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Saturday, September 6, 2003

Weekend Readings

posted at 11:55 AM in readings | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Friday, September 5, 2003


It look like Bloglet might be working again, so Bloglet subscribers, welcome back! Anyone else who tried to subscribe and get this blog via email, you should be able to do so now.

posted at 12:02 PM in meta | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, September 4, 2003

A Taxonomy of Mechanical Objects

In interface class, we've been examining mechanical objects, breaking them down into their components, and then "translating" these components into our own designs, digital or otherwise.

We each examined five objects, making a "taxonomy" of their features and functions. My objects were a wind-up toy, a cigar cutter, a drywall cutter, a metronome, and a mini Leatherman (pdf 743k). We're now supposed to take what we've learned here and, along with some mood boards we're working on now, apply them to a scheduling application next week.

posted at 10:34 PM in interface design | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Mathematics of Communication

Seminar today was all about deconstructing and analyzing William Weaver's article, "The Mathematics of Communication." This dense essay, written in 1944, offers several meaty ideas about communication:

  • Information is not facts; it's data that is chosen from among many possible messages.
  • The more choices we have for communicating, the more chances we have for miscommunication and confusion. But, the more choices we have, the more information we can convey.
  • Stereotypes and convention (metaphor) help to create redundancy, and redundancy makes sure the message is received. The English language is 50 percent redunant.
  • Noise can cause misinterpretation and ambiguity. (But sometimes, as a designer, you want that.)
  • Entropy is to be avoided.

One side conversation: Design, unlike Art, degrades over time. Designers serve people at a specific time and in a specific place, and the farther removed we are from that, the less likely a design artifact will have any meaning.

posted at 07:56 PM in design theory | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, September 2, 2003


One more reading for this week: "Controls" from User Interface Design for Electronic Appliances by Konrad Baumann.

posted at 10:37 PM in readings | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Sinking in

I was told it took a few weeks before school got really busy. How come it's week two and I'm already deeply enagaged? I have (at last count) four projects due in the next week, two movies to watch, papers to write, more dry...I mean, thoughtful, academic papers to read, and at least three party invites for this weekend.

I'm a student again.

posted at 10:29 PM in student life | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link



Discussion today on affordances, constraints, feedback, and feedforward as ways of constructing more sensory rich interfaces. Although Don Norman is famous for promoting affordances, it was actually a psychologist named J.J. Gibson who coined the term. He noted that products are just a collection of affordances that help us achieve our goals. When products don't help us attain our goals, the experience is poor. We spend time focused on the product and not on our goals.

Affordances, as Don Norman uses the term, are just clues as to how to use the product. Feedforward goes one step more and suggests that it isn't enough to know that something is, say, a button. It's better to know what the result of pushing that button is. And then, of course, once the button is pushed, appropriate feedback should be given.

Products can have intended and unintended consequences: the metal shell of a refrigerator becoming a communication space is an example of an unintended consequence. Looking at the history of a product can help inspire some interesting ideas. So can looking at a selection of similar products, all mapped to a spectrum of functionality.

We spent a lot of class time today looking at simple mechanical objects and observing how they work: everything from toys to pepper grinders to tools. Then we compared their characteristics to digital ones. The lid of a small trash can that can be slowly opened functions like a slider, for example. Interesting.

posted at 10:23 PM in big ideas, interface design, techniques | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


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All straight lines circle sometimes. - The Weakerthans