"industrial design" entries

Designing at the intersection of disciplines

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Simon King on creating holistic, integrated experiences and the importance of discipline overlap.


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In this week’s Radar Podcast, I chat with Simon King, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Design Center. Harkening back to growing up on a family farm in Michigan, King talks about technology’s growing role in agriculture and the role design is playing in agriculture innovation. He also talks about his new book Understanding Industrial Design and the synergies between industrial design and interaction design. King will be speaking about industrial design at our newly launched O’Reilly Design Conference: Design the Future on January 19 to 22, 2016, in San Francisco.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

There’s been different eras of agriculture, and this latest one of precision agriculture or data-driven agriculture has the possibility of really changing the way people farm. I see that to some degree with people like my father and the new tools that he’s embracing slowly — things like autonomous driving tractors and some of the different data services. It’s an opportunity, I think, for new people to come into the field, and it’s going to be important.

Like most industries that are leading with technology, design trails. People are embracing the technology because it’s whole new capabilities that they never had before. Being able to do soil samples and analysis and then create nitrogen prescription maps so that you are not like wasting any chemicals — it’s such a great advancement that people are willing to fight through the fact that it’s poorly designed. We see that in medical; we see that in automotive. Any industry that reaches a certain curve where the technology has become mature, then all of a sudden the experience of using it begins to matter a lot more. I think that’s where design is going to start intersecting with agriculture really strongly and actually make it more accessible to farmers who are generally not that technically savvy.

Industrial design is such an older design discipline. Just purely from the design history standpoint, it’s something that everybody should be studying and be aware of how that discipline has evolved. It’s the underpinning of a lot of the different disciplines that design has kind of fragmented into.

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Design to reflect human values

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Martin Charlier on industrial and interaction design, reflecting societal values, and unified visions.


Designing for the Internet of Things is requiring designers and engineers to expand the boundaries of their traditionally defined roles. In this Radar Podcast episode, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler sat down with Martin Charlier, an independent design consultant and co-founder at raincloud.eu, to discuss the future of interfaces and the increasing need to merge industrial and interaction design in era of the Internet of Things.

Charlier stressed the importance of embracing the symbiotic nature of interaction design and service design:

“How I got into Internet of Things is interesting. My degree from Ravensbourne was in a very progressive design course that looked at product interaction and service design as one course. For us, it was pretty natural to think of product or services in a very open way. Whether they are connected or not connected didn’t really matter too much because it was basically understanding that technology is there to build almost anything. It’s really about how you design with that mind.

“When I was working in industrial design, it became really clear for me how important that is. Specifically, I remember one project working on a built-in oven … In this project, we specifically couldn’t change how you would interact with it. The user interface was already defined, and our task was to define how it looked. It became clear to me that I don’t want to exclude any one area, and it feels really unnatural to design a product but only worry about what it looks like and let somebody else worry about how it’s operated, or vice versa. Products in today’s world, especially, need to be thought about from all of these angles. You can’t really design a coffee maker anymore without thinking about the service that it might plug into or the systems that it connects to. You have to think about all of these things at the same time.”

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Interaction and industrial design team up to serve the IoT

Martin Charlier on design teams, responsibility, and service.


Register for the O’Reilly Solid Conference. Editor’s note: Martin Charlier will present a session, Prototyping User Experiences for Connected Products, at Solid, June 23 to 25, 2015, in San Francisco.

Industrial designers and interaction designers are joining forces to create the best services for Internet of Things (IoT). I sat down with Martin Charlier, a design strategist with a unique distinction of having both interaction and industrial design experience to talk about how the IoT is changing the design landscape, including team dynamics, responsible design, and value-driven design. Charlier is the co-author of the forthcoming Designing Connected Products and a contributor to Designing for Emerging Technologies. For a free download of sample chapters from Designing Connected Products click here.

Team dynamics

Charlier discusses the key ingredients for teams working on a product together and how to achieve a unified vision:

“I think every field needs to know a little bit about others, just a basic understanding of the other side. In some of the most interesting projects I’ve seen, the team was made up of somebody with an industrial design background, somebody doing more technology and somebody doing more interaction and user experience.

“The key, though, to some of the projects I’ve seen was that they started to work together as one team before splitting up into their respective domain areas so that there was a joined vision. I think that’s the most important thing: to come up with a joined vision. I think that’s where interaction design and industrial design, for example, need to think of either sides of the coin.”

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Wearables and the immediacy of communication

Wearables can help bridge the gap between batch and real-time communications.

PebbleI drown in e-mail, which is a common affliction. With meetings during the day, I need to defer e-mail to breaks between meetings or until the evening, which prevents it from being a real-time communications medium.

Everybody builds a communication “bubble” around themselves, sometimes by design and sometimes by necessity. Robert Reich’s memoir Locked in the Cabinet describes the process of staffing his office and, ultimately, building that bubble. He resists, but eventually succumbs to the necessity of filtering communications when managing such a large organization.

One of the reasons I’m fascinated by wearable technology is that it is one way of bridging the gap between batch and real-time communications. Wearable technology has smaller screens, and many early products use low-power screen technology that lacks the ability to display vibrant colors. Some may view these qualities as drawbacks, but in return, it is possible to display critical information in an easily viewable — and immediate — way. Read more…

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Defining and sculpting interactions between man and technology

Jonathan Follett on the future of design and designers.


Editor’s note: we’re running a series of five excerpts from our forthcoming book Designing for Emerging Technologies, a compilation of works by industry experts in areas of user experience design related to genomics, robotics, the Internet of Things, and the Industrial Internet of Things.

In this excerpt, author — and editor of Designing for Emerging TechnologiesJonathan Follett addresses designer’s roles as new technologies begin to blur the boundaries between design and engineering for software, hardware, and biotech.

Jonathan Follett

Author and editor Jonathan Follett, principal at Involution Studios.

Technology extends our grasp, making it possible for us to achieve our goals rapidly and efficiently; but it also places its own set of demands upon us. The fields of industrial design, graphic design, and software user experience design have all evolved in response to these demands — a need for a human way to relate to and interact with our new tools. Graphic design makes information depicted in printed media clear, understandable, and beautiful; industrial design makes products elegant, usable, and humane; and user experience design makes the interaction with our digital tools and services efficient and even pleasurable.

The future of design is to envision humanity’s relationship to technology and each other — whether we’re struggling with fear and loathing in reaction to genetically altered foods, the moral issues of changing a child’s traits to suit a parent’s preferences, the ethics guiding battlefield robots, or the societal implications of a 150-year extended lifetime. Now, more than ever, designers have the opportunity to help define the parameters of and sculpt the interactions between man and technology.

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