Lateral Thinking in Design

December 3, 2008

ideasearching1I just finished reading David Bramston’s new book, Basics Product Design: idea searching. First, I highly recommend the book, both for its writing and the visualizations of product ideas offered in it. The design of the book itself is as striking as the product designs it discusses and shows.

Given my recent posts on the importance of metaphorical understanding in the design of ubiquitous computing devices as well as design research more generally, Bramston’s distinction between literal thinking and lateral thinking in product design caught my attention.

Lateral thinking is a capacity to address conventional thoughts and assumptions related to a particular problem from a different or unorthodox angle…A literal approach to design still requires an imaginative approach, but tends to concentrate on more obvious aspects – a direct interpretation of meaning….In generating ideas for a design it is worthwhile exploring both aspects of literal and lateral thought patterns and, where possible, to instigate a hybrid approach of the thinking methods.

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Deep Metaphor: Exploring the Say-Mean Gap in Design Research

December 1, 2008

In recent posts I discussed different gaps, from the community gap in particular to the encompassing engagement gap. Each of those discussions attempted to size up a disparity between the attention currently given to the importance of community and social media by companies and the reality of the commitment of resources to them based on recent research in the United States and Europe.

We hear a lot of discussion these days about Web 2.0 and social media, especially on whether adoption is driven by demographics, lifestyle, or something else. Recently, while reading Marketing Metaphoria by Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, it struck me that regardless of the patterns of Web 2.0 and social media adoption, the applications tap into basic sensibilities for connection that we all share, regardless of age and lifestyle. As I note below, a sense of connection is an example of a deep metaphor that the Zaltmans discuss in relation to people, products, and brands.

Deep metaphors underlie the way people understand the context of problems they face in their everyday lives. Though the concept of deep metaphor was initially outlined in Lakoff and Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By, Marketing Metaphoria takes it a step further by developing useful techniques for exploring how deep metaphors affect the perception of brands and products and, by implication, how to approach the say-mean gap in design research.

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CABA’s Connected Home User Interface Project

November 14, 2008

cabaI received an email alert from the Contintental Automated Building Association’s (CABA) Connected Home Research Council indicating it is initiating a new project on the Connected Home User Interface. Our last post discussed these issues in the relation to Whirlpool’s CentralPark Connection and questioned designs that depend on a single user interface to “intelligent” appliances and, by implication, homes. CABA’s Connected Home Research Council’s research agenda on the Connected Home User Interface characterizes the issues in the following manner.

The evolution of the digital home lifestyle has been, in part, created by consumer demands that are driving tremendous industry change and opportunity. The connected home offers various promises to simplify interaction and engagement of consumers with family, entertainment, career and home system solutions

Two of the open questions that have yet to be answered is (1): How do product developers and managed solution/service providers best aggregate data into potentially, one single user interface that is both intuitive and adds value to the holistic connected home? And (2): How does the user interface solution support the delivery of the digital lifestyle promise?

CABA’s Connected Home Research Council (CH-RC) is sponsoring a consumer research study that will define the specific attributes or baseline criteria of a ‘connected home user interface’ for consumers when managing the connected home.

Current Steering Committee members seek answers to some of the following questions:

  • What type of information and/or control do consumers really want (passive versus interactive data)?
  • What type of access, convergence of services and data set to home service content is desired?
  • How can the whole home solution enhance the digital lifestyle?

What do you think about the questions posed by the Connected Home User Interface project?

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Metaphorical Refrigerators, Design, and Ubiquitous Computing

November 11, 2008
centralpark_frig

Whirlpool CentralPark Connection

I’ve been meaning to write about Dan Saffer’s Masters Thesis since reading it a couple of years ago. A recent post by Mike Kuniavsky provides an opportunity to do so. Also, it appears that Dan left his position at Adaptive Path to found Kicker Studio, a product design company. In The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design, Dan noted that metaphors help users/customers understand new products and services by providing cues that orient and personify the experience of the familiar with the new.

In other words, metaphors help us understand one thing in terms of another by highlighting similarities between the two, while at the same time implicitly recognizing differences. Dan also added that metaphors introduced to facilitate adoption of a new product can also limit its innovation in other ways. He specifically pointed to the Workspace is a Desktop metaphor, which conceptualizes the computer as an office tool primarily. I would add that the metaphor contributed to the myth of the paperless office by obscuring the differences between desktops and graphical user interfaces. Specifically, Dan contended that,

it could be argued that the desktop metaphor has hindered the development of ubiquitous computing as much as some hardware factors (p.22).

At the same time, he observed that the desktop metaphor was much more effective in gaining the widespread adoption of computers when compared to the previous metaphor, i.e. computers as programming environments. He recommended that whenever designers use a metaphor in a new product they need to begin with what is new, the subject of the metaphor, rather than what the metaphor refers to. In other words, don’t force functionality into a metaphor. Use the metaphor to support a concept rather than the other way around. The point builds on the design principle of Cooper, Reiman, and Cronin in About Face 3.0 to, “Never bend your interface to fit a metaphor” (p. 279).

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Stop with the Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’: Customers aren’t Targets for Social Media

October 1, 2008

Keeping up with social media is a real challenge these days. However, one theme seems constant whenever you read blogs about social media, especially among marketers and so-called optimizers who target, target, target to drive, drive, drive customers to their client’s social media asset, i.e. video, blog, community, etc. You would think advocates of social media are Rowdy, Gil, Jed, or one of the other actors on Rawhide.

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Ethnography and Second Life

September 25, 2008

I don’t usually discuss books or reports without contextualizing the discussion. However, I’ve just begun reading a book that merits mention before digesting how it fits either strategically or tactically with experience design issues.

Skilful Minds first discussed virtual anthropology several years ago noting the following.

 

The term points to the ability of customer researchers to now tap into the stories about personal experience that increasing numbers of people are providing online…But, keep in mind that the people offering their stories and experiences for your edification are not doing it for you.

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Engaging the Niki Experience

August 27, 2008
La Cabeza

La Cabeza

We initially discussed place-based stories back in 2006, noting the way [murmur] provided people experiencing a place to add a story about their engagement with it. To listen to the stories, visitors to that place simply called a number on their mobile device.

I was reminded of the [murmur] service this past weekend while walking through the Missouri Botanical Gardens(MoBot) here in St. Louis. MoBot is hosting the Niki exhibit, showing forty mosaic sculptures done by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002). Each sculpture is assigned a unique number that corresponds to an audio message for that work. For example, La Cabeza information is available at (314) 558-4357 11#.
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