FEATURED STORY

Designing on a system level

Andy Goodman on service design, embeddables, and predictive analytics.

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I recently sat down with Andy Goodman, designer and group director of Fjord’s US studios. Goodman has been designing and managing design teams around the globe for the past 20 years. Goodman is a contributor to Designing for Emerging Technologies — our conversation covers embeddables, wearables, and predictive analytics. To kick off the conversation, I asked Goodman to define “service design”:

“It’s well-known that if you ask a service designer to define “service design,” you get 10 different answers. For me, it’s really about thinking on a system level about design … It’s thinking about how systems, and not just computer systems, but how human systems and computer systems and physical systems all interact with each other. You need to be thinking not about individual moments; you need to be thinking about journeys and flows, and thinking about how a human being will naturally, without even thinking about it, move from one context to another using different devices, using physical objects, being in physical spaces. For me, it was very appealing, this idea that you can design more than just interactions in a way, more than just interactions on a screen. You can actually design other things that are more about the way we live and work and play.”

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How to make a UX designer

Heather Wydeven talks about her entry into the field of UX and what helped her succeed as a new UX designer.

Where do new designers come from? In the case of Heather Wydeven, a UX designer at The Nerdery, she came to UX via theater and then graphic design. In a recent interview, Wydeven took the time to speak with me about her route to UX design, what it was like entering the UX field, what new designers should know, and how more experienced designers can help bring new designers into the fold.

After spending several years working in theater, Wydeven decided to channel her creative skills into a career in graphic design. She came to UX design without even realizing what UX was, but the root of her motivation was something that’s familiar to many UX designers: a recognition that things could be better and a desire to solve problems.

“While I was doing graphic design,” Wydeven said, “I started to become more curious about web design and UX design specifically, though at the time I didn’t know it was called ‘UX design.’ I was using websites and being frustrated about my experiences on those websites and thinking, ‘There’s got to be a way to make these better. This has got to be somebody’s job to design these websites better than they are now.’” Read more…

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Products are now platforms

With remote connectivity and remote updates, companies are able to iterate and add value to products customers already own.

Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from our recent report, When Hardware Meets Software, by Mike Barlow. The report looks into the new hardware movement, telling its story through the people who are building it. For more stories on the evolving relationship between software and hardware, download the free report.

The Internet of Things doesn’t presage a return to the world of smoke-belching factories and floors covered with sawdust. But it does signify that change is afoot for any business or activity related to the information technology or communications industries.

“Not everyone will become a hardware designer,” says Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. But many students, software engineers, and entrepreneurs will see the advantages of learning how to work with hardware. “It’s never too late to learn this stuff,” says Ito, “if you decide that you want to do it.”

At minimum, software engineers should learn as much about design and manufacturing as possible. “Buy an Arduino and start building. Everything you need to learn is on the web,” urges Jordan Husney, an avid hardware hacker who serves as strategy director at Undercurrent, an organizational transformation firm and digital think tank in lower Manhattan.

In the same way that software people will have to reconfigure their modes of thinking, hardware people will need to learn new technical skills and new ways of looking at problems, says Husney. “They will have to become more comfortable with uncertainty occurring later and later in the process,” he says. “Hardware engineers will keep things in the realm of bits (as opposed to committing them to atoms) by sharing designs using digital collaboration and simulation tools virtually, while testing multiple physical prototypes. I think we’re going to see the supply chain start to shift around these concepts.” Read more…

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Design for disruption

A look at the need for design thinking in the IoT, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and synthetic biology.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from our recent book Designing for Emerging Technologies, a collection of works by several authors, curated and edited by Jon Follett. This excerpt is included in our curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. Download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

Let’s look briefly at the disruptive potential of each of these emerging technologies: the IoT, advanced robotics, 3D printing, and synthetic biology — and the need for design thinking in their formations.

The IoT, connected environment, and wearable technology

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Download a free copy of the Experience Design ebook here.

The IoT is a popular shorthand that describes the many objects that are outfitted with sensors and communicating machine-to-machine. These objects make up our brave, new connected world. The types and numbers of these devices are growing by the day, to a possible 50 billion objects by 2020, according to the Cisco report, The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything (PDF).

Inexpensive sensors providing waves of data can help us gain new insight into the places in which we live, work, and play, as well as the capabilities to influence our surroundings — passively and actively — and have our surroundings influence us. We can imagine the possibilities of a hyper-connected world in which hospitals, factories, roads, airways, offices, retail stores, and public buildings are tied together by a web of data.

In a similar fashion, when we wear these sensors on our bodies, they can become our tools for self-monitoring. Combine this capability with information delivery via Bluetooth or other communication methods and display it via flexible screens, and we have the cornerstones of a wearable technology revolution that is the natural partner and possible inheritor of our current smartphone obsession. If we consider that the systems, software, and even the objects themselves will require design input on multiple levels, we can begin to see the tremendous opportunity resident in the IoT and wearables. Read more…

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The changing nature of design is coming full circle

Matt Nish-Lapidus on the evolution of product development from pre-industrial through post-industrial eras.

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Design is entering its golden age. Now, like never before, the value of the discipline is recognized. This recognition is both a welcome change and a challenge for designers as they move to designing for networked systems. Jon Follett, editor of Designing for Emerging Technologies, recently sat down with Matt Nish-Lapidus, partner and design director at Normative Design, who contributed to the book. Nish-Lapidus discusses the changing role of design and designers in emerging technology.

As Nish-Lapidus describes, we’re witnessing the evolution of product development from one crafts-person, one customer; to a one crafts-person, many customers; to a one craft-person, one product that many people will customize. He explains how the crafted object and the nature of design has changed, beginning with the pre-industrial era:

“If you look at a pair of glasses from the pre-industrial era — anything from Medieval up through the 1700s to 1800s — what you’re seeing is an object that’s the direct expression of a single crafts-person and was made for a single individual to use. It’s a representation of that crafts-person’s view of what glasses should be. They create one, and they sell that one pair. It was often, at the time anyway, also made on commission, so it was rare that they would make large quantities of the same thing and have them sitting around. Pre-industrial, in this way, is an expression of the individual crafts-person involved.”

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Biology as the next hardware

Why DNA is on the horizon of the design world.

DNA by John Goode, on Flickr

I’ve spent the last couple of years arguing that the barriers between software and the physical world are falling. The barriers between software and the living world are next.

At our Solid Conference last May, Carl Bass, Autodesk’s CEO, described the coming of generative design. Massive computing power, along with frictionless translation between digital and physical through devices like 3D scanners and CNC machines, will radically change the way we design the world around us. Instead of prototyping five versions of a chair through trial and error, you can use a computer to prototype and test a billion versions in a few hours, then fabricate it immediately. That scenario isn’t far off, Bass suggested, and it arises from a fluid relationship between real and virtual.

Biology is headed down the same path: with tools on both the input and output sides getting easier to use, materials getting easier to make, and plenty of computation in the middle, it’ll become the next way to translate between physical and digital. (Excitement has built to the degree that Solid co-chair Joi Ito suggested we change the name of our conference to “Solid and Squishy.”)

I spoke with Andrew Hessel, a distinguished research scientist in Autodesk’s Bio/Nano/Programmable Matter Group, about the promise of synthetic biology (and why Autodesk is interested in it). Hessel says the next generation of synthetic biology will be brought about by a blend of physical and virtual systems that make experimental iteration faster and processes more reliable. Read more…

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