• Chase Sapphire card activation as service design experience

    I’ve been taking Designing for Service this year so I feel like I’ve been hyper-aware of certain service actions and how it compliments design and encountered one this morning.


    I received my new Chase Sapphire card this morning. The first thing I noticed was the weight of the card. It feels really nice. It has this matte finished and this satisfying weight. I think there is a little strip of metal inside or some other heavier material. I think it’s because all the numbers are still raised and the front is still flat. I ran my fingers over it. I had just gotten a citi card replacement the other week and it was the same flat front with all the info on the back, but the numbers were just printed on and i was worried they they would rub off or something. +1


    And I also noticed that they make you call and talk to someone in order to activate it. To a real person. Who is supposed to go over some of the benefits of the card. This was really surprising to me because I feel like usually you just call a number and type in a code and your card gets activated. I was surprised they were willing to spend the time having this point of human touch. Maybe that’s where that &95 annual fee goes. It became an opportunity for them to emphasize the good points and for me to ask questions if I needed to instead of (a) writing them an email later, which I would do instead of calling or (b) just not ask (more likely) and get mad at them later for penalizing me for something I was unaware of.  It was helpful for him to highlight verbally 3 of the short benefits/stipulations of the card, even if they were in the paperwork too. +1


    I did want to ask something though. You get 40,000 travel points when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. I wanted to know what the 3-months mean: calendar or 90 days. They said 90 days that would start from when you were approved. Which was seven days before I got the card and activated it. That didn’t seem fair. I asked I could have those seven days back since I couldn’t actually use the card. He said he get’s that question all the time but that he could’t because he had to be fair to all the customers and have the same amount of time for everyone.

    Getting a question all the time tells me that a service is not meeting expectation or there has been poor communication, or both. Of course we all excepted that three months to start when we can actually use the card! I think their solution was to be  a little bit unfair to everyone. It’s not that I can’t spend the month, but now it’s like I feel I’ve been cheated a little. Like the company has fine-printed me. -1. (emotionally, it’s a -2).

    — —

    Anyway, I wanted to write about it because how very conscious I was that I evaluated the experience from start to finish as service design. Like, when I was holding that card in my hand I was thinking “this is a great-feeling card. This is what someone wants to feel when they have a card in their hands. It feels sturdy and impressive.” The visual design is sleek and subdued. And the industrial design is pretty neat too.

  • Discovering the intent, translating the experience

    One of the first 99% Invisible podcasts I ever listened to was about waiting in line, or Queue Theory. They were investigating a large number of complaints about long elevator wait times in old New York City buildings. The 90 second wait for the elevator at peak times was too much for the modern visitor to bear. The situation didn’t seem to have a solution that didn’t involve new elevators and/or a lot of construction. Then the researchers thought, maybe they were framing the problem wrong. The real goal of the building owners was to stop getting complaints not necessarily to improve the elevator situation. Maybe they just needed a diversion during those 90 seconds. The researchers put floor-to-ceiling mirrors next to to all the elevators and—viola! The complaints virtually disappeared. Instead of feeling this dead time of waiting for the elevators, people were fixing their hair, adjusting their dress, or surreptitiously spying on the other person waiting for the elevator too.

    This continues to be one of my favorite anecdotes and one I come back to time and time again. How can you reframe the perceived problem to create different solution? From the building owner’s perspective, he just didn’t want to be bothered by complaints. And the visitors were just feeling every moment of this wasted time. The most obvious choice was to literally decrease the wait time, but instead they choose to explore how to make people care less about the time. How to change their experience of time.

    I’m interested in exploring the elements of design intentions in order to recreate different solutions. As technology advances and can capture more experiences through different channels so should our approach to crafting experiences evolve. Picking the right translation for an experience means understanding how the the sensations and social knowledge work together to create them. A poor translation of an experience only recreates the functional aspects, but doesn’t really carry the intent of the design.

    For instance, recently I watched this day-in-the-life video of a blind woman as she completed various tasks and I realized what a stunted experience she was getting compared to sighted users. One of her tasks was creating a new entry in her calendar and composing an email to her friend using her iPhone. Yes, she was able to complete the given tasks with the accessibility features built into the phone, but I was struck by the clumsiness of how she got there. Having worked all for several weeks crafting an elegant experience for a user, I was aware of how crude these experiences felt in comparison. It was there to just translate the functions without capturing the artistry.

    Walter Benjamin writes about ‘the task of the translator’ being more than to rebuild a story by matching word to word and sentence to sentence. Instead, to he reveals that a truly great translation goes beyond what is meant (a signifier) into ‘the way of meaning it’ (how it is communicated). For instance, we can think about adaptations of old works into moderns stories. We might be able to read all of the words in a Shakespearian play, but there is a barrier to engaging with the story because we are less familiar with the way stories are communicated, the culture, and the norms in which the original work was produced. A good translation pays less attention in being structurally true to the original play and puts more emphasis on how to translate the same experience for the audience: the same emotions or lessons the original play was trying to convey in a modern context. Thinking about digital interaction design, we can think about how we could perhaps recreate the range of visuals cues into auditory or haptic experiences.

    There is a need to create more nuanced experiences across our sensed experiences. Currently, design researchers have considered the touch points of interactions (affordances) in order to achieve an outcome or goal, but less on understanding the murkiness of the phenomenological experiences between interacting with the the artifact and accomplishing the goal. Wendy Ju talks about design as a social process that is “negotiated and jointly performed” in order to create what she calls implicit interaction. When a design might embody social cues that help facilitate interaction. Like a door sensing a woman’s approach and opening a a bit to invite and inform that passerby that they are welcome to use the door if they need to. The door is enacting social performance equivalent to a doorman putting his hand on the knob in readiness to open the door if he sees someone approaching.

    If designers reflect on the intention of their projects and they might be able to see opportunities for creating new translations across senses of the same experience. For example, visually we have different hover states for buttons to gives  users a sense of where they are, what might equivalent feedback look for someone with vision impairment? Or interactions on a small or no- screen wearable?

    One exercise I propose is for designers to analyze how different interaction design elements contribute different rhetorical qualities to a situation. How they build off of social understandings, connotations, performances, and expectations in order to create an experience. And what precisely they are. By breaking apart these elements designers have the chance to imagine how other discrete elements of interaction can do similar work.

  • Part II: My proposed project

    Another pointless writing exercise.

    So when we left off last time I was discussing my circuitous path towards my resolution before I had to disappear to class. I had left you all with the oh-so intriguing argument that we should not get caught up in what approach to take when approaching design, but in how facilitate as creative perspectives in general. An idea, of course, that is not actually new, if you didn’t catch my facetiousness.

    My idea was to create a wiki where designers create entries describing tools for interaction design. These entries would attempt to break down all of the elements that designers have at their disposal in order to create interactions. I created these categories by thinking about how things are sensed (vision, sound, touch, etc.) and explored additional context information, like location compared to other people. Within vision, some examples of the smaller elements I described are the ones we’re most familiar with like type, color, lines, spacing—The basic elements of design that we all learn in school. Then we can break it down into how those specific elements are used. These are old hat for any designer: how different typefaces create different tones, how angles in a composition can create more energy.  But when we do the same exercise with something like sound or haptic feedback we intearction designers don’t have as clear of guidelines for using these non-visual elements. Instead, often sound and touch (e.g. vibration) are used as a last resort for designers to intrude on the user rather than enhance their experiences (an alarm clock or event reminder). Musicians and sound engineers might be more familiar with how to treat sound in a way that better blends into our lives or even making the sound we experience now more appealing. For instance, based on the knowledge that, in our culture, they might use discordant sounds to indicate an error or high sounds as a happier event in order to create a more sound-rich experience. It might hard to imagine now how all sound feedback could integrate into our lives without being obtrusive, but that’s because we’re not used to our technology emitting it. However, away from screens it seems perfectly natural for the devices we use to make sounds that we don’t notice. We’re used to car engine making noise, it tells us it’s working find and we get used to hearing the specific sound it makes. When electric cars came out, their much quieter engines became a hazard for pedestrians and bicyclist because they couldn’t hear the vehicle coming. I know that I can recognize the very soft hum of my external harddrive turning on and listen for it to stop to make doubly-sure that I can safely unplug the device from my computer. The future of interaction design might already be out there, it’s just not widely spread. Yet.

    The initial categories I had were:

    • Visual
    • Auditory
    • Haptic
    • Social

    I know taste and smell are missing. Perhaps I’m being closed-minded, but I personally didn’t want to explore them at this time. Anyone who wanted to contribute to the wiki is most welcome to explore the possibilities of those two senses.

    And I evaluated these elements by how they can function to accomplish one or a combination of the following for users in design by creating rhetorical categories. These are initial categories I created and, again, I hope that other contributors bring their own perspectives to the project.

    • Informational
    • Orientational
    • Feedback
    • Metaphorical
    • Performative

    It is my hope that this exercise in creating and editing wiki entries on the design elements would help designers break away from the same patterns they use to create interactions and see other elements at their disposal through the process of creating entries or viewing them.

    Read more

  • Why rhetoric?

    A writing exercise of little importance.

    During my thesis review one of the advisors and I got into a back-and-forth discussion about whether rhetoric was the correct way we (designers) should thinking about and approaching design. He believed it should not, I believed it should. He believes in working with the “direct perception” or “embodied knowledge”  JJ Gibson describes in his work on ecological perception (designers, you know, affordances) as you approach your designs. I also think we should.

    I spent winter break balancing both philosophies in my mind. I can appreciate using rhetorical analysis as a tool to approach design and learn/discuss how it does work on people. I initially chose to use literally theory to approach design for vague, personal reasons. I have cherished how much my English background influences how I think about problems, people, communication, and design….the world really. I say it’s vague because I don’t know the specific way to apply what I felt I got from four years of English coursework into design.

    What I ended up ultimately doing for my thesis, I used different linguistic and rhetorical theories as a framework to analyze different elements of interaction design. How is our actions on device metaphorical? What kind of persuasive communication techniques might they be applying? How are they stylistic and what does that do to create identity? It ended up being an exercise in thinking critically about what design elements do and broadened the way that I thought these elements (or others) could be used. Whether it be visual, auditory, haptic, or whatever other kind of information that can be sensed.

    On the other side of things, the professor argued that this “languaging” of interaction creates a level of abstraction away from what our body inherently knows about an object. It takes it further from it’s context and its use. It might lock us into one perception of what and object is and can do. If we call something a chair, we are forever forced to think of it conventionally (what our learned patterns of interactions are with a chair) whereas it might have so many other possibilities. Or, things we don’t imagine to be chairs can be just as sitable. Design can have embodied knowledge by designing for the relationship between man and object/experiences. Chairs reflect certain needs that our body has: to bend at the knee, to have a flat surface a certain height from the ground and, for comfort, might have support for our backs—all working together to help the body rest. Compare this to poorly designed objects that might more function-driven rather than relationship driven. For instance, he described this cartoon of what an alien scientist might predict humans look like based on what our computers are designed like: A person with a hand that had one finger for clicking the mouse, a hand with like 84 keys to use the keyboard, one eye for staring at the screen, and just a giant bottom to sit on the floor while we used our device.


    I couldn’t find the comic but I came up with my own version.

    Read more

  • Reflection // post third semester

    So, I’m pretty sure standard protocol is to begin each post-reflection talking about how difficult the semester was and apologizing for not updating as much as I should have because of said trauma. Well, why change what we all know & love?

    It was especially difficult because, if you remember, I was leaving the heaven-on-earth that is Switzerland to go back into the trenches that is graduate school. I felt like I was working on a real project with a really great team and plenty of other designers to learn from and now I had to go back to school where most things were abstract. And I had to teach.

    I had been secretly pretty excited to teach since I had such a positive experience TA-ing for the class last year. I don’t quite know how to describe it and I probably shouldn’t since I have to teach again next semester. Overall it was still a good experience, but I didn’t realize how emotionally draining it would be. When I wasn’t in class I was constantly thinking about the class. What I could do, what I should do, what I did, what I didn’t do, what I will do…It took up a lot of space and didn’t leave much room for me to be concerned with my own classes.


    (interim critique)

    (interim critique)

    I ended up dropping a class I had really looked forward to taking: Time, Motion, and Communication. It was a class where our projects were in After Effects and created animated…stories, feelings, rhythms. I just was turning in work that I was ashamed of and I knew I couldn’t put anymore time into, because I had my other classes and thesis. The dream is someday I’ll re-do the projects I already turned in. I was glad for the amount of time I did have in the class though. Dan Boyarski is a tremendous leader of students and I got to see the depth of his kindness as a person too.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 10.24.38 AM

    My Language & Culture class was really fun and interesting to me. I thought the repetitive format of the actual class kind of dragged on, but almost all of the readings were interesting and they settled on my brain nicely. It’s one of those moments when you’re realize with fear: I could have gone my whole life not knowing this perspective! What a scary thought. It felt a little indulgent getting to learn all this stuff not explicitly connected to design, but I ended up using the readings I did for my thesis (with questionable success, apparently).

    It is admittedly hard for me to separate doing well in academia to doing well in life since I am pretty academically driven, but I would say that getting the leisure to study linguistic theory was such a pleasure for me and there is no way I can erase the way it makes me think about the world now so :P. I’ve realized recently my favorite subjects are Design, English/language, and philosophy. I could read and talk about those all day. (Although, I’m actually really bad at reading philosophy, but if you lectured at me about it all day I’d be just as happy). PLUS, since I did so much independent reading this semester, I finally think I’m better at reading dense academic articles. I don’t know why people make their ideas so unpleasant to read. I especially remember the struggle or reading these kinds of articles as an undergrad.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 10.23.03 AM

    You heard a little about my independent study. It was really rewarding project to work on since they were sincerely trying to make their project happen. But again, I felt a little constrained to find the time to work on it. When I did it was really fun to dive and I felt like I learned so much just by working on it and navigating through their issues. There are some aspects about this that didn’t turn out how I would have preferred, but I’m glad I worked on it. I ended working on their service system and creating business communication pieces for them. I also offered feedback on their user experience as they tested prototypes.



    ROUGHAnd my thesis, well, you know that happened at least. I ended up being really excited about it at the end, and still am even though the allure of sleep and my mother’s Vietnamese cooking are quite distracting. Getting feedback from other reviewers was a little discouraging. Part of it could have been my tense presentation where I decided to talk as fast as humanly possible…and part can be that people have existing ideas on design. Upward and onward, I suppose.

    SoThat was my review of my coursework, but school and life are obviously not the same thing. How am I feeling about design, me being a designer, etc, etc? 

    You know, I re-read my first reflection about what I wanted to get out the program and talked to my friend Igor over Thanksgiving (he is studying graphic design at Parson’s right now). He knew I was a designer and he knew, vaguely I was doing something different now. In talking to him, I realized what I was doing and was trained to do (and what I told people I do) was different than what I was used to do. It happened so slowly—creeped upon me realized—that when I suddenly looked around I saw that I learned a lot and I had these different skill sets, perspectives, and a desire to work on something else—Well, not to replace visual design, but to do something in addition to it. It was a weird and disorienting moment. When did this get away from me? Maybe during Confluence, our career fair. You tell your story so many times you start believing it. And then during your internship you realize it’s not just a story. But maybe also that you’re head is so down in graduate school and your’e trying to survive each each that you don’t get time look back and see what you’ve accomplished until you write a semester review blog post….So now I suppose I’m an interaction designer, I was hired as an interaction designer, and I like designing for interactions. But that’s not the whole story. I like getting my grubby hands on the whole user experience and design strategy, if I am being completely honest. I like doing everything from the high level thinking to comb out the tangles, to the moving and the shaking, to the painfully meticulous visual design work.

    I realized that not everyone likes this whole arch of design. I realize that some people really like the planning part and really hate the execution part (some of my students, for example ;) ). But I don’t. And I really don’t like that some (not all!) interaction designers look down on graphic/visual design. It really frustrates me because so many of the designers I admire are graphic designers. They do incredible work that is thoughtful and stunning. They impact and audience and make them feel something. They can incite behavior change through a static medium in the right place at the right time. The quality and skill that it takes to do what they do shouldn’t be undercut.

    All of design is hard.

    It’s noble and important to think about inciting change through design at the highest level: How a town, city, government can change by design perspective. But I still believe that design represents those ideas realized. So if you have a sloppy voter registration form you’re telling people that you didn’t think it was important. That care wasn’t taken into this experience for them. You’re telling them that design isn’t important. Does that make sense? Bringing design into the sphere of public conversation and governmental concern needs to trickle down into every aspect the public touches in order to speak to its significance. Because you read into the things you interact with. Nothing is neutral. That’s how I feel, anyway.


    Your favorite idealist,


  • Poster session, check!

    During the halfway point of the year all the MDes candidates have to present their posters to a three-person panel on faculty along with with a visual poster component to help walk them through the thesis. Part of that is that, later in the day the public is invited to walk around and see what we’re doing for thesis and talk about it with us.

    So, without further ado, my poster:



    The panel went well in a trying sort of way. I had a good design discussion with one of my panelist.

    More to come. I need to recover first.


  • Buchanan | Declaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument, and Demonstration in Design Practice

    Literature review: Buchanan, Richard (1985) Declaration by Design: Rhetoric, Argument, and Demonstration in Design Practice. Design Issues, Vol. 17, No. 3

    What is the author’s main argument?

    Building off the idea that “designers have directly influenced the actions of individuals and communities, changed attitudes and values, and shaped society in surprisingly fundamental ways (6), Buchanan argues that we should looking at this potential to direct humans through design as rhetorical. “Their persuasion comes through arguments presented in things rather than words; they present ideas in manipulation of the materials and processes of nature, not language” (7). He describes the three elements of argument through design as technological reasoning, character, and emotion. For example, how design declares its use and existence. Clearly, it’s not a passive object. Buchanan argues that looking at design through a rhetorical lens can help guide the practice of design (19).

    How is might this be relevant to my thesis?

    Buchanan explicitly argues for design to be interpreted as a rhetorical communication/a persuasive argument. He outlines how and why he feels like this is a significant contribution the design. As an established design theorist I can build off his theories. I should note that this is an older article.


  • Fallman | The Interaction design Research Triangle…

    Literature review: Fallman, Daniel. “The Interaction Design Research Triangle of Design Practice, Design Studies, and Design Exploration.” Design Issues 24.3 (2008): 4-18. Print.

    What is the main argument of the author?

    The goal of this paper was to present ‘refined models of interaction design research; embracing both what it currently is as well as pointing towards what it could be…” through tools that Fallman creates (4). He basically outlines the three ways that design research models: industry, academia, and society. He describes the different ways we approach and research design from these areas but encourages to work consider a more fluid way of moving between the models in order to create better designs.

    Some of the high-level differences he notes are that industry is more concerned with long-term collaborations and the industry. Academia is more concerned with building an intellectual tradition with reflections on the design field and what they could mean for the future. Finally, design exploration isn’t concerned with commercialization, but rather sketching or experimenting with things speculatively to shape the future.


    Thallman’s detailed triangle.

    Why might this be relevant to my thesis?

    I’m not sure. Maybe a final form for whatever my thesis is to take? The thing is, I still feel like this creates too much distance between practicing designers and academics. Like, this paper is talking about the need for these types of researchers to interface more in order to enhance whatever industry they are working in—but the only people who are reading this are probably academics. I do want my thesis to effect more people. Food for thought.


  • Lang | Creating Architectural Theory

    Literature review: Lang, Jon. “The Modern Movement, Architectural Theory, and the Behavioral Sciences.” Creating Architectural Theory: The role of the behavioral sciences in environmental design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 1987. 1-29. Book.

    This was another reading from Cameron. Architects and designers are compared a lot, apparently, and so my thesis advisor thought it would be helpful to know the the lessons architecture has learned over the years and how it they might be related to design.

    What is the main argument of the author?

    The author is calling for architecture to learn from the behavioral sciences to help their profession understand what present trends in society are a in order to better predict the results of their design (29). Lnag believes that currently (in 1987) architects haven’t been concerned enough about the implications of their designs and what it might be like to actually use the spaces they create or even considering how the space would be used (or human behavior) as architects worked on them. He is pushing for architecture to be a more theory-focused discipline and describes the profession as believing they have some magical common sense that other people don’t have so that they can work of of intuition rather than a standard practice. He then goes on to propose some ways that architects can start building theory-based practice.

    Why is this relevant to my thesis?

    If it didn’t pop into your head while reading that already, what I see is a parallel between how a practicing designer works and how Lang describes architects. They are happy believe they have a special gift and doing things on intuition rather than using a theoretical foundations. I think all of us in grad school are pulled from that because we’re forced to learn about various design theories—but the majority of designers aren’t. It describes the exigence to learn and borrow from other fields, like I propose to do with rhetoric studies. However, I also realize this paper is quite old and, from being in grad school, I feel pretty good about there being a comfortable amount of theory on design out there.

    However however, I still think there is so much design (and most other fields!) can learn from rhetoric studies. It’s one of the oldest fields out there and so it can’t be helped that so much of it has been studied. Besides that, I can’t help but think that language so-much influences our thoughts and so even just using a metaphor between design & language might really help solidify design literacy.


  • Redström | Definitions of use

    Literature review: Redström, Johan. “RE: Definitions of Use.” Design Studies 29.4 (2008): 410-23. Web.

    My thesis advisor sent this article to me after I told him that I was interested in studying interaction design in use in the same way that sociolinguists became interested in studying language in use instead of just looking at semantic meaning.

    But anyway, however I got this article before me, I really enjoyed it. It makes some important distinctions in order to bring some precision to a blanket term. Redström comes from the understanding that “designing a technical object is also typically entails designing, or prescribing it’s use” so we must always consider its context (411). He then makes distinctions between intended use and actual use.

    Some of the main points were…

    Thing-design vs use-design. We design an object, a chair, to do a a particular thing: sit. He points out that this is different from form & function because we’re talking in terms of how we use it, now not on the thing.

    use through design: “what one does when expressing a specific notion of what it is to sit through how the chair is design”

    use through use “When someone defines what a given thing is by using it in a certain way.” For example, a person might actually sit a completely different way.

    before use: designing things before it’s actually tested and used by a participant. Like a prototype? What designers do when they’re creating a new product

    After design: How the product is actually used, or defining use by use after design (416).  They describe how this can be a continuous process whereby the participant uses the designed object in different ways and so the design should always be considered unfinished works or ‘continuous designs’ (417).

    use-design: Not just designing the thing (thing-design) but prescribing its intended use.

    Why is this is relevant to my thesis?

    Well, I don’t think this is what I was exactly looking for when I was writing about my project, but regardless I thought it was a super interesting article and I’m glad I read it. It kind of describes the relationship that I’m interested in design—that it’s not a finished product where you’re coercing a user to behave a certain way, but that it’s a negotiated process where the heart of the action actually in how a person interact with your…interaction design. I waffle between thinking that this is extraordinary to “duh.” Regardless, it was a really well written paper with a solid summary of similar works that I know will marinade in how I view design even if I don’t use it for my thesis directly.