadron Collider, the artist Josiah McElheny was conducting a test of his own ideas on the Big Bang theory at Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York City. Inspired by the Lobmeyr chandeliers at the Metropolitan Opera House and informed by logarithmic equations devised by the cosmologist David H. Weinberg, McElheny’s chrome, glass and electric-light sculpture “The End of the Dark Ages” is part of a four-year investigation into the origins of the universe. What began with “The End to Modernity,” a sculpture commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, will culminate next month in a massive installation titled “Island Universe” at White Cube in London. “I had this quixotic idea to do modernized versions of the Lobmeyr chandeliers as sculpture with secret information behind it,” says McElheny, who upon first encountering these “gilded age/space age” objects immediately thought they looked like pop renditions of the Big Bang.

According to McElheny, physicists continue to struggle with the question “is the world this way because it must be, or is it just random?” In 1965, the year that the Lobmeyr chandeliers were designed, it was suddenly evident that our world is not in fact the center of the universe. This idea that there could be an infinite number of possible narratives was becoming popular not just in science but also in literature and art — so why not in interior design, too? As it turns out, Wallace K. Harrison, the architect for the Met, having rejected the original design for the chandeliers, gave Hans Harald Rath of Lobmeyr, the Vienna-based glassmaker, a book about galaxies and sent him back to the drawing board.

“The End of the Dark Ages” is a scientifically accurate model: the shortest rod represents 100 million years, the longest about 1.3 billion; the clusters of glass stand for galaxy formations, the lights for quasars. Still, McElheny is less concerned with the conceits of exact science than the limits of reason and knowledge. (The White Cube show proposes a “multiverse” and “speaks to what Kant describes so well as an endless world made of imperfection, complication and specificity.”) “Politically, I’m against finding the single answer,” McElheny insists. “I’m more interested in what these questions mean to our sense of who we are.