Information Design Watch

July 19, 2010, 11:11 am

Review, Reuse, Inflate

By Henry Woodbury

One of our favorite design interns, Jonathan O’Conner is on to bigger things. Much bigger.

Billboard Balloon

Last summer Jonathan helped us out with his 3D modeling skills on a 21 inch monitor. This summer, with a team of fellow industrial designers, he is figuring out how to reuse giant plastic billboard sheets.

Check out their blog for a look at their creative process (the multi-colored post-it notes look familiar), brainstorms, technical investigations, and prototypes.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Creativity, Dynamic Diagrams News, Prototyping, Technology

August 20, 2009, 2:43 pm

3D Modeling of the Old School

By Henry Woodbury

Big wheel bicycle patented in 1879 by Sylvester Sawyer

This is just one artifact from an exhibit of 18th and 19th century U.S. patent models at Harvard University. The exhibit, Patent Republic, is on the second floor of Harvard’s Science Center and is open weekdays through December 11. Wired.com has an article and slideshow.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: 3D Modeling, Art, Current Events, Prototyping

March 20, 2009, 2:01 pm

Dynamic Diagrams at Etech 09

By Maia Garau

Last week I presented a tutorial at Etech on Holistic Service Prototyping with Matt Cottam, Jasper Speicher and Brian Hinch of Tellart. This tutorial built on the advanced studio Matt and I taught last semester in the Industrial Design department at RISD on the topic of Service Design. Services are by nature intangible and therefore present exciting new design challenges both in terms of communicating and developing service concepts. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on projects we explored a range of approaches with our students, from customer journeys and service blueprints to video and live enactment. Some of their work is featured here.

In addition to the key concepts and methods covered in our studio, the Etech tutorial introduced tools and techniques for building functional sketch models of web, mobile and embedded service experiences. Participants also played a brainstorming game we created that was partly inspired by Clue (“Professor Plum…. in the Library…. with a Candlestick”). They chose different combinations of users, contexts and tools to dream up new mobile and embedded service experiences, e.g. “Only child… on a road trip…. with an airflow sensor.” We have some video of the session and plan to post it soon.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Design, Dynamic Diagrams News, Prototyping

December 12, 2008, 12:17 pm

Creating Guideposts for the Visual Design Process

By Lisa Agustin

Droid SansA web site’s design is the marriage of the analytical and the aesthetic. The analytical side involves sifting through the front-end research (strategic documents, content inventories, user interviews, etc.), and translating these into a positive and engaging user experience.  Coming up with the architecture is a creative activity, but it has its roots in research activities that most clients understand and accept.

Developing the site’s visual design is usually the bigger challenge, since this is when subjective concerns like personal preference may come into play. Personal opinions about design may put the project at risk (read: endless review cycles) if these are not managed correctly.  With our projects, we frame design discussions in the context of project goals and best practices.  Conversations about the site’s desired look and feel are as specific as we can make them: Are there corporate brand guidelines?  Does the site have to complement other sites and collateral?  Are there sites you like/don’t like and why?  This approach has served us well. Still, there have been exceptions where we’ve created a visual design concept that clearly meets all the requirements, but the client is not satisfied with the result.  In the best scenarios, the feedback is specific and actionable. But then there are other design reviews where the response is a little more cryptic: “It’s not quite I was looking for,” or the dreaded “I know it when I’ll see it.”  What then?

I thought about this when I read how Droid, the font for the new G1 cellphone, came to be. Google wanted a font that was “friendly and approachable” with “common appeal.”  The iterations developed by font studio Ascender Corporation ranged from an early typeface that was considered too “bubbly” to the more “techno” computer-based font, which was also rejected.  Because the definition of an “approachable” font isn’t exactly clear-cut (at least to me), I suspect debates about the options used some kind of visual scale, a more complex version of the continuum graphic at the top of this post.  Seeing the range of options would be easier than just talking about them, and it would then be possible to pinpoint the desired result. We’ve developed such tools ourselves, adding information about what the advantages and tradeoffs may be in choosing one direction over another.

Another example of this design continuum is the perceptual map used to guide the design development of the Xbox 360 game console (scroll down for the perceptual map).  The project team arranged seven console designs on a grid that used “architectural/organic” vs. “mild/wild” axes, with the existing design as a reference.  This tool ensured that the conversation was about design language and not about design preference, while also giving non-designers a way to compare the different console designs. (For more on the Xbox 360 design process, see this earlier Information Design Watch post.)

I would love to see more examples of visual tools that can help guide the design process. Readers, have any of you successfully adapted or developed similar tools for guiding design-related discussions with clients?

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Prototyping, Typography, User Experience, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

October 23, 2008, 10:01 am

Don’t Eat the iPod Shuffle—Seven Years of iPod Design

By Kirsten Robinson

Wired has published a look back at iPod design, starting with this paper and foam core prototype from 2001:

one of the original iPod concepts

Check out the article to find out how the scroll wheel evolved over time, when color was first introduced (on the body and the screen), and where the title of this post came from.

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Comments (0) | Filed under: Branding, Business, Color, Design, Prototyping, Technology, Usability

April 29, 2008, 12:06 pm

Of Wii and Waterproof Mattresses: Hotels Prototype New Ideas with “Test Rooms”

By Kirsten Robinson

The New York Times reported today that hotels are using “test rooms” to try out new designs and technology before implementing them throughout the hotel, saving vast sums by discarding or improving upon ideas that don’t work. New technologies being tested include waterproof mattresses, digital door panels, customized Wii consoles, and even wireless electricity. But sometimes the greatest need is to make sure the existing features are usable. One guest who tried out a test room commented that he could not figure out the alarm clock or how to turn on the television. “All I wanted to do was watch CNN,” he said.

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Comments (1) | Filed under: Business, Prototyping, Technology, Usability, User Experience