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Preview: O Danny Boy:: Design Entries

O Danny Boy:: Design Entries

Published: 2010-09-15T00:02:15-08:00


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Designing Devices


I've started a new blog for long articles about the design of products called Designing Devices. I'd like to turn them into a book one day, but for now they're just a free blog for your enjoyment, so happy reading!

Designing for Interaction 2


I realized I neglected to post here that the second edition of my book Designing for Interaction came out in August! It's available now from Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Some excerpts you might enjoy:

Other new chapters include Design Strategy (Chapter 3); Design Research Analysis (Chapter 5); and Prototyping and Development (Chapter 8). Most of the rest of the book has been substantially re-written. All in all, I feel it's a much better introduction to the field than the first edition. (First edition readers: contact me and I'll be happy to send you the Design Strategy chapter as a pdf for purchasing the "Beta" book!)

Happy reading!

One Two Punch from Kicker


I'm really proud of Kicker Studio lately. In the last month, we've unveiled what I consider to be two world-class, category-altering designs.

The first was the Canesta Gestural Entertainment Center. It's a way of controlling your TV without a remote, using only a small set of waves and circular gestures.

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It was covered in CrunchGear, Boing Boing Gadgets, Core77, and NewTeeVee.

The second project was a touchscreen VoIP conference phone for small businesses, the Kicker Conference Phone. We set out to fix a known problem (conference phones suck) and ended up with something really special, I think.
(image) (image)

It got good reviews in Wired, CrunchGear, Gadgetrends, and VoIPinsider.

A Fool and a Liar


There's no such thing as an interaction designer either. Not as a profession. Anyone who claims to specialize in [interaction design or information architecture] is a fool or a liar. The fools are fooling themselves into thinking that one aspect of their work is somehow paramount. And the liars seek to align themselves with a tribe that will convey upon them status and power.Jesse James Garrett, The Memphis Plenary given at the 2009 IA Summit Let me preface this response by saying that Jesse is a friend and colleague of mine, and I hope he wasn't trying to personally insult anyone, even though it's hard not to take the words above personally. Since I call myself an interaction designer and have sat on the Board of the Interaction Design Association, I suppose this makes me both a fool and a liar. The design work I do is predominantly interaction design. I have a master's degree in it. I've written books about it. I practice it. Thus, this aspect of my work is clearly paramount to other practices that intersect with mine (e.g. visual and industrial design, information architecture) and that make up the umbrella of user experience. Prominent not to the overarching experience design itself (which everyone is working towards with the same goal of creating good user experiences), but to the other disciplines I work alongside. To call everyone who practices in the field "user experience designers" is not only a web-centric attitude (where information architecture and interaction design are more closely aligned than elsewhere), but it will have the effect of making us all seem like generalists. "User experience designer" implies that you can design all aspects of user experience to at least some level of competence. It would be as if everyone who practices medicine was called a "general practitioner." Speaking for myself (and I suspect for many others), I'm not a generalist. I don't do everything equally well. You don't want me doing your visual design, nor your taxonomy, nor your content analysis. I understand them, and can do them if pressed, but I'm not an expert in them. To pay me to do them would probably be a waste of your money. There are people with more skill, talent, and experience in those areas and thus do those things better than me. I know, because I partner with them all the time to do those parts of experience design. Are there going to be generalists? Sure. Many of them, working in small- or single-person teams. And perhaps since they will likely do the bulk of UX work in their organizations, "user experience designer" is a fine title and role for them. But my hunch is that, like general practitioners in the medical field, what generalists in the UX field will work on will be constrained to a set of limited problems. For anything really complex, specialists will deal with it. I'm pretty sure this is the situation we're in right now, in fact. Specialization isn't a bad thing. In fact, for most industries, it's a sign of maturity. If we use medicine as an example again, a century or so ago, there were pretty much two kind of doctors: doctors (general practitioners) and surgeons (the people who cut your leg off when it had gangrene). As the medical field matured over the last century, specializations emerged because we learned more about the body and understood that not all medical problems are the same. Nor are all design problems the same; certain problems require certain specialized disciplines to engage with them. Complex situations often require teams of specialists to solve them. Logically, if everyone who works in experience design should be called a "user experience designer," does this mean visual and industrial designers should take that title too? And how about architects? Sound designers? It's simply an impractical and illogical call to arms, and ultimately unlikely and undesirable. If we all switch to the title and role of user experience designer, finding the right specialist is going to get[...]

Speaking of (and in) 2009


Here's some places you'll find me in 2009:

I'm not speaking at it, but my client is debuting our product demo at CES in Las Vegas on the 8-11th.

In the Bay Area, I'm speaking at Stanford University's HCI program's Seminar on People, Computers, and Design on January 16.

Also in January, I'm speaking and signing books at the IxDA-SF's monthly meeting on January 27, held at Adobe.

In February, I have back-to-back workshops and two amazing conferences. First, in Denver, I'm at Web Directions North on February 3-4, giving a talk and teaching a workshop on touchscreens and interactive gestures. Use my discount code WDN09DSa to get $50 off the conference and my workshop. The Web Directions conferences are always a lot of fun.

Then, on February 4-8, I'm at Interaction09 in Vancouver. I'm co-teaching a workshop with Bill DeRouchey (already sold out!) as well as giving a keynote called Carpe Diem: Attention, Awareness, and Interaction Design 2009. If Interaction08 was any indication, I09 will be one of the best conferences of the year.

I'm unfortunately not speaking or attending SXSW this March for the first time in about three years. Nor am I speaking at ETech this year, sadly. But on March 26, I will be speaking at CHI Atlanta.

In April, I'll be speaking at the Voices that Matter Web Design Conference in San Francisco on the 27-30th.

May. Nothing scheduled yet?!

June brings two more blockbuster conferences. First is UPA 2009 in Portland on the 8-12th. And then on the 15-17th it's UXLondon, where I'll be teaching a workshop on brainstorming and giving a talk on designing from the inside-out.

July 19-24 finds me teaching a workshop at HCI International 2009 in San Diego.

Who knows where I'll be in August, but in September, I'm also likely speaking at d.Construct 2009.

Whew! That's a lot of hot air coming out of my mouth. I hope to see some of you at one or more of these events!

Creating Kicker Studio


If this blog has been absurdly quiet lately, it is because I have a good reason. Over the last several weeks, I resigned my position at Adaptive Path and, with some colleagues, created Kicker Studio, a new design consultancy focused on products, not the web. We're combining visual, industrial, and interaction design to make products that are holistic from the ground up. It's something I've wanted to do for a few years now.

Seldom in my life have I ever felt more like my ENTJ personality type ("The Fieldmarshall") as have these last few weeks, to not only sell people on the vision for the company, but simply to marshall the troops to do all the myriad of tasks that are required to set up a small business. It is amazing how millions of people are able to do it. Between the accounting and the legal and dealing with all the rest, the set-up is amazingly tricky to navigate.

But anyway, most of my professional writing is over there now, on the Kick It! blog. Come join us, won't you? (Send clients.)

Don DeLillo on Interaction Design


From White Noise:

I went to the automated teller machine to check my balance. I inserted my card, entered my secret code, tapped out my request. The figure on the screen roughly corresponded to my independent estimate, feebly arrived at after long searches through documents, tormented arithmetic. Waves of relief and gratitude flowed over me. The system had blessed my life. I felt its support and approval. The system hardware, the mainframe sitting in a locked room in some distant city. What a pleasing interaction. I sensed something of deep personal value, but not money, not that at all, had been authenticated and confirmed. A deranged person was escorted from the bank by two armed guards. The system was invisible, which made it all the more impressive, all the more disquieting to deal with. But we were in accord, at least for now. The networks, the circuits, the streams, the harmonies.

From Underworld:

In her veil and habit she was basically a face, or a face and scrubbed hands. Here in cyberspace she has shed all that steam-ironed fabric. She is not naked exactly but she is open—exposed to every connection you can make on the world wide web.

There is no space or time out here, or in here, or wherever she is. There are only connections. Everything is connected. All human knowledge is gathered and linked, hyperlinked, this site leading to that, this fact referenced to that, a keystroke, a mouse-click, a password—world without end, amen.

But she is in cyberspace, not heaven, and she feels the grip of systems. This is why she is so uneasy. There is a presence here, a thing implied, something vast and bright. She senses the paranoia of the web, the net. There's the perennial threat of virus of course. Sister knows all about contaminations and the protective measures they require. This is different—it's a glow, a lustrous rushing force that seems to flow from a billion net nodes.

When you decide on a whim to visit the H-bomb home page, she begins to understand. Everything in your computer, the plastic, silicon and mylar, every logical operation and processing function, the memory, the hardware, the software, the ones and zeroes, the triads inside the pixels that form the on-screen image—it all culminates here.

UX Intensive: Minneapolis


I really enjoy teaching the UX Intensive workshop on Interaction Design, especially now that it has evolved into a hands-on studio course. I think it is a meaty day that practitioners of all levels can get something out of.

I'm teaching it again in Minneapolis on June 19. Use my discount code of FODS and get 15% off the cost. Hope to see you there!

Oh, and that code works for UX Week too! Now with Pixar!

Review: Five Themes for Interaction Design


I don't usually review academic papers, mostly just design books. But in doing research for the new book, I stumbled across How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design by Scott Klemmer, Björn Hartmann, and Leila Takayama of Stanford. It's two years old (as of this writing), but I think its themes are dead on and even more relevant now than before, and if you are interested in the future of interaction design, it is well worth a read.

The basic thrust of the paper is that with the current keyboard-mouse-monitor set-up, we do every task, no matter if it is writing a paper or editing a movie or even playing a game, all the same way. Pointing, clicking, dragging and dropping, etc. The work has become "homogenized" and we can do better, creating richer interactions.

Here are their themes:

  • Thinking Through Doing. There are a lot of skills you simply cannot learn by reading or listening alone. You have to try them out. Gestures aren't just for embellishment to communication, they can also be an aid to learning and understanding. Manipulation of items allows for greater understanding of the item. Artifacts have their own characteristics, and their "backtalk" uncovers problems or can suggest new designs.
  • Performance. We should design products for expert users, able to use their hands and motor memory to perform action-centered skills. Thinking can be too slow; experiental cognition (learned skillful behavior like driving a car) can be more rapid and powerful than reflective cognition.
  • Visibility. Through the performance of an activity, that activity can be made visible to others easily, so that collaboration and situated learning can occur spontaneously.
  • Risk. Most products are designed to decrease risk, but retaining some risk can be beneficial. With risk comes trust, responsibility, and attention.
  • Thick Practice. Because there is so much benefit to the real world, we should be careful with replacing physical artifacts with digital ones. The best case scenario is to augment the physical world with digital behaviors, and thus "admitting the improvisations of practice that the physical world offers."

One of the few academic papers I have enjoyed recently.

Towards Some Rules for Online Identity Management


Annoyance at spam twitter accounts had me lock up my twitter updates last week. The upshot of that was that by doing so, I moved some 500 people who had been following me into twitter limbo. For the last few days, I've been having to decide, one by one, which ones I let return to seeing my updates. Rather than do this willy-nilly, I came up with some basic rules that might be interesting to you as well.

In order for me to let you have a glimpse of my life, I've decided, I need to know you or know of you, or at a minimum want to know you. If I don't know you or know of you, the only way I can tell if I want to know you is from your online identity, which in this case means glancing at your twitter profile. If you follow thousands of people, I'm probably not going to let you follow me, because it bespeaks of a lack of interest in me as an individual. If the "person" is a company, product or service, forget it. There has to be some benefit to me in your seeing some of me, and that is unlikely to be the case with most companies. I can see how it might benefit them, but me? Unlikely.

The bar is much higher for me to choose to follow someone. In order for me to do that, there are two criteria: I have to know you well (we've at least had drinks or a meal), and you have to use your twitter account in a way that I find acceptable. By that I mean you don't twitter excessively or have long @ conversations or only @ people. You need to have something to say for me to want to hear it, not just responses. I have to know you well for the simple reason I need to understand a little of your life to make sense of some of your messages. Where you live, your family life, what you do for a living, your sense of humor, etc. Without context, a twitter stream can simply be stuff and nonsense.

Now, abstracting this just a little to all social networks isn't much of a stretch.

  • Have something to say.
  • Pick and choose who you follow and who follows you carefully.
  • Offline context still matters.
  • Reveal only as much as is necessary.
  • Give me a reason to follow you--and to share with you.

It's a start anyway.

Why did you go to [other conference] instead of Interaction08?


Believe it or not, we're already thinking about next year's Interaction09, following the sell-out success of Interaction08. But we're not resting on our laurels: One of the things I'm curious about is why some of you chose to attend other conferences—IA Summit, CHI, etc.—instead of (or in addition to) Interaction08.

Obviously, we're not going to change the focus of the conference away from interaction design, but if there were other factors that caused you to instead go elsewhere, I'd be curious to hear them. Everything is up for grabs: location, program, etc. Email me at dan AT odannyboy DOT com or leave a comment.

Do You Want to Be My Boss?


Ok, maybe that isn't the best way to sell this job, but Adaptive Path is looking for a new CEO. If you or someone you know (or even know of) would be an interesting fit (combining business and design savvy), we'd like to know. Send an email to bryan dot mason at adaptivepath dot com.

In Praise of a Water Bottle



At the airport on the way to Austin last week, I bought a bottle of water. Or, more precisely, I bought the plastic container that the water came in. The water was just a bonus. The bottle, by SEI Water, is shaped like a large hip flask or canteen instead of the typical round cylinder, and it feels sturdier too. I spent a little bit more for this water bottle because I liked the form factor. The bottle drew comments everywhere I went, because (and here is the point) when I was done with it, I didn't throw it out like I do with every other water bottle. I kept refilling it, rather than discard it. It fit so well in my hand and looked so good with its sleek Helvetica Neue logo, I didn't want to get rid of it once its initial "use" was up. Five days later, I still have it. An airport water bottle.

That's good design.

Sneak Preview of Interactive Gestures!


In advance of my Tap is the New Click presentation at ETech, O'Reilly has graciously allowed me to post a draft of the first chapter of my new book (now titled) Interactive Gestures: Designing Gestural Interfaces. It's pretty much my unedited first draft, but I think it reads pretty well. Comments welcome, of course!

Download Chapter 1 (5.4mb pdf)