design as building invisibility

government uk screen shot

“Something we’re trying to do in particular is let design get out of the way and let the user get to what they want,” Terrett says. “You shouldn’t come to the website and go: ‘wow, look at the graphic design’. We haven’t yet achieved that in most web interfaces; they’re still getting in the way [and] you can see the graphic design everywhere. We need to get past that.”

– Ben Terrett, Government Digital Service, UK

Design is a multifaceted word/occupation/skill/mindset/purpose/tool/thing/etc. Being much about removing as much as possible, making things invisible, takes it into a very interesting place. A place where Google has been for very long, but very few brands would consider worth going. A place where many art directors would freeze to death, yet a place many artists have lived. A place where minimalism is a close relative.

“I don’t know if I want to make any strong predictions, but I hope that technology disappears more and more from my life and you forget that you’re using it all the time instead of feeling like you’re burdened [by it].”

– Alexander Chen, Google Creative Labs

Whether or not this makes you sad, it kinda indicates what you pride yourself in doing, and what design is to you. If design is making things prettier or more useful. One designer (definition 1) could design useful, human centric service, and another designer (definition 2) could make that design “pretty”. Both say they’ve done their “design duties”. Personally, working in strategy, and creativity that activates that for brands, I’m very much for being purpose driven and hence defining what you do by what happens, the outcome. Everything in-between is a means, and really quite unimportant for very long in a project. The in-betweens, for all I care, can be invisible.

“We’re trying to get design out of the way” from Dezeen on Vimeo.

design, design, design

Matches

Design is the bomb. Everybody talks about design. Responsive design. Designing for a digital age. Design thinking. Design thinking in customer experience. The designful company. I guess it risk becoming equally watered out/confusing (or for the initiated; finally as rich and properly defined and filled as it should) as “digital” has been for a while, having been everything from the opposite of analogue, to a mental age, to a skill-set, to a way of thinking, to a type of company, to a word used to sell yourself. Yuk.

Wonderful example of seemingly undesigned or design-unworthy objects from Shane Schneck.

matches

matches again

Or this stuff by Karim Rachid

pot2

Pot by karim rachid

Another Pot by Karim Rachid

Everything obviously needed more design focus than we thought. Little has been well designed enough. Design hasn’t reached the little things enough. Etcetera. Or, I’m fooled by lack of perspective and it actually was but not anymore.
Lot’s of great examples from Fast Co.Design.

Update 2016-10-09:
Artsy got in touch and let me know there’s a page dedicated to Karim Rashid, on Artsy.

finding the small, effective, changes amongst the routinely unnoticed

Builder norms and manliness

Striking how deeply ingrained certain things are, and hence how effective it is to break away from those pre-existing truths; mental and social. Like colors for example. Heavy duty stuff should be black and yellow. Hardhats too. Except for this one, demanding attention. Perhaps the company decided to chip in to the gender/socialisation issue. Perhaps Mr or Mrs boss bursted out in a meeting: unicorns shouldn’t be either pink or rainbow colored, and our bags are damn well not going to be orange and black!

It seems like it’s easier to think up big things, big changes, big ideas, big moves, big campaigns, big strategies, big plans. Finding the little things takes just as long to find because they are, per definition, smaller and harder to find. Now back to work, and change the small things that break away from the routinely unnoticed.

brutal focus, simplicity and consequence

An example of brutal simplicity and great (for some) value is this little alarm clock that goes off if it’s sunny, and you really should get outside, and doesn’t if the weather is shit. Perfect for weekends and holidays.

Nivea Sun, Sun Alarm App from AgênciaClick Isobar on Vimeo.

do your exercise or experience blackout

Slightly more advanced idea here, but brutally focused and determined to actually work. Many digital services can fail at solving the real “flesh life problem” because they can be forgotten about, overlooked or – due to laziness and self-deception – not used enough or discontinued altogether. Sure, positive motivational drivers can be effective or maybe even more effective than threat of loss, but that’s another discussion.

From PSFK:

The FitBit tracker is able to monitor and log in various activities such as steps taken, amount of sleep, and calories burned. The hack works by connecting WeMo, an Internet-controlled power outlet, to the FitBit device. When a certain goal isn’t achieved, the power outlet automatically turns off, shutting down connected electronic devices like a gaming console, computer, or even the fridge.

The online/offline marriage is really interesting when the two, if you will, have real consequences and effects for each other should [criteria] not be met. The quantified-self-fork from this years’ CES is one example where this is highly relevant. Let’s call it real life gamification, where the game ain’t necessarily all fun…

urbanized technology

Some interesting thoughts, on the urban design note, from this year’s Picnic festival; urbanized technology. How cities “hack” technology that doesn’t take the context, i.e. city, into account. One example being the car, which isn’t utilized in the city in a way that the technicians behind it would have prescribed, if you will. Kind of makes sense. The new cars of today, the hybrids and the electrical ones, can be said to much better take this context into account. A hybrid runs on batteries in city environment and city driving; made possible not only because we have to cut down on fossil fuel usage, but because we know what city driving is like and so technicians and engineers take that into account.

It feels like much of the technological advancements we’re making today is about urbanizing technology. Or perhaps better explained; making technology contextually interactive. Giving data based on usage, and taking in data based on context. Urbanized technology is kind of the next step in every technology used. So we haven’t failed before, we just haven’t been there. Technology has been sand-boxed, whereas now it’s acting in an “object oriented programming” type of way. Manipulating other objects, and being manipulated by them.

urban design – the language of the city

I’m really looking forward to catching this latest film, Urbanized, by Gary Hustwit. Urban design is really interesting when you think about how little you think about it. How cities work, help you, work against you and contextualize your every experience more or less. Think about memories from, say a park, and how that memory could be claimed to be “powered by” urban design. How different could memories be, if the context had been different?

I don’t want to draw ridiculous parallels back to communications planning, but a session we had in 2010 at APG Sweden (Theme being “creating for people”) was with a company called Spacescape who specialize in strategic urban and architectonical analysis. Stuff like spacial analysis, user studies etc. They end up with things like heat maps, showing the flow of people, and hence how changes in the landscape would “upset”, redirect or prevent that flow. That session proved to have a whole lot in common with communications planning. It also left me feeling a bit incredulous towards architects in general.

arduino – a perfect open source wedding

Hadn’t seen the documentary about the Arduino project before. I was struck by the the 3D printer built on open hardware Arduino, printing open source coat hangers and how this is the ultimate wedding of the connectedness, collaboration and openness of the internet, and how that is power in numbers. I’ve been facinated by MIT Media Lab for a long time, so was happy to find that representatives of MEDEA Collaborative Media Initiative down in Malmö, Sweden, were part of the Arduino project, although started in Ivrea in Italy (Arduin being an important character for the city of Ivrea) and soon consisting of a great mix of people and co-collaborators. Watch the film, there’s an interesting story behind the hardware and an inspiring case of collaboration across boarders, based on mutual interest.

Arduino The Documentary (2010) English HD from gnd on Vimeo.

nifty thinking from Evernote

I find the intersection of offline and online things really interesting. I’ve been collecting some interesting links which you can find on my pinboard (which I switched to when talks of Delicious would be discontinued, and now I can’t be arsed to move back and frankly I like Pinboard.in). Whether or not we are post-digital per definition I find irrelevant. But the many things happening as we mix it all up is great. We’re becoming less digital-hyped and coming more to terms with an increasingly large chunk of digital aspects and touch points in our lives.

Here’s a really nifty idea by Evernote. I’m sure everyone knows about them, but if not, you simply need to have a look.