Watch Phone

When I dug up that old drawing I wrote about yesterday, I found something else that I had completely forgotten about. I mentioned that I was coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas. One of them was for a watch.

Those are dials on either side, one of which would move the selection. The little, green button would initiate a call. And that green thing on the bottom? That was intended to be a wireless earpiece. Hilarious.

Round Screen

Fourteen years ago, I was doing some freelance work for Ericsson Corp. They asked me to come up with new concepts for phones, and I did a bunch of sketches of different form factors and crazy things like writing pen phones. One of the concepts had a round screen—I was going for an amorphous shape. They liked the concept overall, but I was told that they couldn’t do a round screen, so I would have to square it off.


I was reminded of it when I saw the Android Wear video, and realized that there are a number of devices (e.g., Nest) that now use round screens. I wonder how they would have responded if I had suggested that the screens on the phone were touch sensitive. 

Meet… Us.

I love the article Business Insider ran Friday: Meet The Unheralded Genius Who Designed The Nest Thermostat And Smoke Detector. It’s so… cute. Jay Yarow’s writing makes it sound like a huge revelation, as if people should be gobsmacked that there is somebody else behind Nest’s innovative products, besides Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. As is typical, Nest’s website only lists their management team, but I’m willing to bet there are other designers that worked on those products too. After all, Fred Bould, the focus of the article, is just the industrial designer. I don’t say that to downplay his contribution—they are beautiful devices in both form and function—but I’d love to know who the interaction designers behind them are as well. What was the collaboration like between Bould, the IxDers, and the engineers? Too little of today’s design successes get shared with the community, and the designers that are responsible for them remain nameless.

I appreciate Yarow shining the light on a designer that deserves recognition for his contribution to a fantastic product. Let’s see more of it. It’s about time the world met us.

More Acquisitions

Continuing a trend I’ve remarked on before, two Pittsburgh design firms have recently been acquired.

BodyMedia was started in 1999 by a few guys I knew as a masters student at CMU. Chris Pacione was one of my professors, but is no longer with the company. I graduated with Ivo Stivoric, CTO and VP of new products, though I knew him as John. He was an industrial designer doing ground-breaking work with wearable computers. BodyMedia produces fitness armbands for weight and calorie management, activity tracking, and sleep monitoring. They’ve been used by the contestants on The Biggest Loser. A month ago, BodyMedia was acquired by Jawbone for over $100 million. I’m happy to hear that the team will remain intact here in Pittsburgh.

Gist Design was founded in 2002 by two friends of mine that also went through the CMU School of Design graduate program: John Beck and Shelley Moertel. They’ve done work with BodyMedia, as well as other medical device and consumer electronic manufacturers, focusing on “Research & Design with Practical Impact”. Earlier this month, Gist was acquired by TrueFit, a Pittsburgh-based innovation firm that helps entrepreneurial start-ups bring new technology product ideas to market.

Knowing the bright people that started these successful companies, I’m proud of their accomplishments, and I want to wish them all congratulations and best wishes for their futures. I hope merging with their new parent companies goes as smoothly as possible and that they are comfortable with any changes in corporate culture. In my experience, it can be a mixed bag.

Seat Feature Creep?

Prior to my trip to Ireland for Interaction 12, my last trip across the Atlantic was nearly a decade ago, and that was the last time I had been on a plane as big as the Aer Lingus jet that carried us home from Dublin. They pack a lot of functionality into airplane seats—they’re rather impressive. I’m very curious, however, about this little doohickey.

The icon makes its purpose obvious. The knob pulls out about three quarters of an inch and is tensioned with a spring. Are there really that many people traveling with loose clothing on hangers? How many articles can you count as a single carry-on? I’ve never heard a flight attendant say to stow your luggage in a bin, under the seat in front of you, or on the seat-back hook. I jest, but I will give them credit, it appears to have been placed such that a standard hanger won’t obstruct the screen.

Design Issues

There’s one week left in the masters-level class I’ve been teaching. It is mainly a seminar-style course with a few complimentary projects. The semester was organized into seven units. These are the readings that my students were required to write responses to and then discuss in class. This is a good survey of the current state of design theory.

Defining Design
Beautiful Diversion - NextD Journal
Are Designers The Enemy Of Design? - BusinessWeek
In which design is subjected to Lakovian analysis -
Defining Design -

Design Leadership
Design Vision
Managing is Designing? Exploring the Reinvention of Management - NextD
Design Vs. Design Thinking. - BusinessWeek
Leadership Is THE Strategic Issue - AIGA

The Design Landscape
What is graphic design? - AIGA
What is Industrial Design? - IDSA
What is IA? - IAI
Definition of IxD - IxDA
Designing for Interaction - Dan Saffer (pages 2-8 and 20-22)
Ladder of Fire: Unpacking Advocacies - NextD
IA Summit 09 - Plenary - Jesse James Garrett
What is Design? (Yes, all 10 definitions!) - Demystifying Usability
Why Does Interaction Design Matter? Let’s Look At The Evolving Subway Experience - FastCompany
10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design - Mashable
What is service design? - Design Council
Engine Service Design
Richard Buchanan Keynote – Emergence 2007 « Design for Service
An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research - Dubberly

Design Methods
The students researched specific methods individually and presented them to the class, rather than having assigned readings, but I did provide the following resources as starting points.
Stories - Boxes and Arrows
NASA - Process: User Centered Design Methods
Use our methods - Stanford 
Design methods - Design Council

Design & Business
AIGA Center for Practice Management - Trademark Basics for Graphic Designers
AIGA | Aquent Survey of Design Salaries
Intellectual Property: What does “Work for Hire” mean for designers? - AIGA
Why Does My Firm Own Everything I Do? Intellectual Property & You - Core77
The State of our Contracts - AIGA
American Firms Now Embrace Design, But They’re Aging Fast. What’s Next? - Co. Design
The Cost of Frustration - UIE
No Accounting For Design? - Fast Company
Dos and Don’ts for Designers Dealing with Business - Core77
On Being T-Shaped - Core77
Ten Ways to Measure Design’s Success - BusinessWeek

Social & Organizational Change
Hourschool: Learn from your network, one hour at a time. - AC4D
AIGA | Design for Good
Redesigning America’s Future
Introduction: Design and Organizational Change - Richard Buchanan
Marc Rettig - How to Change Complicated Stuff - IxDA Library
RED Paper 02: Transformation Design
The Designers Accord
Navigating a Sea Change - Lauralee Alben

Design Ethics
AIGA | Ethics and Social Responsibility 
AIGA | Logo Warehouses, Crowdsourcing, and a Lack of Understanding 
AIGA | What’s the harm in crowdsourcing? 
AIGA | AIGA position on spec work 
AIGA | Design Business and Ethics 
AIGA | AIGA urges the Obama 2012 campaign to reconsider its jobs poster contest 
What is AIGA’s position on spec work? And how are ethical standards determined?
AIGA Standards of professional practice
Ethics in the Design Field - Webdesigner Depot
The Politics of Desire and Looting - Design Observer
"This is what I have learned" by Milton Glaser
First Things First 2000
First Things First 1964
In Search of Ethics in Graphic Design — AIGA

Design Education
Design Research and Education: A Failure of Imagination? - Core77 
Why Design Education Must Change - Core77 
Teaching Social Innovation - Austin Center for Design
What this Country Needs is a Good Five-Year Design Program - AIGA

Another Norman Door

We all know about Norman doors. If you don’t, stop reading my blog, and get yourself a copy of The Design of Everyday Things. Do it now!

My company moved into a new office building this morning. Our restrooms are single-use, so there are locks on the doors. In one day, there were multiple cases of the restrooms being locked while nobody was using them. The following memo had to be sent out to all employees.

This was something discovered today, so I thought I’d share it as it might affect restroom access.

  1. If you push the lock button in, the door locks. Turning the handle opens the door and unlocks it.
  2. If you turn the lock button, the door locks. Turning the handle opens the door, but it remains locked.

If option 2 happens and the door gets shut from the outside, a key will be required to enter the room again.

The lock visually affords twisting, behaving as locks I’ve encountered repeatedly in the past. Some door handle designer must have thought that this two-stage lock was a great idea. I can’t think of a good use case for it. A public restroom certainly isn’t one.

IDEA 2011

IDSA announced the winners of IDEA 2011 at the end of June. I’m finally getting around to perusing the gallery. There are a lot of great designs, of course, but one in particular immediately caught my eye due to it’s similarity in concept to one of my student’s projects.

Pure is a water bottle designed for adventure tourists and world travelers that filters and sterilizes water from any source within two minutes. Pure contains two chambers. Dirty water is scooped up from a lake, stream or dirty puddle by the outer chamber. The inner chamber is then plunged through it, filtering water particles as small as four microns. Once filtered, the water is sterilized by a wind-up ultraviolet bulb.

Having used finicky water pumps on backpacking trips, I love this design. My student had a similar idea, but unfortunately didn’t take the time to research the science and technology behind water filtration. The end result was a concept and form study with nothing real to back it up. Timothy Whitehead of Loughborough University, on the other hand, has a working prototype that is proven to filter out 99.9% of impurities. It was also the recipient of a 2010 James Dyson Award. A more detailed write-up can be found on Inhabitat.

Let’s see some I.D.

I.D. was America’s premier magazine about contemporary product design and material culture from 1954 through 2009.

To be honest, I didn’t realize the magazine had closed shop, but this is the introduction to the new I.D… not-a-magazine. Yes, the URL is, and the page title is “ID Magazine Served”, but there is no magazine here, or at least, not what I consider to be one. It’s a gallery displaying industrial design projects from the Behance Network. Now, I’m not too familiar with Behance—it hasn’t been on my radar—but it seems to me it is lacking curation. There at first appears to be no categorization, so it is a random jumble of projects ranging from fantastical concept explorations to actual, name-brand products. Once you view a particular project, however, you will find keywords that can be clicked to view a filtered gallery. It’s mostly images with very little description. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d say it’s just a showcase for people’s portfolios. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s misleading to give it the “I.D.” moniker and call it a magazine. I’ll stick with the likes of Core77, Design Observer, and Johnny Holland.

The one thing I am pleased about is the continuation of the I.D. Magazine Annual Design Review. It has an esteemed panel of judges and looks to be a class act.

Form Over Function

I prefer SoftSoap brand shower gel over any other body wash I’ve tried, but I despise their bottles. Sure, they are beautiful forms and I’m sure their appearance boosts sales, but they are not functional. When full, they are top-heavy and easy to knock over. When near empty, they are impossible to stand upside down to get the last dribbles out. I continue to buy it, because the contents of the bottle are more important to me than the bottle itself.

This is a perfect example of form over function. The designer who conceived this packaging was not thinking about people—he or she was thinking about consumers. The design is the result of focusing on eyes in the store rather than building brand value with satisfied users of the product.