Monday, February 9, 2009

catch up

I identified the problem of communication of ideas in the design process to users (I don’t like using this word as it suggests a stereotype of certain people).

Communicating and prototyping ideas of interactions or, more complexly, of ubiquitous computing can be difficult and very time consuming.

But what is the value of prototyping? Is this immeasurable?

Richard Banks mentioned at his talk to IPD in November that a mistake would be to “get precious” about your prototyping. Rather than spending time on a final, well-finished product, it is often more rewarding and efficient to work through ideas quickly and communicating them as unfinished ideas as opposed to finished ones. Besides, most people are more interested in the process of a design rather than the outcome.

With Fable, I spent a lot of time neglecting people and working on making it work. Surely it should be the opposite?

However I did find it extremely difficult to communicate the ideas of ubiquitous computing to people during the project. When you tell someone a mug can be an input device to a smart-surface table, the immediate questions are always: why and how!

My initial aim, as discussed with Richard in August, was to develop tools and techniques to help designers communicate complex ideas within the interaction/ubiquitous computing design paradigm. Yet after some preliminary research, I have become clear that this is not necessary.

There already exists tools in which can be used to communicate and visualise ideas, such as storyboarding and paper-prototyping. I mean whatever happened to good old-fashioned drawing? Then there are animation software’s such as Flash which can be used to bring drawings and storyboards to life by applying movements, changes and communicating cause and effect.

“Faking” is also an unwritten method. A wonderful example being the Sketch-a-Move video by Anib Jane where she communicates the idea of controlling the behaviour of a toy car by drawing a path on its roof. No fancy electronics or computer programs, just smoke and mirrors (well, in this case a few magnets).

So I aim to put these traditional tools to the test and use them in new ways.

This happens to blend in nicely with another project I’m working on at the moment; the T3 project.

T3 (Transferability 3) is a joint research project between Deutsche Telekom Laboratories (t-labs), Berlin and the School of Design University of Dundee, exploring case transfer as a method to develop new designs for information communication products and services for older people.

Although only 2 weeks old, the project overlaps with some of the work I am doing in that it is very people-centered yet probably more demographically focused. “Older people” are seen to be 60 and over (still a huge demographic; there are more “older people” than ever before and this trend continues to rise).

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