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Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Aural Interface Pop Quiz

Showed up at interface yesterday to discover a pop quiz: design a "revolutionary" aural interface for a system similar to moviefone's phone system, but just for one art house movie theatre. Do it in an hour and a half, then present it.

It was a team quiz, so I paired with Jeff Howard and Jordan Kanarek to come up with this taskflow (pdf 27k) that describes how the system works. It's in no way revolutionary, but it might flow better than moviefone. It's hard to do in a short time, as you might guess, and aural interfaces are hard because it is nearly impossible to orient yourself, spacially. Things like "Go back" simply have no meaning.

posted at 01:45 PM in interface design | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Situationally Appropriate Interactions

The other project that is occupying my mind is the new one for interface design class: creating a timekeeping interface that retrieves, generates, and delivers information in a manner that is sensitive to the situation of the user. We're creating up to three interfaces: one that can be interpreted at a glance, one that users can understand without using vision, and one that users can understand without using vision or hearing. It can be done in one interface if we want.

To that end, I've been plowing through readings on calm technology and ambient displays of information. I've also been brainstorming about time and possible applications with my two teammates from the HCI department, Angela Wagner and Irina Shklovski.

We've decided to focus on breaks and design some objects that help remind you to take a break. We're thinking of them as healthy smoke breaks, or coffee breaks, and have been doing a lot of contextual research on the benefits of breaks (microbreaks and micropauses) and similar products.

We have two weeks left to finish this project.

posted at 10:16 AM in interface design, projects | comments (1) | 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


Tuesday, September 2, 2003


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


Friday, August 29, 2003

Ready, Set, Design!

Ever tried to design an interface for a kiosk in an hour and half? That's what we did yesterday in our Interaction and Interface Design class. The kiosk was supposed to be for drivers passing through an E-Z Pass-type system. Our professor, Jodi Forlizzi, handed us the assignment when we got to class, explained it for 10 minutes, then we went away and designed it for an hour and half. Then we pinned them up on the wall and had to defend/explain them.

Ouch. Needless to say, I was less than pleased with my result.

I'm comforted that no one else's design blew me away. It's really hard to work like that, especially with the added pressure of trying to do something great for the first assignment.

posted at 04:56 PM in interface design | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

So it begins II

Today I started two more classes: Computing in Design and Interaction and Visual Interface.

Computing in Design used to be Intro to Programming for Designers, where they taught the design students the basics of Java. So many students complained about it that this year instead the focus is on Actionscript, the coding language used by Flash. Of course, the day we start class is the day after Macromedia announces a new version of Flash. Oh well. And I just bought my copy like two months ago too. Grrr...

In any case, the class uses Actionscript as a basis to teach us the basics of object-oriented programming while providing us with a tool we'll actually use in other classes and in professional practice. It's being taught by Ian Hargraves, a second-year interaction design student and TAed by Jeff Howard, one of the first-year ID students.

Chances are, I won't be writing overmuch about this class, since, while useful, probably a good portion of what I'm learning about can be learned elsewhere.

My other class was Interaction and Visual Interface Design, taught by professor Jodi Forlizzi. This class is going to be very project-based, with four longer projects and several one-day ones thrown in as "quizzes."

We talked about three trends in design over the last 50 years: a systematic way of breaking down design problems (human factors and HCI), then having users design (participatory design), and the most recent, a combination of user and a designer's knowledge.

What is interface design? Interfaces are the "skin between the product and the world it exists in." The skin can be a digital image or it can be an environment, like the inside of Starbuck's, or a physical set of controls like the dashboard of a car. Interfaces offer the user a "story of use." That is: here's how to experience/use me.

We then launched right into our first project: Expression and Physical Interaction. We're going to be looking at physical objects (like, say, an egg beater) and create from them a list of rich interactions that could be applied to a digital context. Then we're going to apply them to a simple scheduling application.

First, though, we're creating mood boards made of images based around various words: vision, hearing, touch, place, pose, movement, and facial expression. We'll use these throughout the course as a sort of pallete to refer to.

Homework tonight: working on my Studio and Seminar homeworks for class tomorrow. So it begins. My life isn't my own any more.

posted at 10:26 PM in big ideas, classes, classmates, faculty, interface design, projects, software | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link





All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans