A good friend of mine and extremely talented designer asked me many times “why do you think that if you follow the same process, you will always end up with the best solution? This is Design, not Science! It takes intuition and decision making along the way!”
I spent a long time assuming if I followed the correct path I will always end up at a design solution. But somewhere along that path is interpretation, intuition and creativity. I still need to ‘design’ the thing. Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face and you think “really, I can’t be the only one that see’s this”, whilst other times you could spend many frustrating days waiting for the elements to align themselves and for you to suddenly reach creative enlightenment. “You’re a designer, so you still need to ‘design’ something” my friend would remind me occasionally!
Since then I’ve taken on many more projects and pushed myself to explore several approaches to work; artistically-experimental, research-driven, practical, and more traditional design processes. User-experience (UX) is a design discipline that’s proud to have a set of keywords, processes and guiding principles. I’ve tried to document them below in the order in which they would usually be tackled.
You cannot design anything until you know who you’re designing for. Although this isn’t a UX or IxD principal – I was taught this in my introduction to graphic design – this is just how you design something. Every piece of design communicates something, you need to deliver the message in the most effective way for the group of people you are focused on, as well as being mindful of miscommunication and misinterpretation from the focus group and other groups.
A fictional person who is created to represent the needs, goals, objectives and motivations for a similar section of users. When certain types of users have clearly different or competing needs additional personas are created to capture the different user types.
Short stories that describe with a high-level of detail how a user will interact with the product you’re designing. They describe the goals and objectives of the user in a more personal and human way including context.
Step-by-step flow of common journeys to understand different steps the user needs to complete before reaching their goal. These can be thought of as a simplification of scenarios, removing some context and focus on the expectations the user has from the product.
High-level diagrams that show all potential scenarios for an entire end-to-end journey. The flow makes it easier to identify all the various pages and loopbacks within a digital product.
User to identify the crucial journeys that a user will undertake to complete common tasks. Helps increase focus on common scenarios to ensure we’re always creating the best possible experience.
Help to elaborate on red routes, by providing the context for specific user behaviours using a traditional template: “As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so that <benefit>”. For example, “As a non-administrative user, I want to modify my own schedules but not the schedules of other users.“
In the case of a digital product these are neatly organised boxes that represent content, features and navigation for a particular view. Each wireframe would represent a required view that can be understood from the user flows.
Now take something that’s static and allow someone to click through it. HTML websites have been doing this for a while-now, so that can be a fairly good starting point! More and more shiny tools are becoming available, mostly doing the same thing in a different way. The idea is to simulate the final experience of the product, click a button and go to the next step in that flow.
This research paper was written by Ramia Mazé and Johan Redström at the Interactive Institute. They introduce the text as a way to “discuss conceptual and critical design, suggesting that they constitute a kind of critical practice in design. Tracing a historical background and contemporary tendencies, we consider implications for design research”.
If there is no extension beyond commentary or critique, conceptual and critical design might tend toward the self-reflexive and genetic autonomy – design for designers.
Discussion around a “critical practise” not just academic or conceptual but a design research practise that functions.
Engagement with the conceptual realm of design and thereby, potentially also contributing to the development – through critique and counterproposals – of theoretical frameworks proper to design.
When someone reflects-in-action, he becomes a researcher in the practice context
— Donald schön, 1983
I spend time defining what I mean when I talk about things. It helps. I’ve often attempted to describe my differences in opinion between generative-design, information-design and data-visualisation.
In March I ran a small hackerthon with Simon Hayre to generate a proof-of-concept for a series of workshops. The focus was on using Spacebrew to connected numerous physical and digital prototypes quickly – to scale and collaborate easily. After a short discussion we used communication via Morse Code as the starting point for a series of simple digital prototypes.
The work from the first session has been uploaded to Github here, so the attendees can continue developing ideas. Most of this work was in Processing.
The main thing I was teaching/sharing was my attitude towards technology and development. To think big, plan, then start small. Break down objectives in to small tasks and get them done. That way you are constantly gratified and excited about your progress. After many small breakthroughs it’s much easier to find the energy to tackle a painful or problematic issue. I also code just enough to see the result – and no more! This helps me share ideas quickly and communicate concepts.
I always like to upload and capture my old sketchbooks. There’s something fascinating about looking back through notes and sketches that for less than a day seemed so critical and important.
I’ve just uploaded my most recently finished sketchbook to Flickr here.
Despite this essay being originally written by Philip K. Dick in 1978 many of it’s stories and it’s underlying story couldn’t be more current.
Dick starts by sharing a few questions that he’s been trying to answer “I can honestly say that certain matters absolutely fascinate me, and that I write about them all the time” throughout his career writing science fiction.
Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. “Even if a man should chance to speak the most complete truth, yet he himself does not know it, all things are wrapped in appearances” — Xenophanes.
Reality is a set of principles that allow me to experience and comprehend all of my sensory data. Principles shared by many to allow the communication of ideas between people. What might happen if I (or we) had a remarkably different set of principles?
— Philip K. Dick
We cannot trust our senses and probably not even our priori reasoning … Objects appear to get smaller and smaller as they get further away. Logically, there is no reason for this. We, of course, have come to accept this, because we are use to it. We see objects get smaller, but we know that in actuality they remain the same size. So even the common everyday pragmatic person utilises a certain amount of sophisticated discounting of what his eyes and ears tell him.
— W. S. Gilbert
Media art is a more recent development in art. Device art tries to push media even further. By doing so, it might help to gain a better understanding of the mean- ing and role of art in a media society.
This is a very short paper written by Machiko Kusahara, you can find it online at Intelligent Agent.
In the essay Kusahara discusses the category of art commonly referred to as “Media Art” from a Japanese perspective. Asking questions around content creation, tools for creation, tools for experience, and publishing or re-publishing of artworks for multiple platforms and end-user-experiences. Also looking at speculative design objects Kusahara also asks “What is the difference between a piece of art and a commercial product, or a designed object?”
We live in a postmodern society of mass-produced objects, simulated realities and simulacra. The aura of the original, which has been valued by the art world for so long, becomes questionable for artists coping with the reality of our society today.
The actual future (singular) which eventuates, and in which we will ultimately live and experience as “the present” at that time, will be governed by our actions (or inaction) in this present, along with the choices we have made among many alternative potential futures (plural). Our choices and the passage of time reduce the infinite field of potentialities to a single experienced actuality, which then passes into history and cannot be changed.
This is a wonderful short essay from Dr Joseph Voros, Swinburne University of Technology. I found a copy online through the Thinking Futures website. It broadly introduces and defines many aspects of Future Thinking. Voros outlines The Three “Laws” of Futures, Types of Potential Futures and describes the depth of thinking within Future Studies and Foresight.
I wont go in to much detail in this post other than to highly recommend this paper as reading material for anyone interested in Futures Studies.
This class of futures includes all the kinds of futures we can possibly imagine – those which “might happen” – no matter how far-fetched, unlikely or “way out”.
This class encompasses those futures which “could happen” (ie they are not excluded) according to our current knowledge (as opposed to future knowledge) of how things work.
This class of futures contains those which are considered “likely to happen”, and stem in part from the continuance of current trends. Some probably futures are considered more likely than others; the one considered most likely is often called “business-as-usual”.
These futures are largely emotional rather than cognitive. They derive from value judgements, and are more overtly subjective than the previous three classes. Because values differ so markedly between people, this class of futures is quite varied. Preferable (or preferred) futures can lie in any of the previous three classes.
I recently finished the unofficial book “The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe” which is a collection of seven lectures given by professor Stephen Hawking. I was delightfully surprised by the language and explanations written by Hawking in the book. As I expected a book about quantum theory and cosmology to be much more difficult to comprehend.
This short excerpt below is a scientific explanation of the process used to determine the elements within the atmosphere of a star many millions of light years away.
For the vast majority of stars, there is only one correct characteristic feature that we can observe – the colour of their light. Newton discovered that if light from the sun passes through a prism, it breaks up into it’s component colours – it’s spectrum – like in a rainbow.
By focusing a telescope on an individual star or galaxy, one can similarly observe the spectrum of light from that star or galaxy. Different stars have different spectra, but the relative brightness of the different colours is always exactly what one would expect to find in the light emitted by an object that is glowing red hot. This means that we can tell a star’s temperature from the spectrum of it’s light. More over, we find that certain very specific colours are missing from star’s spectra, and these missing colours may vary from start to star.
We know that each chemical element absorbs the characteristic set of very specific colours. Thus, by matching each of those which are missing from a star’s spectrum, we can determine exactly which elements are present in the star’s atmosphere. — S. Hawking