An idea is not a design
A design is not a prototype
A prototype is not a program
A program is not a product
A product is not a business
A business is not profits
Profits are not an exit
And an exit is not happiness.
It’s early morning and I’m on the subway. Everyone in the carriage is looking empty out in the air in front of them and trying to keep to themselves. Suddenly, a cup of coffee flies through the air and lands on my lap. The woman next to me looks just as surprised as I probably did, and we both…
Let’s go through the list of what I said I was going to do and what I actually got done this week:
Plan for Week 4:
My current prototype documentation, with full thoughts about its success/failure, will go up this weekend. Revised delivery date: EOD Saturday
Life cycle journey Revised delivery date: Monday
Take a break from prototyping!
After meeting with Dan last Friday, I promptly made my way to Grand Central and up to Connecticut to look at wedding venues.
Saturday was all about the Best Picture Showcase (I saw Warhorse, Moneyball, Tree of Life, and The Descendants). When I got home, I started reading Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson. It’s been inspiring to read over the last week, with all its adjacent possibilities and talk of creative hive mind.
Sunday, I met with Erin for a few hours and we started delving into content strategy. We were working off an article by Aaron Walter, Personality in Design. Some of what I established includes brand traits, brand voice, copy examples, and where the brand falls along an XY graph of unfriendly-to-friendly, and submissive-to-dominant. This work is just beginning, but it was great to get started.
Monday was another day all about weddings, and then class.
On Tuesday, I worked through both the user stories and the use case/user flow. Here’s that blog post. As you’ll note in that post, I straight out say that what I’ve done is more a justification of the system rather than true user stories, but for me, this was a necessary first step as I start to define the system and its boundaries.
Today, I rode my bike. Because it was amazing out.
Chatttr is transient forum for chatting and drawing with no logins and a very limited history. The Internet’s public parks have been replaced by private gardens. Private gardens that harvest your personal data, sell it to advertisers, and hand it over at the drop of a hat. Chatttr’s not going to solve that. But it does what it can. Each room’s history is limited to twenty-four hours or one hundred posts, which ever comes first. And the archives are continuously recycled so if you like something take screen grabs because it won’t last long.
One of the cool things about Chatttr is that you can type, but you can also draw. It’s primitive, and seems to be more about novelty than actual drawing or illustration, but it feels right at home on a platform that’s meant as a backlash against the commercialization of our expressive output.
Playing with Chatttr brought up a few questions for me to consider as I create a platform for expressive content. How can we protect people from feeling exploited by the system itself—more importantly, how do you prevent exploitation within the system to begin with? To use Chatttr’s language, should what I create be a public park, anonymity and all? Or perhaps a public-private conservatory? Or, is the private garden the way to go?
These are all things I’ve been considering as I examine the role of sharing in my project.
I’ve been posting for over a month now about the actual process of making my project, but I don’t think I’ve ever concisely stated what I’m doing.
I’m building a social platform for sharing short bursts of creative energy that has been captured by handwriting.
The goal of the platform is to provide an easy means of public documentation and sharing of handwritten media so that people who handwrite won’t feel that the practice is too difficult or not worth the effort as compared to readily available digital methods.
I would like the system I design to embody these values:
Here’s a basic overview of what that means, as a drawn diagram:
I spent the last few days generating user stories in lieu of a user journey (which for me, feels far too contrived). If you study what I’ve generated in detail, you’ll see that these aren’t truly user stories, at least not yet. What I’ve really done, at this point, is justify the creation of my system.
I’ve also noted which system values are tied to each particular user story. This is helping me recognize which values I’m currently not addressing as well as I think I should be.
I need to start getting into the nitty gritty of my interactions and the way sharing works. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks now, I think much of my success in this project will come from how well I am able to design for emotion. The personality of the system, as well as the interactions that define its flow, will be key.
This article is completely in line with my experience of the open desk environment. It’s why I often find myself at the studio at 2:26am (and later), alone, and working. Late nights are when I can finally get some peace and quiet, finally concentrate, finally get into the flow.
I once got gasps and looks of horror when I suggested an office try individual workstations (wouldn’t that disqualify us from Dwell!?); indeed my favorite desk space was in an office that had cubicles. Mine was fantastic, with a big window that actually opened over E 41st Street. Demonized in Office Space, I think cubicles could be one of the solutions to our overly-open lives: private enough to afford quiet and personalization, but open enough to allow for walk-by meetings. Not as intimidating as a closed door, but closed enough to make you think twice before interrupting someone clearly in the middle of work.
Hand tools operate on objects. For example, a hammer operates on a nail. We can also imagine writing tools that can change form and function between a pen, a brush, and a stylus, based on the type of surface being drawn or written upon: a sheet of paper, a canvas, or a touchscreen. The way a user holds the tool can also inform how the tool transforms: The way we hold a knife and a fork is distinct. If the soup bowl is the operand, then it is likely the operator should be a spoon, not a fork.
From the article Tradicals Atoms: Beyond Tangible Bits, Toward Transformable Materials by Hiroshi Ishii, David Lakatos, Leonardo Bonanni, and Jean-Baptiste Labrune in the January/February Issue of Interactions.
Michael passed this article along to me a few weeks ago, and I’m only now posting about it. For me, the article is part of the past, at least in terms of my project. There was an infatuation with the idea of the physical, but my project has (rather organically) evolved into something that’s much less about tools in the physical world, and much more about a tool that’s always available for you (that is, on the internet).
File under: darlings.
I’m still extremely interested in these ideas, and I hope that I get to watch tools like these evolve (maybe even help them evolve). But for now, it seems the best thing to do it put it to bed.
The week started with a bang during my advisor meeting on Friday the 10th, and has finished with a bit of a whimper.
While discussing my handwritten tweets prototype experiment, Dan and I happen upon the idea of simply creating a platform for handwritten tweets. Excitement ensues, and ideas about who will use it and how, and how to build it or prototype it quickly follow. I tweet the following:
I spent the rest of the weekend documenting my prototype, and writing a blog entry about the similarities between the methodologies of science and design. Was I procrastinating? I didn’t think so.
The process of documenting my prototype was also the start of writing for the process book, which I am almost 100% certain will happen in the new Apple iBooks format. There are a few drawbacks: design controls are more Keynote/Pages and less InDesign, and you can only use their pre-packaged font list. I’ll know in a month or so if this is a dealbreaker.
On Tuesday, Erin and Sera and I had the weekly meeting on thesis. When I explained the breakthrough I’d had, they seemed to feel like I was getting myself too caught up in the technology (i.e.: they felt like me saying, it’s Twitter, but it’s handwritten! wasn’t what I really meant to say). They’re right, it’s not what I mean, per se, but I was pretty bummed that they didn’t jump on the excitement train with me. We spent the rest of my turn thinking about how to prototype what I want people to do with the platform.
Also on Tuesday, I finally dissected an interview I’d done a while back with my sister, about journaling. The takeaway is that she only writes down thoughts she considers to be really good ones.
And in the last hours of Tuesday (or was it the early hours of Wednesday?), I put up a public prototype on the wall of the IxD Kitchen. Pictures above.
Wednesday was a wash, although Amy and I did discover an awesome restaurant called V Note on the UES. I highly recommend the seitan Medallions.
Today, I took a quick workshop on Final Cut Pro editing. It was basic, but informative.
I continue to truck through Codecademy, but I’m starting to get confused about bracket notation vs. dot notation, and how things get called. I’ll figure it out.
Plan for Week 4:
My current prototype documentation, with full thoughts about its success/failure, will go up this weekend.
Jody doesn’t write very often. She’s not a habitual or ritualistic journaler, and she doesn’t take notes on paper very much.
I don’t usually write little notes about thoughts and that sort of thing though, unless it’s like a really good thought.
In other words, it’s not worth embodying—not worth capturing in your own hand—unless it is, by your own judgement, a really good thought, one that stands out to you in some way. And by it, we mean: flashes of insight or inspiration. Things that either excite us, depress us, change our perception of things, or move us towards action.
Full disclosure: Jody is my sister. The interview took place over IM on January 31st, 2012.
After finishing a week of handwriting my tweets, I struggled to find a way to document my first prototype. I realize that I should have this figured out by now, since I’m in my last semester at MFA Interaction Design, but—I’m ashamed to admit—so much of my documentation has been adhoc, and only formalized once it was time for a final presentation.
Thanks to Erin, who shared her method, I realized that one major step would be documenting assumptions. And I realized too, that assumptions imply that you were testing a hypothesis within certain parameters. Hypothesis is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to thesis, but it finally brought me back to grade school, where we learned about the scientific method (here, from Wikipedia):
Define a question
Gather information and resources (observe)
Form an explanatory hypothesis
Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
Analyze the data
Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
Retest (frequently done by other scientists)
The iterative cycle inherent in this step-by-step methodology goes from point 3 to 6 back to 3 again.
Which is awfully similar to the methodology we’ve been following for working on design problems:
Define the problem or opportunity
Research and observe in-situ
Sketch possible solutions
Test these solutions and document the results
Analyze the results
Interpret the results and draw conclusions about your proposed solution.
Iterate in increasing fidelity until you believe the problem is solved.
Release your solution.
If the project allows, continue to interate once the solution is out in the real world.
And there you have it: the mixing of science and design (hi Catherine!).
On the other hand, Paul Feyerabend argued against the methodization of science, claiming that forcing it into such narrow, objective lines would be harmful to the human spirit. He argued against the idea that science, in the search for the truth, would crush the will of the scientists performing it, by prohibiting personal interest to seep into the work.
If we apply that same anarchistic thinking to design methodologies, I think it becomes the justification for making something just for you, making something just to do something different. A justifcation for going with your gut.
I finally don’t feel bad for turning my thesis into a side project.
Imagine going into an espresso bar, as I did in Tokyo, ordering a single shot, and being told that it’s not on offer. The counter at No. 8 Bear Pond may feature the shiniest, spiffiest, newest La Marzocco, as well as a Rube Goldberg–esque water-filtration system, but the menu, which lists lattes and Americanos, makes no mention of espresso or cappuccino.
“My boss won’t let me make espressos,” says the barista. “I need a year more, maybe two, before he’s ready to let customers drink my shots undiluted by milk. And I’ll need another whole year of practice after that if I want to be able to froth milk for cappuccinos.”
This week was little more tame. I’ve moved out of research gathering, and pushed into my first real prototype, as well as created an implementation plan for the rest of the semester. I expect the plan to be constantly evolving. Here we go:
Created an implementation plan, first on paper and post-its, and then moved that into iCal and Teux Deux. Overwhelming would be a word I’d use to describe it. The process is ongoing, as I continue to further break down deliverables into what I’m calling mini-milestones. The process of getting everything into Teux Deux is tedious, but helpful (and—oddly—soothingly repetitive).
Handwriting Pros/Cons diagram: this was something Dan asked me to do last week to help me narrow down my focus even further, and I plan to share it later today. (yessssss, infographics diversion)
Narrowing down my objective: I know that I do not want to interrupt a work flow. I want to augment an activity that someone is already doing.
Handwritten tweet prototype: Have you noticed that I’ve tweeted significantly less this week? That’s because I handwrote a bunch of stuff (no… not all. And it turns out, when you write down “Heading out for the daily caffeine fix,” or, “Really, MTA? 7 minutes until the next train during rush hour?” you realize how lame and unnecessary that particular tweet really is. On the other hand, the tweets that did make it into the stream are, on the whole, well-thought out (though certainly still not groundbreaking works of staggering genius). Cooper also joined in the fun for one @reply, which was cool.