May 05, 2005

Design is in the Details

Finishing my thesis project prototype this week, it struck me that there's a significant blind spot in CMU's program (and from what I understand, other interaction design schools' programs as well): working with developers on a prototype to get the feel of the thing right. Because at school you very seldom get to the working prototype stage (due to time and money constraints), you don't ever get into the finesse of an interactive design, those tiny things that make a huge difference. And those tiny things can usually only be seen in a working thing that can be played with and broken and fiddled with. Animations and delays and such don't appear in flat paper prototypes and storyboards. At least not well.

CMU is supposedly better at building things than some other schools that have lots of cool ideas and slick videos to go with them, but it could be better. I suppose one could argue that this is what the thesis project is for: to take an idea out to the working prototype phase, but it seems like too important a thing to save until the very end of your graduate education. Especially considering that many people don't make it to the working prototype phase in their thesis work, or do projects that would be almost impossible to do that with without a team of developers.

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April 15, 2005

Carnival 2005

A CMU tradition, Carnival, started yesterday and continues throughout the weekend. The Shins are headlining the big concert that rages on the CFA lawn in the center of campus tonight.

Today and tomorrow are the particular CMU institution of Sweepstakes: buggy races that go through campus and into Schenley Park and back again. It's an amazingly huge deal and a blast to watch. I've been looking forward to it since last year. Also like last year, the weather is glorious: sunny with blue skies: a Pittsburgh rarity.

This is one of the things I'll miss.

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March 14, 2005

PI Day 2005

On campus today, another CMU nerdtastic tradition: written in chalk all over the sidewalks, looping all over campus are the first 16384 digits of PI. All this in honor of 3.14.

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March 03, 2005

Spring Break 2005

School is off for a week. The second-year women in my program are headed to Ashley Deal's father's house in Florida for some tanning. Me, I'm off to Montreal, where I'll be lucky if the temperature gets above 20F.

It's funny, but I can slowly feel myself disengaging with school. It's that feeling of being somewhere but your mind is somewhere else. School doesn't seem as difficult now because I'm not so wrapped up in it. I want to be finished, sure, and I'm enjoying my classes this semester, but it's not such a grind as, well, the first 3/4 of school were. Maybe it's because the end is in sight. Maybe it's because my thesis paper is mainly done and my thesis project is back in development again. Or maybe I've finally gone totally insane. Either way, it's a relief.

Have a nice break.

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February 28, 2005


Stanford's new design school website is up. Very slick, although the content is pretty shallow. I was hoping to find out more about their courses and projects.

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February 26, 2005


In the last week, I

Anyway, this is what I've been dealing with. In this last semester, the schoolwork has gotten lighter, but the stress is still high.

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February 23, 2005

Career Dazed

The past two days have been the annual ritual known as Career Days, during which the School of Design is like a crazed bear half-shot full of tranquilizers, lurching around madly pawing at itself. I exaggerate, but only a little. For graduating students, it's a time of dressing up and subjecting yourself to a speed-dating style of job interviews in 20-minute blocks. Studios are cleaned, portfolios put together, interview clothes bought.

This year, like last, a reasonably impressive spread of companies came by with jobs to offer: Apple, Microsoft, GE, Google, Motorola, Sapient, Razorfish, and Siegel + Gale to name a few. A number of the interviewers were CMU alumni returning to rescue more of us and give us hope.

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November 11, 2004

Waiting for Mok

Once every couple of years, the Design Advisory Board pays a visit to the School of Design to make sure we're on track. This week was one of those times. After a flurry of frantic activity, cleaning studios and hanging posters, most of the grad students hung out in studio all afternoon Tuesday, waiting for a studio tour that never happened. Oh well. Hopefully the visit went well.

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CMU has an undergrad named Kermin Fleming in Jeopardy's College Tournament and he's apparently kicking ass too. In true CMU style his final wager in an opening round game was a message to nerds-in-the-know: $1337. Classic.

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November 03, 2004

CMU and the Semantic Web

Interesting CMU project called myCampus that uses a semantic web environment for context-aware mobile services. Read this article on its implications. My question: how come there's no designer on the team?

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October 18, 2004

Bruce Sterling Teaching at Art Center

Wow. Writer Bruce Sterling, whom I've written about recently after his amazing SIGGRAPH keynote speech, has been asked to teach for a year at Art Center College of Design. CMU should take a cue from them and think way outside the box when it comes to picking our Nierenberg Chairs and even guest lecturers. I wonder if Sterling will teach the Future of Objects class I half-jokingly recommended?

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September 07, 2004

Tim Brown on Design Education

NextD, the NextDesign Leadership Institute, has an interesting interview with IDEO CEO Tim Brown, discussing (partially) design education and how schools don't properly prepare their graduates for working at IDEO.
"I think that the breadth of practical skills that institutions perceive their students need means that often not enough attention is given to the core thinking skills of empathy, analysis and synthesis around more complex problems. We have to work hard both to find people with the beginnings of these skills and then train them to bring them to a level where they can make significant project contributions. We are having more success with designers who have a more eclectic background and perhaps already had a career in another field before they enter design."

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