Archive for the ‘Designing’ Category

Phonebloks is a really nice idea… but it won’t work :’-(

Phonebloks is a concept mobile phone that has taken social networks by storm in the past few days. Conceived by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, it is meant as a solution to the e-waste problem generated by a smartphone industry which has shipped more than 225 million units in the last few months alone.

It sounds like an excellent, exciting new idea and it certainly has generated a lot of buzz on the interwebs (every single designer friend I have has posted something related on facebook), but unfortunately the bottom line is: it WOULDN’T WORK :’-(

My ServiceFellow – The real world version of Emoments!

As it usually happens, great ideas are never truly unique. Our whole history of inventions and development rests in the shoulders of giants. The real trick lies in taking ideas to the next level and making them become a reality. And this is exactly what I just came across.

While working on eMoments, the mobile app concept I developed as part of my MSc. graduation project I came in contact with Marc Stickdorn, from the Management Center Innsbruk and co-author of the great book “This is Service Design Thinking”. Marc did a great job in helping me understand what services and service design in particular was all about.

Unfortunately for me, the eMoments project remained in a concept phase, but as it turns out, Marc was working in parallel on a very similar application to what I had in mind. An application that has gone through a lengthy design and testing process (which I want to believe was also influenced by my own project somehow :-) ) and which is now almost ready to be released into the wild.

The result? My ServiceFellow!

What can my organization do to develop more usable products?

Dr. Jasper van Kuijk is a post-doc researcher at the TU Delft studying user centered product development practice. He is an expert on usability and how it affects not just the people using the products, but the industry that develops and markets those products.

At VanBerlo, identifying how important these factors are not only for our business, but for our client’s business, we had the pleasure of inviting Jasper a few weeks back as a guest lecturer for our team at our Eindhoven offices.

It is important to remember that better usability does NOT increase purchase intent but it DOES play an important role on the user experience, which can affect whether people buy your products again and whether they will recommend them to other potential customers.

During his doctorate research, Jasper identified 4 main drivers

Google’s Project Glass: Interesting concept with a LOOOT of work ahead of it

Google just released a video for Project Glass, one of their Google[x] projects dealing with augmented reality deployed through a set of glasses (or a similarly placed gear).

Some have been quick to pinpoint some of the technical problems faced by the project, but of course, we should take the video with a pinch of salt, as it is but a concept design to illustrate what their vision is with the whole thing.

What I really find interesting about it, is that Google is thinking of a true Augmented Reality application. Forget about the bullshit, gimmicky AR applications in which you must point something to a camera and see a 3D model being put in it’s place while you watch yourself on a screen, what we are talking about here is more akin to Layar, but then without the awkward interaction of having to see things through a small “window” (your mobile device), instead you get to see everything in your own field of view.

Draw Something! a great game to keep designers sharp

As an industrial design student, I remember that I had a hard time during sketching classes. Not because I can’t doodle, but because I was asked to “sketch” and NOT to “draw“, which is quite a different thing.

Sketching is all about conveying the message in a quick and simple way; a tool designers use to quickly explore possibilities. And my biggest problem was always that I wanted to draw, to end up with a presentation drawing as close to my intention as possible, no room for error. I had the hardest time committing to a stroke because I felt it had to be perfect or not be at all, and of course I hated the fact that they were forcing me to sketch with ink fine-liners (not much erasing there I’m afraid…). It was quite frustrating and up to this day I’m bugged by it.

But a recent game on the mobile front might help me change that.

A Window(s) into the future

A few years back, at the end of a guest lecture at the TU Delft given by Stephan Hoefnagels, Senior UX Designer who worked on the Windows 7 team, I ever timidly raised my hand and asked a question: “Why does windows 7 still works pretty much the same way as Windows 95?”

Stephan’s answer was quite simple, and it made perfect sense at the time: “Well, we don’t want to break the whole interaction paradigm that people have been accustomed to for the past 15 years, so we make incremental changes”

…that’s all about to be thrown out the Windows (pun intended ;-) )

The real importance of usability and user experience

We hear a lot lately about user experience and usability and how these two play a key role in the introduction of new products into the market, but it is important to know exactly WHAT kind of role they actually play and how they can affect not only our product, but our whole business.

What’s going on with consumer electronics?

To start off, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the world of consumer electronics, which make up a huge chunk of the products where usability and user experience are so important.

The first ever Design Jam Asterdam

A few days back I had the pleasure of being part of the first ever Design Jam Amsterdam and it was a very enriching experience, and of course, lots of fun!

Design Jams are one-or-two-day design sessions, during which people team up to tackle engaging User Experience (UX) challenges. They aim to get designers together to learn and collaborate with each other while working on real problems.

360 UI & Interaction Trend Report… this baby is finally done!

Finally! After a good couple of months of research and analysis, our UI+Interaction Trend Report ’10-’11 is finally finished and ready for our clients to take advantage of it.

The borders between purely physical products and the digital world are becoming increasingly blurred. Over the last 40 years, with the price and size of components steadily dropping and microprocessor capabilities constantly increasing, products have the potential of becoming more and more intelligent. This translates into new, exciting features for the users, but it also poses challenges for designers on how to manage the added complexity through an easy to use and efficient interface that allows smart products to fulfill their promise of making life a little easier and more pleasurable.

We at VanBerlo, believe that a proper understanding of the present and  future of people’s interaction with products will create great new possibilities in the world of design and therefore, as part of my work at one of Europe’s leading design studios, I had the responsibility to develop our very first trend report focusing on the world of interaction and user interface design.

These award winning trend reports are part of VanBerlo’s  360 creative services offer and they focus on providing up to date, global and detailed insights into the relevant trends in product development.

As a special treat, here’s a sneak preview of some of the content you’ll find in our full, 160 pages long report (including high resolution photos and HD videos) .

Design by Fire 2010… and how I learned to hate my camera

Bill Buxton was coming to the Design by Fire 2010 conference in Amsterdam. That was the only thing I needed to hear to sign up for it. The man is a legend in the human-computer interaction field and his talks are usually very interesting, inspiring and full of great insights. Of course he did not disappoint.

I had to stand on the back of the room where his talk was taking place, just so that I could video record the whole thing without disturbing the people sitting behind me with my camera blocking their view. He started the talk by addressing the audience in perfect Dutch and putting on the jersey of the Dutch national team with the name “Buxton” on his back, in a gesture to celebrate the fact that Oranje had trashed Sweden 4-1 the night before (you gotta love the man!). He then proceeded to delight us for about an hour with his view on what Natural User Interfaces are really all about.

And I was a happy man! I could just enjoy the moment and would be able to review it later on in the comfort of my house to make notes and take it all in… that is IF my stupid camera hadn’t decided to break down 0,0005 seconds before the end of the talk and erase any data that had been saved so far on my SD card. Disaster!

Designing the new touch interface language

Last Tuesday I attended a short presentation at the Delft University of Technology, where Kay Hofmeester (former UX manager for Microsoft Surface) told us a bit about how the Surface team tried to handle the new challenges posed by designing user interfaces under the new touch interface paradigm. I took the liberty to record it to share it with whoever is interested (Kay if you’re out there reading this, I hope you don’t mind ;-)).

It was a very interesting lecture with some nice and concrete examples of how wrong it is to try to directly translate old user interfaces for new input devices such as touch screens.

The Spanish speaking pointer and the Italian speaking finger

In the lecture, Kay explains very nicely and in depth some of the main practical differences between interacting with a classical GUI and with a touch interface, but I’m gonna give it a go with my own metaphor.

Think of the following scenario. You’ve been speaking Spanish all your life. You know the ins and outs of your language. One day you move to Italy and all of a sudden you find yourself surrounded by Italians. Sure! your Spanish might help you get by to a certain level due to the language similarities, and you

Design for Interaction (and the afterlife)

A few days back, I was invited to give a short presentation at the TU Delft to the new first year students of the Design for Interaction (DfI) master of science. Apparently being a DfI alumnus working at the biggest dutch industrial design studio made me an interesting profile to talk to Delft’s future interaction designers… or maybe I was the only one who accepted to come ;-)

I was asked to talk a bit about my experience during the master, especially during my graduation project and how it’s been so far as an interaction designer “in the wild”.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have much time to practice it very well, but anyway since the faculty recorded the presentation I figured “why not publish it?”. So here it is…

Why does Apple think that a stylus is a design flaw?

“It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it.”

Steven P. Jobs – CEO, Apple Inc.

I wonder why is it that Apple considers the use of a stylus as a design flaw?

I understand where Steve is coming from and as an interaction designer I agree that a touch interface should NOT depend on the accuracy offered by a stylus to be usable, but c’mon!

What are tangible user interfaces?

During the last few days, I’ve been doing a lot of internet surfing at the office in search for good examples of trends in user interface (UI) design for one of our award winning 360 Trend Reports.

On it’s on, that is already quite a daunting task, as there are so many things out there that it’s difficult to pick and filter everything out. To top it off, there seem to be a lot of overlapping terms to define different types of interfaces which doesn’t make it any easier when you try to organize and classify them.

But anyway, going straight to the point, one of the most interesting user interface paradigms I’ve come across not only during my search but also during my studies, is the Tangible User Interface (TUI), so I decided to dedicate this post to explaining what they are and to show a few great examples of (soon to be) products which make use of this type of interaction.

To start up, here’s my definition:

A tangible user interface is one in which the user interacts with a digital system through the manipulation of physical objects linked to and directly representing a quality of said system.

The idea with TUIs is to have a direct link between the system and the way you control it through physical manipulations by having an underlying meaning or direct relationship which connects the physical manipulations to the behaviours which they trigger on the system.

RepRap: Be fruitful and multiply!

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and  multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over  the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living  thing that moveth upon the earth”

Genesis 1:28

I’m not a religious person at all, but this quote from Genesis illustrates very nicely the awesome powers that were bestowed by “the dude upstairs” upon that couple of naked people living in his garden: Usefulness and Self reproduction!

This gave way to the opportunity to get more of these  naked people to walk around, do some cool things which could help themselves and others and eventually create some more naked people of their own to keep the ball rolling.

Well this amazing power is exactly what the guys behind the RepRap project gave to their open source rapid prototyping machine. That’s right, it’s a SELF REPLICATING RAPID PROTOTYPING MACHINE! it creates useful things for us and has the ability to create a copy of itself so that others can take advantage of it too. How awesome is that??

New year, new decade, new job, new city… and I get to play with robots!

It’s being a pretty hectic end/start of the year. As of last Monday (11th of January) I started working as Interaction Designer at VanBerlo Studios, the biggest design studio in the Netherlands and an important player in the European scene of product development.

As a consequence and after 9 years of my life spent in the little and picturesque town of Delft I had to move to Eindhoven, a bigger city down to the south of the Netherlands, very well known for being the headquarters of technology giants Philips and home of former European champions PSV Eindhoven (I guess I can never wear my Ajax jersey in public around this town).

The city is not as charming, but the work and the company is absolutely fantastic so far… and I get to play with robots! One of the first projects I’ll be working on deals with robotics and therefore today I paid a visit to the mechanical engineering department of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).