Archive for the 'Design' Category

Strategy Conference at IIT Institute of Design

Good list of people at ID Strategy this year: John Maeda, team from Cheskin, Michael Bierut… Nice mix of agency, interactive, academic celebs, blog with more post conference info here.


Pattern based design communication techniques – Doug LeMoine

It’s always nice to meet friends from Cooper on the road. Doug, a master Design Communicator, talked about how to communicate a design based on patterns you identify. His talk can be found here.

He started the talk with describing the roles of the Design Communicator (DC) and Interaction Designer (ID) in a traditional Cooper team. I work in such a team structure and we are still learning how it works after 2 years of adopting it. We all laugh when he used a Beatles reference comparing DCs to Lennon (the word-smith) and IDs to McCartney. 🙂 Similarly, DCs can also be described as philosophers, like Socrates. They pose questions to move the designer along and help them shape an ideas into a full blown concept. I like that analogy because it is really easy to take this role for granted and simply think that a DCs test the ideas or just communicate them.


The philosopher analogy hints at the most subtle, yet important and probably the most difficult part of a DC’s responsibility – they pose questions that lead a designer in a creative journey with the final stop being an elegant solution. I was first exposed to the Cooper team concept 4 years back. The most attractive part about that partnership to me is that instead of a couple of people throwing ideas down on the table and getting no where in a fury of competition; the team structure sets up roles that have distinct but complementary responsibilities working on getting to a common goal.

I used to have to “DC” myself, (that’s probably true for everyone even if they don’t know it). I turn off my ideation part of my brain and I try to define the problem (although that’s not always entirely possible). Then I turn off the problem definition motors and brainstorm concepts. I imagine that this takes twice as long compared to a team of 2 people doing both together; especially when they are each really good at the one thing they do. This partnership can be really helpful particularly in situations where we are solving problems for really complex applications.

So to sum it up, DC’s have a tough job and they really do make designing a much more fun and collaborative process. That’s why they make the big bucks. 😉

Doug then goes on to explain the documentation methodology with a case study on a project he worked. It’s a web tool used by financial advisors to explore new ways of analyzing portfolios and understanding performance. His client was Barclay’s Global Investors. His design documentation approach uses a problem-solution pattern.


I forgot the persona’s name, but here is a little bit about him:


The big idea from the talk is recognizing patterns in your design and describe them in a way that empowers the reader to think on their own when building a living application over time. An example is to document global behaviors: “things that do this generally have this behavior”. Doug also advised that documenting similar things in similar ways throughout facilitates learning. We should aim to provide a pattern language for a particular system that lives beyond the screen layouts being designed today because every system is a living thing.

The DCs at Cooper ask these questions when thinking about how to tell the story about the design:

  • How does our design help the persona get his work done?
    • User scenarios:
      • Shows behaviors in context of the problem they solve.
      • Communicates the narrative of the design.
      • Facilitates the discussion of the design in human terms.
  • How does the behavior work?
    • Screen layout diagram:
      • Describes important elements and behaviors.
      • Roots the screen in context of the workflow.
      • Provides access to related detail.
  • What is the essence of the solution?
    • Rationale:
      • Tells why is it good?
      • Describes why certain solutions are not recommended.
      • Tells the story of the design.
  • Are elements of the behavior representative of core, repeated behaviors?
    • Global behaviors:
      • Provides principles for solving common problem.
      • Describes similar problems with similar behavior.
      • Draws connections between areas of the interface.
  • How do we make all of this easy to find?
    • Table of contents:
      • Uses clear, consistent nomenclature.
      • Uses descriptive page headings.

One laptop per child – Lisa Strausfeld and team

This talk is definitely the highlight of the conference. The One Laptop Per Child project is one of those larger than life visions that anyone would be lucky to get involved in. Not just because it’s a good cause but also because of the magnitude of its influence on the world.

The team at Pentagram who got to work on this project to develop the Laptop’s UI showed a tremendous level of gratitude as well as passion. The team talked about the UI concepts and did a demo. Everyone was very moved by this project, you could feel that aura in the room. I know I got choked up and re-examined the meaning of my work after that 😉

Here are some tidbits about the UI concept, which is based on community and playing together. The reductionist aesthetic represents the ethics behind this project and works within constraints of these lower cost lower power units. They also tried to make the design to work across cultures.

The people
The o with x on the bottom represents you who is using the laptop. You can pick a color from the 6 choices to represent you. Simple and effective iconography.

The sphere
There is a sphere around you, which represents your space. You can do activities in your sphere. There are three layers to the sphere: you, friends, and the rest of the community.


The activities
Activities are launched from a bottom panel and my sphere holds the activity I’m doing. I can share my activties with the rest of the community.

The prototype demo:
img_9074_small.jpg img_9075_small.jpg

Takaaki trying to show the e-book mode:


Surface is all the rage

surface surface map surface-music.jpg

Everyone’s talking about it. Interaction Design and Industrial Design is coming to a full circle with Microsoft’s attempt to bring to the market “Surface“. This concept has been in research labs for over a decade now.

In an earlier post I talked about the interactive products surfacing in Milan Design Week. Alot of us who graduated in the past decabe have done a project in some sort of multi-modal or geture interface that does not involve a PC. The “surface” product doesn’t surprise any of us. Way back in grad school, I user tested one of Bean Blain’s projects she did at the ETC called Jamodrum. The challenge academia faced was not having any marketing power or businses driver behind their work. And we all knew one day corporate America will come to realize the potentials of some of this technology but what surprises me is the fact that Microsoft is the one to bring this to fruition. What surprises me more is that given such an interface, there are so many more fun things to do than edit photos and browse a map! Leave it to microsoft to fuck up a design even if the technology and the marketing power is all there.

It’s like you had someone a beautiful piece of jewelry and they decided to put it around a cow’s neck, what’s the saying???

So designers out there, stop bitching and moaning about their sucky demos. Get your hands on this thing and use this TO CHANGE THE WORLD even more! No matter how much money Microsoft has to market this thing, they’ll never design the things that go on it right. THAT is where we come in 🙂

Myers Motors electric cars


Driving down the road in these little puppies will guarantee attention. Myer Motors puts out these blobject-like electric vehicles that are environmentally friendly and will certainly splash our world with color.

Aerodynamic Corduroy pants


Lindland’s Cordorounds fabricated a corduroy that wears sideways, which apparently lowers drag coefficient by 16.24%. Wonder what it feels like to always have a lower draft coefficient when you cruise around the streets? These customer hall of fame pictures suggest that a lowered drag coefficient equal happiness 🙂

Alpha paw dog bowl


There is no such thing as too obsessed with your dog. Absolutely not. Alpha paw’s “Drink Better Bowl” is designed by a true pet lover who succeeded at beautiful Form following thoughtful Function.