Posts tagged “design”

Designing the Problem, my keynote from ISA14

Although we couldn’t make it down to Buenos Aires for Interaction South America, thanks to the magic of Skype I was able to present Designing the Problem at over the weekend.

Too often we assume that doing research with users means checking in with them to get feedback on the solution we’ve already outlined. But the biggest value from research is in uncovering the crucial details of the problem that people have; the problem that we should be solving.

As the design practices mature within companies, they need to play an active role in driving the creation of new and innovative solutions to the real unmet needs that people have. In part, driving towards this maturity means looking at one’s own culture and realizing the value of being open-minded and curious, not simply confident. This is a challenge to each of us personally and as leaders within our teams and communities.

Below you’ll find slides, audio and sketchnotes. I’ll repost when the video go up. Update: it’s here.

The talk is just over 40 minutes and there are two questions (which you can’t hear but which should be obvious enough from my response).


To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

Here is my huge head during the Q&A segment (image via Juan Marcos Ortiz)

juan marcos ortiz B3EU_zyIYAAXKue_425

Sketchnote by Kat Davis (click for full size)

Kat-Davis-B3KkgEsCcAE2Jjo

Sketchnote by Thiago Esser (click for full size)
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Take pictures (of food that) lasts longer

burrata

Insanely delicious burrata small plate, from Alden and Harlow in Cambridge, MA

On one hand this is just another article about the hype that social media more easily enables, but on the other hand, it draws the (perhaps spurious) conclusion that since so many diners are taking pictures of restaurant food (and posting the pictures online), that restaurants are designing food for photographic appeal first and for taste a noticeable second.

Cameras that can capture and transmit images in an instant are being used to photograph food that is meant to hang out indefinitely in suspended animation. Parceled out on a slate tile and pitilessly accessorized with leaves, crumbles, froths and sauces (set with emulsifiers so they never break down), even a charcoal-grilled steak would be as cold as a bologna sandwich. And this is what now passes for great, or at least significant, cooking. But great food is rarely static. As soon as it leaves the kitchen, it’s changing. In general, it’s getting worse. The soufflé is sinking. The arugula is wilting. The color of the steak excites us because it’s deeply browned, and we know that toasted, roasted, seared and caramelized surfaces mean deep flavors. But cameras hate brown food.

Again, I’ll suggest this is not necessarily true, but it serves to remind us of unintended consequences, and at the scale of social media, we are seeing more of this special type of unintended consequences, where we create with the consumption in mind. The media consumption used to be a consequence, but perhaps it’s becoming the primary design target. As consumers, we learn how to participate in experiences so that they can be documented and shared (and earn those addictive likes) and as producers, those that create those experiences, we are learning how to stage them so that they can be more easily shared and earn addictive likes (and valuable cash rewards as well). Public speaking in easily-tweetable soundbites or food-plating in easily-instagrammable bites; either way it all feeds the beast.

Advice for early-career designers

Last week I spoke at a fundraising event (Let’s talk design and help a kid with cancer) organized by Jorge Baltazar.

Glen Lipka, employee #1 of Marketo gave the first presentation, with advice about interviewing for a job in UX. In many ways, it was an object lesson in empathy, as he illustrated many ways that applicants fail to understand the mindset, goals or expectations of the person interviewing them. He described reviewing a portfolio with illegible yellow text over a gray background – but that he’s more focused on what transpires when he asks the applicant about it. A bad design choice is something he might expect in a less-experienced designer but the ability to explain a design choice and especially to acknowledge that a design decision could be improved was really what he was looking for. Some of his points are well-captured in How to Pass My UX Designer Phone Screen and his deck is here.

Aynne Valencia is a design strategist. She presented a “field report” from a number of conferences she’d been at in the last while (I remember IxD14, SXSW and some others in Europe), looking at the trends in interaction design that were here now, coming soon, and further out. Some examples included Brad the emotional toaster, and Berg’s Cloudwash. I couldn’t find her slide deck, either, but she continues to document the things she’s seeing on her blog.

Christian Crumlish, the Director of Product at CloudOn, spoke about what makes a great designer, acknowledging that he’s not a designer at the moment and further unpacking the challenging nature of trying to speak to such a big topic from one person’s biased point of view. Meanwhile, he identified three qualities

  • Breadth: Having creative pursuits outside of design that you can uses as sources of inspiration. His ukelele is an example of something he does for fun but will occasionally provide a surprising new perspective or framework. You can read a bit more on this same theme in my review of Debbie Millman’s How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer
  • Passion: Apply everything to your work, or refocus on new work if your passions leads you there.
  • Restlessness: Never being fully satisfied and always looking for something new or better.

Finally, with some prompting from Glen, he played and sang a bit of “Satellite of Love” on his ukelele.
photo1_425

I was the last presenter. I gave an overview of my own crazy career path (see Disciplinarity and Rigour? My keynote from the 2008 Design Research Society conference and then offered the following thoughts and suggestions

  • Network. Do it online, but do it in person as well. LinkedIn is good for a soft intro, but find people and talk to them. Take a long view about your career and your relationships that are part of that career. Be authentic. Be interested. Don’t think about what people can do for you or you can push people away.
  • As you go out and speak to people, take the approach of prototype and iterate. Figure out your story, your objectives, what you have to offer and your strengths by talking them through. Use informational interviews to live practice of what you have to say and how you want to say it.
  • I can’t really back this up but I suspect that in one era, you’d be told to get a job in an agency because that’s where the good design was happening; and then in a subsequent era you’d be told to get a job inside a corporation because that’s where the design work really was, and then people might be telling you to work in a startup because (although not always the case) startups were really making design part of their thing, and now it doesn’t seem like terrible advice to do your own startup. Given the tools that are available for small teams to design, develop, build and deploy significant pieces of technology whether it’s the App sSore or AWS or whatever, it seems open to almost anyone now. Personally, I never really wanted to make a thing once I discovered facilitating others to be making a thing.
  • Look for your advantage in moments of upheaval. Design is changing; industrial design is really suffering, firms and agencies are suffering, teams are downsizing; UX is increasingly important but where the jobs are and what they entail keeps shifting.
  • There’s also something with increasingly alternative forms of education. Jon Kolko used to teach at SCAD and then he went and started his own school – the Austin Center for Design. Jared Spool is in the process of starting a school in Chattanooga – the Unicorn Institute. These people are seeing the gaps between the jobs that need to be filled and the people that are trained to do them and they are trying to address that. Even if you aren’t seeking education yourself, there are patterns emerging and it’s worth your while to keep an eye on it, keep trying to make sense of it, and keep trying to connect what you are passionate to do with what the opportunities are
  • For me, career has been struggle in various forms all the way along. It’s great to have the benefit of time because then you can have hindsight. Struggle might be another way of saying that it’s about finding the next challenge and pursuing it, because the ground doesn’t stay still beneath your feet. There are plenty of rewards along the way; and the struggle sucks the most in the early days; it is suckiest when you are at the bottom of the Maslow pyramid and are concerned with survival not spiritual fulfillment. Over and over again I keep being reminded that no one will come and hand it to you. I keep waiting to be discovered and given a magic solution but really it’s about moving forward in small ways.

Thanks to Jorge for organizing this and the speakers for some really compelling talks.

Steve quoted in “Digital Products Flunking User Test”

I was interviewed by CruxialCIO about how companies can design and redesign digital and mobile products that engage rather than frustrate. The article (Digital Products Flunking User Test) is broken across three tabs (SituationSolutionsTakeaways) and the quotes from me appear on the second two tabs. FYI, the pages are a bit slow to load.

Remember the precedents. While copying competitors isn’t necessarily advisable, it doesn’t make sense to design, for example, a fly swatter that you use by swinging a string around with the flat swatter piece attached to it. People expect a stick at the end. “You can’t fail to acknowledge that there are precedents out there,” says Portigal.

“There’s some history about how customers are going to expect something to work. Everyone is a consumer so in an enterprise situation, we bring in expectations about how something should work.” If people expect that swiping left or right, double clicking, or other gestures will have a certain outcome, the lack of that outcome will be confusing. After Apple came out with the iPhone, for example, it became quickly clear that when consumers wanted a smartphone, they expected something fairly similar in form factor and function to the iPhone.

The Shape of Food and Other Things (To Come)

A provocative survey article on Edible Geography explores the form that food (specifically Chicken McNuggets and cheese) is presented in.

It’s a safe bet that McNugget morphology tells us something important about the sensory framework through which we experience the world. Within the constraint of basic economic considerations (shapes that can be made on the same line and ship well), the bell, bow-tie, ball, and boot are sculptures made by our mouths-ubiquitous, finely-tuned artifacts that reflect by our increasingly sophisticated understanding of human sensory perception.

Early in my career we talked a lot about how digital technology was changing the range of possibility. Form didn’t have to follow function. Industrial designers could make digital cameras (an example early project where we grappled with the form factor for the device and the metaphor/mental model for the software) look like anything.

Apple’s original QuickTake 100 camera took advantage of that freedom.
quicktake100

It was not a successful product; the form (and it’s lack of traditional camera references) was certainly not the only reason, but that product might represent some of the most extreme of early experimentation. Now our digital cameras look pretty much like the film cameras they’ve fully displaced. At the same time, revolutionary (e.g., digital) products can seen as making culture (e.g,. cell phones as the new concert arena lighter) as much as reflecting it.

The story of the Lytro camera, more recently, suggests that it too is trying to introduce a revolution into a staid category (the aforementioned digital camera), and it’s form announces that it’s somehow different.
lytro

I can’t help but assume the packaged and processed foods people have a lot more data and a much more refined (if you will) understanding of what forms connote and how they motivate. If they are speaking to our liminal behaviors and our reptile-brain sensory processing then they are able to use that to their advantage when other forms of design can’t, at least not yet.

Out and About: Steve in Portland/San Diego/Denver

Last week I hit three cities, doing workshops and fieldwork; in hotel rooms, airports, homes, restaurants and the like. Here are some of my photos from a very busy trip.

help
Hotel restaurant point-of-sale user interface. So many amazingly awful things here. The help button is labeled “HELP!!!!!”; Cobb Salad (I’m sorry, Fiesta Cobb) is $12.00?

raisins
Without raisins? Now with extra raisins!

kiosk
There used to be a baggage kiosk. Now there’s just a sign.

dancing
I found Jonathan Borofsky’s “The Dancers” in downtown Denver to be vaguely unsettling.

wall
Controls removed for your convenience.

Curating Consumption

Since Johnny Holland has said farewell, we’ll be continuing this series here on All This ChittahChattah. Here’s some stories and observations that Beth and Steve have assembled over the past few weeks.




Tim Hortons beverage pricing offers a large number of sizes with a tiny, silly price difference. No doubt there are graphs that prove this is a good pricing strategy, if upselling by 11 cents turns out to have any impact on the bottom line. As a shopper, I find it mind-boggling; the friction for supersizing is almost zero and now I have to actually think about how much I want to drink. The Tims man showed me the largest size and it was so obviously too much (more horse trough than hot choc), so I saved myself a few pennies and went down a size or two. /SP



Pets-as-people is certainly nothing new; a trend that has continued to grow in terms of marketplace dollars, emotional engagement a product selection. Still, it’s astonishing to look at a wall of clothing that looks like t-shirts in a range of kids’ sizes and styles, and to realize that actually you are looking at a selection of “Pet Gear.” /SP

As I tried to write the contents of this bag (pumpkin squash curry coconut) onto the label I quickly found myself ranting about the poor design: How can you fit anything on this tiny label (e.g., “pump sq cur coc”)? Then my young designer self surfaced and I realized that, “No, in fact this is perfectly designed.” The available writing space is exactly aligned to the end of the copy above, the height is exactly the height of the Ziploc brand. Everything was in harmony! I can’t tell you how many times while in design school that I designed something most beautiful yet most unusable. Thankfully a super brilliant creative director showed me the way. Functional can be beautiful. If you make medicine bottles clearer or safety messages intriguing enough to read then you’ve done something as a designer. What can seem like the most banal and uninteresting design project is a challenge not many can rise to. Anyone can design for cool brands like Nike, Coke and Pepsi. But can you make Ziploc bag labels a thing of beauty? Or at the very least, give me some more room to write! /BT



“Members only?” Here’s how I imagine that signage came about
Store manager: Why do you think we’re not getting any business?
Clerk: Maybe people don’t know we’re open?
Store manager: But we’ve been open for weeks!
Clerk: But we don’t have any kind of sign or anything telling people we’re open,
Store manager: But, it’s a store…I mean…the door is open…lights are on…we’re in here!
Clerk: Yeah, but it’s kind of not official until you have one of those big signs up…
Store manager: Fine!
[later that day]
Customer: Finally! Been waiting for you to open so I can see how much membership costs. /BT

Our latest article: Stick to the Knitting

Stick to the Knitting, my invited editorial for the Journal of Usability Studies, has just been published.

Hollywood-that seller of dreams-has filled our heads with an American-exceptionalism-esque belief that we are entitled, even obligated, to strive and ultimately triumph when we are clearly outmanned, outgunned, and outclassed. Melanie Griffith lands her dream job in Working Girl. The Pretty Woman is rescued by a (metaphorical) knight on a white horse. The nerds of Tri-Lambs get their revenge and defeat the other fraternity. Sure, Rocky, the Bad News Bears, and the Spartans all lose but what we remember is how hard they tried. Hollywood has successfully promulgated the values of having heart and dreaming big, not only for Americans or even the West, but ultimately for everyone.

If we use that cultural framing, maybe some of the things that the design communities are spending time on would make more sense. By “design communities” I’m referring to the software and product people-industrial designers, user experience designers, interaction designers, information architects, content strategists, and what have you. I’ll even throw my tribes in there: user researchers, ethnographers, and strategists.

Lately, these folks-us-are taking on audaciously challenging problems. The sexiest endeavors are those tackling the systemic “wicked problems” in government, healthcare, education, homelessness, civic life, and beyond. Of course the genuine passion and compassion is to be commended, but I’m feeling worried. Let me tell you why.

Get the PDF here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Mice as Stand-Ins in the Fight Against Disease [New York Times] – Looks like this has been happening in some measure for a while, but some new methods are increasing the usage. The most science-fiction thing you’ll read all week.

In what could be the ultimate in personalized medicine, animals bearing your disease, or part of your anatomy, can serve as your personal guinea pig, so to speak. Some researchers call them avatars, like the virtual characters in movies and online games. “The mice allow you the opportunity to test drugs to find out which ones will be efficacious without exposing the patient to toxicity,” said Colin Collins, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

Australia 2012 [Flickr] – My complete set of pictures from Australia earlier this month.

Chinese families’ worldly goods in Huang Qingjun’s pictures [BBC] – We’ve seen other projects like this, but the focus on China captures a material culture in transition.

Amid China’s tumultuous dash to become rich, one man’s photographs of families posing with their worldly goods will soon seem like records from a distant era. Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him. The results offer glimpses of the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities. But seen more closely, they also show the enormous social change that has come in a generation. So the photo of an elderly couple of farmers outside their mud house reveals a satellite dish, DVD player and phone.

Four Big Things, a phrase dating from 1950s for most sought-after goods for newly married couples: sewing machine, bicycle, watch, radio. It’s since come to refer to whatever is most fashionable at the time. By 1980s the four big things were: TV, washing machine, rice cooker, fridge. Now, consumer goods flood China’s cities, it tends to be used to describe people’s aspirations for the latest thing.

Must-See Video: How a Woman With No Arms Dresses Herself. What Assistance Can Design Provide? [Core 77] – I love the reaction; that excitement of discovering how current solutions could be improved. Designers are so great at bringing that creativity and know-how to bear to make change for the good. But let’s remember, we don’t need videos to be posted by users to uncover what things aren’t working for them. Are designers waiting for broken products to appear in front of them so they can spontaneously improve them, or are they out there looking at current behaviors and solutions in order to proactively find opportunities. Designers: you don’t need the disabled (or anyone) to post their own videos, go and shoot your own!

I hope that more folks with disabilities make videos like this, not just to share with others what their particular trials are, but to enable us designers to improve upon the objects they use.

FILMography – a Tumblr with an incredible series of images where a printout of a still from a film is held up in the actual location where that scene was shot. It’s a “trick” I’ve seen before but mostly as a one-off; the breadth here is fascinating.

FILM + photography = FILMography.

Observation and empathy

Here’s another proof point for the power of video in user research. Check out this very simple observational video.

If you didn’t watch it, it shows person after person stumbling on poorly designed stairs.

I don’t know about you but I felt increasingly emotional the more I watched this. A bubbling outrage and a sense that something so obviously needs to be done about this. Of course, this is a simple problem, which makes the failure to act even more aggravating.

The goal of user research isn’t always to uncover people’s fail states with the team’s existing products, but when it is, tools like video are impactful on rational and emotional levels.

Update: according to this Tweet, the stairway is now closed.

Steve leading a workshop in Barcelona about Making Research Real

Next week I’m off to Barecelona to speak at WebVisions. In collaboration with Kelly Goto, I’ll be running a workshop called Synthesis to Ideation:Making Research Real.

In this hands-on workshop, insight strategists Steve Portigal and Kelly Goto will lead you through a fast-paced, engaging workshop with one requirement: Rethink your research approach and implement new frameworks for collection and synthesis of findings — to create actionable artifacts and outcomes for the real world.

I’ve been leading workshops like this a lot over the past few years, but I’m really excited about the collaboration with Kelly; our approaches are generally aligned but different in interesting ways and we’re using that creative tension to give our participants a broader perspective.

If you’re interested in signing up, use registration code PORTIGAL for a 40% discount.

I’ll also be presenting Championing Contextual Research in Your Organization during the conference itself.

I hope to see you there!

Steve speaking locally, about improv, design, and creativity

I am frequently asked when I’m doing a public talk in the SF Bay Area, and now I can answer: next week!

I’m giving my popular talk Yes, My Iguana Loves to Cha-Cha in Cupertino on Wednesday, June 20th, at 6:30. This talk, about improv, creativity, and design, is something I’ve revisited and revised for a number of years. As the talk has evolved, I’ve presented it at CHIFOO, Puget Sound SIGCHI, IxDA New York (slides, video), IDSA’s Southern Conference, IDSA/ICSID World Design Congress, IDSA 2009, and DUX05.

Read more here, and come on down to the event
HP Oak Room
19111 Pruneridge Avenue
Cupertino, CA 95014

I hope to see you there. No iguanas will be harmed. No one will be forced to do improv but there should be plenty of opportunities to try it out if you’re up for it!

Out and About: Steve in Lisbon (1 of 2)

Last week I went to Lisbon to speak at UX Lx (you can see my presentations and more here). We had a great time exploring the city on our own, and courtesy of our kindly hosts. I’ve got some images and observations here, and some more to come tomorrow.


This sign is advertising one of those small bright yellow cars that tourists drive around while a recording guides them from place to place. But here the promotional message is rather ribald. Is this reflective of the local culture and how English is used, or is it an attempt to adapt to visitor norms? My other triangulation point was the frequent t-shirts with rather forward sayings in English, worn by people that maybe didn’t know what they meant? I saw a slender woman jogging with a “Chubby Girls Cuddle Better.” A late-middle-aged man on the subway wore a shirt reading “Rock Out With Your Cock Out.” There was just something off about the wearer and the message, seeing my own culture coming back at me in a completely different way. Was this like Engrish, or something else?


Same idea. This is an advertisement for learning English, from the prestigious-sounding “Wall Street Institute” presumably targeting people who want to improve their careers. But FUCK (and the other side, SHIT) are the reference points for learning English. For sure, these are important words in business 🙂


The reliefs in the base of the statue of St. Anthony.


Friendly key dudes.


Do they sell each of those animals as meat?


Is this frog flashing a gang sign, or suggesting his availability for romance?


Funiculars traverse the steep hills.



Stunning architecture of the Oriente train station.


Nothing says sexy like toilet paper.


At the Vasco de Gama mall, this staircase used the same handrail as the escalator. As you approached it, you’d assume you were about to get on an escalator. But no, it’s stairs. Did some architect insist on symmetry with the design of the adjacent escalator?


Rossio train station.

Innovator’s Dilemmas

Some recent thoughts about challenges that accompany a desire to innovate (or not), from corporate culture to classroom to convenience store treat.

Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Days [Inc] – It will come as little surprise that letting employees take vacation time whenever they want (and for however long the desire) is a pretty clear indicator of an innovative company culture. It’s a policy that almost guarantees a deluge of resumes and hopeful job applicants. Apparently, it also promotes a highly productive work place. This article is anecdotal and autobiographical, so if you are looking for some statistics or a less shiny discussion of how this policy plays out in other companies, try this.

Through building a company on accountability, mutual respect, and teamwork, we’ve seen our unlimited vacation day policy have tremendous results for our employees’ personal development and for productivity. There. I said it. I think Red Frog is more productive by giving unlimited vacation days.

Do Innovation Consultants Kill Innovation? [Co.Design] – Bringing innovative thinking to organizations big and small is obviously a complex challenge. The authors contend that innovation professionals have stepped into an arena previously dominated by entrepreneurs and that this new breed is ill-equipped and ineptly motivated for the task of effectively transforming a company culture. It’s like blaming cigarettes for cancer when culpability actually lies with the smoker. The authors do encourage smokers, er, companies to learn from Hollywood and hi-tech industries and invest in better dream teams. With this approach, the challenge falls in the lap of the director, responsible for unleashing and wrangling the talent of the tribe. I am still stymied about how the authors (who are, as far as I can tell, innovation professionals) will fit into this proposed new order.

The new breed of innovation professionals we have encountered can be placed in two categories: innovation custodians and innovation word-slingers. The custodians are middle managers assigned to oversee the innovators and their processes. The word-slingers are external consultants that will take corporate managers through endless innovation workshops or blabber on about the aforementioned processes.

4 Lessons the Classroom Can Learn from the Design Studio [The Creativity Post] – Innovating the culture of the classroom requires a radical rethinking of how we think about learning and teaching and the contexts within which these activities occur. This articles highlights four key characteristics of the architectural design studio as possible solutions to classroom ills: critical collaboration, interdisciplinary problem solving, prototyping through mini-failures, and balancing the use of digital and analog.

From the everyday “Hey, can you take a look at this?” to the masters’ critique, learning in a studio is constant and multidirectional, formal and informal. Collaboration means communicating concepts, critiques, and questions for the betterment of the individual designer and the entire team. Studio surfaces are notoriously littered with inspirations, precedents, concepts, and drafts. In the studio, the process-not just the product-takes center stage.

Hostess’ Twinkie: An American icon in trouble [The Washington Post] – Here’s one for the innovation graveyard, where death (or obsolescence) await products whose time has passed. The Twinkie, originally created in 1930, may be retired this year as Hostess prepares for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Apparently rising costs of labor and ingredient prices are the culprit. I’m guessing the whole unhealthy thing probably isn’t helping either. [*note to Steve- the time is NOW if you ever want to experience a fried Twinkie]

They’ve been called the “cream puff of the proletariat.” They’ve served as a bed for a cockroach in the animated film, “Wall-E.” They’ve been used as a measurement of psycho-kinetic energy in”Ghostbusters,” and they were the basis of a defense argument in a famous murder trial. They’ve been deep-fried, made into wedding cakes and combined with hot dogs . President Clinton and the White House Millennium Council selected them as an American icon for the millennium time capsule.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Frozen Dead Guy Days, a Festival in Colorado, Stays Put [NYT] – Perhaps Burning Man is now the most famous of a group ritual that evolved to celebrate something other than what it originally intended. Excluding, of course, organized religion. Looking at the irony (or cynicism) that so clearly is at root of this shindig makes me wonder about how extensively meaning can shift over time.

It was probably not, in the end, an idea with huge franchise potential or a killer smartphone app in its future. After all, a gleefully macabre weekend celebration built around a frozen corpse – complete with coffin races, tours of the shed where the body is kept on ice and, of course, lots of beer – just might not be as fun beyond the skewed sensibility of Colorado’s hippie-tinged mountain belt. But now it’s official: Frozen Dead Guy Days are staying put in the small town of Nederland, about an hour northwest of Denver, as are the mortal remains of one Bredo Morstoel, a Norwegian man whose strange and unlikely saga in death – and long-term storage – inspired the whole thing. The Nederland Area Chamber of Commerce put the rights to the festival up for sale last June, saying it could no longer manage Frozen Dead Guy Days, which had grown rapidly through 10 years of icy, late-winter mayhem and was attracting upward of 20,000 revelers over the course of a weekend in a community of about 1,500.

Smell-designing Sheffield [Edible Geography] – A long and fascinating interview about smellwalks, smellscapes, and other funny words that are about exploring our sensory experiences in spaces. Brilliant! When is the Pacifica smellwalk happening?

There were a lot of people who said they didn’t like the smell of fish. But Doncaster is famous for its fish market, and when we went into the fish market on the walk, even those people who said that they didn’t like the smell of fish actually enjoyed it when they experienced it within the context of the market. They expected to smell fish there – it’s a fish market, so how else would it smell? – and it enhanced their experience of the market. In a vacuum, people say that they like and don’t like particular smells, but it turns out that they can enjoy all kinds of odours as long as they experience them in the right context. As designers, that’s quite an important point for us to note. It would be easy for us to say that because our surveys have said that people like smell A but they don’t like that smell B, therefore we’re going to design out smell B and introduce smell A everywhere. But people can enjoy a smell that they say they don’t like when it enhances their place experience.

Starbucks Frappuccino Bottles as Firebomber’s Tool [NYT] – Kind of a non-story when you go past the headline, but the notion of unintended uses for products is always fascinating. Sometimes that leads to innovation, sometimes that leads to a brand nightmare, I suppose sometimes it leads to both.

Mason jelly jars, whiskey quarts, wine and beer bottles – all have been among history’s vessels of choice for a homemade gasoline bomb. Now, a less likely vehicle has come forth: the dainty, 9.5-ounce glass container used by Starbucks to house its popular Frappuccino drinks. Investigators believe that in a rash of firebombings Sunday near the Queens-Nassau border, a Frappuccino bottle was the incendiary component of choice in most of the attacks.

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