Architecting interactive environments

As our environments become increasing connected, architects must reinvent their roles and become hybrid designers.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt by Erin Rae Hoffer from our recent book Designing for Emerging Technologies, a collection of works by several authors 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 Designing for the Internet of Things ebook here.

We spend 90% of our lives indoors. The built environment has a huge impact on human health, social interaction, and our potential for innovation. In return, human innovation pushes our buildings continually in new directions as occupants demand the highest levels of comfort and functionality.

Our demand for pervasive connectivity has led us to weave the Internet throughout our lives, to insist that all spaces link us together with our handheld devices, and that all environments be interconnected. Internet-enabled devices creep into the spaces we inhabit, and these devices report back on spatial conditions, such as light, radiation, air quality, and temperature. They also count the number of people stopping at retail displays minute by minute, detect intruders and security breaches, and enable us to open locked doors remotely using our mobile devices; they allow us to modify the environments we occupy.

The space that surrounds us is transforming into a series of interconnected environments, forcing designers of space to rethink the role of architecture and the rules for its formulation. Similarly, designers of emerging technologies are rethinking the role of interfaces and the rules for creating them. During this period of experimentation and convergence, practical construction, and problem solving, architects must reinvent their roles and become hybrid designers, creating meaningful architecture with an awareness of the human implications of emerging technologies. Read more…

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Meta-design: The intersection of art, design, and computation

Modern design products should be dynamic, adaptable systems built in code.

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Editor’s note: this post originally appeared on Rune Madsen’s blog. It is reprinted here with permission.

This post is about something I see as a continuing trend in the design world: the rise of the meta-designer and algorithmic design systems.

“Meta-design is much more difficult than design; it’s easier to draw something than to explain how to draw it.” — Donald Knuth, The Metafont Book

Until recently, the term graphic designer was used to describe artists firmly rooted in the fine arts. Aspiring design students graduated with MFA degrees, and their curriculums were based on traditions taught by painting, sculpture, and architecture. Paul Rand once famously said: “It’s important to use your hands. This is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator.” At best, this teaches the designer not to be dictated by their given tool. At worst, the designer is institutionalized to think of themselves as “ideators”: the direct opposite of a technical person.

This has obviously changed with the advent of computers (and the field of web design in particular), but not to the degree that one would expect. Despite recent efforts in defining digital-first design vocabularies, like Google’s Material Design, the legacy of the printed page is still omnipresent. Even the most adept companies are organized around principles inherited from desktop publishing, and, when the lines are drawn, we still have separate design and engineering departments. Products start as static layouts in the former and become dynamic implementations in the latter. Designers use tools modeled after manual processes that came way before the computer, while engineers work in purely text-based environments. I believe this approach to design will change in a fundamental way and, like Donald Knuth, I’ll call this the transition from design to meta-design. Read more…

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Designing a future of immersive, tangible interaction

A look into a future in which physical and digital converge.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt by Stephen P. Anderson 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 Designing for the Internet of Things ebook here.

In the opening scenes of the Superman movie Man of Steel, one of the many pieces of Kryptonian technology we see are communication devices whose form and shape is constantly reshaping — a tangible, monochromatic hologram, if you will. Imagine thousands of tiny metal beads moving and reshaping as needed. Even though this makes for a nice bit of sci-fi eye candy, it’s also technology that MIT’s Tangible Media Group, led by professor Hiroshi Ishii, is currently exploring. In their own words, this work “explores the ‘Tangible Bits’ vision to seamlessly couple the dual world of bits and atoms by giving physical form to digital information.” They are creating objects (the “tangible bits”) that can change shape.

Even though the team’s vision of “radical atoms” is still in the realm of the hypothetical, the steps they are taking to get there are no less inspiring. Their latest example of tangible bits is a table that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. In one of their video demonstrations, a remote participant in a video conference moves his hands, and in doing so reshapes the surface of a table, rolling a ball around. The technology is at once both awe-inspiring and crude; the wooden pegs moving up and down to define form aren’t that unlike the pin art toys we see marketed to children. Having said that, it’s easy to imagine something like this improving in fidelity over time, in the same way that the early days of monochromatic 8-bit pixels gave way to retina displays and photorealistic images. Read more…

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Experience Design Links and Fodder: February 13, 2015

Mentor relationships; "learninghomes"; and building cross-disciplinary, collaborative teams.

Each week our design editors curate the most notable, interesting, and important material they come across. Below you’ll find their recent selections. You can get these and more in our weekly Design Newsletter.

Are you my mentor?

Digital product designer Lane Halley shares 7 Tips for Finding Your Perfect UX Mentor, and she describes how to establish a productive relationship once you’ve found one. Here’s how to bring that special someone into your life.

Shadows_Atilla_Kefeli_FlickrSource: Cropped image by Atilla Kefeli on Flickr Read more…

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Designing for delight

Suzanne Pellican on Intuit’s transformation to a design culture.

Three_pencils_Tristan_Schmurr_FlickrI recently had a wonderful conversation with Suzanne Pellican, chief design strategist at Intuit. She has spent the last several years coaching both designers and non-designers on how to think of and use design thinking as a core competency to improve business results and spur innovation.

Design thinking admittedly is a quirky phrase. What’s important is that it places design in a context that non-designers can appreciate. Pellican defines it and its relation to service design:

“‘Design for Delight’ at Intuit is our version of design thinking, and we reduced it down to three core principles: deep customer empathy, go broad to go narrow, and rapid experiments with customers. … Design thinking is the practice of problem solving and is based on those three core principles. That’s the actual skill set, the tools, and the mindset that you have. Service design is actually applying that then, end to end, as you’re thinking about very specific experiences for customers across many channels.

“The way that we do service design at Intuit today, a lot of the effort is in, let’s say, care — so when you think about a care experience for a customer you have to think about the many channels that they can access, including telesales and agents and care or the website or on my articles. You’re trying to think about their whole experience and you’re also trying to think about infrastructurally how could you deliver a delightful experience. That is service design.”

Read more…

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Experience Design Links and Fodder: February 6, 2015

On-demand focus groups; the bond between ux, data, and design

Each week our design editors curate the most notable, interesting, and important material they come across. Below you’ll find their recent selections. You can get these and more in our weekly Design Newsletter.

Focus groups on demand

User experience start-up UserTesting has modernized the old-fashioned focus group: “it runs an online panel of more than one million testers…who can test products and other company materials on demand.” Current clients include the likes of Google, Facebook, Home Depot, Verizon Wireless, and Amazon — UserTesting just might be onto something.

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Source: Cropped image by MCLK Travel on Flickr Read more…

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