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Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Student Circle of Life
They've chosen next year's Master's students and have sent out acceptance letters. Now it's just a matter of who will accept the offers--and who will show up once classes start. We got slightly less applicants this year (probably because the economy is marginally better), but it was still over 40 applicants for each program. We're all curious about who our classmates will be for next year.

Meanwhile, the second-year students are scrambling to finish their thesis projects and, at the same time, find jobs (or wait for PhD acceptances, if they are so inclined). Bilge Mutlu was already accepted to CMU's HCI PhD program. It's a hectic time for them. And frankly, I don't want them to go. I rely on many of them for their friendship and advice, so I will definitely feel it when they are gone.

For the first-years, it's time to decide on thesis papers, projects, and advisors. It is tough to pick something you want to work on for a year. You don't know what topic is going to be so interesting and rich that you'd want to spend a year of your life researching, writing about, and designing it. I've worked on year-long projects before, but never one I've chosen for myself. It's an interesting dilemma because it can be a hell of your own making.

posted at 08:24 AM in classmates, cmu, preparation, student life, thesis paper, thesis project | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Design and Intellectual Property
We got some legal advice/information from Sean O'Connor, an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington School of Law and (not coincidentally) husband of CPID classmate Nikki O'Connor.

There are several types of intellectual property:

  • Patents. Protect products and processes at the Federal level for 20 years from the date of filing. You don't get the right to make or use what you've patented, you just get the right to exclude others from doing it. To get a patent, the product or patent has to be "useful, novel, and non-obvious." Non-obvious is the hardest to prove. As a side note, you can spend many thousands of dollars to patent something.
  • Copyright. Protects content (text, musical compositions, images, music, etc.) at a Federal level for the life of the creator, plus 70 years, or, if it is a corporate creator, 95 years from publication. When you create something, copyright automatically occurs on the creation of the content. You only need to register with the copyright office only before litigation and for enhanced damages. However, it is difficult to prove you created something on a certain date.

    To claim copyright, you need the original work in a fixed medium. (ie you can't just have had the idea for something). Note that you only get to copyright the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. You also can't copyright government works or, strangely, "useful" things.

    When copyrights are determined, the product is broken down into its basic components to judge what among them (if anything) is unique. If someone takes the same elements and puts them together in a similar, but not exact way (as, say Microsoft did to Apple with Windows (and what Apple did to PARC too)), it isn't copyright infringement.

    Copyright owners have exclusive control of copies, derivative works, distribution, and performance and display of their work. Transfers/assignments of copyright must be in writing.

    Designers typically work under two types of contracts: work-for-hire and (pre-)assignment of copyright. Work-for-hire basically means that the employer is considered the author of the work and owns the copyright. Assignment work means the designer is considered the author, but has given away ownership rights, but the rights can revert to the designer after 35 years. Obviously, assignment work is the better deal.

  • Trademarks. Protects at both a Federal and state ("commonlaw") level for 10 years (renewable). Trademarks are things like service marks, certifications and collective marks, and, yes, trademarks that can be composed on text, graphics, color, fragrances, and sounds. For federal registration, a trademark needs to be "inherently distinctive" or else have a"secondary meaning." You also have to use them (or intend to use them) in a commercial sense.

    You'll want to trademark each element of the trademark separately so that use can use them in various combinations and manifestations. You won't be able to trademark words like "coffee," but text strings like "Starbuck's coffee" are fair game.

Style is probably not protectable. The only time it would be is when people are made to believe the source of a product is someone else--ie if someone tries to replicate something exactly.

posted at 12:32 AM in classmates, design 101, special guest stars | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Visual Differentiators
Karen Moyer's "non-exhaustive" list of elements that can visually differentiate one object from another. They are elements because they seldom work alone: you usually use at least two together (a visual molecule).

  • proportion
  • structure
  • size
  • shape
  • weight
  • color (hue, value, saturation)
  • tone/value
  • texture
  • position
  • orientation

posted at 11:06 AM in design 101 | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


miLife Generative Research
I've made my feelings about generative research known before, but nonetheless, for the good of the miLife project, I went and led a session of collaging. This was after the participants had spent several days doing a photo diary and reflecting on how they capture and use information. Here's some pictures from the session.

posted at 12:13 AM in projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Music Map Prototype
I finally started on my final project for Mapping and Diagramming. On Karen's good advice, I did a test run with sample data from Amazon and a bunch of post-it notes. Clearly, I am going to have to do the same thing with the actual data when I do this for real a week or two from now. It's really the only way to easily move stuff around.

If CMU has taught me anything, it's that you should seldom start with a computer when designing; paper, white boards, and post-it notes are often the way to go.

View the prototype.

posted at 10:49 PM in projects | comments (4) | trackback (0) | link


Design Process Readings
In preparation for Hugh Dubberly's visit to Seminar on Friday, we're reading some of his articles and diagrams:

  • "Alan Cooper and the Goal-Directed Design Process" from AIGA Journal of Design for the Network Economy, vol 1, no. 2
  • "Usability Methods and the Design Process"
  • "Origins of Design Methods Timeline"
  • "Cybernetics and Systems Design Timeline"

posted at 09:18 AM in readings | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


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All straight lines circle sometimes. - The Weakerthans