30 March 2010

A long time ago, without knowing what design was, she dreamed of creating something that would make a difference in the world (although she did not use these words to describe it as such, at this stage in her life).

Her father wouldn't accept the terms, "I'm bored" (and this boundary kept her imagination alive). Rainy afternoons were not measured in front of the television. Found objects, dried leaves and paint offered the tools to create her own personal narrative.

This is me. With an awesome hairdo, exquisite fashion sense and a means to visualize my ideas. And for the record, I'm ever so curious to recall what I actually crafted on this particular day.

(This photo is courtesy of my dad)

22 March 2010

A Sort of Revolution: Episode One
Are you ready for a change? What does that mean?

To the cooks in a school cafeteria in West Virginia, change means,"It has to come from the top." Jamie Oliver demonstrates that real change may cost you everything you've got.

If you've worked on projects where the objective is design for social change, this episode speaks on a whole bunch of levels. As a designer, it hosts a glimpse into the process of navigating complexity and seeking to employ human centered design methods when addressing a problem. If you ever wanted to see this methodology in action, this episode offers insight (more than you might imagine). You can watch in the USA or Canada.

Here's what I take away from Jamie's initial foray into the community of Huntington:

1) Three to four months of investment with the community will reveal more than two weeks ever will.

2) Visualizing the problem and an accessible solution is essential to understanding.

3) The system is complex and you have to navigate it. No shortcuts.

4) People skills are part of human-centered design. And even with them, your best intentions may be misunderstood.

5) The outsider who wants to change the way things are will always pose a threat.

Anything else?

18 March 2010

I asked the students I work with (as a seminar leader for an Ecological Design course) to come up with a problem or issue that they'd want to see discussed when designers and city leaders connect at Dinner With A Side Of Design. Here are some of their thoughts based on course content:

1) How can you make policy knowledge more accessible to people?
2) How would you make sustainable design more convenient?
3) How would you shift food safe policies so people could bring their own dishes for take out?
4) How would you improve the space and riding experience on the bus?
5) How would you improve the bus scheduling so people would choose to take the bus over a car?

Do you have any to add?

Image source: All Free Crafts

12 March 2010

Love how this reframes the process of navigating complexity: "What will we create?" instead of "What will we give up?"

Okay, so I'm not really there. I'm in rainy Vancouver with a hashtag and an online web schedule. Clearly, the event is jam packed with all sorts of goodies. As I looked through the long list of presenters, I came up with ten sessions (in no particular order) that I'd want to be listening in on:

1) Long Distance UX (Alex Cook and Lisa Kamm)
Collaboration is key to the UX process, but it becomes increasingly difficult across locations. Working remotely with engineers, product managers and other UX'ers is challenging. Learn how members of the Google UX team work with other offices and team members domestically and internationally to create the best user experiences possible.

2) Design for Awareness: Mobile Technologies & Health (Robert Fabricant)
This presentation will explore an emerging class of design solutions that combine mobile technologies and sensors to target a variety of health issues. These technologies have the potential to heighten our awareness of our own behavior in meaningful ways, opening up new opportunities and challenges for interaction designers.

3) Blah Blah Blah: Why Words Won't Work (Dan Roam)
Since the industrial revolution, we've judged human intelligence by our ability to talk. And just look at where that belief has gotten us: from politics to energy, we're deeper in conceptual debt than ever. This session shows how combining our innate verbal and visual skills is the only way we're going to solve the big problems ahead.

4) The Final (Mobile) Frontier: Battery Life in Africa (Gabrielle Rosario and Mike Stopforth)
Africa is a much misunderstood market, but potentially as large as China or India. Computer and internet penetration is extremely low, but cellphones are everywhere. How to tackle communication and social services on a continent where electricity - including charging cellphones in rural areas - is the greatest challenge.

5) Getting Your Company Funded (Reid Hoffman and Justin Fishner-Wolfso)
In this presentation, learn all the basics on how to take your company to the next level. Get the skinny on how to accept angel or VC funding without giving away the farm. There's so much jargon around financing and this session will debunk it all -- including term sheets, liquidation preferences, board composition, demand rights, option pools, valuations and much much more.

6) Interactive Infographics (GOOD)
Insights and examples from the frontier of interactive infographics. The smart, interactive presentation of data is emerging as a new form of media. Still in an early stage, this format shows major promise. We'll explore what this is all about and where it's going.

7) Design for the Dark Side (IDEO)
Design usually focuses on making the world around us better - optimism often rules the roost in our industry. But what might happen if we forced ourselves to design for a catastrophic or dystopian future? Can we learn something by designing for a darker side of human experience?

8) DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (Anya Kamenetz)

9) UX Process Improved: Integrating User Insight (Steve Portigal and Aviva Rosenstein)
Finding detailed specifications for implementing user research methods is easy - but matching specific methods to your particular needs can be a challenge. We'll outline an underlying framework for research approaches so you'll understand why each method works as well as when to use it.

10) Keynote by Valerie Casey

(Now to check out the music and film line up!)

07 March 2010

Wicked problems. Also known as "the things that seem too big for us to solve." I stumbled across this old Adidas ad campaign and have adapted it to craft a contractual agreement with said problems. It isn't comprehensive but offers a helpful icon when I consider how my creative thinking process permits the "willing suspension of disbelief" in order to face something that seems too big or impossible. Thanks to Twitter feeds, I came across this 1992 article by a great writer and design thinker, Richard Buchanan:
To gain some idea of how extensively design affects contemporary life, consider the four broad areas in which design is explored throughout the world by professional designers and by many others who may not regard themselves as designers:

1) the design of symbolic and visual communications

2) the design of material objects

3) the design of activities and organized services, which includes the traditional management concern for logistics, combining physical resources, instrumentalities, and human beings in efficient sequences and schedules to reach specified objectives

4) the design of complex systems or environments for living, working, playing, and learning. This includes the traditional concerns of systems engineering, architecture, and urban planning or the functional analysis of the parts of complex wholes and their subsequent integration in hierarchies.

Reflecting on this list of the areas of design thinking, it is tempting to identify and limit specific design professions within each area - graphic designers with communication, industrial designers and engineers with material objects, designers-cum-managers with activities and services, and architects and urban planners with systems and environments. But this would not be adequate, because these areas are not simply categories of objects that reflect the results of design. Properly understood and used, they are also places of invention shared by all designers, places where one discovers the dimensions of design thinking by a reconsideration of problems and solutions.

Buchanan's work reminds me that "design thinking" isn't a buzzword. And it's exciting to see these programs emerge to create an educational outlet for developing these ideas further (as my educational experience didn't include this type of conversation):
Austin Center for Design

05 March 2010

Nobody has the answers.
Nobody is listening to you.  
Nobody is looking out for your interests.
Nobody will lower your taxes.
Nobody will fix the education system.
Nobody knows what he is doing in Washington.
Nobody will make us energy independent.
Nobody will cut government waste.
Nobody will clean up the environment.
Nobody will protect us against terrorist threats.
Nobody will tell the truth.
Nobody will avoid conflicts of interest.
Nobody will restore ethical behavior to the White House.
Nobody will get us out of Afghanistan.
Nobody understands farm subsidies.
Nobody will spend your tax dollars wisely.
Nobody feels your pain.
Nobody wants to give peace a chance.
Nobody predicted the Iraq War would be a disaster.
Nobody expected the levees to fail.
Nobody warned that the housing bubble would collapse.
Nobody will reform Wall Street.
Nobody will stand up for what’s right.
Nobody will be your voice.
Nobody will tell you what the others won’t.
Nobody has a handle on this.
Nobody, but you, that is.
Never forget, a small group of people can change the
No one else ever has.

by Micah Sifry
excerpt from What Matters Now

02 March 2010

I'm teaching the last six weeks of a course called, Designing With Image and Time and I've asked the students to work with various films as part of their learning process. One of the options included The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. As I re-watched it, I couldn't help reflecting on the idea that these lessons could be applied anywhere, even in design. Would you agree? Watch the film and get back to me.

1. Empathize with your enemy the client/user you don't understand
2. Rationality will not save us
3. There's something beyond one's self
4. Maximize efficiency
5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war design
6. Get the data
7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong
8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning
9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil something you didn't expect
10. Never say never
11. You can't change human nature

01 March 2010

I think this might just say it all. via H34DUP