Archive for the ‘Designing’ Category

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).

Sustainable packaging? Bring out the popcorn!

Another way of 'recycling' packing peanuts?

For my first post of the year I received the inspiration from a Christmas present my sister received while I was visiting her.

I’ve always had the habit of keeping the little styrofoam packing peanuts of any package I receive so that I can reuse them whenever I have to send something out myself. It saves me money and I ensure that the material is used at least once more. Sadly though, I’m sure that this is not something that everybody does and undoubtedly most of these peanuts end up in the trash after a single use, contributing to our waste problems.

But what’s the alternative? Well, as I mentioned, my sister received this gift during the holidays which I thought was brilliantly simple and a very nicely thought alternative. It was a little box with shower and bath soaps which used POPCORN (!!!) instead of styrofoam.

TomTom: UX design of mobile driving apps


Relevant keywords

Mobile apps, iOS, Android, Driving, Workshops, Mockups, Flowcharts, Interactive Prototypes

Design goal

As a Senior Interaction Designer at TomTom, I’m responsible for UX work on several mobile driving apps (for both Android and iOS) from the company’s product portfolio.

Specific role & contribution

  • UX lead of several mobile driving apps
  • Direct communication with developers, product owners and marketing within an Agile environment
  • Organise and carry out creative workshops
  • Development of interactive prototypes for “hallway” and “formal” testing

Novility HELP: A hospitality training system based on motion tracking

Novility HELP


Relevant keywords

Motion tracking, Hospitality training, Gamification, Ergonomics, Agile development, Start up, New product development

Design goal

Create a Kinect based training system for the hotel industry that teaches housekeepers the correct procedures, ergonomic movements and required English language skills to perform their job efficiently, effectively and free of injuries.

Specific role & contribution

  • Product owner in charge of defining all mayor features from the very beginning
  • Part of the project planning and management team under an Agile development, including set up of bi-weekly sprints and monitoring of progress
  • Head of the design team, leading analysis, conceptualization and styling of product features
  • Lead for design research activities, such as observational research, interviews and user testing
  • Direct communication with developers
  • Art director for all graphical communication material

Sapiens: Solutions for deep brain stimulation


Relevant keywords

Brain surgery, Medical software, UI design, Process analysis, Workshops

Design goal

Analyse the product offering of Sapiens, to identify the design challenges faced by their new brain stimulation products. A special emphasis is laid on the design and styling of their medical software for brain surgery planning.

Specific role & contribution

  • Organization and execution of workshops with medical experts 
  • Analysis of collected insights
  • Mapping out the brain surgery procedure in order to identifying challenges and opportunities
  • Assist in the analysis of current product
  • Assist in the conceptualization and wire-framing of the planning software
  • Assist in the implementation of the styling to different screens

Atag Magna: User experience design of an electrical oven

Atag - Combi Steam Oven


Relevant keywords

User interface design, Kitchen appliances, Observational research, Focus group, Prototyping, Workshops, Red Dot Award

Design goal

Development of a touch interface for a new line of high-end ovens for Atag. A user centred design approach was used to ensure that the features available would be in line with what people actually want to use in their kitchens. The product should be able to support the experienced cook while at the same time guiding the novice.

Specific role & contribution

  • Project planning and management, including preparation of quotes and direct communication with client
  • Organize and facilitate the research activities. Analyse and draw results from research
  • Responsible for 90% of conceptualization
  • Art direction, including the creation of detailed styling mock-ups
  • Planning and execution of a qualitative testing protocol for usability testing

Promesso: User experience design of an office coffee machine


Relevant keywords

Office appliances, UI design, Prototyping, Usability testing

Design goal

Development of the user interface for a new line of self service coffee machines. Personalization of your drink was to be a key factor for the user’s experience so several proofs of concept were developed to explore different possibilities.

Specific role & contribution

  • Assistance in planning the project’s approach
  • Organization of workshops with client and stakeholders
  • Assistance with the users & system analysis, and product requirements
  • Direct communication with client
  • Responsible for 50% of conceptualization activities
  • Responsible for interactive proofs of concept
  • Production of a mid-fi interactive prototype
  • Drafting of qualitative usability testing protocol

Bosch – Nefit Easy: User experience design of a smart thermostat


Relevant keywords

Home appliances, smart home, touch thermostat, User interface design, GIO Award 2013

Design goal

As part of the latest trends of smart home appliances, Nefit commissioned VanBerlo with the design of their newest smart thermostat, the Nefit Easy. The project included the design of the user interface in terms of logic and styling.

Specific role & contribution

  • Direct communication with the client
  • Created the styling proposal for the UI in association with the industrial designer in charge of the hardware
  • Early prototypes of initial ideas
  • Conceptualization and final screen mock-ups

Pontual: Design of an Amsterdam ferry-catching app

Relevant keywords

Android app, Cycling time, Ferry, Logo design, UI design, Interaction design

Design goal

Assist in the concept development and design the branding, interaction and user interface of an Android app that allows people in Amsterdam to know exactly when to leave a location in order to catch their ferry on time.

Specific role & contribution

  • Assist with concept development
  • Define interaction flow and initial wireframes
  • Design and implement a branding and styling proposal concept
  • High-fidelity native interactive prototype

JFTOT: User experience design for a family of industrial lab equipment


Relevant keywords

Laboratory instruments, User interface harmonization, GIO Award 2013, American Good Design Award 2013

Design goal

PAC commissioned VanBerlo with the task of performing a portfolio-wide harmonization of their user interfaces, based on the design and styling developed during a previous project. This harmonization was to be started with the design of JFTOT, the newest addition to their growing family of industrial lab equipment.

Specific role & contribution

  • Project planning and management, including preparation of quotes and direct communication with client
  • On-site visits and direct communication with developers
  • Initial analysis of the benefits of a UI harmonization
  • Conceptualization and wire-framing for JFTOT’s UI

ROSE: Analysis of user insights for a social care robot


Relevant keywords

Remotely operated robot, Elderly, Nurses, Research, Cultural Probes, Creative focus groups

Design goal

Project TSR (Teleoperated Service Robot) was subsidized by the Dutch ministry of Economic affairs and the province of Noord-Brabant, and carried out by a consortium of research institutes and private companies. The goal of the project was to develop ROSE, a tele-operated robot for home care applications.

VanBerlo, as one of the consortium’s partners, was tasked with the analysis of user needs for the robot’s use in the care of elderly and disabled people.

Specific role & contribution

  • Direct communication with the research partners
  • Design, production and deployment of cultural probes
  • Organisation and facilitation of creative focus groups
  • Analysis of research and definition of early use cases

Langen: Creating UX guidelines for industrial packaging machines

Relevant keywords

Industrial machinery, User interface guidelines, Packaging

Design goal

In an effort to bring together the user interface developments of both its European and American branches, Langen Group commissioned VanBerlo to develop a new set of harmonized UI guidelines for its products.

Specific role & contribution

  • Project planning and management, including preparation of quotes and direct communication with client
  • Organized on-site visits and workshops with the client for an in-depth analysis of the product
  • Responsible for all conceptualization and styling activities
  • Direct communication with developers and support during production phase

VIDA Density Meter: UX design for industrial lab equipment


Relevant keywords

Laboratory instruments, user interface design

Design goal

A more user friendly interface was required as part of the latest version of the VIDA density meter, in order to support the less experienced users that PAC is targeting with the new design of the equipment.

Specific role & contribution

  • Project planning and management, including preparation of quotes and direct communication with client
  • On-site visits and direct communication with developers
  • Conceptualization and wire-framing
  • Overseeing of styling activities