Posts tagged “designers”

Dwelling on One Day for Design

April 13th was the one day for One Day for Design (1D4D), an event conceived of by AIGA to “bring together a global community of designers and design enthusiasts to exchange ideas, challenge viewpoints and push boundaries in a real-time, online global debate” about the future of design, led by an impressive line-up of moderators.

What a fantastic notion! For our part, we were excited to be part of the conversation, and to see how AIGA pulled it off. When the day arrived we were ready. We dutifully signed onto the website and Twitter and TweetDeck, ready to talk design… and were paralyzed. Random content was scrolling by at a feverish pace, too feverish to manage. Tweets we could grab ahold of felt disjointed and distracted (as did we). The velocity of tweets is a testimony to the power of the idea, certainly, but also made for an unsettling user experience. Other people felt similarly. A series of responses and critiques have since surfaced.

  • One Day for Design – Deep Dive by DoubleThink out of Minnesota is a great analysis of 1D4D Twitter data showing how much work it takes to pull patterns and value out of the “waterfall,” as Phong puts it.
  • MJ Broadbent posted AIGA’s One Day for Design Conversation to the IxDA discussion list, calling the event laudable, but “kind of a mess to follow and participate in.”
  • Frank Chimero focused on the content of the 1D4D conversation (calling his post Designers Poison) but noted first that “Twitter seemed like the wrong place for the discussion, because it presented a conversation on design that required holistic thinking in a fragmented manner.”
  • On GOOD, Dylan Lathrop wrote in Global Twitter Conversation Proves Designers Don’t Get It that “try as hard as they might, moderators couldn’t contain the endless barrage.”
  • Equally pessimistic was Lindsay McComb on TheMetaQ, in Why design can’t be described in 140 characters:”I felt as though my tweets were a drop in a massive ocean of irrelevance.”

We felt similarly. Back here at the ranch, it was only a matter of minutes before the impulse to analyze and think about improving the experience kicked in. How could this be better? What exactly felt so daunting? The event’s energy was exciting but it was unclear what people were trying to accomplish on this day and how this energy would/could be harnessed to do that. So many different types of people were taking part; surely their objectives differed. And underlying it all, how was Twitter faring as the de facto forum for this event?

Based on our brief brainstorming, we identified a few generative ideas and themes (in other words, we’re staying away from the “put the comment box near the newest not the oldest tweet” UI tweaks that others are so much more qualified to address, and sticking with our sweet spot – teeing up the questions that lead to a broad swath of new solutions). After all, what’s possible when you have 3,900 engaged designers (and design enthusiasts) from all fields eager to talk?

Let Moderators Moderate!
Allow a little lag time (think about broadcasting’s 7-second delay) to give moderators a chance to filter, sort, and respond. This could result in something like moderated “channels” to follow.

Segment the group
Allow people to self-identify as being affiliated with certain disciplines, areas of interest and/or years of experience, enabling participants to establish and dwell in affinities and also to make targeted connections beyond them.

Anticipate and Seed Topics
The topic of design is broad (understatement alert!). AIGA and/or moderators could anticipate or encourage certain topics. Participants and the community at large could benefit by a little time prior to the big day to pull thoughts together and perhaps even engage in dialogue outside of the event.

Better Control Content
There are numerous ways to imagine enabling people to organize the information stream. Self-tagging? Content-bots? Anything that would allow people to create their own “channels” based on individual interests. Essentially Twitter’s existing “Trending topics”, we imagined a dynamic hashtag cloud that would guide people towards what others are talking about and help to get them there.

There are three of us in this office. Our interest in 1D4D, which we all shared, bore no relationship to our interest in (and experience with) Twitter, which varies wildly. Master and neophyte alike should be able to participate in the conversation without a black belt in Twitter. Help people by providing a semi-curated experience.

There are many good reasons not to include some of these ideas into general Twitterings, as they introduce constraints on the free-form and user-generated stream of consciousness experience that defines Twitter. We’ve weighed in elsewhere on the challenges Twitter faces in general and those factors can be exacerbated when large numbers of people convene with a larger purpose for a time-bounded conversation. Perhaps some scaffolding would improve the ability for more meaningful exchanges, enabling serendipity without letting serendipity reign as the organizing principle.

With all the fertile design minds out there as part of this conversation we’re sure that others have ideas. Let’s hear ’em!

Full Nelson

A fun read at Metropolis on the ‘good old days’ at Nelson & Company.

Irving Harper tells a story about developing his iconic Marshmallow sofa:

How did the Marshmallow sofa come about? One weekend, I thought about doing an upholstery unit, and wondered, Is there any way to do a sofa out of reproducible parts that could be done as if fitted out to a frame? I cooked up this model out of a checkers set, and I stuck the checkers disks on a metal frame, and it looked good to me. So I drew it up, brought it in, and that was the birth of it.

Harper’s story is testimony to the power of mocking up an idea. So when you or your team are in an idea-generating mode, go for it. Make ideas visible. Try things out. You never know where the exploration might lead…

Prototyping a body-mounted interface device using coat hanger, rubber bands, and Logitech mouse

Green? Ennh, problem solved. Almost? Um, not quite.


is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government or even a non-government organisation to sell a product, a policy or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy.

Frankly, after some talks (more of the same stuff we’ve been hearing for a while) at the recent IDSA Shift conference I feel like designers and other eco-do-gooders are as guilty of greenwashing as the supposed evil corporate fat cats. We face a barrage of examples that are dramatically missing the real details. If you want to make the case that we need to solve the world’s problems, that’s one thing. If you want to make the case that design and designers are solving these problems, that’s another.

The barriers to innovation and change are political, financial, cultural, not a lack of smarts, gumption, or whizbang know-how.

Lifestraw should be familiar to many.
But as our friend Dina Mehta pointed out in a conversation last year in Bombay, the real problem is how to get people in rural areas to understand that water contains invisible poisons that they must avoid. Based on her work with and awareness of India’s rural population, she saw this as the bigger challenge.

But Lifestraw (and others like it) are presented as a fait accompli.

How many times have you seen some innovative design for a homeless shelter? Low ecological footprint, low cost, easy put up and take down, etc. Wonderful. Well, why do we still have homeless folks sleeping on the street? Oh, because what municipality is going to allow a built encampment? Let alone spend money and give land away for homeless people to live in. That’s a huge political challenge. I’m not suggesting the real problem is homelessness, but the real problem is how to get your solution adopted. But no one wants to talk about that.

Similarly, designers create something but emphasize that it’s biodegradable, as if that solves everything. But it doesn’t. Things that degrade leave material behind. If plastic bags biodegrade, you[‘ll have something left behind. We like our pretty graphics with ugly stinky machinery turning into happy flowers in gentle meadows, but that’s not really what happens. Biodegrade is an oversimplification that ignores some real consequences. The problem isn’t solved and presenting a solution implying that it is solved is the form of greenwashing that I’m getting fed up with.

You could make a similar point with claims (like those made by presenters at RISD) that “corn is renewable.” Ask Michael Pollan about the problems with corn.

The fact is that there’s a moral, ethical, technical, environmental, and social calculus beyond our ability to manage. How does one decide where to look at a problem and a potential solution. We can’t agree on paper vs. plastic or to-go cup vs. ceramic. This is Tenner-level complexity.

Eco-eager designers do their efforts a disservice but oversimplifying or denying this complexity. By misleading through omission, they echo the institutions they claim to be fighting against.

Tempests and teapots, maybe

The whole back-and-forth on Are Designers The Enemy Of Design? doesn’t engage me all that much, but I did of course really like this quote from Bruce Nussbaum

This statement goes way behind “design.” Corporations have to bring consumers deep inside the walls of of the business process to participate in the development and design of new products, services and experiences. They have to curate conversations with their customers and really listen and learn from them.

Curate is an interesting verb. I can never tell if someone is being pretentious when they insert it in a context I don’t expect it, or if there is a wholly different intent behind it.

here we go again, being all responsible

From its inception, I’ve been an active participant and support of the about, with & for conference. I’m entirely not thrilled with this year’s topic

AWF 2006 – Responsible Design | The Value of Good Intention

Design can have the best of intentions but sometimes is trumped by business agendas. Does it have to be a balancing act, or can good intention fuel real innovation? From organic foods to the future of urban spaces, what role does responsibility play in how companies approach innovation and design?

The 2006 About, With and For conference will explore how user-centered design research can unveil the potential of responsible design.

I know this is hot stuff these days, but at least as of this writing (I can always change my mind, right?) I’m fed up with this whole save-the-world thing. I’m into the power of design (and many other tools of innovation, business, makin’ stuff, etc.) to cause big changes, but I’m not into the liberaller-than-thou imperative that seems to be issued to designers upon their entry to design school.


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