All posts tagged thesis

  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Urbanized | Gary Hustwit documentary

    Urbanized by Gary Hustwit

    What does a documentary about urbanization have to do with my thesis? I guess not much more than everything in the whole world is designed and new perspectives always add value to a thesis on design. And an incredible perspective it was, I really like Hustwit documentaries in general.

    The landscape urban designers work with is a different kind of complex that we deal with on a digital landscape. One of my favorite things that he brought up was the shift from urban designers committing top-level designers (designing from above and forcing designs on people, like Brasília, Brazilla and Robert Moses for NYC) to designs/designers who reflect the needs of the people because they live on the ground and understand the community dynamics. The understand what things need to be in place to help a community thrive where people feel really connected to each other and have the luxury of living more sustainably because it’s easier. For instance, everything’s within walking distance so they won’t have to drive everywhere.

    They obviously reflects the kinds of things that designers need to consider when they’re designing for users. To work from the ground up and really understand the needs of the people while at the same time pushing them towards productive behavior.

    Also, I just wanted to watch that movie. Highly recommend.

  • Thesis proposal draft as a letter to Katie

    The title says it all. I thought this would help me get my thoughts and ideas out more simply and in a way that was more focused on clarity, since I would be explaining it to a non-designer.


    Dear Katie,

    As you may or may not know, the field of interaction design is exploding. Or, at least companies are considering a designer in general and essential part of any team. We can see that companies’ attentions have turn towards the field of design. For example, this year IBM was making a big push to hire 2,000 designers and General Electric launched their first ever User Experience Division of their Software Leadership Program this year. My opinion, which is not really backed up by anything but my own experience is that, since we’re spending so much of our time online and in front of screens now, there is a real need to make those experiences as unique and branded as physical products since there is nothing else a customer will see. Companies are driven to make these interactions meaningful. For example, companies like Oxo go about refining products like kitchen utensils to make them easier to use when the functioned fine before. Or consider the craft a graphic designer might put into printing a poster: picking the right paper, matching colors, and making sure the proportions came out the way they wanted—all after they’ve already spent hours making sure the visual design itself is correct. These designers are making a distinction between simply performing the task and in creating a preferred method of completing a task. Digital products have been creating more meaningful experiences in the same way by increasing the quality of the design and the way that information is delivered to people—the way an interface interacts with viewers matters and goes into consideration as the evaluate the entire product. By that, I mean the micro-interactions: everything from how the screens load, the transition between pages, and even how a button is clicked.

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