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.
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.
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.
It’s always sad to hear that someone you respect has died. The feeling of loss is much worse when that person dies young. The likes of Jim Henson and Steve Jobs had contributed so much to the world before they passed, it’s gut-wrenching to imagine what we have been deprived as a result of their early departure. Bill Moggridge was not so much the celebrity as they, but he was the Industrial Designer of the first laptop and the man who coined the term “Interaction Design”. Bill was one of the founders of IDEO, one of the most influential firms of our time, and a great proponent of both multidisciplinary teams and designing for people. He has been head of the Cooper Hewitt for the past few years.
Bill stopped designing Saturday when he succumbed to cancer. He was 69. Fortunately, his contributions to the profession will last for generations.
Tonight was the first class of the Fall semester. One of the indicators of a good class session is that during my drive home, I only half-hear the podcast I’m listening to. My mind is too occupied with the evening’s events. I critique my performance, consider the responses of my students, mull over all the possibilities the semester holds, and begin making plans for the next week.
We kicked things off by watching Objectified. Then I introduced the class to Kickstarter and Quirky, completely new to many of them. From the responses I observed, I’m betting there is a lot of digestion happening tonight. I’m going to be shining a light on design entrepreneurship, and I’m hoping that some of the students will go as far as to initiate Kickstarter campaigns.
Here’s the description of the course from my syllabus:
“Innovation” is currently one of the biggest buzz words in business, and where there is discussion of innovation, there is typically mention of design or “Design Thinking”. Articles have appeared in business oriented publications making declarations such as “The MFA is the New MBA” (Harvard Business Review), or describing “the emergence of the design economy” (Fast Company). BusinessWeek and Fast Company both have sections devoted to design. Major universities have begun integrating their design and business programs with participation from major design firms—Stanford’s d.school for example. And while this “movement” is several years old, the most recent trend is the rise of the designer entrepreneur. Organizations like Kickstarter are giving designers the opportunity to realize their ideas without having to sell out to a large corporation to get them funded. Designers are now cited as key components of successful startups, as well as a competitive edge for established companies.
But what kind of design are they referring to? What training must a designer possess to participate in the field’s current popularity? What qualities of design lend it to innovation?
This course will provide you the opportunity to explore the design process as it applies to innovation. We’ll learn from the successes of firms like IDEO, one of the most notable design firms operating today, and study the writing of Don Norman, one of the world’s foremost thinkers on the subject. We will apply what we learn, taking a product from conception and research to a final design and prototype, and potentially a campaign to fund further work.
At the end of the semester, you will have a broader understanding of the potential of design to affect change in the world, a deeper understanding of proven, problem-solving methods, and an appreciation of the current climate for design entrepreneurship.
Many years ago, when my wife and I purchased our first set of furniture for the first apartment we would share as a couple, we spent days driving to every furniture store we could find around Pittsburgh. In one store, we found a sofa that we liked. In another store, we found a coffee table. Here we would find a lamp, and there we found a bookcase. I was satisfied, knowing that I got the pieces that I liked the most of what was available.
Several weeks ago, I decided to do something special for our anniversary. We haven’t had a bed since we moved into our house, almost nine years ago. Oh, we have a mattress and box spring, but they are just sitting on a frame. We don’t even have a headboard. I decided I wanted a canopy bed constructed of bamboo. So, I did a Google search, and sure enough, I found Bali Bamboo Creations. They have a really nice selection of bamboo beds with a variety of finishes. Each one is handmade to order for a reasonable price, including shipping to anywhere in the world.
I ordered the Ubud bed with two Belaga nightstands. After a couple weeks, I was emailed photographs of the finished furniture for my approval. It was all delivered today. I haven’t assembled the bed yet, but the pieces I’ve seen are beautiful, and the nightstands are well crafted.
You don’t have to settle for the commonplace items found in the showrooms anymore. I only buy what I love.
My company outfitted our new office with Cisco VOIP phones. They seem to work as well as any other office phone, but the voice mail indicator is woefully inadequate.
You see that little red line above the display? That’s the light that comes on when you have unheard voice mail. It doesn’t blink. It’s just on or off. I didn’t even realize that’s what it was until one of my coworkers pointed out that I had a message. It had been there several days. I don’t often get phone calls, so it is rare that I have a message. I don’t tend to look at the phone much. Unfortunately, it isn’t doing a good job of getting my attention.
Tony Fadell left Apple about three years ago. Monday, his new company, Nest, announced their first product, the Nest Learning Thermostat.
“So what are you working on lately?” a friend asks over lunch. “I started a new company. We make thermostats.” They chuckle, take a bite of their salad, “No, seriously. What are you doing?” “I’m serious. Thermostats.”
Given the description on their site, the Nest is a beautifully conceived and executed product. It programs itself, learning what your desired temperatures are at different times of the day, week, and season. It also helps you conserve energy. What’s more, it isn’t an eye-sore. If Apple made a thermostat, this is what it would be like. In a way, you could say that Apple did make a thermostat. More and more, we’ll be seeing Apple’s influence in other products as more companies get it. Steve’s legacy will be much larger than phones and tablets.
I’ve been interested in the work of the faculty and students of MIT’s Media Lab ever since I started grad school. However, I was often critical of projects, considering them to be technological solutions looking for problems. Not so with David Merrill’s Siftables, debuted during a TED talk in February of 2009. I have to believe they were originally inspired by a project called Triangles that was carried out by the Tangible Media Group under Professor Hiroshi Ishii in 1998. Regardless, the concept has come a long way. David and his partner, Jeevan Kalanithi, formed a company to produce and market Siftables as a consumer product. Now called Sifteo Cubes, they are available for pre-order. There are quite a few educational games that can be played with the little devices, but more importantly, they come with the Sifteo Creativity Kit, allowing anyone to create their own games and share them with others.
These have a lot of potential for education and pure entertainment. They may just make Santa’s list this year. I’m really interested to see whether or not they will catch on and where Sifteo will take things from here.