My name is Jack Moffett. I am an Interaction Designer with over ten years of experience. According to Herb Simon, that makes me an expert, so I must have something worth sharing. I have started this venture as an exercise to spur critical thinking about my chosen profession. I hope that others may find it thought provoking as well.
DesignAday will present a brief thought about Design every weekday.
Cars are slowly but surely transforming into consumer devices, and it’s about time. I’m tired of buying cars and having their onboard technology obsolesce in a year or two without a practical upgrade method. My Cube is a great little car, but it can’t charge my iPhone 4S, as it still has the Firewire-based cable. I jealously read about the new features in Fords and other brands that are taking advantage of current mobile device capabilities, knowing full well that I won’t be replacing my car for another five years or so. Imagine what our phones will be doing five years from now!
But, there is a glimmer of hope. Automatic Labs has announced a truly innovative product that will allow me to get a little more out of my existing car. Check out the Automatic Link.
The device plugs into your car’s data port and communicates with your iPhone or Android via Bluetooth. It gives you the following capabilities:
Automatic learns about your driving styles and gives you subtle audio cues when you do things that waste gas. It then scores your driving every week, and provides you with detailed information about your trips, like how much you drive and where.
Automatic calls for help in a crash, reporting your name, location, and vehicle description.
Automatic sends push notifications when your check engine light comes on, retrieves the Engine Trouble Codes reported by your car’s computer, and shows you what they mean. It even let’s you clear the light yourself.
Automatic remembers where you parked.
When I first heard about this, I assumed it would be a subscription-based service. That seems to be the direction everything is headed these days. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you can purchase the Automatic Link for $69.95. That’s it. It’s available for pre-order, shipping in July, and compatible with gasoline cars sold in the U.S. since 1996. I’ve already placed my order.
As a college senior, Sean Dooley has some issues with laundry. He set himself the task of designing a laundry bin that would be more space efficient for purposes of storage and travel. After a lot of research into existing products, he was most influenced by paper grocery bags. After initial brainstorming and sketching, he produced a tiny prototype from cardboard, paper, and masking tape.
It took many iterations to get the folds right, especially as he increased the size of each prototype. Eventually, he had one made out of fabric that was large enough to test with friends and family.
The final prototype utilized heavier materials and sturdier construction. A more comfortable grip was created on the handles. Not only does it fold up small enough to stash in a suitcase, it serves another function as well. Laying flat on a table, it serves as a folding station. The two ribs running vertical on the side of the bin are guides for folding shirts.
Sean fully embraced the iterative process, rapidly producing prototypes that helped him surmount obstacles. The result was a design that clearly solved the stated problem and a prototype good enough to use as a production model. I could easily see this product on the shelf at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.
I’m fortunate enough to not suffer any allergies, but I know plenty of people that do. I’ve witnessed how difficult it can be for people with dietary restrictions to eat out. Lindsey Estep, one of my students last semester, has first-hand experience with gluten allergies and the situations one must deal with at restaurants. She decided to take on this problem as her semester-long project.
Lindsey developed a service design that she prototyped with the help of Terra Cafe, a local Morgantown restaurant. Her solution involved table placards that served both to inform customers that there are gluten-free selections and, by turning it around and setting it out on the table, indicate that someone at the table was in need of gluten-free fare. The wait staff carried matching cards that they could write gluten-free orders on. These cards would then accompany the order to the kitchen, returning to the patron with their food as reassurance that their needs were recognized and met by everyone involved in preparing the meal.
The system was tested out on a Wednesday after some social media advertising. Only two customers required gluten-free service during the trial, but both indicated when surveyed afterward that they felt much safer and would be much more likely to frequent the restaurant if such a system were implemented.
Will Deskins was dissatisfied with the standard guitar stand. They are typically made of hollow, aluminum piping painted black. This makes them hard to see when empty and easy to trip over. They are light, with a small footprint, which makes them easy to knock over when holding a guitar. Having identified these issues, Will designed and prototyped a guitar stand that would not only do a better job holding a guitar, but would have additional utility and be attractive as a piece of furniture.
The Rock Dock is much larger and a good deal heavier than the standard guitar stand, so it wouldn’t be convenient for travel, but it works quite well in a studio or home. The arching neck support folds down to reveal a storage area in the back for cables. A small drawer in the bottom is the perfect place to keep picks and replacement strings. The base is padded where the guitar rests on it and has a slot to accommodate the pickup/strap button on the bottom of some guitars. The prototype pictured above doesn’t sport them, but the final product would also include power outlets in the base, relieving the need for a power strip to plug in an amp and other equipment. The entire stand is made of stained wood, giving it a sculptural quality.
Yeah, I’m teaching a class on product innovation this semester, and I’m quite proud of the work my students are doing. But as good as their ideas are, they don’t come close to this.
Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, all 14 years old, along with 15-year-old Bello Eniola are participants in Maker Faire Africa. They’ve created a urine powered generator.
Let me say that again.
Four African teenage girls have created a freaking urine powered generator!
Now, I don’t know what the economics surrounding such a concept are, and I don’t have any idea how feasible it would be to employ such a technology, but it sure sounds like an awesome idea. I’ll have to take their word on how it works:
Urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which cracks the urea into nitrogen, water, and hydrogen.
The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder.
The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator.
1 Liter of urine gives you 6 hours of electricity.
Considering that adult humans produce between 1 and 2 liters of urine a day, that seems like a reasonable source of fuel. Here’s the source article on The Next Web.
One of the example designer-founded companies I had my students study this semester is Airbnb. It’s a great story. As cool and innovative as Airbnb is, it’s now doing something truly awesome. The company has a new service available through which New Yorker’s can offer their space for free to those stranded by Hurricane Sandy for free.
Over 100,000 people are still stranded by Hurricane Sandy. Airbnb has partnered with the City of New York to connect those in need with people who are able to provide free housing.
As of this writing, 513 Airbnb members have agreed to participate. Not only is this a fantastic way for the company to be socially responsible, but it’s a smart business move, resulting in a lot of publicity and likely a lot of new users of their service.
The Consumer Products category of Fast Company’s 2012 Innovation By Design Awards has a lot of really cool entries. From the Nest thermostat and MakerBot Replicator to the winning entry, the BioLite CampStove that can turn any biomass into a hyper-efficient heat source, the finalists are wonders of design paired with cutting-edge technology. But one of the entries stood out for me as another delicious example of a very simple object that is taken for granted and ripe for innovation: the keyring.
Key rings are singularly awful on your nails and fingers, so it’s a wonder that it took so long to make one that’s utterly easy to use: You just press down to open the ring. “Every woman can sympathize,” says Antonelli. “Innovations really can be as simple as that.”
Designed by Drosselmeyer Design Group, Freekey is a stainless steel, flat wire with a patented wave in the middle. Press on the logo, and the end will open for easy insertion or removal of keys. You can buy it online from Exotac.
The winning entry in the Interactive Design category of Fast Company’s Innovation By Design Awards is Pain Squad, an iPhone game that doubles as a data collection tool developed by Cundari for the Hospital for Sick Children. Of course, that’s as much as you could learn about it reading the article. The biggest issue I’ve had with design award websites is the lack of information about the winning projects. Fast Company’s site fares no better, but a Google search turned up their own article about the app from April 23rd.
Part of the treatment process at The Hospital for Sick Children (or SickKids, a leading pediatric oncology facility) involves patients keeping detailed pain journals every day. Unfortunately, children who have just undergone chemotherapy often feel too weak, tired, or discouraged to pick up a pen and do the work. Enter Cundari and its solution: the Pain Squad Mobile App, an iPhone touchscreen interface that not only makes it easy for patients at SickKids to fill out the journals, but also gives them a sense of purpose.
Pain Squad is a great example of “gamification”, a term I’ve never cared for, but one that has caught on. More specifically, it is an example of gamification applied appropriately towards a very serious issue. It’s particularly timely for me, as I will be teaching Game Design again next semester.
There was a winner in each category, plus two Business Impact Awards, one each from the Consumer Products and Interactive Design categories. You should definitely take some time to peruse the winners, and I’d recommend reviewing the finalists as well. There’s a lot of inspirational work. I’ll probably write about a couple of them this week.
Just yesterday, Jon Kolko tweeted a link to what he has been working on for the last few months. For lack of a better comparison, it’s like LinkedIn for college students, but it appears to be much more useful than that. Check it out.
This looks to be extremely well designed. I would not be surprised if within two years, every student has a MyEdu account. It is very inviting, and I almost wish I were a student so that I could experience using it. Which made me wonder if they might soon extend their features to incorporate faculty as well. So, I looked around on their website and sure enough, they have a beta program for faculty. They are currently advertising features that would let a professor set expectations for their course, manage student recommendations, interact with students, and manage display of grade data. I’ve applied to join the beta.