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Saturday, May 8, 2004

David Gresham
David Gresham, former VP of Design at Steelcase and soon to be 2004-5 Nierenberg Chair at CMU, was our final guest for Design Seminar.

The class was basically a two hour master class in industrial design, with the design of chairs and office systems as the subject matter. Some interesting takeaways:

  • Don't lose the human manipulation of forms. How much is the computer causing us to distort our work the same way the camera obscura distorted the work of the painters who used it?
  • The computer does things at odd scales. It's hard to tell perspectives and feels. Do things full scale.
  • The craft of making hasn't caught up to the computer. We need to get past the lure of the technology, its novelty, and get the computer back to a tool again.
  • It's important to set a point of view through shared images on a project. You need a point of inspiration. Art and architecture are great sources of inspiration because of the amount of abstraction.
  • Good clients make good projects.
  • The hardest part about being a designer is knowing in your heart that you've solved a problem, that you have the correct solution, then watching that solution die on the vine due to situations outside of your control.

posted at 03:24 PM in big ideas, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Business of Design
Chris Pacione, VP of Interaction Design at Bodymedia, was our guest in Seminar this week. BodyMedia is a start-up company creating wearable health devices, created by a group of CMU alumni (including Chris himself), and in its brief history has had a tumultuous existence, nearly going out of business several times. A lot of what he spoke to us about was the practicalities of being a designer at a start-up. Things like great design can kill a product.

He advised us that, as pioneers in a new field, interaction designers need to be articulate and be able to articulate what it is we bring to the table, business-wise. We can't be afraid to speak: we need to say how we bring money in to the organization.

Chris also gave us his list of the essential skills for an interaction designer:

  • Good organizational skills. You have to be able to work within an organization and deal with hierarchy. You'll need to defend your designs with logic. You can't design emotionally. If you want to affect people's lives, you need to work for a business and that business needs to stay in business.
  • Exceptional typography. You need to know how to handle type very well to lay out information and do traditional information design.
  • Ability to ask the right questions. You need to to know what questions to ask--and when. Are you designing a new vase or are you designing something to hold flowers?
  • Business savvy. The best designers know how to deal with the most constraints, so it is important to know the business limitations, like the cost of goods sold. You should have your vision, but keep the work in mind.

posted at 05:59 PM in alumni, design 101, special guest stars | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, April 4, 2004

Humility in Design
Marc Rettig was our guest in Seminar week and gave his infamous talk on interaction design history in a teeny little nutshell (3.2mb pdf).

I won't bother stepping through his presentation: the pdf is more thorough than I could be. I highly advise reading it if you haven't already.

Instead, I'd like to note some of Marc's comments that have started to become one of the major themes of this year (having been mentioned by a lot of our guest speakers) and that is on the role of humility in design. Marc mentioned it several times, saying we should embrace the overwhelming sense of confusion that seems to happen on every project because it keeps designers humble. "We're really all making it up as we go along on every project," he said.

Marc doesn't even call himself a designer. He just asks, "What's hard?" and speaks to clients in terms of the problems facing them instead of the practice of design. It's useful to be childlike and just ask questions. "I don't know anything about this project. What can you tell me about it?"

One of the major skills of designers is being able to represent abstractions concretely, so do it and post it up on the wall. Marc is a big proponent of this. Something about making the work physical and posting it changes the conversation and allows everyone on the team to make relationships between the elements of the work.

For Marc, interaction design is all about conversation: between people and systems or between people through systems. It's about creating the languages that make those conversations possible and making the representations appropriate. Through dialog, the product can change. Or people can change.

posted at 10:21 AM in big ideas, design 101, special guest stars | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Ethos in HCI
I cut class to attend a lecture that I thought would have something to do with my thesis. As it turns out, it didn't really, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Caroline Miller, a professor of English at North Carolina State, gave a talk on "Expertise and Agency: Transformations of Ethos in Human-Computer Interaction." The essence of her talk (as I understand it) is this: There have been two ways of thinking about HCI: machine control and computational subjectivity, each with a very different ethos.

Machine control springs from a Cold War mentality. It's about speed, efficiency, and containment and its driving force is an Aristotelian logos. Facts are supposed to speak for themselves and expertise is automated. The components of these "expert systems" are a knowledge base (with lots of if/then statements and rules), an inference engine (with forwards and backwards chaining), and an interface. Expert systems transformed logos into ethos. Expertise is the ethos.

Many of these expert systems collapsed in the 1980s. They performed as expected, but according to Professor Miller, there were rhetorical reasons as well as cultural that caused their demise. As Americans lost trust in established institutions and technology, there was less rhetorical appeal of logos. Rhetoric needs pathos and ethos, not just logos. Thus, we began to design computer systems with more computational subjectivity. With pathos.

These "intelligent agents" are rhetorically different than expert systems in that users have a relationship with them. They focus on the establishment of trust and so explain their decisions and make those explanations credible. They have to be social and adaptable, communicating through elaborate interfaces, and they must offer an ethos that offers empathy. Intelligent agents are alive with pathos, not logos, winning favor and always looking for a response. They are friendly, familiar, and sympathetic. And they seek sympathy as well. Professor Miller called this "cyborg discourse" and it requires technique and strategy to design.

posted at 09:42 AM in big ideas, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Hugh Dubberly
Hugh Dubberly, former VP of Design at Netscape, was our guest for Seminar last week, discussing the design of systems and systems for design.

Design for Hugh is an integrated activity between three things: software (systems), design (feedback), and learning (models). Models are the things you learn about what you are involved in. They are the tools for thinking about the other things we're thinking about. (Very Rick Robinson.) Design fundamentally involves prototyping, making transient things like models, mockups, comps, and prototypes. Designers are doing more and more abstract prototypes.

Hugh talked about cybernetics (the study of systems that have goals) and its relationship to design. There are four orders of systems. First-order systems are mechanical, self-controlling systems that are about maintaining stability. A thermostat-maintained heating system is the classic example. Second-order systems are about people controlling systems. A steersman controlling a boat is the classic example. Third- and fourth-order systems are complex systems with rules (and outcomes) that are often not easy understood or predicted. A basketball game is an example of a third-order system. The stock market is an example of a fourth-order system.

There are five frameworks for systems design:

  • Feedback. This is the fundamental model that underlies all design processes and all interaction. Designing for interaction is designing for design (prototyping). Feedback is a cycle that works like this: A GOAL goes to a COMPARATOR which evaluates, then triggers an ACTUATOR which is in an ENVIRONMENT (and can be affected by DISTURBANCES) where a SENSOR sends information back to the COMPARATOR and the cycle starts all over again. You can evaluate designs based on this cycle, to make sure that you have all the necessary components of this feedback framework.
  • Requisite Variety. A framework developed by Ross Ashby. This framework basically means that you need to have multiple responses for different types of environmental disturbances. The designer needs to decide how much variety is needed, based on studying the environment. Teams and companies also need to have requisite variety, so that collectively they possess the knowledge to do things and respond to challenges.
  • Conversation. Based on Shannon and Weaver's communication model, this framework applies the language of cybernetics to conversation. What it basically says is that there needs to be a shared experience (ie language) for communication to happen.
  • Signs. This framework is about semiotics. Everything we design is a sign. Making models is making signs. So designers are constantly wrestling with the notions of the thing (object in the world), the interpretant (idea/model of the thing), and the representamen (representation of the thing). There's a lot of ambiguity and arbitrariness in how these things match up.
  • Design Types. Hugh only briefly mentioned this, but it was about putting objects and systems into a maxtrix of context, meaning/structure, and form.

Models are explained and understood through stories. Stories build models. When you are presenting a model, tell the story of it as you are drawing it. Use the model to tell the story and thus convey your idea.

posted at 09:22 AM in big ideas, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, March 20, 2004

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, February 25, 2004

Agnew Moyer Smith
We did a field trip for my Mapping & Diagramming class to the swank offices of Angew Moyer Smith on Pittsburgh's South Side. We went to meet one of its principals, Don Moyer, husband of our professor Karen Moyer and an information designer of some renown.

As always, it's good to chat with working designers about their processes and projects, especially one as successful as Don. Don is also an interesting case because he's not only a designer, but a writer and illustrator as well, and the work he does reflects all those things. He emphasized the need for text with an appropriate voice to accompany images, which seems obvious but it's amazing how infrequently it's mentioned.

He showed us some recent projects and went into detail about a diagram he did about RFID tags. Initially, he said, look for (and make a list of) the actors in the scenario (human or otherwise), then look at what those actors do. The actors definitely will, and the actions might, have to become visible in the diagram. These actions especially might need to be annotated in some way, either via text or a visual indicator.

When researching, look for basic info ("for eight year olds"). Most topics don't require knowing everything about it. It's important to understand what Don called the engine: what is causing the change that requires people to need this document?

Once you do your research and "wallow in it" for a while, it's always good to write your own brief for the client. This, Don says, not only impresses the client, it also checks to make sure you understood what the client said. It isolates the big ideas from the research and gets the client to agree. In the brief, be sure to include a one-sentence that states the target you are trying to hit. You also want to outline your "story elements:" the big ideas, main messages, and the things you want to cover.

Do initial sketches roughly. Later you can "untangle the marionette" of lines and drawings, resolving the pieces spatially on a plane. You can write questions right onto the initial sketches; that way, the client has to respond.

Don also emphasized what is really one of the central themes of design: you can't say everything, so you have to be smart about what is included, be it information, features, and details.

posted at 08:33 AM in field trips, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (1) | link


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Rich Carlson
Richard Carlson, professor of psychology at Penn State, and author of Experience Cognition, was our guest for Seminar this week, talking about environmental support for intentions.

Intentions are the mental representations that specify a goal or a desired outcome that are active at a particular moment in time. It is a short period of time: mental states typically last 1/10th of a second or as long as 2-3 seconds only. They typically change several times a second.

The structure of an intention is as follows:

Agent intends to achieve outcome by acting on objects (when conditions are met)

Intentions select affordances. Affordances being (in a traditional cognitive psych definition as set out by James Gibson) aspects of the physical or mental environment that support action.

Intentions are also fragile. Human beings have a very limited cognitive capacity. We forget things very rapidly and have a very limited amount of data we can store in short-term memory, a la George Miller's Magic Number Seven. Thomas Metzinger calls this the Window of Presence. We can only focus on one item at a time, measured in tenths of a second, and there is evidence we can only keep one goal at a time in mind. Switching between tasks both takes time and is error-prone.

Intentions have to be active in order to control behavior. Active meaning a sort of conscious awareness. The more "active" something is, the more powerful it is.Working memory is the systems or strategies we have to keep information active.

Importantly for interaction designers (since we create environments that support actions), intentions are also environmentally supported. Humans use the environment to organize and act upon our intentions. Environments remind us of what we want to do. For example, a place setting at a dinner table reminds us we want to eat. There are explicit memory aids and support for goals such as signage and instructions. Even when we could do a task with working memory (like remembering a small string of letters), we prefer to rely on the environment for the information.

We also talked about some cognitive failures, what Don Norman calls action slips. There are a couple different types of slips: errors of formation (when you mistake something for something else, like by putting orange juice on your cereal instead of milk); faulty activation/loss of activation (when you forget what it was you were doing); and faulty triggering (when you fail to distinguish between having an intention and acting on it).

posted at 08:46 AM in cognition, special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (1) | link


Liz Sanders
Liz Sanders, president of design research firm sonicRim, was our guest in Studio last Wednesday, discussing participatory research.

Research has become involved in all phases of product development over the last 20 years, but particular attention is being paid to generative research; that is, research being done before the ideation phase. Which is to say, at the very beginning of the design process.

Over the last 20 years as well, there has been a change in what we call those who use the products, from customer to consumer to user to participants to adapters, and now, to co-creators. A more participatory culture is emerging, and "ordinary" people are starting to become more creative and express the need to be creative. SonicRim's philosophy is that everyone is creative, and that anyone involved in using and producing products should be involved in creating those products. Their principles are as follows:

  • All people are creative.
  • Everyone has dreams. Everyone can imagine their life in the future, even if that life is difficult to express.
  • People will fill in what is unseen and unsaid based on their past experiences and imagination.
  • People project their needs onto ambiguous stimuli because they are driven to make meaning.

The process sonicRim uses to harness this everyday creativity is:

  1. Immerse subjects into the experience for a week or two to warm them up to the subject and its context.
  2. Use an activity like collaging to activate feelings and memories about past experiences.
  3. Use more abstract methods to imagine a future scenario, to dream about the future.
  4. Use activities like velcro modeling for bisociation and expression of new ideas.

Ambiguity and play allow adults to express things they otherwise wouldn't. That's where making comes in. In research, you need to look at three things: what people say, what people do, and what people make. What people do is good for understanding the present, what is happening now. What people make (with, say, collages or velcro models or drawings) is good for expressing feelings and memories from the past as well as dreams and fears about the future. (What people say falls somewhere between what people do and make.)

You take with you a toolkit of visual and verbal components composed of clip art, words, magazine images, cutouts, shapes, etc. etc. You don't have to explain much when you give people the toolkit--they already know how to express themselves in their own way with the tools. And, importantly, that is what you are looking for: expression of needs, latent or otherwise. The subjects aren't creating designs.

All this stuff encourages people to explore their experiences. Experience is where memory and imagination meet, not just how you feel right now. Innovation requires a full understanding of experience.

This sort of research begs some questions (with Liz's responses):

  • Are designers losing control of the design process? Yes, but we are opening it up to others. We're entering new design spaces where designers let go of their own control to amplify the creativity of others.
  • How much do we want everyday people to drive design? To the extent of their expertise, abilities, and interest.
  • How will the tools and methods for research and design change? They will continue to blur. Research is becoming more creative and design becoming more relevant.
  • If everyone is creative, what is the role of the designer? To amplify the creativity of others. Designers will create scaffolds upon which everyday people will express their creativity. Designers will create more of what Ivan Illich's calls convivial tools: tools that allow users to invest the world with their meaning, to enrich the environment with the fruits of their vision, and to use them for the accomplishment of a purpose they have chosen.

more ››

posted at 01:39 AM in special guest stars, techniques | comments (0) | trackback (1) | link


Monday, February 16, 2004

Adaptive Worlds
John Rheinfrank, a self-described "trickster," was our guest during design seminar last week, and his topic was adaptive worlds and how to design for them.

John defines a world as a meaningful cluster of activities and objects that form around extended groups of people and that contain multiple, meaningful living structures. Worlds are full of static objects that force us to adapt to them or that we adapt for use. But surrounding the world of static objects are adaptive worlds that contain things that learn, react, respond, do meaningful things, and understand context. They respond to humans by changing shape (ie their form and content) depending on the context of use. We co-create adaptive worlds with these sorts of tools.

In these co-constructed adaptive worlds, people and objects adapt and respond to each other. There is flow (in the Csikszentmihalyi sense), state changes depending on context, and mutual sensing and responding. We co-evolve as dynamic living structures, able to coordinate complex activities, and affect powerful transformations.

Design has slowly moved from user-centered (not for use or meaning) to activity-centered (task-oriented) to ability-centered (both the users' abilities and the product's abilities). "User-Centered" is no longer adequate, because the purpose of objects and systems isn't only to serve the user. The term (and way of designing) doesn't provide for unconceivable, unknown needs. It is about using products in particular ways. Designers need to understand that once a product is launched, users will use them in unexpected ways for unexpected purposes. And as these adaptive tools are launched, more and more the products we design will be out of our control. (Obviously, the ethical implications of this are many.)

So how do you design for adaptive use? In general, you have to build for autonomy, yet retain control over some of the parts. Designers will need to understand the deep structure of their products, but allow the surface structure to be adaptable and responsive. Some guidelines (from a user's viewpoint):

  • Let me do. Make sure the activity is of real value. Let my actions and changes in the resulting array feel as though they have been designed for me personally.
  • Orient me. Give me a journey I can take. Don't steer, just give me a map to help me visualize what I want to accomplish and plan where I want to go.
  • Let me win. Reward me when I accomplish something.
  • Push me. Help me learn. Help me reveal my potential, don't let me get by. Combine doing with understanding. Skill me.
  • Sense and respond. Personalize it for me. Let me feel the artifact is alive. Make its operation transparent like a window.
  • Connect me. Help me make connections with the subject matter or across destinations with other people.
  • Immerse me. Plunge me into the experience. I can't tell the difference between me and it, it is so much a part of me.

A successful design will be one where the experience of using it fits. By engaging users in co-discovery and co-creation of these adaptive worlds, we'll transform their work, their business, their community, and their lives.

posted at 08:47 AM in big ideas, special guest stars, techniques | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Rick E. Robinson
Rick E. Robinson, former chief experience officer at Sapient and founder of eLabs, visited Studio on Monday and gave a version of the talk he gave at Doors of Perception a few years back about ethnography and things to think with.

The object of research, he said, is to reveal the complex and pass on that information. There are three core parts to ethnography:

  • You go to them. It always happens in context.
  • You talk to them. Talk to the subjects, not read about them.
  • You write things down. Develop a disciplined set of data so that your findings can be passed along and used by others.

The research itself is comprised of four things:

  • A description. Of something: a thing, an activity, a belief, a setting, etc.
  • Interpretation. Not summary, not "insight," not wholly "emergent" either. It is grounded in the subject.
  • Towards an end. Research has to be both instrumental (useful to the people you do the research for) and salient (it has to be to the point).
  • Within constraints. Of site, setting, time, tools, material, solution spaces.

There isn't any one approach or method to ethnography: in fact, making up new methods is part of the interest in doing ethnographic research. You do, however, have to have a plan and go with a hypothesis that you can test. This way, you can engage with (and bring something to) the field; it keeps you motivated. A Hunt Statement is useful here. It details what you are going after, and teh best ones are this compound sentence: We are going after X so we can do Y.

There are simple heuristics that you can use to organize your observations, like the AEIOU (Actions, Environment, Interactions, Objects, Users) method and the Think/Do/Use method. There's also a broad range of techniques to gather data: guerilla research, cultural inventories, visual stories, beeper studies, visual diaries, video ethnography, interviews, etc. In a cultural inventory, you are trying to understand the vocabularies of perception: what is it that you see that allows you to create a context and understand cultural structures? Data comes from cultural production; in a cultural inventory, researchers are looking for underlying structures. In interviews, how people express their beliefs, attitude, and knowledge (ie how they tell their stories) is part of the data. Interview questions should be more open-ended than survey questions; you want them to construct stories.

For Rick, the real purpose of research is to create models of thought, which then become "things to think with." These models live between the setting of the research and what needs to be created. They describe something that is fundamentally "other" in a way that people who weren't there but have an interest in it can understand and apply it. Good models are like good art: subversive. Any representation or re-representation always offers the idea that things can be different. Examples of good models are Csikszentmihalyi's "Flow" to describe the optimal experience and Vygotsky's "Zone of Proximal Development."

When creating models, you are trying to make the research visible so that it can be commented on. The model itself doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be right. Try to let go of the low-level data and just make a story, then slowly add data back in to make an argument for the story. The best models have a long explanatory reach, parsimony, communicative power, and a multi-disciplinary point of view.

posted at 08:27 AM in big ideas, special guest stars, techniques | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, February 4, 2004

MAYA Design Methods
MAYA Senior Interaction Designer Heather McQuaid dropped by Studio to talk about MAYA's research methods and, specifically, a case study on the Carnegie Library system. They used a couple of interesting methods that are worth noting:

  • Direct Experience Storyboarding. Three different MAYA researchers took three different ways to get a book from the library. They took pictures of each step in the process and wrote notes, then combined them, writing the notes onto the pictures to provide a storyboard of what was going on, plus commentary.
  • Basic Components. They broke down the library system into basic components, then strung them together into a very general narrative that explained all the activity there. USERS go through ORGANIZERS (space, categorizations, people) to get to MATERIALS/ACTIVITIES in order to USE/PARTICIPATE.
  • Breakpoints. Once they had personas (9 of them total), they moved them through scenarios that interacted with all those basic components, mapping them on a really cool chart to show where the system failed. These spots were called "breakpoints." These became areas of design activity.
  • Tiger Teams. A type of participatory design, where stakeholders in the library system teamed up with MAYA employees to try to design what the ideal library situation should be. Each team made its own experience to correct breakpoints. They were encouraged to think big, then scale down.

All in all, an interesting case study with some meaty techniques to consider.

posted at 05:17 PM in special guest stars, techniques | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Friday, November 14, 2003

Philosophy and New Technology
Almost a stereotypical day today at CMU. I went to two special lectures. The first was given by John SanGiovanni, a Technical Evangelist for Microsoft in their Mobile Computing & Wireless Technologies unit. He showed off some new cool stuff happening with the tablet PC (interactive sketching canvasses, 3D sketches that you can instantly start to manipulate in space), trends in mobile computing (MS's Spot Network), and his own research into Xnav. Xnav is a gesturing system that replaces traditional keyboards and other input devices. Neema has a more detailed overview of it on his site. It was a neat idea, but its implementation still revolved around things like joysticks. I thought it was going to incorporate some sort of glove that fit on your non-dominant hand that you would then use by gesturing in a small way with your index finger or thumb. But still an interesting idea.

The second lecture was by Eugene Garver, Regents Professor of Philosophy at St. John's University. The topic was philosophical ethos. He read a paper on books and philosophy: does philosophy mainly reside in books or is it rather in life/speech?

Some interesting topics were raised. Garver put forth the notion that too much specialization makes one less of a citizen. As your knowledge gets specialized, you engage with less and less of the world and more with a smaller group of people who understand what you are talking about. While this might apply in academia, I'm not sure I believe it applies universally. As the world and its problems get more complex, we need specialists to solve them, not generalists (although I agree that generalists are also of importance). Arguably, the history of the world has been shaped by specialists in fields of art, science, politics, religion. Is the Dalai Lama not a great citizen because he is a specialist? Was Einstein? Lincoln?

Another interesting topic was the idea of the US Constitution becoming, after the civil war, the language American's use to talk about justice. It provides now a type of base from which our concept of justice springs.

We also talked about reading and writing, and how designers need to take care not to overly "de-skill" users, lest they lose their humanity.

posted at 07:20 PM in special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Susan Rockrise

Went to the first lecture in a series of them thrown by the Design department. Tonight's speaker was Susan Rockrise, global creative director of Intel.

posted at 11:55 PM in special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, September 18, 2003

John Maeda

In Studio yesterday and in a workshop today as part of the Wats:On? Festival CMU was visited by John Maeda, the director of the Physical Language Workshop at MIT.

He introduced himself by saying that he didn't know how to teach a class anymore, just how to play games. So both times I heard him talk, we basically played games. He asked the design grad students to come up with adjectives for "art" and also for "design," then had us strip them away until only a handful were left (like "aesthetics" and "communication" for design and "passion" and "expression" for art). Then he erased the words Art and Design and commented that what was left was a great space to work in.

He spoke about his meeting with Paul Rand when Rand was 81. The great designer's advice to him? "Make a lot of money." That in mind, he's working with Mastercard on a plan for micropayments, which he hopes will give creative people a means to get "survival money" from their writing, design, etc.

He spoke a little about visionaries, and what the ones he'd met have had in common: cooking. All were good cooks. But more importantly, they were all in touch with what it means to be human, which partially revolves around food. Another of his projects is creating a virtual cafe with limited seating that sells virtual coffee. The "coffee" would be little works of art by designers that degrades in time, like real coffee. You'd pay for it with his micropayment scheme.

He compared graduate school to a vending machine that we keep putting money into. The most important thing that it gives you: friends.

posted at 04:02 PM in special guest stars | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link





All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans