I love that this song makes you think of me Milo :)
Stumbled across this the other day & it nostalgically made me think of the 2B Ico play that our class did (Doctor Faustus)- such an awesome time for creative work & collaboration. I am still amazed at the things we pulled off in such short spans of time with few resources. Thanks for the great find Tracey.
A Communications Primer, a film made by Ray & Charles Eames circa 1953 about communication, the insights are still equally powerful; lessons for everyday use, especially today.
The design studio process is conducted in a highly interactive, fast-paced team setting following a methodology commonly used in architecture & industrial design, but with some important twists. It is intense, focused, & chaotic at times, but those lucky enough to have participated understand the power & effectiveness of this tool.
I’m writing this mainly for myself as a reflection on the approaches I’ve taken to design both in the architectural (what I studied) sense and how those lessons have translated to approaches in user experience design (what I do now). To no surprise, many ideas overlap and are equally applicable in both practices. I wished that a collection of these points had been at my desk on the first day of design studio, but I understand now that the discovery of these points through experience is much more valuable.
Because designing is a hard process, its really important to recognize early on that the process is in itself a tool for designers to work through ideas and solutions. The process isn’t linear in a figurative sense, instead it requires of the designer a strong sense of surrender. True architectural style does not come from a conscious effort to create a particular look. It results obliquely- even accidently- out of a holistic process. This does not change for user experience design. In fact, I’d go on to say that architecture is a form of user experience design, a full-scale physical manifestation of it.
Here the process means to understand the design problem before chasing after solutions. This seems so obvious but is seldom practiced. Designers are trying to solve problems they don’t entirely know the tangible or visual answer to. The design process reveals this with participatory investigation. Accept as normal the anxiety that comes from not knowing what to do. Continue to investigate. Properly gaining control of the design process tends to feel like one is losing control of the design process. It is often structured and methodical, but it is not a mechanical process. Being genuinely creative means that you don’t know where you are going, even though you are responsible for shepherding the process.
Being process oriented, not product driven is the most important AND difficult skill for a designer to develop. Trust the process and enjoy it, I wish I had done this earlier on in my design education.
Every investigation & decision should be executed holistically (think about addressing several aspects of the design problem at once, rather than sequentially (finalizing one aspect of a solution before investigating the next). Not only will this provide more constructive feedback about where the design is headed, it’ll teach you to think at different scales. Work fluidly between concept scale, detail scale, and actual scale. Fluid means to move back and forth & through these scales so that you understand the impact decisions have in each situation & how they impact one another, because they do. In architecture this could mean thinking about thresholds such as passage ways, doors, windows, and how together they impact the overall circulation of a building and at a broader scale a community of buildings, eventually an urban fabric. In interface design, this could mean thinking about how gestures and interactions signal an intent, a series of modal windows could mean a secondary experience which adds to the greater user experience.
Because I went to architecture school, I tend to think about projects in plan, in elevation, & in section. Matthew Frederick sums this up well: “Design in section! Good designers work back and forth between plans and sections, allowing each to inform the other. Poor designers fixate on floor plans and draw building sections afterward as a record of decisions already made in plan. But sections, it could be said, represent 50 percent of the experience of a building. In fact, some sites (those with steep slopes) and building types (those requiring tall interior spaces, careful management of connections between floors, or unusual attention to daylighting) require that you design in section before you think about floor plans. A random unsubstantiated hypothesis: a floor plan demonstrates the organizational logic of a building; a section embodies its emotional experience.” Whichever way you approach a design project, look at it with many lenses.
It is natural to work on a solution, and fall in love with it. It is important to remove yourself form prideful investment in projects and be slow to fall in love with ideas. I remember some of my first design ideas being pinned up for a crit only to be crushed by the high level questions that hadn’t ever crossed my mind- I was too blinded by the love of my idea, so blinded I didn’t give other considerations their true merit during the process. Make design decisions conditionally, that is with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward an answer.
It’s hard to write this with absolute instruction or direction for that matter, but: know when to change and when to stick with previous decisions. Trust your taste and weigh those against your design decisions. This does get better with practice. An approach that has worked for me is to continually ask “what if?” regardless of how satisfied I’ve been with the state of the project, because the better part of me knows that the design process doesn’t really end, projects could and do evolve beyond the lifespan of the deadlines we permit for them.
Then it’s crit time. Pin the work up consistently: as you work through the process and for scheduled formal crits. Do this often, discuss the work. Commit to an open mind throughout the project so that you balance focus against the invitation that anything could influence the design- the more exposure, the better. Iterate this process and with each cycle, you’ll get refinement.
The nebulousness of design practice is largely necessary; a painful practice only when you resist surrendering to the process.
101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick
Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyhi
Capturing the genius loci of the Eames House, beautifully unfolded. Amazing track. Thanks Chris.
A Reflexive Note: Much of the insight for this response came from reading Designing Design. These thoughts are a small caption of the ideas from Hara’s writings.
Memory and senses are underrated drivers of good design and usability. They are enriching because they link online to offline by translating our shared experiences as people into ideas we dream up and build digitally.
The term “haptic” means relating or pleasant to the sense of touch…to put it plainly the term here indicates an attitude that takes into consideration how we perceive things with our senses…how to make someone sense something. We might call this creative awakening of the human sensors “the designing of the senses.”
When we think about design, it’s harder than we might expect to start designing without thinking first about color and shape. Take a coffee cup for instance. Any designer would be itching to do a sketch as the first phase of the process. Instead, designers are asked to start from the point of thinking of how that coffee cup could stimulate and awaken the senses, before ever coming up with an image for its form or anything else.
Juice Box design by Naoto Fukaswa
How could this product evoke what the content may taste like.
To design is to “build” a structure with an image inside the mind of the recipient. In this case, the materials are not only external stimulation but also massive amounts of memories awakened by stimulation. Designing highlights subtle differences between recalled memories and reality.
Purposing various surface treatments for geta has shifted an experience of wearing them.
More direct and haptic is the re-think of traditional Japanese raised wooden sandals that are worn barefoot, also known as geta. Covering the surfaces of several geta may create an ideal haptic intersection. Because geta are traditionally worn barefoot, imagine how it would feel to place your bare feet on fresh moss or the flooring of a pine forest. Before they started wearing shoes, humans walked barefoot. The sole of the foot acted as an interface with the ground. In those days, through our sensitive feet, we truly picked up a great variety of information from the ground. There is a reason why the bottoms of human feet are sensitive. The bottoms of the feet are the only body parts that always come into contact with the ground. They are used to detect delicate, detailed information at all times. More importantly, it has linked that experience with a stored memory- this method of connection informs a usability. It is in these moments when consciousness comes about.
People imagine the world and interpret it when outside stimuli awake the mountain of their internally stored memories.
The cabbage leaves are designed as bowls. By speculation, it must be fun to use these bowls at a dinner party.
Another interesting experiential take is the idea of a cabbage bowl. Here an artist (Yasuhiro Suzuki) has created the shapes by accurately molding real cabbage leaves out of silicon, then reproducing these in paper clay. Imagine the feeling of holding a paper cabbage-leaf bowl; it’s strange to the touch. The human mind takes pleasure in complex things like these, which carry a plethora of information.
If some people think it would be a waste to use a paper towel that has become haptic through embossing,
does it mean that the object has thus gained some kind of memorable value?
Lastly, the use of hand paper towels (designed by Kengo Kuma) casted with an embossed snakeskin texture has redefined how we may impose value on objects that have transient shelf life. Imagine paper towels made of washi (traditional Japanese paper), so light that if you were to toss it up, it would float in the air for a few minutes. After washing up, dry your hands with one, that’s what they’re made for. People often remark that they’re too good to use, that it would be a waste. But if they were not embossed, with a snakeskin pattern or anything else, we’d normally toss them in the trash.
What happens when these applied concepts translate to digital experiences? The drawback is a reduction in the senses; there is little room for physical feel or feedback with touchscreens or physical keyboards and buttons. How does haptic design come through? The increased use of visual senses and dynamic feedback begins to map to the interactions that we understand. When we understand and create these connections, usability heightens.
It seems that it’s becoming more difficult to surrender to instinct and let that innately direct our experience. Haptic design is a conscious challenge to practice this, in the state of doing so; we awaken the process of ‘becoming’ again. In this sense, ‘becoming’ means being an active participant, taking part in the process. Haptic digital design commands a sensitive consideration for a refined user experience.
Slack's information landing page speaks to the product they are creating. There is a visual haptic that we can relate to.
Slack has taken the time to craft a haptic experience that we can recall in our stored memories & because of that cognitive reference; we are likely more response to take part in their story. The backdrop image lays out context that supports their main tag line- potential users connect with the message: being too busy, working ineffectively, daydreaming, making plans unrelated to the tasks at hand. The product’s name is aligned to this vision and says “it’s okay, it’s normal & fine to slack off from time to time-it’s who we are”, within the product Slack creates for this inherent aspects of ‘being’ by auto defaulting social exchanges to channels like #general and #random. Suddenly, there is a place and space for these conditions; their product copy mirrors a reflection of who we are and how we function in a modern team environment. Without asking for much information, you’re asked to experience this for yourself; the onboard is an inviting one.
UP's responsive nature calibrates to our processing needs, when taking in personal information this is important.
On mobile, UP’s dynamic experience when you sync your band to the lifeline reveals a sensitive response time to how personally generated information is processed & retained. The real time scroll as you move through your history is really powerful because it lets the user take in the personal successes as well as the opportunities for improvement. To no surprise, I find myself scrolling super fast through the high progress efforts (& thinking in the back of my mind what was encouraging me to keep those numbers at higher ground) and slowly but expertly eyeing my own stats through areas I know needed improvement (pairing those with high stress at the office or over committed days). In cases like this, the responsiveness to the horizontal scroll rate along with the moving tool tip with stat summary creates the most usable interface; the information gets presented at the rate most suitable the unique user. Haptic in this dynamic experience refers to the an interface which moves to the rate that we move- a synchronous pairing. Here the interface has gotten smarter, or feels like it has, its responsive intelligence gives the user control and command inevitably making the app more usable.
Haptic speaks to a knowledge that has been gained without ever consciously knowing, a lack of consideration for this seems like a missed opportunity.
Today's precedent for user experiences:
This is amazing, a new installation turns ordinary surfaces into truly sonic playgrounds.
Funny, creative, & just really great. #make
Mini's super engaging campaign acknowledges mini drivers in absolutely creative, non-conventional ways. #lovethis