October 2007  
Presentation: Gaming the Web: Using the Structure of Games to Design Better Web Apps

Given yesterday at Voices That Matter 2007. It's not really web-centric--it applies to all application design, really.

Originally posted on Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Link | Comments (2) | Trackback (0)


Connecting07: Rethinking Product Design: Why We Can't Wait

Jim Couch

Design process hasn't changed in several decades. Design has continued to strive for credibility, but until everyone on the street understands what designers do (the same way architects are known), we will lag behind. We can't design as well as nature, however much we try.

Sustainability: are we really fooling ourselves? When we do the same thing we do the same things we've been doing for decades?

Within the next century..."our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological" "the union of human and machine" "greater than human, non-biological intelligence drives progress"- Ray Kurzweil

Big Idea #1 The Pace of Change is Accelerating Exponentially We're at the knee of the curve. Coming up on an era of radical change.

Big Idea #2 Moore's Law Will Continue

Big Idea #3 Rate of Technology Adoption is Doubling Every Decade See a century of progress in 25 years. The next hundred years will witness a growth of progress of 200 centuries.

Big Idea #4 By 2020, Computers with the Computational Power of Human Brains
We will become vastly smarter. ALL products will contain computational power.

What role will we play in this world? The computer isn't just a tool, it is a member of the design team.

Analytical Tools for Design Inspiration

Topology Optimization
Branch of mathematics that is about space. Can optimize the use of space. Instead of designing the part, design the space. Apply parameters, constraints, and compute. Then you interpret the results. Does more using less stuff.

This challenges classic design principles.

Define non-design spaces (connections where you don't want space defined by the program). Computer comes up with the most proficient use of materials that still meet the performance requirements.

Then design refinement. The design is a combination of human and machine. It's a better tool to design appropriate, more sustainable products. Puts material only where it is needed. We see products as solid masses--it's how we've been trained. But we need to think like nature: at a cellular level.

Work with engineers in refining the design proposal. First, a topology optimization. Then translate the design into different form languages that relates to client's brand.

Solutions are created that the designer wouldn't have thought of AND are structurally superior.

Stochastic Modeling
Random form generation that creates unpredictable results.

We still sketch and visualize. Create "seed shapes." Create constraints and run the program to create new variations.

You can put curves or brand elements in as a parameter of all designs.

Whole purpose is to create shapes and forms we normally wouldn't think of.

We should be more enthused by math.The only way we could replicate nature was to mimic nature. Now, we can create parts that are grown like within nature.

Architects are already embracing these kinds of techniques.

We pride ourselves that a computer cannot replicate the creative aspects of a designer. But this is a completely false assumption. We can optimize beauty: golden circle, etc. could be parameter.

The question isn't whether we'll be part of this (r)evolution--we will--but whether we'll be able to embrace it enthusiastically.

Q: How do we optimize for usability?
A: Could apply cognitive and ergonomic data as constraints. You could design for specific people's hands.

Q: If you don't get those parameters right, the results will be awful. Results might not make sense if you lean too much on the software.
A: Our inputs can be flawed too. This isn't a substitute for traditional methods, just an enhancement.

Originally posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 | Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


Connecting07: Medical Device Design: 10 Things You Need to Know

Ted Kucklick

"A nuts and bolts talk"

Medical devices are a hot area, along with sustainable design.

C.P. Snow: The Two Cultures

#1 You have to start with a need. Especially true in medical device. Have to keep the clinical impact at the center of what you are doing. Clinical utility is at the heart of any good medical device.

#2 Understand regulatory. FDA, CDRH (devices), CBER, CDER (pharma). Two departments barely talk and have deep divisions with little common terminology. Try to get an easier regulatory path such as a 510(k). "Safe and effective:" the FDA standard. First do no harm.

#3 Understand economics. Primary driver of reimbursement is Center for Medicare/Medicaid Service.

#4 Biocompatibility. Any material used in a medical device has to pass a test before human use. Contact and duration. Must be aware from prototype through production. Material must be tested as used--processed and sterilized. Must be tested in final form. Sterilization affects various materials. There are pre-certified materials. This testing is expensive and time-consuming (8 weeks). There are different tests for different types of use depending on contact and duration. pacificbiolabs.com

#5 Know manufacturing methods. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). QSR: Quality Systems Regulations. Lot traceabilty, sterilization methods, sterile packaging validation, specialized equipment, clean room manufacturing. Go to a medical device contractor manufacturer to do these things without the overhead.

#6 Learn by observation. Medical procedures evolve over time. Lots that seems to not make sense until you see it firsthand. Don't rely on books or second-hand info. Get into the OR and see the procedure firsthand. Know OR protocol. Where to stand, when to talk, when to shut up. Good place to learn is through a medical device sales rep. If you ask a doctor if there is a problem, the answer is always No. You have to see it firsthand.

#7 Know the device and procedure background. Procedures are idiomatic, evolutionary, regional, non-intuitive. Lots of differences between doctors based on training, device history, etc. Watch out for repurposing devices! PUBMED is a great resource for digging up information about medical procedures through articles.

#8 Use medical illustration. A medical illustrator can help you visualize the anatomy you want to approach. Find them at the Association of Medical Illustrators. ami.org

[A long discourse on medical illustration history occurred here.]

#9 IP is Key. You need to have the exclusivity to get the value out of a medical device because of the enormous expense. Get anyone working on the project to sign an NDA and patent assignment. Includes illustrators, engineers...anyone.

#10 Learn from the pros. Ideas alone, not executed, have no value! Prototype and test early and often. Don't change procedure. Franchise value. Not technology-driven! The clinical need must drive the product, not the technology.

Originally posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 | Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


Connecting07: Brand, Design, and the Brain

Held in the Tonga Room at the Fairmont (!)

Greg Davis

Corporations have a difficulty accepting design decisions that have to do with aesthetics. Emotional connection was missing from the quantitative data.

Four Stages of Emotions: Mirrored Friendships
People interact with friends the same way they interact with products.

Gut Reactions (between people): basic instinctual reaction. The same for products: Seemingly Illogical Choices.

The Emotional Code (patterns in retrospect).

Emotional Mirror of personal relationships.

There are regions of the brain that are emotionally-driven. Primal instincts. What's not in the brain: brand evaluation, design aesthetics, button layouts, software interaction. There is now science that shows where in the brain these things are reacting.

Four Stages (Chronological)
First Impression: emotional reaction based on...something.
Interaction: Engagement
Reliance: Trusting, long-term
Extended Trust: Friendship extends to friends of friends

We see the same steps when people engage with products. If you miss the first impression, you might not get to the next step with the product. Extended trust is where brand comes in.

New Findings; Brain and Emotions

Showed up in November 2006. Showed MRI scans of brands. First time scientific data showed connection between brain activity and brand.

The emotional decision-making part of our brains can short-circuit our logical part. All happening in the same parts of the brain.

Minor things can alter perception--a hot cup of coffee changed a handshake.

Pre-frontal cortex makes the final decision.

Why Does It Matter for Design?
Metrics and Methodologies

All of us have understood this intuitively: there is something emotional about design. But we haven't been able to measure it. Metrics were missing. Business confidence is hurt. Avoid debates on opinion. Emotions are worth a lot of income.

Higher emotion = Higher returns

Rational things can convert to emotional ones, but it's much easier to just emphasize emotions to start.

If you can take something like a water heater (very rational) and make it more emotional, you will increase sales.

How Can We Use It for Design?
Better design, happier customers, more success, more profit.

Have to build methodologies and use them. Educate others and incorporate into our processes.

Recipe for Emotional Success
Understand the users' emotional DNA. People have emotional biases and potential.

Nail down a vision for the product and the brand--must be focused and compelling. Can't be a rational brand promise ("easier to use" "best in class.") Has to be enormously better in rational to become emotional.

Detail the emotional DNA and drivers. What are the hot targets (characteristics)? (more in a second) It is helpful to polarize in some cases.

Design the product with specific alignment to each characteristic.

Test. Repeat.

"The Emotional Sandbox": Bias (emotional baggage) and Potential (flexibility). Where do we think we can push them?

List the rational and irrational, good and bad. Boil those down to design criteria.

Chart emotional drivers:

| Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


An Open Letter to the Producers of the new Bionic Woman

Dear Producers,

I really want to like Bionic Woman. Really, I do. Michelle Ryan is a dish, Miguel Ferrer is a great actor, and I'm a fan of Battlestar Galactica. But like Katee Sackhoff says in your pilot episode, "You're going to have to do better than that." Because as it is now, your show kind of sucks.

You're combining the worst of Alias with the worst of Heroes: clunky storylines, bad dialog and character development, and villains who are more interesting than the good guys. Not to mention logical inconsistencies that make even well-wishing viewers wince. I picked your show as my much-watch for this season. Please don't be like my 2006-7 pick.

You didn't ask for it, but here's my advice:

  • Get the sister involved. Having her not know about Jamie's secret life is amazingly implausible, since she is a high school student who lives with her. By themselves. She should be like Xander and Willow on Buffy: non-super friends who help out.
  • Get real supervillians. You shouldn't be an undercover show foiling nameless terrorists. BW is a superhero show and you've already got an awesome supervillain in the Sackhoff character. You need more. May I suggest Sackhoff is putting together other messed-up bionic people? Building them herself, perhaps? Someone is doing her additional bionics.
  • Make the organization Jamie works for much more ambiguous. It will make the show much richer as their values clash with Jamie's. I shouldn't have to tell the people who wrote BSG this.
  • Speaking of which, Jamie needs some character. Any character. She is painfully bland right now, for a bartender who was supposed to go to Harvard (huh?). She should be more interesting than just the fact she has bionic parts in her.
  • Make the super powers, well, super. This early in the show, plots should be exploring the limits of Jamie's bionic powers, what she can and cannot do. Can she be upgraded?
  • And speaking of that, there are a crazy amount of cyborg themes that are not being explored here. Incorporate more cyberpunk elements. What does it mean to be a woman who is half machine? Can she be hacked? Can she jack into a network? You've turned a woman into a device, a weapon. You can't not explore this.
  • Make the bionic parts vulnerable. They are machine parts. They break, need repairs, etc. She's not super woman.

And those are just off the top of my head. Please turn this bionic ship around. There's some real promise in this premise, if you'll only realize it.

Thanks for listening,


Originally posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2007 | Link | Comments (3) | Trackback (0)


Review: The Reflective Practitioner (Part IV)

This is the final part of my review of Donald Schön's The Reflective Practioner. See parts I, II, and III for the earlier sections.

What does it mean to be a reflective practitioner? Schön says

[E]ach individual develops his own way of framing his role. Whether he chooses his role frame from the profession's repertoire, or fashions it for himself, his professional knowledge takes on the characteristics of a system. The problem he sets, the strategies he employs, the facts he treats as relevant, and his interpersonal theories of action are bound up with his way of framing his role.

This is why, I think, we see so many clashes on the various design mailing lists about what to call ourselves, what our roles should be, and where the boundaries are for disciplines like experience design and interaction design. It is different frames colliding. One practitioner thinks interaction design is interface design, another thinks interface design is a subset of interaction design, and on and on. Schön suggests that rather than fight about which of these frames is the correct one, we simply practice "frame analysis."

When a practitioner becomes aware of his frames, he also becomes aware of the possibility for alternate ways of framing the reality of his practice. He takes note of the values and norms to which he has given priority, and those he has given less importance, or left out of the frame altogether...Frame analysis may help practitioners to become aware of their tacit frames and thereby lead them to experience the dilemmas inherent in professional pluralism. Once practitioners notice they actively construct the reality of their practice and become aware of the variety of frames available to them, they begin to see the need to reflect-in-action on their previous tacit frames.

Schön is basically saying, Put down your arms. In all professional practices, there are different schools of thought which often result in very different personal frames for practice. If we instead look at them as frames, we can consider and even move between them as necessary. For some projects, it may make sense to step outside of the frame of "interaction designer" and instead take on the frame of "interface designer" and visa versa.

Some other tidbits from the book I found fascinating:

Experienced practitioners, Schön claims, because of their mastery of the "media" surrounding their practice, "cannot convey the art of his practice to a novice merely by describing his procedures, rules, and theories, nor can he enable a novice to think like a seasoned practitioner merely by describing or even demonstrating his ways of thinking." He goes on to say, "People who do things well often give what appear to be good descriptions of their procedures which others cannot follow." Heh. The implications for the conference circuit here is enormous. But I have found this is very true. It is very hard to convey the nuance of design and designing and being a designer in a presentation.

Schön also notes the importance of clients in the life of a practitioner. Practitioners agree to use their "special powers" for the good of the client, and clients in turn "agree to show deference to the professional." Without this social contract, the role of practitioner breaks down. But the practitioner has to deliver on this promise as well, of course. This is especially true with reflective practitioners because their methods and techniques change in response to the situation and through conversations with the client.

Although the reflective practitioner should be credentialled and technically competent, his claim to authority is substantially based on his ability to manifest his special knowledge in his interactions with clients. He does not ask the client to have blind faith in a "black box," but to remain open to the practitioner's competence as it emerges...the client does not agree to accept the practitioner's authority but to suspend disbelief in it. He agrees to join the practitioner in inquiring into the situation for which the client seeks help; to try to understand what he is experiencing and make that understanding accessible to the practitioner; to confront the practitioner when he does not understand or agree; to test the practitioner's competence by observing his effectiveness and to make public his questions over what should be counted as effectiveness; to pay for services rendered and to appreciate competence demonstrated.

If it's not clear from this lengthy review, I highly recommend this book. Although it was written 25 years ago, its relevance for professional practice, and especially the design practice, is still high. Framing problems and our personal frames around professional practice is a great way to think about how to approach projects and our work lives. May we all be reflective practitioners.

| Link | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)


Presentations on Slideshare

By request, I posted a few of my Presentation Greatest Hits on Slideshare. Even better than the real thing?

And hey, if you want to hear me present live, I am speaking at the Voices That Matter conference at the end of October in San Francisco and then teaching my one-day workshop at UX Intensive Vancouver in November. For Voices that Matter, my discount code is WD-SAFF. For UXI, my discount code is FODS.

Hope to see you at one of these events! (I'm also attending CONNECTING07 if you are attending that. Adaptive Path is a stop on the Studio Tour.)

Originally posted on Monday, October 8, 2007 | Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)


Review: The Reflective Practitioner (Part III)

See Part I of this review for the introduction and background.

Framing a problem means making a hypothesis of the situation. But you need to test the frame somehow, and that is where experiments come in.

Reflective practitioners perform on-the-spot experiments to see if they have framed the problem in the correct way, meaning that the problem can be tackled in a manner that is agreeable to the practitioner and that keeps the "inquiry" moving ahead. The practitioner takes into account the unique features of the problem in crafting the experiment, drawing on "a repertoire of examples, images, understandings, and actions."

Unlike scientists, practitioners undertake these experiments not just to understand the situation, but to change it into something better. Experiments consist of "moves" like in chess. Any hypothesis has to "lend itself to embodiment in a move." A practitioner makes a move and sees how the situation "responds" to that move, each move acting as a sort of "exploratory probe" of the situation.

Here is Schön on how the experiments work:

The practitioner's hypothesis testing consists of moves that change the phenomena to make the hypothesis fit...The practitioner makes his hypothesis come true. He acts as though his hypothesis were in the imperative mood. He says, in effect, "Let it be the case that X..." and shapes the situation so that X becomes true.

Schön calls the experiments "a game with the situation." Practitioners try to make situation conform to the hypotheses, but have to remain open to the possibility that they won't. Schön notes

The practice situation is neither clay to be molded at will nor and independent, self-sufficient object of study from which the inquirer keeps his distance.

The inquirer's relation to the situation is transactional. He shapes the situation, but in conversation with it, so that his own models and appreciations are also shaped by the situation. The phenomena that he seeks to understand are partially of his own making; he is in the situation that he seeks to understand.

If a move doesn't work, practitioners should "surface the theory implicit in the move, [critize] it, [restructure] it, and [test] the new theory by inventing a move consistent with it." When practitioners find the changes to the situation created by their moves to be satisfactory, that is when they should stop experimenting, and/or move on to the next part of the situation.

By creating these in-the-stuation experiments, Schön notes, rightly, that "practice is a kind of research."

In the final installment, Part IV, I will review Schön's implications for practice in the world and see how it relates specifically to design now.

Originally posted on Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)


Review: The Reflective Practitioner (Part II)

See Part I of this review for the introduction and background.

The everyday life of practitioners involves "tacit knowing-in-action," that is, we instinctively know stuff and know how to do stuff, even if we can't explain how to do it. We make judgments, evaluate situations, and recognize patterns without much thought. Shades of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink here. But practitioners sometimes need to think about what they are doing while they do it. This is what Schön calls Reflection-in-Action. Something challenging or puzzling happens and the practitioner has to reflect on what the best way is to address it, what his or her actions should be in response to it. This is where the "art" of practice comes in.

An expert practitioner, Schön says, (I'm paraphrasing here) is one who can selectively manage large amounts of information, spin out long lines of invention and inference, and has the capacity to hold several ways of looking at things at once without disrupting the flow of inquiry. Schön notes that it is important to realize that in most areas of practice, there are competing schools of thought about the nature of the practice and how to best solve problems. But the structure of reflection-in-action crosses the divide between them.

Here's how reflection-in-action works, according to Schön:

When the phenomenon at hand eludes the normal categories of knowledge-in-practice, presenting itself as unique or unstable, the practitioner may surface and criticize his initial understanding of the phenomenon, construct a new description of it, and test the new description by an on-the-spot experiment.

This isn't a rare occurrence, Schön asserts. Indeed, for some practitioners, this is the core of their process. I certainly know it is for me, frequently.

Chapter 5, "The Structure of Reflection-in-Action," is really the heart of this book, and I've underlined about half the chapter in my copy. I'll do my best to summarize.

When confronted by an unusual situation, practitioners "seek to discover the particular features of his problematic situation, and from their gradual discovery, designs a intervention." The problem is not given--"There is a problem in finding the problem." Practitioners, while still having relevant prior experience, still treat each case as unique, and thus "cannot deal with it by applying standard theories and techniques." The practitioner has "a reflective conversation" with the situation.

The first part of this conversation is to reframe the situation, to put yourself into the situation and impose some sort of order onto it. By reframing, practitioners seek to both understand the situation and to change it. When reframing, practitioners have no idea what the implications of the new frame will be, just that within the frame, practitioners can then practice the methods they know to try to solve the problem.

Once the situation is framed, practitioners take reframed problem and conduct experiments on it to "discover what consequences and implications can be made to follow from it." If these consequences and implications don't suit the practitioner, the situation is reframed again and again until it does. In design, we call this iteration. The situation itself "talks back" through the unintended effects and practitioners have to listen and change the frame appropriately.

How do practitioners know if they have chosen the right frame? Schön lays out the criteria:

  1. Can I solve the problem I have set?
  2. Do I like what I get when I solve this problem?
  3. Have I made the situation coherent?
  4. Have I made it congruent with my fundamental values and theories?
  5. Have I kept inquiry moving?

Thus, Schön, says, practitioners judge a "problem-setting by the quality and direction of the reflective conversation to which it leads. This judgement rests, at least in part, on his perception of potentials for coherence and congruence which he can realize through his further inquiry."

How practitioners construct experiments to test problem frames is in Part III of this series.

Originally posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2007 | Link | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)



« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
  O Danny Boy is About Me, Dan Saffer, and has my Portfolio, Resumé, Blog, and some Extras. It also has the blog I kept of my graduate studies and ways to Contact Me.  
  Blog RSS Feeds
Blog Excerpts
Full Entries
Design Entries Only
Atom Feed