Posts tagged “design”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours [BBC News] – Technology changes work boundaries and work patterns. Will a technological solution work? The article suggests that they will stop people from receiving email after hours, but will they stop people from sending email after hours? Is the demand for after hours work coming through the email messages or are there other pressures? So many questions about this one!

Volkswagen has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift. The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff’s work and home lives were becoming blurred. Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work. “It’s bad for the individual worker’s performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction,” said Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation.

Manischewitz Creates Kosher Food for Gentiles [NYT] – Having grown up with the traditional meaning of the brand, I find this a bit challenging but am intrigued by the potential to reframe and expand their story.

“Instead of taking the older products we have out of the kosher aisle and forcing them into the main aisle, we’re creating new products that have a place in the main aisle,” said Alain Bankier. A new line of broths, for example, is being shelved in many supermarkets not with most Manischewitz items but rather in the soup aisle. A new line of Manischewitz gravies also will be stocked with other mainstream brands. Manischewitz ads traditionally have emphasized Judaism, showing yarmulke-wearing celebrants at, say, a Seder. But new ads, by Joseph Jacobs Advertising in New York, the Manischewitz agency for more than three decades, take a decidedly more secular approach. “Don’t miss the boat,” says a print ad for beef gravy, which shows it being poured from a sauce boat onto mashed potatoes – no shofar or Star of David in sight. New ads “make little if any reference to any Jewish holiday,” said Elie Rosenfeld, chief executive of Joseph Jacobs. “There’s a tagline we use, ‘Bringing families to the table since 1888,’ and we want to be part of that family with you whether it’s Rosh Hashana, Hanukkah or Easter.”

Samoa Sacrifices a Day for Its Future [NYT] – A massive change in infrastructure and function, revealing time (or at least our documentation of it) to be more arbitrary than fixed.

The Pacific island nation of Samoa and its even tinier neighbor Tokelau are skipping Friday this week, jumping westward in time across the international date line and into the shifting economic balance of the 21st century. The time change is meant to align Samoa with its Asian trading partners; it moves the islands’ work days further from the United States, which dominated its economy in the past. In this giant-step version of daylight saving time, the island’s 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 who live in Tokelau, will go to sleep on Thursday and wake up on Saturday. The government has decreed that those who miss a day of work on Friday will be paid all the same.

Portable Cathedrals [Domus] – Dan Hill’s epic articulate review of the Nokia N9 isn’t a gadget review, it’s a (tl;dr) cultural critique of design, where culture is within the producer organizations as much as – if not more than – the consumer society.

Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al-all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings-is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.

For a Corn Chip Maker, the New Spokesman Is the Product Itself [NYT] – The argot of advertising is hilarious and depressing all at once. Zany and authentic spokesbag?

At the Fiesta Bowl on Monday, the game’s sponsor, Tostitos, will have a new endorser – a “spokesbag” puppet in the form of a chip bag with arms, a mouth and a generous dollop of swagger – to humorously convey the message that it is the tortilla chip brand that enlivens social gatherings. The new life-of-the-party campaign resurrects the top-selling snack’s 1990s theme. ” ‘Tostitos Knows How to Party’ means we are returning to our roots,” said Janelle Anderson, the brand’s senior director for marketing. Tostitos returned to the ’90s theme after marketing research over the last year found that its customers wanted reasons to celebrate and have fun in economically lean times. Tostitos chose a zany character “to get the message across and make it authentic,” said Ms. Anderson. “We wanted something that was magnetic, fun and approachable.” The brand’s new advertising agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, decided to “bring personality to the brand, and, in one of those rare cases, have the actual product be the actual spokesperson,” said Brett Craig, the group’s creative director for Tostitos. Working with Legacy Effects, a Los Angeles special effects company, the agency developed the hand-manipulated puppet with movable parts and special effects to convey energy, said Mr. Craig.

Announcing the winners of the IxD12 Student Design Challenge!

Whew! Our wonderful judges have sifted through the 56 entries! We heard from a number of judges how impressed they were overall with the quality of the entries and the creativity and passion that the group overall had to offer. Of course, this makes the selection process a difficult one. We’ve thought to ourselves “Well, what if we could take them ALL!!!” but of course, we can’t.
We managed to find four wonderful and inspiring entries among all the bounty of goodness we received from around the world. Our winners are (in no particular order)

  • Diksha Grover – National Institute of Design, India
  • Siri Johansson – Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden
  • Jaime Krakowiak – Austin Center for Design, USA
  • Priscilla Mok – Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Here are each of their videos

Diksha


Siri


Jaime


Priscilla
Thanks to our judges for their wonderful work and for all the entrants who contributed such a great set of videos. Our winners will now be working between now and Dublin where we’ll have a two-day masterclass and design activity before the conference. We are now exceptionally enthusiastic about the upcoming experience in Dublin.

Portigal Consulting year in review, 2011

Another year is speeding towards its conclusion and we wanted to share our highlights for 2011.

Really nostalgic? Check out summaries from 2010, 2009 and 2008.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Seer of the mirror world [The Economist] – Embedded in this article, along with Gelernter’s thoughts about designing technology and some future-casting (expect more software agent-bots!), is some good drama about patent wars among the tech-cognoscenti.

“Google is commercially successful and dazzlingly imaginative but I don’t see what I would like to see from them, or Facebook or Twitter,” says Dr Gelernter. “They’re not turning on their imaginations”… As ever, Dr Gelernter’s excitement about the potential of new technology is tempered by frustration that too little attention is paid to aesthetic and social factors. “A lot of convenience and power could be gained, and a lot of unhappiness, irritation and missed opportunities avoided, if the industry thought about design, instead of always making it the last thing on the list,” he says. “We need more people who are at home in the worlds of art and the humanities and who are less diffident in the presence of technology. There are not enough articulate Luddite, anti-technology voices.” It is not the sort of thing you expect to hear from a professor of computer science, let alone the victim of an anti-technology extremist. But as well as having foreseen the future of computing, over his career Dr Gelernter has developed a clear understanding of humans’ conflicted relationship with the technology on which they increasingly rely.

Making Noise About People Who Talk to Their Cellphones [NYT Bits Blog] – Behaviors and sensitivities are explored and exposed as voice-activated software adds to the out-loud interactions people can have with their mobile devices now. The reaction as people feel subjected to these interactions is much more negative than we’d have (culturally) to the old-fashioned practice of overhearing two people talking, or the more desirable and salacious hobby of eavesdropping!

“As I was waiting in a Southwest Airlines cattle queue to fly back east for Thanksgiving, I was subjected to 15 minutes of listening to the man behind me as he dictated all the details of a prostate surgery into his ‘personal’ assistant,” wrote Exiled In MO from St. Louis. “People have simply lost all knowledge of what constitutes personal space and appropriate public behavior. What a noisy, sad world we’ve made.”

Announcing the IxD12 Student Challenge

Jeremy Yuille and I are the co-chairs for the 2012 Student Design Challenge, working with Thomson Reuters and the IxDA.

Entries are open now, and close on December 5 December 9, 2011. Be in the running to win a scholarship to Interaction 12 in Dublin, and take part in an exciting design challenge around the future of news.

The challenge theme for 2012 is Design the Future of News. We’re in a time of upheaval over how we stay informed. People follow breaking news via Twitter. Tablets, mobile phones, paywalls, RSS feeds, viral videos and other elements have found their way into the current news landscape. The experience has swollen far beyond the icons of the daily newspaper on your doorstep and the 6 o’clock newscast.

We know that people are consuming news differently, and these emerging practices are changing the news.

What is the future of the news? What do we even mean by “the news” anyway?

This year, Thomson Reuters and the IxDA challenge you to look beyond the forms of delivery to address the behaviors, interactions, and goals that surround news.

We want you to explore the interaction design implications of questions such as:

  • What are people trying to achieve with news?
  • How do we identify that a particular story is important or relevant?
  • What is the relationship between the different types of information that currently make up “news" (e.g., entertainment, local, breaking news, weather, data, etc.)
  • What is the potential for emerging trends in how news is produced, from hyperlocal to citizen journalism?

The challenge is open to current students and anyone who has graduated in 2011. It runs in two stages: an online entry (see how to enter) followed by an on-site masterclass and design challenge at Interaction’12 in Dublin.

See http://interaction12.ixda.org/student-challenge for more information on the prizes, judges and how to enter.

Chittah Chattah Quickies

Innovation: What’s New? [forbes.com] – A sprinkling of what’s happening in innovation practice including 5 dimensions that emerged from a recent study of 100 Chief Technology & Chief Innovation Officers. Topping that list is spending more time with customers to fuel authentic and valuable innovation.(!!)

Customer-based innovation -seen as the most important concept of all in terms of future investment priority: engaging with customers in deeper and more meaningful ways to create stronger relationships and stimulate a desire to be fully involved in the innovation process. This includes: designing-in emotion, integrating social-networking, and being more sophisticated in open innovation.

Making informed design decisions [brandpackaging.com] – Some strategies to improve communication and decision making around the often oh-so-subjective task of reviewing design concepts. Written with a he said/she said (aka designer/marketer) focus, the strategies and criteria are absolutely relevant for critical clarifying conversations with researchers, engineers, consumers, etc.

These failures have been observed at both agencies and large companies. As noted, they lead to inefficiencies and a lack of trust between the design team and the marketing team. There are, however, a small set of strategies that can help the marketing team improve overall decision quality when selecting and refining design concepts…Improved design decision-making is the result of many small strategies, not the elusive, single “big fix”. It is the result of an improved process (decision organization), leadership (transparency/solicitation and critique), and analysis (data collection and point of view).

A Few Nifty, Unpredicted Uses for Dropbox [theatlanticwire.com] – These are actually pretty nifty. Explore the value of Dropbox through the curated stories of a farmer, artist, theft victim, gamers, and family of an ill loved one. Gets me thinking in new ways how to use a service that most of the time I find cumbersome.

Fighting crime. The more tech savvy Dropbox users have come up with all kinds of hacks that enable you to do unpredictable things on Dropbox. Among them is a way not only to recover files from but track the movement of a stolen laptop.

Gender Bender

What do diet soda, strollers, and pink have in common? (hint: not women)

Dr Pepper Ten: Because Men Don’t Drink Diet Soda? [huffingtonpost.com] A new diet soft drink is out and “It’s not for women”. In explicitly marketing the dudeness of the drink, including a definitive guide to social protocol for men known as the Dr Pepper 10 Man’Ments, the ad campagin has apparently been effective at getting both men and women to give it a try.

A Facebook page for the drink contains an application that allows it to exclude women from viewing content, which includes games and videos aimed at being “manly.” For instance, there’s a shooting gallery where you shoot things like high heels and lipstick, for example. There is also a “man quiz” with questions on activities like fishing and hunting. “One topic people never tire of talking or arguing about is differences between men and women, particularly if women are excluded,” said Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. “That will always get someone’s attention.”

How To Design “Manly” Household Products For The Involved Dad [fastcodesign.com] ‘More Work for Mother’ comes full circle as designers focus on the domestic dad.

When out in public, even the most rational dad might shun parenting products that make him feel less “manly.” For instance, my friend Chris is a tough-on-the-outside social worker by day, but he also stays at home part-time with his daughter, Sarah. Every time he goes to daycare, the park, or play dates, he has a routine of emptying the entire contents of his wife’s handbag-like diaper bag into his own duffel. “One topic people never tire of talking or arguing about is differences between men and women, particularly if women are excluded,” said Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. “That will always get someone’s attention.”

Defend Your Research: The Color Pink Is Bad for Fighting Breast Cancer [harvardbusinessreview] Gendered approaches to marketing and branding may actually have the opposite effect desired, aka rejecting the hypothesis of “So long as it’s pink-”

The finding: Seeing the color pink makes women less likely to think they’ll get breast cancer and less likely to donate to cancer research… In psychology, there’s a lot of literature on defensive responses. How do we deal with threatening ideas, with things that are existentially difficult to comprehend? What happens is, these set off very strong denial mechanisms. By adding all this pink, by asking women to think about gender, you’re triggering that. You’re raising the idea that this is a female thing. It’s pink; it’s for you. You could die. The cues themselves aren’t threatening-it’s just a color! But it connects who you are to the threats

Adrian Hon: Illustrate a better future

This interview has been edited, condensed, etc.

Adrian Hon is co-founder and CEO at Six to Start, specializing in game-like stories and story-like games. Clients have included Disney Imagineering, the BBC, Channel 4, and Penguin, and Six to Start has won multiple awards including Best of Show at SXSW.

He also writes about technology for The Telegraph, is writing a Kickstarter-funded book A History of the Future in 100 Objects, and is the co-founder of Transmedia London. Adrian studied neuroscience at Cambridge, Oxford, and UCSD, and has spoken at TED in California about Mars exploration.

the Omni project: What was the impetus for A History of the Future in 100 Objects?

Adrian Hon: The direct impetus was the British Museum and Radio 4’s brilliant series, A History of the World in 100 Objects. While listening to the series, I almost immediately started thinking that this could be a great way to think about the future in a way that would more concrete and accessible to the public.

However, my broader drive is to illustrate a better future for humanity. Not a dystopia or an unthinking utopia, but a world in which we slowly, gradually become happier, healthier, and more kind to each other – and of course technology has a role in that, as it has over the past millennia, but so do changing social norms and greater tolerance.

You only need to open a (western) newspaper to see both the right wing and left wing talking about the imminent collapse of society, financial ruin, global ruin, the notion that our children will have a worse life than us, to see that a very strong and current vision of the future is very negative. Ditto for popular culture. Those are absolutely things we should think about, but it’s not all going to be bad.

tOp: What’s the connection between exploring the future, especially the future of technology, and storytelling?

AH: I am especially interested in the impact that technology has on people and their experiences and relationships. Stories are one of the best ways of imagining different viewpoints, whether that’s putting yourself in the shoes of someone with a very different upbringing, or someone in a different time. They have their limitations, to be sure – they can offer a seductively simplistic picture and they often imply that life has beginnings, middles, and ends – but they are far more effective than simply rattling off a list of how fast planes will be able to travel in the future.

That’s why Apple has been so successful, because both its products and its marketing have focused on what you can do with new technology, rather than the specifications of the technology itself.

From an engineering standpoint it is certainly interesting to know that a phone might have a dual core processor and 1GB of RAM or whatever, but this isn’t what really matters. It could have a quantum computer inside and if it couldn’t check mail quickly, most people couldn’t care less.

It’s harder to extrapolate those experiences. You can’t take Moore’s Law and say that in 18 months, people will start falling in love with the Siri ‘personal assistant’ on the iPhone 4S, and than 18 months after that, the number of people will double. People use technology in unusual ways.

I saw a guy at TEDxSheffield say that we should make humanities degrees cost ¬£90k and engineering degrees cost nothing. What a ridiculous thing to say! Technology without a purpose is just an expensive box. That’s not to say that engineers don’t have ideas, but rather to say that the humanities help us understand what we want to do and why.

tOp: Does your work influence product developers and technologists in making real technology?

AH: We’ll have to see – the book isn’t out yet! I hope it does, and I know that I’ve been greatly influenced by authors such as Vernor Vinge and Neal Stephenson when it comes to designing games and technology. Ideas don’t just appear out of thin air, they’re formed out of what we read and see and interact with, and stories help give ideas a more substantial form.

tOp: Conversely, does the work of real technologists impact the way you conceive of technology in order to tell stories?

AH: To an extent, yes. I want my book to be grounded in real science rather than some of the completely ridiculous “design fiction” out there (Electrolux is particularly bad at getting designers to make concepts that are totally impractical, not to mention often physically impossible). So I do have to keep current with what real technologists and scientists are doing. But it’s possible to be too current and I have to stop myself from just jumping onto whatever the big idea of the day is.

tOp: Ridiculous “design fiction?”

AH: I don’t think they’re trying to make impractical and impossible concepts on purpose. I think they’re just doing it by accident because they don’t care either way. You could say that that’s an admirable thing, an unfettering of the imagination, and in other circumstances I would agree. The issue is that their concepts (like a fridge made of cold green plastic ‘nano goo’ that you can just squish apples into and other food into) regularly get plastered on newspapers as some plausible vision of the future, on par with driverless cars, when in fact they are actually far more difficult to make. That’s marketing, I guess.

tOp: How do you think technology is changing the everyday lives of mainstream consumers?

AH: It’s changing people’s lives dramatically. A lot of people seem to think that a) We’ve always had mobile phones and b) They’re not that big a deal. The truth is that most people only got mobile phones 20 years ago, the internet 15 years ago, the iPod 10 years ago, and smartphones 5 years ago. I use the word “only” because if you went back to the year 1000 and looked for the technological changes from 980, I suspect you wouldn’t find a huge number. Yet the difference between 2011 and 1991 is, I think, pretty enormous. I can now talk to a billion people around the world for almost nothing.

I suppose you could say that none of these things really matters compared to stuff like the car and the washing machine, particularly if you look at economic impact, but that would frankly be bullshit. You only need to walk into a university or a school and take away everyone’s phones and laptops to realise how important these things are.

And I honestly think it’s only just starting. As we see more and more jobs require fewer and fewer humans – from call centres to cars to supermarkets – we’ll see massive strides forward in the standard of living accompanied by massive and sustained unemployment. That’s a big change.

tOp: When you look at your personal life, what kind of impact is technology having?

AH: I find that I’m able to do much more than I could before. Like everyone else, I roll my eyes when I hear the words “social media” but I’m able to make a blog post or a tweet that can go around the world in seconds; and I can now publish a printed newspaper, write a book, or even design a game (with a team!) that can go in front of millions, without being held up by gatekeepers. That’s doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it easier than before. You still need to write a good book.

The other big change is that I am starting to own less stuff. Perhaps this is because:

a) I have had to move three times in the last three years
b) I don’t have any kids

but I find myself very taken with the idea of owning just a few, very high quality, physical possessions. It used to be a real sacrifice to do that but now I can get all of my entertainment and reading digitally, I don’t feel like I’m giving up much in exchange for the ability to move quickly and worry less about getting stuff stolen. I wouldn’t go so far as to extrapolate my experiences to anyone else, but I definitely feel like I’m at Peak Stuff. From here on out, I only own less.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Locker Decorations Growing in Popularity in Middle Schools [NYTimes.com] – Yet another extremely specific product development area opening up. So many that emphasize the customizing (aesthetically, functionally) of environments (or products that represent environments): digital devices, closets, cars, lockers.

At middle schools across the country, metal lockers that were long considered decorated if they had photos of friends or the teen heartthrob of the moment – Shaun Cassidy years ago, Justin Bieber today – have suddenly become the latest frontier in nesting. Peek inside, and find lockers outfitted with miniature furry carpets, motion-sensor-equipped lamps that glow when the door opens, mirrors, decorative flowers, and magnetic wallpaper in floral and leopard-print patterns. It is hard to say whether retailers have merely capitalized on or actually created demand among girls for the accessories.

Related Photo Projects [The Adaption to My Generation] – A photographer who takes a picture of himself every day documents many of the other projects online where people are doing something similar.

Other ‘Passage of Time’ Portrait Projects (Roman Opalka, after every day of painting numbers in his studio, photographs his face. If only we could see documentation of the entire sequence) and Other Obsessive Photo Projects (Adam Seifer documents everything (not really) he eats.

A History of Pizza Hut’s New Product Releases, 2002-2042 [McSweeney’s] – Satirical design fiction, echoing both Idiocracy and Wired’s Postcards from the Future.

2002: Meat Lover’s Pizza
2007: Crust Craver’s Pizza
2012: Fat Person’s Pizza
2017: Overweight Woman’s Pizza
2022: Obese Child’s Pizza
2027: Fat Man’s Surprise
2032: Depressed Couple’s Sad Pizza
2037: Disgusting Pizza, for a Fat Person
2042: Just the Thing for a Sad Fat Guy

Steve Portigal teaching “Immersive Field Research Techniques” at UI16

Join me for Immersive Field Research Techniques coming up November 7 in Boston at User Interface 16.

My session will be pretty similar to the recent Rosenfeld Media workshop in Seattle, which was pretty well received 🙂






If you haven’t registered yet, you can use the code STEVEP for $300 off the whole conference, or $50 of a single day.

I hope to see you there!

ChittahChattah Quickies

Interview with Patricia Ryan Madson on How Improv Can Change the World [Priya Parker] – As often happens, the principles of improv give us a lens towards larger truths about how life – just being in the world – can or should work.

Trying produces tension and misdirects our focus away from what we are doing onto an obsession with the result. We are doomed to fail when we try to be smart or witty or amazing. It you think about it the people who actually are smart, etc. are focusing on what they are doing rather than how they are doing. I can make an average painting, story, etc. And if I put my attention on just doing what comes naturally, just making it the most obvious to me then the result is commonly pretty good. Trying is misplaced attention. The idea of excellence robs us of our common sense intelligence.

Snooping in the Age of E-book [NYT] – There are many reasons we advocate for studying people in their own environment. One of them is the richness of the cues you get from that environment. This short piece articulates those cues nicely.

A bit of gumshoe in someone’s cupboard or closet can reveal far more about them than an entire evening’s worth of chitchat. “Places reflect long series of behavior,” he told me during a recent visit to my home. “If I have a conversation with you, I just get snippets of behavior. Your books, your chairs, your wall hangings represent an accumulation over many years. A space distills repeated acts. That’s why it’s hard to fake.” Of the five major personality traits, three – openness, conscientiousness and extroversion – are clearly revealed in people’s spaces…Snooping, in other words, instead of being an antisocial activity, is actually prosocial. Our spaces are telling others what we’re like even when we’re not. These days, we need such boosts to communication, because as the demise of the bookshelf shows, our true selves are increasingly retreating from public display and disappearing inside our devices. We are becoming, as Ms. Fadiman lamented, more invisible. “Our obsession with privacy is somehow reflected in the fact that our taste is now locked up invisibly inside all of these little boxes.”

Can the Cult of Bang & Olufsen Last? [Wired] – Rob Walker catches up with the 2011 edition of this long-standing audio company, known for out of this world design and out of reach prices, as he says, “audiophiles lost out to audio audio files.” The closing paragraph is telling and compelling.

Mantoni sounds intent on prodding B&O toward a less aloof attitude about the marketplace. “We need to go out and talk to customers,” he says. He recently told 30 of his top executives that they would be working in B&O stores for a while to meet customers face-to-face. There’s a message here about design: Of course the company has to keep producing distinctive wares-but these also have to fit shoppers’ actual lives.

We make change. It’s what we do.

Here’s a snippet from What Was Facebook’s Best Redesign, Anyway? [Technologizer]

I had fun looking back at the fruitless nature of Facebook redesign backlash. No one is surprised anymore when a redesigned Facebook home page-such as the one that rolled out today-causes an outrage.

But that made me wonder: what design, exactly, do people want? Was there ever a single home page layout to which Facebook users, given the choice, would happily revert? In other words, have we cooked up in our minds some ideal vision of an “old Facebook” that never really existed?

I’d like to declare this as a National Week of Umbrage. Between Netflix and Facebook, it’s been a strange few days. And still, we have our share of “It’s just a [blank], get over it!” and (as in that post) “What do people WANT?” Sadly, most of it misses the point. While there are definitely features that suck (wait, I’ve got to manage two queues? wait, you’ve reordered stories from the friends I just recategorized according to what scheme again?) and of course features that are improved, this is really about how you manage change. This isn’t, ultimately, about features. Facebook is the social OS for many many people. Netflix is the entertainment OS for many many people. We invest countless hours in using the thing, including setting it up just the way we want. That’s our choice, in fact, it’s almost an imperative. I can organize my fridge and my sock drawer in a way that I find appealing, satisfying, efficient, or whatever. And no, I don’t have to be on the autism spectrum to do that and to find reward from doing that.

When things change, without warning, without rationale, without a clear sense of how things are different – and better – for me, without an easy way to adjust to the changes, then we’ve got a problem. Google Docs redesigned something or other the other day. Today I previewed the changes. They are vaguely dramatic, aesthetically. But my workflow hasn’t changed, and I will adjust. I didn’t find myself unable to find my docs, or having to do more work instead. I’d hardly hold up Google as some ideal user-centered culture, but they seem, in general, to roll out redesigns, and even business changes, without a lot of teeth-gnashing on our part.

The intimate relationships we have with these services are indeed emotional ones. When change is foisted surprisingly on you, it’s unsettling.

Change is inevitable, necessary, good. But I’d love to see some less-hamfisted rollouts, and I’d love to see these companies understand – at the very fiber of their being – how much we are connected to their products and how their brutish ways make us feel. It’s not the medium, it’s the lack of message.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Overdone: Why are restaurant websites so horrifically bad? [Slate.com] – It’s true! Restaurant websites are terrible! Farhad Manjoo gives us a fun and interesting analysis of what has led to us having to endure music and pdfs and pointless flash dohickeys and long page-load times to get to things like the food and prices and what the restaurant looks like.

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent countless hours, now lost forever, plumbing the depths of restaurant Web hell. I also spoke to several industry experts about the reasons behind all these maliciously poorly designed pages. I heard several theories for why restaurant sites are so bad-that they can’t afford to pay for good designers, that they don’t understand what people want from a site, and that they don’t really care what’s on their site. But the best answer I found was this: Restaurant sites are the product of restaurant culture. These nightmarish websites were spawned by restaurateurs who mistakenly believe they can control the online world the same way they lord over a restaurant.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Cross-sectional Chocolate [Edible Geography] – Here’s food science framed as both a structural design and experience design problem. See many delicious pictures at the original link.

Chocolate bar designers work with a limited repertoire of ingredients (nuts, crisped rice, chocolate, biscuit, coconut, nougat, and caramel), manipulated through technological innovation (enrobing, extruding, and moulding machines), to develop a wonderful variety of creamy, crunchy, tongue-coating creations.

Sometimes the design challenge is practical, as the Twix cross-section allows us to appreciate. The thin layer of chocolate between the shortbread finger and the caramel topping acts as architectural insulation, preventing water migrating from the caramel into the shortbread and softening it.

The Baby Ruth and 100 Grand bars demonstrate variations on the idea of a crispy/crunchy exterior surrounding a smooth interior, while the Oh Henry! and Snickers bars mix nuts with caramel above a smoother, denser layer of fudge or nougat, with the whole ensemble enrobed in a thin chocolate coating. The Lion bar combines both approaches, embedding a filled Kit-Kat-style wafer inside a 100 Grand exterior, turducken-style.

Mouth-feel, texture, taste, and even shareability are among the aspects of consumer experience that can be engineered through permutations of the basic chocolate bar template. The snap-off wafers of a Kit-Kat encourage more leisurely, social consumption, for example, while the interior chewiness of a Snickers creates a perception of satisfaction that the exterior crunch of a 100 Grand bar could never match.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] New book about recurring technological failures [Pasta&Vinegar] – [Nicolas Nova has written a lot of great articles, presentations, and blog posts about failure, technology, society, and design. Now he's got a book. Let's hope an English version appears before too long?] My new book about recurring technological failures has been released two weeks ago. It’s called “Les flops technologiques: comprendre les échecs pour innover” which obviously means that it’s written in French. Based on the analysis of several cases (the intelligent fridge, the visiophone and e-books), the book describes the notion of recurring technological flops, discusses the very notion of failures and their underlying reasons. It also addresses strategies and design tactics to take them into account.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Art of Garfinkling [Splunderousnoog] – [We tend to conceptualize experiments and research as dispassionate or disconnected endeavors, but there's so much that can happen when we as experiments or researchers risk our presumptions and comfort level in order to get deeper understanding. In describing ethnography, I often refer to the researcher as the "apparatus" who is embedded and gathers data through that experience.] Carry out a simple experiment. When you are on the bus or the train, ask a person to give up her seat. Make sure you're young and fit. To make it easier, ask someone who is as fit or fitter than you. It is a hard thing for most to do. There is emotional distress involved. The fear of opprobrium, the need to be liked, to be nice…This sort of experiment is known as a "breaching experiment". It involves violating social norms. A famous, pioneering exponent of breaching experiments was a chap called Harold Garfinkle. So much so that "breaching experiments" are known as "Garfinkling"!
  • [from steve_portigal] Jeter’s 3,000th Hit Will Bring About as Many Marketing Possibilities [NYTimes.com] – [Merchandising a celebration.] Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats…The selling of Jeter’s hit…is quite a list: T-shirts, caps, jerseys, bobbleheads, decals, cellphone skins, wall murals, patches, bats, balls, license plates and necklaces made by licensees…Jeter will share royalties with M.L.B. and the players’ union; Already, he has designated proceeds from the sale of a silicone bracelet to benefit his Turn 2 Foundation. Everything Jeter touches or wears as he pursues his 3,000th hit carries value. So will the bases he steps on. In deciding what to provide for sale, Jeter controls his cleats, wristbands, bats and batting gloves. The Yankees control what they provide to him, like his uniform, warm-up jackets, and caps, as well as the dirt, the bases and the pitching rubber.

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