"interaction 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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Real-world interfaces are in an awkward and playful stage

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Josh Clark on the world as an interface, avoiding data rash, and the importance of play.

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World_Alarm_Clock_Bob_Bob_FlickrIn this week’s episode of the Radar Podcast, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chats with Josh Clark, founder of design agency Big Medium (formerly known as Global Moxie). Clark talks about the changing nature of his work as the world itself becomes more of an interface, how to avoid “data rash,” and why in this time of rapid technology growth it’s essential for designers to splash in the puddles.

The world is the medium

The influence of the Internet of Things is beginning to touch every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate to how we work to how we play. This fundamental shift away from screens to the real-world around us not only is influencing how designers approach their craft, but is changing the medium itself in which designers work. Clark talked about this shift and how it’s affecting his own work:

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found the nature of my work has been changing as well as my interests. I think the culture of digital design is changing, too, as we start moving off of screens. It felt like an opportunity to redefine my own work, so I also did that with my agency and changed its name to Big Medium. The idea of that being that the Internet itself is a pretty big medium, and in fact starting to expand beyond the bounds that we’ve traditionally associated it with, which is the screen. Increasingly, as we’re seeing connected devices — the smart phones were kind of the leading edge of this, but now we’re starting to see wearables and the Internet of Things — this idea that the Internet is becoming embedded in our environment and in everyday objects means that anything can be an interface.

My work is starting to engage more and more with that truly big medium, which is the world itself. Finally, the world is the interface, which of course it always has been, but now we’re able to create digital experiences that belong to the world that we actually move in instead of us having to dive into the screens.

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Smell and taste: New frontiers for experience design

Designers need not start from scratch as they wrestle with orchestrating experiences that span digital and physical.


Download a free copy of Designing for the Internet of Things, a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Design library. This post is an excerpt from Understanding Industrial Design, by Simon King and Kuen Chang, one of the books included in the curated collection.

Two of our richest senses, smell and taste, are not often associated with design. However, the creation of objects that support these senses is an ancient practice, embodied best by the tea set, where rituals of assembly and service lead to hints of the aroma. Holding the tea cup warms your hand without burning it, and the slow sipping of the tea forms a communal bond with other participants. Outside of classic and common serving items, designers today are increasingly finding new ways to collaborate with chefs and food companies to design with smell and taste in mind, forging a new frontier for sensorial design.

Martin Kastner is the founder and principal of Crucial Detail, a studio in Chicago that specializes in custom pieces to support unique culinary experiences. Martin is best known for his work designing serviceware concepts for Alinea, the 3-star Michelin restaurant founded by chef Grant Achatz. That collaboration has extended to other restaurants owned by Achatz, including The Aviary, a cocktail bar that prides itself on serving drinks with the same level of attention as a fine dinner.

At The Aviary, one of the most popular creations by Crucial Detail is the Porthole Infuser, a round vessel that presents the ingredients of a patron’s cocktail between two flat panes of glass, emphasizing the transformative action of the steeping process and building anticipation for the cocktail’s taste. The Porthole Infuser takes a part of the preparation process that is normally hidden and brings it directly to the person’s table, providing time for the drinker to contemplate the ingredients on display, creating a mental checklist for their tongue to seek out when they take their first sip.

The popularity of the Porthole Infuser at the Aviary led Kastner to create a Kickstarter campaign to fund the additional design and manufacturing required to release it as a commercial product. Support for the project was dramatic, achieving 25 times more funding than originally asked. This backing set the course for a redesign that allowed the infuser to be manufactured at scale and sold for $100, down from the several hundred dollars that each custom constructed version for The Aviary cost.

The Porthole Infuser is marketed as more than a cocktail tool, working equally well to support the smell and taste of oils, teas, or any other infusion recipe. It’s an example of how designers can enhance the dining experience, not by crafting the smell or taste of the food itself, but working in collaboration with a chef to heighten our awareness of those senses. Read more…


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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A bigger and different way of looking at the IoT

Tim O’Reilly’s Solid Conference keynote highlights the capabilities that will let us shape the physical world.

Tim O’Reilly has recently focused on the connection between humans and the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s a topic he’s written about and talked about, and it’s also at the heart of our explorations into interaction design and connected devices and experience design and the Internet of Things.

O’Reilly’s keynote address at the Solid Conference in 2014 explored the human-IoT link. The talk expanded the scope of the IoT, making it clear this isn’t just about individual devices and software — we’re creating “networks of intelligence” that will shape how people work and live.

The talk has become an essential resource for us as we’ve investigated the blurring of the physical and virtual worlds. That’s why we decided to put together a text-friendly version of the presentation that’s easy to scan and reference. And since we think it’s so useful, we’ve made the text version publicly available.

You can download your free copy of “Software Above the Level of a Single Device: The Implications” here. Read more…

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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.”

Read more…

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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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Podcast: news that reaches beyond the screen

Finding ways to make media interact with the physical world

Reporters, editors and designers are looking for new ways to interact with readers and with the physical world–drawing data in through sensors and expressing it through new immersive formats.

In this episode of the Radar podcast, recorded at News Foo Camp in Phoenix on November 10, Jenn and I talk with three people who are working on new modes of interaction:

Along the way:

For more on the intersection of software and the physical world, be sure to check out Solid, O’Reilly’s new conference program about the collision of real and virtual.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunesSoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

Four short links: 12 October 2011

Four short links: 12 October 2011

Google Platforms, Securing Software, Interactive Design, and Building Proverbs

  1. Steve Yegge’s Google Platforms Rant — epic. Read it. (updated with new link)
  2. Guidelines for Securing Open Source Software (EFF) — advice from the team that audited some commonly-used open source libraries. Avoid giving the user options that could compromise security, in the form of modes, dialogs, preferences, or tweaks of any sort. As security expert Ian Grigg puts it, there is “only one Mode, and it is Secure.” Ask yourself if that checkbox to toggle secure connections is really necessary? When would a user really want to weaken security? To the extent you must allow such user preferences, make sure that the default is always secure. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Ladder of Abstraction — a visual and interactive exploration of design that will delight as well as inform. (via Sacha Judd)
  4. On “Build It And They Will Come”I wasn’t saying “build it and they will come”—I was saying “don’t build it and they can’t come”. Wonderfully captures the idea that success can’t be guaranteed, but failure is easy to ensure. (via Ed Yong)


Comments: 3
Four short links: 31 January 2011

Four short links: 31 January 2011

BBC Pares Web, Data Interaction Design, Long-Form Commerce, and Dangers of Free Themes

  1. BBC Web Cuts Show Wider Disconnect (The Guardian) — I forget that most people still think of the web as a secondary add-on to the traditional way of doing things rather than as the new way. Interesting article which brings home the point in the context of the BBC, but you can tell the same story in almost any business.
  2. 40p Off a Latte (Chris Heathcote) — One of the bits I enjoyed the most was unpacking the old ubiquitous computing cliche of your phone vibrating with a coupon off a latte when walking past a Starbucks. This whole presentation is brilliant. I’m still zinging off how data can displace actions in time and space: what you buy today on Amazon will trigger a recommendation later for someone else.
  3. Long-Form Reporting Finds Commercial Hope in E-Books — ProPublica and New York Times have launched long-form reporting in Kindle Singles, Amazon’s format for 5k-30k word pieces. On Thursday, he told me his job involved asking the question, “How do you monetize the content when it is not news anymore?” Repackaging and updating the paper’s coverage of specific topics is a common answer.
  4. Why You Should Never Search for Free WordPress Themes in Google or Anywhere Else — short answer: free themes are full of SEO rubbish or worse. Every hit on your site boosts someone else’s penis pills site, and runs the risk that search engines will decide your site is itself spam.
Comment: 1