Reading Ahead: Design Challenge Winners
Our work is about understanding and acting, so our engagements typically include workshops where we facilitate client teams in using our research findings to generate concepts and start prioritizing ideas for further development.
For our self-funded Reading Ahead project, we had no client, so we took this action step by partnering with Industrial Design Supersite Core77 to put our research findings out to the global design community as the basis for a 1-Hour Design Challenge.
We worked with the Core77 team to review all the contest submissions received over the last month, and today are pleased to announce the contest winners.
The latest 1 Hour Design Challenge, The Future of Digital Reading was based on Portigal Consulting’s Reading Ahead initiative-recent research around books, reading, behavior, and technology. There was great interest in this competition-it’s a hot topic these days of course, with introductions of new e-readers and a constant stream of “end-of-print” articles-and we had tremendous participation from design schools, individuals, and professional design firms.
The research provided for this design challenge was infused with stories about real people, so entries that referenced people and their habits were the most successful. Indeed, entries that embraced story-telling as a way to get their concepts across were much more compelling than those which simply presented a comprehensive list of features. (Yes, we get that the future is OLED displays!) It was daunting to see the number of submissions that were essentially a Kindle with feature statements that did away with the acknowledged limitations, so entries that ran the other way had a good chance of standing out. Still, there was great design thinking here, and a ton of design innovation here, and we were thrilled to see people (and teams) digging deep into the research and trying to refract it through the lens of artifact and experience.
This 1 Hour Design Challenge was a tough one to jury, but here (in suspenseful order…the Winner’s at the end) are the judges’ selections and comments. Congratulations to the Winner and Notables, and thanks to everyone who participated! Portigal Consulting and Core77 will each be donating $300, in the name of the prize winner, to 826 Valencia (a nonprofit that helps kids with expository and creative writing, and San Francisco’s only independent pirate supply store). 826 Valencia will put together a celebratory gift bag (i.e., pirate booty!) to honor the winner.
And now for the results:
The PaperBack provided several nice design solutions in one package. We were charmed with the notion of displaying the cover of the book on the back side of the device for others to see (of course, we’d expect a “hide cover” option in the preferences!), and the flip-the-book-over action to turn the page is something we liked from a couple of the entries. The user’s ability to customize the form factor to modify the book-from paperback to novel-was a great start, but we felt that it perhaps didn’t go far enough. Maybe combining this with the next Notable entry, “The Page,” would make for the killer concept.
It was irresistible to conflate “The PaperBack” device above with this concept, taking the form factor all the way to a newspaper-scale object. And self-supporting no less! The Page embraces some of the graphic conventions we’ve grown to love (in this case The New York Times) but then brings some live navigation and hand gestures into the mix. The photographs make for a compelling presentation, and again, made us dream about a device that folds all the way from a paperback out to a newspaper. Utopian? You bet.
Design: Cameron Nielsen
Cameron’s Gutenberg Local/Global Bookmaker considered a novel solution (pun intended): at-home book-making. Companies like Blurb have sprung up to address this as a service, but could print-on-demand happen in the home? We have the technology to print paper, but we don’t have the ability to make actual books. Provocative, with a sweet rendering, this entry made us think about revisiting a low-tech artifact rather than running immediately to an e-reader device.
While the thrust of Jdouble’s flipit is (gulp) a Kindle with a different (and better UI), the brilliant innovation was the Tamagotchi-like feature: As the user reads more, the device gives positive feedback (in this case, a facial expression). The design research identified how social the act of reading can truly be, so it was a nice touch that the designer considered how the device itself could participate in the social behavior (a theory that is well supported by the work by Nass and Reeves at Stanford).
Kicker’s Booklight rethinks where the digital data is. The classic solution for an e-book is that the data resides inside the device and comes to us up through a screen. The Booklight form factor, in contrast, is an embodiment of their rethinking: the content is projected down onto any blank book, decoupling the content from the presentation of the content. The Booklight lets the user select the size, heft, and feel of the surface they want to read on, giving back the tactility of the bound book many have grown to love. We were also amused to note that Kicker, known for phrases like “Tap is the New Click,” didn’t fall into the touchscreen swipe-to-turn-the-page interaction ubiquitous in the other submissions. Such restraint!
Stacey Greenebaum’s Mocks doesn’t try to solve everything; it takes one piece of the ecosystem and offers a provocative solution. People need to display their identity through their books, but as books move from atoms to bits, why not have a product that simply displays book titles in the home? The question of whether those titles represent actual or aspirational reading strips the identity issue down to its core: in that social moment at least, it’s not about the content.
WINNER: SuperFlyer 5000
Design: Hot Studio
And, we have a winner! Hot Studio and Friends, with their concept for shared living room reading, takes the grand prize. There was a serious case of kitchen-sinkism on this (massive entry), but perhaps this was understandable given the large team they convened for the effort. While life in the living room is increasingly fragmented across devices, and media content keeps upping the hyper in order to grab some fraction of our attention span, Hot has a big idea a la Slow Food: bringing reading back into the media room so people can spend time together…with books. This concept reconsiders the entire reading gesture, going from hand-held/one foot away, to hands-free/10 feet away. Research participants told us that they saw books as a respite from their over-connected, screen-based lifestyles; here’s an application of those digital technologies that has the potential to engage people with reading in a new way.
The team also deserves special mention for the quality of their effort. They illustrate their solutions in a variety of ways, showing the power of quick-and-dirty paper and Photoshop prototyping.
In bringing people together to create and inspire each other, they’ve generated a best-in-class artifact that reveals great process, uses scenarios based on research participants, and a demonstration of how humor can help sell an idea. Hot Studio modeled how it really should be done. Kudos!