The $300 Million Button from Jared Spool tells the success story of a web form redesign — a huge success as it brought this additional big bunch of money to the retailer that asked for Spool’s consultancy advice. It is indeed a quite practical point in favour of good UI design, and UX design in general. It seems something still relatively new even in the very advanced US market: people get very surprised (“Spool! You’re the man!” is the message left in the voicemail by the client CEO). The post reports also about the resistance to registration before purchasing from a good number of users. This is quite interesting to me: I guess there are already a number of studies about this “registration fatigue”; but this is also part of the bigger effort of managing one’s personal identity online, especially when it comes to ecommerce: this is not about your various social networks’ identities, but your real personal information, at least for the part connected to your credit card or other payment methods. I wonder what it is the real progress and adoption of the various initiatives trying to deal with identity management in the broadest sense (open id and the likes; I have my account there obviously but I failed to take much advantage of it)
Fabio Mattia, Rossella Scicolone and Lara Gianotti, students respectively in the Media, Fashion and Graphic Design program at NABA, have won the 3rd placement in the 2008 edition of NUP-Nokia University Program, an annual challenge sponsored by Nokia Italy and addressed usually to Economics and Engineering faculties. Thanks to Alberto D’Ottavi, the NABA Media Design school was invited to join this edition, which in itself has been an achievement, since it has been the first and only design school selected.
Fabio (Media Design) put together a multidisciplinary team inviting two other students from different domains (Rossella from Fashion and Lara from Graphic Design). Alberto and myself have supervised the work. To me it has been especially interesting for the double reason that Fabio was in my Design Methodology / Philosophy of Design class and that the topic of the challenge (“How the Internet device of the future will look like?”) was very much in line with the work done over the last few years on beyond 3G / ubicomp application and services (the service side was also stressed by the reference to OVI in the brief).
The main objective was to develop a concept and articulate it with service ideas and an early business perspective. As obvious, the differences among the various participants were quite evident. Most of the presentations from Economics and Engineering programs were pretty much centred about one or another technology idea, expanded into a bigger marketing picture (some provided even TV spot snippets and campaign budgets), even though others put a considerable effort also in physical mock-ups and benefit analysis. NABA students were drawn instead on a design perspective in which service scenarios and device sketches were perhaps more tied together.
From the educational point of view, I really enjoyed having a chance to practice with the students some of the key issues that I try to teach in my class: design as a team-based, distributed, multidisciplinary work in which intangible, service aspects are related in many ways to physical ones, from the functional, social and esthetical point of views. Furthermore, as the final day was hosted in Roma at Roma Tre University (namely by professor Carlo Alberto Pratesi), Nokia kindly invited the team to bring there some classmates. At the end we were almost 25 people, travelling from Milano to Roma and back to Milano in one day; 9 hours on the high speed train, but it looks like that everyone had a good time… (Friends might wish to check the Facebook photo album).
“Buona matita social club” (“buona matita” translates as “good pencil”) is one of the few headlines that caught my attention on a magazine that I was lazily browsing last week while coming back from Isola d’Elba on the ferry (yep, vacatiors are over). The article, signed by MOMA architecture and design curator Paola Antonelli (let me note that she is an Italian), is about the emergence of social design and the idea that there are *not* only “pretty chairs and limited edition lamps” to care about in the field; UK designer Hilary Cottam’s work is reported as an example. Of course this might sound obvious to many specialists but I think it is still very new for the general public.
It could appear ironic, or notable at least, that the story appeared on a magazine entitled “Style” and that it is all about lifestyle and fashion in the most conventional meaning of expensive and sophisticated products, or, well, this is what its several advertisers sell (the magazine is packaged on Friday with the big Italian daily Corriere della Sera and it is mainly addressed to an adult, male and affluent readership; you pay an extra 50 eurocents for it).
Perhaps this is one of the many small signs of the increasing awareness of the themes so much discussed at Changing the Change in Torino, where I did have the impression of a very important but still quite relatively young and specialistic environment (despite the fact that some of the key principle and perspectives have already a quite long history in the design thinking tradition – Paola Antonelli quotes e.g. Papanek and his “Design for the real world”, published back in 1971. Update 9th of November 2013: see below the memorable 1973 cover, taken from a 2012 Domusweb article, again from Paola Antonelli )
I am just back from three days of a very good conference on design and sustainability in Torino (and a much needed Sunday break), even though I have some mixed feelings about certain sides of it. If time allows, I will try to get into the details in separate posts, but as for now I want to scribble down what comes to my mind first.
This is a quick list of likes (see dislikes in the following):
- Amazing talks from the invited speakers, especially those coming from Africa, India, China and Japan; Bill Moggridge of IDEO did a brilliant job too (his takes on the role of designers as strategists were bold and funny).
- The idea of including virtually all of the conference participants, be they authors, speakers or simple attendants (like me), in an open round of sessions on “emerging issues” (see one of the preparatory boards in the pic above, on the left) — one of those was the new role of designers in this changing landscape (including very practical aspects, such as “how to make money – or, say, decent living – out of it”; see agan the pic above, on the right).
- The “call to action” (as it is called in Mark Vanderbeeken post on Core77) often raised in official presentations and informal exchanges.
- Some concrete, real-world project cases about design and sustainability external to the academic world
- The open, online publication of all the papers (click “Themes” and then go on; the “login” link I guess will be activated for downloading the entire proceedings in digital format for those that attended the conference).
- The beatiful, efficient location offered by the Politecnico di Torino at the Istituto di Biotecnologie.
And a couple or so of dislikes (the first is pretty big, the last is very minor):
- The lack of contrasting views in the overall conference debate, despite the themes under discussion can be regarded as highly controversial (I actually share pretty much of the leading visions there, but it looks like that many others in the world are not exactly of the same opinion… so e.g. why not to invite a very traditional product designer to give a talk? or a scientist with different views on climate change? etc.
- A large majority of the attendants were from the academic environment — all right, a special kinds of academics perhaps, with a commendable concern for some of the most urgent issues out there and not only for their papers and titles; but the risk of turning the design research debate into yet another “academic industry” was voiced even by Nigel Cross in the conference opening (Nigel Cross represented officially the Design Research Society at the event).
- The only remark I can made on the otherwise excellent organization: yes, it was possible to connect and recharge your notebook at the library, but the conference rooms had locked power plugs and no wi-fi; very possibly it has been planned like this for various reasons (e.g. is a setting like that not very sustainable?) but still…
Then, quite often I had the impression that speakers were not so eager to make explicit, articulated references to the epistemogical, ethical, political, philosophical assumptions underpinning this or this other position, analysis or proposal (on the contrary, e.g. Roberto Bartholo has recalled Richard Rorty, just to name one case). Of course, I guess that they are all in the papers; anyway, I would have liked having presenters more engaged and systematic on the principles and fundamentals level.
Decided to attend the “Changing the change” conference to be held in Torino next month, from 10th to the 12th. Among others, one good point from the event presentation, with regard to the necessity of rethinking change concept and practices in the face of the sustainability challenge:
If indeed design wants to be “part of the solution” it must, perhaps first and foremost, develop a new research culture and new research practices: open research, sensitive to present contexts, that leads to a better understanding of the great changes underway; that offers designers tools to facilitate movement within them; and that enable designers to be promoters of a radical way of changing the direction of these great changes.
Drawing explicitly from UCG intended as User Generated Content, the idea of UGS-User Generated Services put more emphasis on the role of the user as the one being able to create and manage services; in other words, this is about offering users appropriate (i.e. easy to use, enjoyable etc.) technical means not only to produce, publish and share content, but services as well. Among others, the SPICE project (where we at Neos are partner) supports the workshop on UGS to be held in Madrid next July on the initiative of the OPUCE project.
The full program is already available (see it on Scribd) and attendance is free to registered participants.
Working with Neos on a mobc3 solution developed for a major retailer (details are confidential). As in other cases, manual sketching on a very basic mobile phone interface template proved to be really useful to translate or better shape high level requirements into more concrete anticipations of the application behaviour, to be elaborated then as detailed interface and navigation specifications.
Sketches are seeminlgy quite much appreciated by the developer guys to quickly get an idea of what the work is going to be (perhaps yet another sign of Powerpoint fatigue…)
Right after HCIed 2008 in Roma, I moved to Firenze for CHI 2008. Five days of good, dense stuff, very interesting papers presentations (including a nicely critical set at alt.chi and a panel on “harmful evaluations” with Saul Greenberg and others), design theater performances and the closing plenary with Bill Buxton, plus the course on “Mobile Interaction Principles” from Matt Jones and Gary Marsden (authors of “Mobile Interaction Design”), and the second half of the course on HCI and CHI history from Jonathan Grudin. Among others, nice chats with Finnish friends and former MobiLife project colleagues Esko Kurvinen (now at Elisa, was HIIT) and Petteri Nurmi (HIIT), but also with Luca Chittaro (Università di Udine) and Fabio Paternò (CNR). I was there with Neos colleague Dario Melpignano (and we did take note on research results very much in line with Neos mobc3 design approach).
Presented a short paper at HCIed 2008 about my undergraduate course on Design Methodology and Philosophy of Design, now running for the fourth year at NABA. HCIed is the annual international conference of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) educators.
The paper title is “Unfreezing thoughts. Philosophy, design studies and role playing games in a foundational undergraduate course” (download from publications page). Then, the conference organizers invited me to join a panel called to discuss the paper contributed by Russell Beale (University of Birmingham, BCS), “Architects or builders; scaffholding or duck tape?”, regarding the role of HCI education in University level courses (I proposed to educate “builders with a conscience” — download). Since Russell could not make it to Roma, the panel was chaired by the conference keynote speaker, Harold Timbleby (Swansea University; his fifth book, “Press on”, has received an important award); panelists included Tatjana Leblanc (University of Montreal) and Lars Oestreicher (Uppsala University); both of them presented at the conference interesting contributions on HCI, design, complexity and education implications.
Among others, I had very nice talks with Carlo Giovannella (Università di Roma Tor Vergata-Scuola IaD, event hoster), Tatjana Leblanc, William Wong (organizing committee) and Toni Granollers (Universitat de Lleida).
HCIed 2008 has been held at the central premises of CNR in Roma (the building facade is quite an example of the 30s Italy official architectural taste, to say so… The building has been inaugurated in 1937).