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Experience

Ben Bashford’s writing about ‘Emoticomp‘ – the practicalities of working as a designer of objects and systems that have behaviour and perhaps ‘ intelligence’ built-into them.

It touches on stuff I’ve talked/written about here and over on the BERG blog – but moves out of speculation and theory to the foothills of the future: being a jobbing designer working on this stuff, and how one might attack such problems.

Excellent.

I really think we should be working on developing new tools for doing this. One idea I’ve had is system/object personas. Interaction designers are used to using personas (research based user archetypes) to describe the types of people that will use the thing they’re designing – their background, their needs and the like but I’m not sure if we’ve ever really explored the use of personas or character documentation to describe the product themselves. What does the object want? How does it feel about it? If it can sense its location and conditions how could that affect its behaviour? This kind of thing could be incredibly powerful and would allow us to develop principles for creating the finer details of the object’s behaviour.

I’ve used a system persona before while designing a website for young photographers. The way we developed it was through focus groups with potential users to establish the personality traits of people they felt closest to, trusted and would turn to for guidance. This research helped is establish the facets of a personality statement that influenced the tone of the copy at certain points along the user journeys and helped the messaging form a coherent whole. It was useful at the time but I genuinely believe this approach can be adapted and extended further.

I think you could develop a persona for every touchpoint of the connected object’s service. Maybe it could be the same persona if the thing is to feel strong and omnipresent but maybe you could use different personas for each touchpoint if you’re trying to bring out the connectedness of everything at a slightly more human level. This all sounds a bit like strategy or planning doesn’t it? A bit like brand principles. We probably need to talk to those guys a bit more too.

I’m sat in my house waiting for the delivery guy.
Again.
What I wouldn’t give for a fuzzy read from the delivery van’s GPS/location, piped through a traffic report to give me an estimate of how far away they are.
I’d pay a small premium to be able to leave my house! The city is here for Amazon, Parcelforce and myself to use, ideally.
On which subject, you can go and pre-order Mr. Greenfield’s new book, which will hopefully be designed to fit in a mailbox so you won’t have to wait in for it…

From the Seedcamp about pages:

“There will be a diverse mentor network of serial entrepreneurs, corporates, venture capitalists, recruiters, marketing specialists, lawyers and accountants that will help the selected teams put together the foundations of a viable business.”

How about designers?

Technology plays alone are starting to lose their distinctiveness in many of the more-crowded areas of the marketplace.

Great service and interaction design are on the rise as strategic differentiators for products as diverse as the iPhone and Facebook.

Bruce Nussbaum in BusinessWeek:

“Innovation is no longer just about new technology per se. It is about new models of organization. Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners. And the high tech breakthroughs that do count today are not about speed and performance but about collaboration, conversation and co-creation. That’s what Web 2.0 is all about.”

The article that’s taken from is entitled: “CEOs Must Be Designers, Not Just Hire Them”.

Not sure I agree about CEOs breaking out OmniGraffle, but what about entrepreneurs?

I wonder how many Seedcamp teams will have a interaction designer on board, as part of the core – or even a designer as the lead entrepreneur?

Are they going to bake great design in from the get-go, or put lipstick on their baby gorillas?

I think it will be the former.

If there’s one Brit caricature of the entrepreneur, it’s the inventor – the engineer/designer/impressario: Baylis, Dyson, Roope!

Nussbaum’s article, in bulk is a speech he gave at the RCA, which traditionally has grown quite a few of those designer/engineer/inventor/entrepreneurs in the world of atoms.

Prof Tom Barker‘s crew springs to mind, as do some of the graduates of the Design Interactions course.

The line between hackers and interaction designers is blurring as they start small businesses that are starting to make waves in the big business press.

As I mentioned, my experience of HackDay Europe was that

“It really does seem that the hacker crowd in London/Europe at least is crossing over more and more with the interaction design crowd, and a new school of developers is coming through who are starting to become excellent interaction designers – who really know their medium and have empathy with users.”

So I have high-hopes.

I’m also glad to say that the Seedcamp team are going to have user-researchers, usability experts and interaction designers in their mentor network, including me for some reason…

Looking forward to it.

An end of year message (solicited by the good people at WorldChanging), from every interaction designer’s favourite curmudgeonly spirit-of-Christmas-yet-to-come, John Thackara:

“We’re swamped by innovation, but starved of meaning. So what steps should we take, and in which order?

I believe the solution is to scout the world for situations where the question has already been addressed – whatever the question may be. The Danish theatre director Eugenio Barba describes this as “the dance of the big and the small”. We need to be global hunter-gatherers of models, processes, and ways of living that already exist.

In the same way that biomimicry learns from millions of years of natural evolution, we need to adapt lessons learned by other societies to our present, ultra-local needs.”

And showing that he can aphorise as well as Sterling:

“Where there are gaps, we can invent stuff. But let’s ease up on inventing for it’s own sake: it delivers as much smoke, as solutions.”

Wonderful stuff.

And timely – in the year where BusinessWeek became Ideo’s company brochure, and they seem to have taught everyone else to search-and-replace “design” with “innovation” in order to get into the boardrooms.

Design can be taking away, it can be doing less, it can be doing the-same-but-better. And better. And better.

Sometimes the inventions you need are already exist, but haven’t been honed or applied correctly. We went through a big design exercise this year with our business (and some great help – thanks Scott!) and came to similar conclusions.

The dance of the big and the small continues.

Happy new year.

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Went to the dentist last friday.

I fully comply with the rest-of-the-world’s view of the British relationship with the dental arts, and am completely terrified of going to the little room with the cup of pink rinse.

I asked for recommendations from friends for a dentist who specialised in making people who hadn’t been to the dentist in… a long time… feel more relaxed and happy about the experience.

Mr. Webb told me about his dentist, Dr.Bashar Al-Naher who uses a combination of mild anaesthetic and NLP to induce relaxation and a feeling of security in his patients.

I’ve been lucky enough never to have to have surgery or be in another situation where anaesthesia was employed, so this was a novel experience for me.

Once I’d reached the state of both local and mild general anaesthesia, I had a curious feeling of distance from my body.

I felt as if my conscious mind (in which I seemed together enough to start dissecting the experience) was ‘up on a balcony’ somewhere in my head. I had a distinct feeling that I had retreated to an observation gallery, compartmentalised from my body itself, and even the lower part of my head/face where the action was.

Whilst feeling removed from ‘where the action was’, I started reflecting on ‘Where the action is’, and my previous work with Chris on embodied interaction. I even started thinking about writing this post.

Sometime during this, a small daemon system running somewhere sidled into the balcony where “I” was, and started fretting about all the dissection of the experience I was doing – perhaps fearing the degree of conscious thought going on would let the body (and the pain) in through the back door.

I went back to (un)concentrating on my breathing, and the visualisation that Dr. Al-Naher was leading me through. Happy again, I let the drilling and filling continue…

After the work had been done and I was coming out of the state of anaesthesia I was talking with the dentist, probably quite slowly and deliberately – but definitely ‘back in the room’.

There was a moment where I was aware that my foot was in an uncomfortable or precarious position. Most of the time we wouldn’t give this a microsecond’s conscious thought, and we would just effortlessly readjust the position of our foot.

I felt I had to send a discrete set of instructions down my body to my foot, almost like Flesh-Logo in order to move it.

Of course there are all sorts of flaws with this interpretation, but the temporary compartmentalising of ‘body’ and ‘mind’ that I felt just reinforced the fact that most of the time there is no separation at all.

The experience (apart from making my teeth better) has left me with real conviction the train of thought in Paul Dourish’s book – about the power of embodied interaction to improve our interfaces with technology.

And also, of course, how good my new dentist is – but he probably mindhacked me to say that…

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Jan Chipchase, a colleague of mine in user-research at Nokia has started a new blog called ‘Future Perfect’, wherein he posts snippets of his experiences travelling the globe studying the use of technology.

Jan has a great eye for the unexpected detail in the everyday, which makes him fantastic to work with as a designer, and will be fabulous to read has his blog develops.

From this post on the culture of mobile phone repair shops in India (where he took the excellent photo above):

“a lot of the hyperbole surrounding western hacker culture makes me smile compared to what these guys are doing day in day out.”

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