Monday, November 10, 2008

Brand Building

The Brand Gap
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: design brand)


Came across this interesting presentation on slideshare today.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Having a design Philosophy

In order to do any project, one of the things that an expert designer tries to do is to look into their set of repertoires to find for solutions, based on past experiences. Over the times, I think that this leads to the development of ones own design philosophy. This is also something that Donald Schon mentions in his writings about a designer being able to identity a problem and look at the experiences gathered from the reflection-on-actions and reflection-in-actions over projects.

The design philosophy can be developed over time, or over multiple projects. One of the things that a professor mentioned in one of the classes I took was that there is a difference in being an experienced designer and a expert designer. One can be doing design for many years, but that does not guarantee that the person is an expert in the matter. This I think is a good analogy to look at the job market, where by default the person with more years of experience are wrongly thought of as being experts. If that was the case and was always true, then people would be CEOs at the end of their job life. However that is not the case and we have people becoming CEOs at 45 also.

So finally, what is my Design Philosophy? I think I am still in a nascent stage to have one that is very stringent and that it is truly applicable to all projects. But I do hope that with the years to come, I do have one. The way I see it, my design philosophy is based on strong design rationale, the ability to enhance user experience and a solid return of investment for the stakeholders.

Thus this becomes the three prime areas of focus as a designer for me. One is the user's experience, the other is the stakeholder's value and then my own personal design thinking.

Semiotic Theory application in Graphic Design Critique

I think that understanding of the sender / recipient , addresser/ addressee is really important as a designer. Just like we discussed in one of our class with the case of the User Research, I think that using this understanding is really important while doing brand identity and logo design. Here is a case of Bharti , one of India’s industrial powerhouse. The context being discussed here is the company changing their logo recently.

Old Logo

Old Logo

So when a company goes in for a change in their brand identity, in most cases they they get it done by a different design company (or individual at times). So we have a change in the sender. For the designer doing the design, the recipient of the design is the client. But the final addresser perhaps would be the entire company and the addressee the audience to which the design is presented (the you and me). Thus one can see how they are all different in this case.


New Logo

New Logo

The sender (the actual person) here would be the person who designed the logo in the design team (which one is not sure, as many times groups in India have it done by non-designers), the actual addresser in this case is the company, Bharti (group of companies rather). This is not the same as , the founder / owner of the company speaking through the design. It’s a non human that we are being spoken by. In this case one does not even think that its Sunil Mittal the CMD, who is speaking to the addressee.

When the client (addresser) has a vision , then does it hold the same for the designer (sender) as well? While designing a logo for a company with any own vision, a designer’s vision requires to understand this, in a short span of time. This also has to be informed by the existing situations within the company and also the company profile in the real world. The designer (sender) also has to understand the recipient (the contact person in the client’s side) and also the addressees (the company and the final audience who view the design).

When trying to understand the semiotics behind the logos, one can see that the referential function (the content) has not changed much. In terms of the content, it is still composed of the two texts. However as signifiers, the two forms signify two completely different things.

The old one signifies stability, a company that is firm in its intentions and is built on a strong foundation. Hence the usage of the bold black fonts to make the logo. It is all about the establishing the company’s presence, by the addresser; till this point. The dynamic nature of the company that is still expanding in new horizons, but has its focus on establishing itself first, it signified by the yellow curve that allows itself to blend into the addresser’s intentions.

The new one signifies the a modern, new, dynamic approach that the company is adopting. The interplay of the formal content (form) in terms of a bold and the curved forms within the individual letters is interesting. It did exist in the previous form also, but it is very prominent in the new logo. It is a signifier of the company looking into different, and newer opportunities. From the company’s press releases it is understood that they are now looking into a stronger presence in rural areas of the country. This representation using the curved with the bold vertical strokes (which are really contrasting elements to each other) in the new logo, signifies the rather risky task that the company vision’s itself into. With their presence they seek out to bridge out the gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural India. This; for any company is a highly risky business. But Bharti with it’s new dynamic logo wants to put it out in the open for the addressees. The addresser’s intention here is to make it clear of what they want.

The metalingual function that would be provided here is different than what held true for the previous one. Based on the understanding of expressive typography and basic color theory, one would interpret the two logos in a different way. The new one oozes with confidence and with dynamism. It is futuristic and also looking with hope into the future. This is also stressed upon by the yellow triangle. The use of two triangles and one out of its boundaries, signifies the company’s intention of expanding into the unknown territories. This same element in the initial logo was in the form of a yellow square that rested on the company’s initial policies. With the company’s vision changing, the subtle change in the orientation signifies exactly what the addresser wants the addresee to understand.

The redesign in my opinion is a sincere attempt to put into; a simple yet highly valuable form, the company’s vision that it has; setting into the next few years. The re-design of the Bharti logo, should be understood in this semiotic approach to get a better understanding of the company’s history, its current situation and its brand value that has been built. It is only then that one would get out of the superficial criticisms based on one’s personal judgment which are often I like it and I don’t like it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The need for a cinephile league in Indian Cinema

On response from this post by a friend of mine, Nitesh Rohit, who does Film Criticism.
http://windsfromtheeast.blogspot.com/2008/10/cinephilia-in-india-search-for-love-and.html


Thanks Nitesh for this wonderful writeup. It's oozing with tons of information and points that can be further discussed. Being a photographer, I have always been interested in studying culture. This also led me me developing an interest in viewing films from different cultures. So in the name of foreign cinema, I went about watching Latin American, Middle east, the Japanese, and the Soviet union films.

What is really interesting is that of late I have been watching a lot of movies from the point of view of understanding Indian Cinema. The context that you have established is very nice.

Just the other day I was reading about this other professor in an American University, Rashna Wadia Richards who is writing a book on rethinking cinephilia as a critical approach to classic Hollywood Cinema.I would try to read more on that definitely.
But why I think this is important is because the usage of a similar approach would do wonders for the analysis of Indian Cinema. And I personally like to call it Indian Cinema and not restrict it to Bollywood cinema.

If one were to analyze the most basic of the mise-en-scenes criteria (namely production, colour, lighting, actor's personality, diegetic sound, framing {depth of field, aspect ratio etc}) the definitions on which the movies were initially conceived,one can understand the dominance of one quality over the other has been hugely responsible in the vanishing of the cinephile in the context of Indian Cinema.
I think in the times of the original cinephiles in Indian Cinema, like Satyajit Ray were constantly focusing on all aspects of these parameters.
Whereas in today's context one would think that it does not happen to that extent. In the transitory period where there was the transformation from the pure cinema (the ones inspired by the cinephile philosophy) there were still a few directors who aimed at celebrating Indian culture and Indian values. Gulzar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee would fall into this I feel. The one contemporary filmmaker that I can think of who would still be using some form of cinephile is Shyam Benegal.

What also needs to be done is the establishment of something like the Photo League (artists like Sid Grossman, Lou Bernstein, that happened in the area of documentary photography in the 1930s. This emphasized on using the medium of the photographs to allow the artist for a critical approach to representing the issues, in their own style, with their own personal interpretation on the American Society. Their photographs moved from the initial aim of documentary photography (which was a great medium to capture the great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s.) to a more contemporary understanding of the American culture and the lifestyle.
This similar kind of an establishment of a cinephile league in the context of revival of Indian Cinema would be truly worthwhile.
India as a society has so much to offer in terms of its rich heritage. The understandings of the lifeworlds as created by people from the gamut of cultures within the country would make a good basis for this league. Contemporary film critics like you with a firm understanding of the theories and history of film should definitely team up.

As Lou Bernstein said, (paraphrased) : Pictures often reveal motives we don't even know about ourselves in our relationships with people. It's for each viewer to decide for himself.

In the end it's all about gaining the sympathetic interest of the viewer in the subject.

I think in early(till the vanishing of the cinephiles, as mentioned here) Indian Cinema, it allowed to do this.

My two cents.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Design For Social Impact

I think that this is the next big thing in Design.
Its heartening to see the efforts by different foundations and also leading consultanting firms like IDEO and Continuum, being actively involved in this.

Here is a link to their website.

https://client.ideo.com/socialimpact/

Friday, October 17, 2008

Understanding Realism in Photography and film

I have always considered myself a realist. As mentioned earlier, I have been inspired by Bresson, who is considered to be the father of Photojournalism (which I believe will always remain an example of realism) and is the inventor of the term “the decisive moment” in photography.

Bresson mentions in his books and in interviews that it was never the photography that he was passionate about. What interested him was life as it unfolded to him. His photography was an attempt to capture the experiences over time; in a fraction of a second, of the lifeworld as experienced by him.

“For me the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to “give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry - it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the respect for the subject and for oneself.

He goes on to say this,
“I prowled the streets all day, feeling very strung up and ready to pounce, determined to “trap” life- to preserve life in act of living. Above all I craved to seize, in the confines of one single photograph, the whole essence of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”

It is not completely evident whether Bresson adopted a very phenomenological approach to clicking his photographs or a structuralist one. When he talks about the composition it almost appears that there is the structuralist approach, whereas when he talks about the entire experience that he wishes to capture in the photograph, it is a phenomenological approach.

There are far more challenges being a realist, as a photographer than a film maker. With a photograph (and I am not talking about a photo-story comprised of multiple photographs) you have to create a story out of that situation you are in and in which you had an embodied interaction; to the outside world. Then you leave it for interpretation to the viewer. This is another difficult part. It is just one photograph. There is no music to lay the emphasis and neither any cut shots. There is no timeline and no other cues in the later frames to lay significance to a particular metaphor used in the frame. Thus in this frame it is equally challenging to know what signifier to not put in the frame. To do photography based in realism, is all the more challenging as the real world is changing all the time. The challenge is to perceive this reality, almost simultaneously recording in the sketchbook (camera).

Another misconception that I generally had was that Realism always meant something that was in black and white. While on one hand it is true that it prohibits us from seeing the distractions and that the essence of a composition (be it of a real life as Bresson , or of the real Nature as Ansel Adams would like to) is brought about only when looking at the images in its Black and White form.

I have nothing against color photography, and perhaps I do propagate the usage of it when necessary. Bresson however himself was not too inclined towards using color.
He mentions:
“I am half afraid that this complex new element may tend to prejudice the achievement of life and movement which is often caught by black and white.”

I do think that realism is not in the medium of the black and white or the color. As, how can one think in black and white, when they are viewing the world in its true color. Its kind of a paradox, of having to deliberately having a mismatch in the real and the perception. It is just that the interpretation of the cultural expression changes.

In order to illustrate the point above, while in the black and white one, my focus is on the abandoned house and a photographer on an abandoned path; which is situated in a hilly area. My interpretation says that the photographer is perhaps lost or is going to unfamiliar territories.
This same artifact when viewed in color, creates a different impression. Apart from the above, the presence of the color enhances the other things like essence of nature, the time of the day, the season of the year and hence results in a more complete understanding of the situation.

The Photographer

My understanding of reality in both these situations seems to be different, even though the subject is the same.

I am not propagating that Realism (in color or in b/w) is good or bad. In the end its all about the technique. Technique is important insofar as one must master it in order to communicate what one sees. Thus in the case of Bresson, it happened to be those decisive moments. In the case of Kieslowski it was the longing and the grief which he was trying to convey.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Experiencing Experiences...

I have often heard the expression that the movie was not as good as the book and vice versa. I have not seen /read many movies /books of the same title and hence I would not be in a position to critique on it. But that was till today. I witnessed an amazing spectacle. This was a musical Sweeny Todd in the auditorium. I had seen the movie back in January this year.

This is the trailer of the movie.

This is the poster of the musical.

What surprised me was that inspite of knowing the tone of the expression here and the storyline, I still enjoyed it to the core. Also, because I was aware of the story line, I had the freedom to actually reflect on what I was witnessing in respect to the class. On trying to understand the experience that I was having, with a more phenomenological and / or structuralist understanding of the interactions that I was having here. This one would call the Stage-Audience Interaction. This interaction was not at the visible or tangible level, but at the conscious level. On further analysis I noticed that I was constantly making comparisons with the image of the movie that had been implanted in my mind. Since I knew the story, the interpretation of the story was devoid of the surprise element. However the brilliant usage of music, acting and lights made this experience a totally unforgettable one.

In order to start off the presentation I was analyzing the signs and the units of meanings that were there for the stage performance. Here the meanings were created by multiple ways. At the lowest levels we had the
ambiance lights, the music played by the characters (which again was further broken down into the various instruments), who also were acting out the play, and the songs that were actually the conversations that they were having. Here the actors were also the signs.

What was interesting here that when seeing a theater performance I thought about the on stage actors as elements that add meaning to the piece. Whereas the same was not in the case of the movie.

Maybe this was a result a phenomenological impression of a movie that I had in mind, the whole notion of it not being there, as compared to the notion of the actors in front my eyes and everything being said / done / sung/ acted was happening in front of me in reality. The reviews that I had read, the trailers that I had seen had helped me form an interpretation of the movie much before I actually went and saw it.

It was interesting that in case of the movie, now if I recall, it was a phenomenological approach to understanding of my experience, where I was going in with a previous notion of the movie and the actor Johnny Depp. In the case of the actors of the theatrical performance, since I did not know the cast, and had no idea absolutely about what this was going to be like, I did not have any pre-conceived notion of the thing I was going to see.

What I am trying to say here is that for the same artifact, presented in two different ways, I felt that I was adopting different approaches to understanding the experience. And I find that really fascinating!

Oh btw, watching a show in the auditorium sitting in the center and in the second row from the stage.. totally rocks!! Thanks to a friend who got me the tickets that close to stage!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Definitely Male : A structuralist approach to understanding brand identity

A bit of a background, Bajaj Automobiles is one of India's industrial powerhouses. In the 1980 and the 1990's their flagship product was a scooter.Their advertisements were targeted at the general Indian public and were only showing a scooter. Till this time I am sure hardly people in India would have known that the scooter was associated with a female following and that it stood for what we read in the Barnard book and also seen in this ad.

This is the ad that appeared in 1989 and aired for a few years.
[
Instead of focusing on the usage of the metaphor of a feminism with scooters, Bajaj here was trying to capture the attention of a nation with something more important to people in this lifeworlds. So they promote the issue of Indianism and being a proud Indian and how that a Bajaj scooter defines being Indian. The signifiers that is used in this ad above were that which were very traditional. So we have the person meditating, the family values, the emphasing on social interactions, the pride in owing a scooter, the worshiping of the vehicle and the rural roads that signified that the scooter was all about being proud Indian. It signified that the scooter was ruggid, was able to resist to harsh conditions and still be a loving commodity in the lives of the people.

In 1984, the Hero Group, then the world’s largest manufacturers of bicycles, entered into a joint venture with Honda Motors of Japan to create Hero Honda Motors Ltd, which has gone on to become the world’s largest manufacturer of two wheelers. In the 1990s Hero Honda starting to eat the scooter market. There was a strong emphasis on fuel efficiency and mileage. Bajaj Motors too entered this segment, in partership with Japanese giant Kawasaki. Hero Honda with its focus on the middle class became the household name for motorcycles in India. There was no mention about the bike being a male dominated commodity or otherwise.

Come to Bajaj Pulsar in 2001. This was perhaps one of India's most successful campaigns. Notice the emphasis on "Definitely Male".


What's more surprising is that the campaign was done by a Tokyo based firm called O&M. Which I think were trying to understand the lifeworlds of Indians, which were culturally so different than that of the Japanese.
According to agencyfaqs, the birth of the "Definitely Male " campaign is interesting. The creative honchos found the new product from Bajaj distinctly different. It was Bajaj's first bike without Kawasaki label. The new bike was an R&D and design marvel.Pulsar was designed by the renowned design house Tokyo R&D. O&M knew that the communication of this brand should also be different.Starting with lot of ideas, O&M stuck upon the Big Idea of India's He-Bike. Although lot of bike take the persona of Macho bikes it was more oriented towards being "sexy". The Big Idea was to position the bike as World's first bike endowed with a Sex ( Gender).Thus born the classic campaign of all times " Definitely Male".
(this part is an excerpt from this post
http://marketingpractice.blogspot.com/2007/04/bajaj-pulsar-definitely-male.html)



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Note this ad till 0:55 timeline mark.
So here we se how the signifiers for the same brand was changed. Here we have more of a flirtatious nature of the ad with the Bike signifying the male population. The approach to target the audience to the youth in particular is also interesting. This is a time where globalization is making big in India and the youth is all about western attributes and modernization.
And now with the bike having captured a decent market share, the "definitely male" campaign has been dropped and others taken their place.

What is interesting to note is how the brand has built itself from being associated with scooters to motorcyles. The journey from what one may call as being Feminine to Definitely Male.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Form Follows Function?

I was going through some readings a couple of days ago in trying to understand visual culture. One thing that I have come to think of is whether the Bauhaus (and later by Modernists) notion of the “Form Follows Function” and that “Ornament is a crime” would apply to Interaction Design. When we are looking for a language for Interaction Design, are we only looking at the processes or also the final outcome of the process (the interactive application/art).

Would this also mean that having a more rationalistic approach to the designs would suffice better as compared to having to make an artifact that would look (read immediate attention) aesthetically pleasing. As Interaction design is a lot about the process and as discussed in classes, the moment a process comes into the frame, its a rationalistic approach.

I feel that Neilsen bases his heuristics and also the argument to his site with this notion in mind.
Often at times I think if we are applying the same well to the current situation of Web 2.0 standards when dealing with interaction/interface design.

With interfaces becoming simpler and less cluttered and very well defined for the task it is supposed to be doing, are we again going back to this classic theory?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sustainability and Indian Design industry

I recently came across this article in the Pratt's institute magazine. Its called "Design: A Green Collar Job" by Debera Johnson. We as designers are responsible for the creation of the products,
clothings, publications, advertisements, buildings, interiors, information systems etc.
The list is huge.

Each of us are to play a vital role in the society. One of the most hot topics of conferences happens to be about saving the planet. So there are conferences on Global Warming, climate change and also it also gets a mention in other design conferences like CHI and
TED.

One thing that I have noticed is the lack of participation from the Indian Design Industry on the topic of Sustainability.
India, I feel is witnessing the changes that the western world witnessed quite some years back. As we continuously strive to creating better systems, and all things for a better lifestyle, each of
us play a vital role. As the world becomes more complex, and unordered, it will look to
designers to find solutions. With the economic progress that our beloved country is making on many grounds, it is but high time that we start thinking Green on a much larger scale and not just confined to the metros and the big offices.

I am wondering if there is any such data for India, as done by Photographer Chris Jordan's "Running the Number" series. Some of them strikes you in the face.
For Example, In the US, there are two million plastic beverages are discarded every five minutes. And this, one million plastic cups are used on airline flights in the US
every six hours.

With the increase in the affluent middle class in India, the changing cultures and also a lack of proper system for many things, the days ahead do seem to worry many.

In another article that I read, sustainability is based on the three R's. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I believe we as Indians are good in at-least one of these R's.
Reusing. Remember you having to wear the same clothes that your brother / sister wore when he/she was the same age. Also the same bottles being re-used in journeys to avoid buying new bottles of water? There is no place in India, where you would not see reuse of artifacts. It's there in homes, in shops, and on the streets. I did capture a lot of them while doing photography in India.

The rich tradition of handicrafts and using natural products, has indeed been a good component to thinking Recycling ways, but that just is not enough.

In the school (HCID program) where I go, there is a strong research group on Sustainability and people have been indeed bringing up points that are indeed a concern to the world today. One of the things I was talking there was the sustainability in the developing
nations and what better than India. I am sure and confident that designers can create a bigger impact in the industry than it already is.

I would love to get in touch with Indian Designers looking at Sustainability in an Indian context and work more closely towards some research on this.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Experience Prototyping



The above is a outcome of the project for out Experience Design Class, where the task was to design a museum installation art, taking into insights from what it feels like a disabled person.
We had each member in the team enact out and experience a disability. These could be either physical, visual , or cognitive disability.

While its not possible to exactly replicate those disabilities, and also at the back of our minds we do know that we are not in that state actually, we have tried to come as close possible to experience it.

The concept, here tries to take the insights from these disabilities and then has been prototyped. The concept was fully built with actual props and tested on three different users.

In the end its all about giving the museum goes an authentic experience.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting attached to ideas

One of the things that I seek to do in projects is generate hundred of concepts over brainstorming sessions. This is something I have not been able to do. The maximum I would have reached is 20-30. And being a designer, I know that, it is a very small number.

Starting to love your idea, just results in the designer not being able to think beyond that one idea.

For one of the projects, that I am doing currently, I mentioned to my team that we should have at-least a hundred ideas and the white boards needs to be full. A fellow team mate stops us at 10 ideas.

Also by ideas I mean concrete ideas. I feel important
By stating anything generic like the idea should do this and should do that, it does not really solve the purpose. However if we adopt the attitude that the idea "will" do this rather than "should" do this, makes a huge difference.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Experiencing Disability

In one of the assignments, that we are doing, one of the task is to experience a disability. We are trying to do whats called an Experience Prototype.(1)

The task here was very simple. I had to write my first name and last name.
The only constraint was that I had to hold the mouse upside down.
This way the mouse now worked was in order to go up, I had to move the mouse down, and the same for the left and right.

In case you have still not figured out, I have written Kshitiz Anand.

I was trying to experience a person with dyslexia. One of the conditions identified with people with this is to see things inversely. So the idea here was to experience a similar condition.
We designed a task that would enable me to experience it.

Conclusion: It is not easy to do tasks that we consider are easy if we have a disability.
For a better web and user experience, it becomes essential to take into consideration the factors that allow acceptance with a wider audience.

1) Experience Prototyping is a method of user research proposed and propagated by the design firm IDEO.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

***** Centered Design

The ***** in the above title is based on the numerous centered designs that we come across.

There is User Centered Design - this is perhaps the most famous and widely used. You are supposed to be the designer who takes care of the user at all times. Considering what the user says is right and try to incorporate in the design.

The Human Centered Design - This is an offshoot of the above. Just that here we are replacing the user word with human. After all human sounds so much more caring. The personal touch here is much more just by using the human word.

The Technology Centered Design - This is something that is of prime importance in the engineering schools where there exist a design school. Examples could be MIT, IITG, etc. Here I feel the design revolves around the technology. This really gets exciting when we are looking at research labs and places where they are coming up with innovative use of technology for a better design. The iPhone, Microsoft Surface could be an example of starting of with this type of design, but later becoming a user centered one. After all they are looking at making things more intuitive for the user and more exciting.

Of late my research interests has been in studying the use of technology in emerging market, and rural population. This I feel is directly related to this centered design.

The Activity Centered Design - This is taken from the Activity Theory, and bases its premise on activities being performed in the course of a task. This is also promoted by Don Norman. The activity theory is a theory in Psychology, that emphasizes understanding who people are by understanding how they interact with the world. This has also been widely used by Bonnie Nardi from U C Irvine.

Then there this Goal-Centered Design. This is proposed b Alan Cooper and his team in the book About Face 3. I have become a fan of this of late. In trying to find the tasks that the users want to do, we often fail to recognize the goal behind the task. This process focuses on the design being three-tiered. The first is to identify the goal. The second the activities and then the third is the tasks. So for example, if i had to send mail to my friend, the goal is to communicate with my friend. The activities would be the finding a computer, looking up the site and opening it, and then the tasks would be typing the address, moving the mouse to the appropriate level, typing the mail and sending it.

Looking at a goal based approach, enables us to take care of the motivations and the intentions that users/ humans would have in order to use the appropriate technology to perform those tasks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

User Experience Design and Research

I was preparing for an interview for internship and was brushing upon my theory on HCI and stuff.
Initially I was surprised to find that there were two separate positions in large companies, meaning companies where they invest a lot in User Experience and Usability. These two positions are that of a User Experience Researcher(UER) and User Experience Designer(UED). This set me thinking. What are the roles of a UER versus a UED. In the book About Face 3, Cooper and his team writes about an interesting thing. They mention how a designer need to be good at research. A few years ago this was not seen as very reasonable thing to do and hence we had the market researchers doing the research and passing on the findings to the designers. In most of the cases there would be a mismatch between what the users actually did, what the market researchers saw and what was reported and interpreted by the designers.

Taking this argument further, we find a UER's role to be extremely crucial in a project. They are supposed to be interacting closely with the UEDs. The UER is now a days supposed to give their input in a project at two phases of the software development life cycle. One is initially inoder to get a better understanding of the user's environments, the situations in which they are living and performing the tasks, the UER adopts methods like Ethnography, Contextual Inquiry and Fly-on-the wall Observations techniques, to get a better understanding. A noticable thing these days is the urgency in trying to capture the empathic needs of the user. This could be things like, I feel hot when I sit in the computer room, or something like, this just does not "feel" good. In the 3rd wave of HCI, this has been an area of research that is exciting. How do we collect and use the empathic inputs which result in a lot of qualitative data, into the design. How can the UED folks interpret and extract this information and use it as a valuable design input.

Once this is done, and the UEDs are set to work, the UER's role comes back when the product's prototypes are built. So then starts the other phase of the experience research. This does sound a lot like performing the Usability testing. But it is not likely so. The measure of experience needs to be defined based on the units of experience that the UERs would have defined initially.
A usability professional would more likely be dealing with only the final deliverable and whether it delivered on what it promised. They adopt a more quantitative approach to finding an answer to whether a design is successful. UERs on the other hands take into consideration the empathic issues equally.

In any user-centric design, the inputs of the UER at both these stages become really essential, and thats why companies that are clear on this differentiation of roles, have an edge.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Dying Art of Sketching

There were two incidences that inspired me to write this blog.
1) I was flipping through my sketchbook and to my surprise I found that around 80% of the pages in it was filled with text. This is good as it was a good compilation of my ideas and my thoughts while working on different projects. But on the other hand I find the absence of visuals and doodles and sketches. The number of sketches that I did for a project seemed to be very less. It was definitely less than the amount I had though, when I first bought the sketch book.

2) I got my copy of the ACM Interactions Magazine today and the cover article called Pencils before Pixels , by Prof Mark Baskinger from the CMU School of Design, set me thinking.

I realized a lot of things. It was alarming to me to a large extent. I realized how much of a
sad situation it was. The skill level of designers in sketching definitely seems to be on the downfall. It could be a reason, that Interaction design as a field attracts people from many fields, but that should not be an excuse to not sketch out the ideas before. This as Mark points out could be a reason why the industrial designers who enter the field of Interaction Design, are at such an advantage.

Being a designer is a lot about being to think visually. And being a photographer, it become all the more important to do so. I tend to think in pictures and images. I remember a time, when I used to sketch out a frame that I want to shoot, before actually going out and shooting. I guess the advent of the Digital Camera has been the reason.

I would also like to add here that diagrams on the other hand do not count as sketches. They can be at max an attempt to represent things visually. I have been doing this of late a lot. But they are just not as informative as a sketch.
Over the years, progressing as a designer I have developed this interest in starting any discussion with a brainstorming session. We start from the centre and progressively branch outwards, depending on how the session progresses. This is been a great tool, but the point is that I tend to stop there.


The sketches still happen, but the number is less. And this definitely has had me in situations where the ideas stop coming. I have read lots about success stories where the idea of a business was thought about over lunch over a tissue. These ideas are furthered debated and thought upon and the birth of a success story takes place.

So, what do we do. A lot of this can be blamed to the carrying the computer with me phenomenon. I often feel paralysed when I do not have an access to a laptop for a couple of days. This as McCarthy and Wright in their book "Technology as Experience", discuss that we are becoming slaves to the machine. The fact that a rationalist approach to HCI, tends to inform us that whats there on the Photoshop, Powerpoint interface is the only way we can think. Its like the machine is guiding us in our thinking process.

Buxton in his book Sketching User Experiences deals with using sketching as a means to convey ideas, start discussions. This is a must read for all those getting or are in the field of Interaction Design.

To end, we all loved to draw, sketch when we were kids. Remember those dirty walls, and pages of the copy! What happens to us when we grow up? Perhaps its the feeling that I am no Michaelangelo, and hence I should not draw. Its important to understand that one does not need to be a great artist to convey ideas and thoughts. Its only with practice that we improve the level of sketching.

So, what are you waiting for! Grab that pencil and the sketchbook and revive the artist in you!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why Critiquing is Subjective?

This is one of the things that I have been wanting to find an answer to since long.
Being a photographer and designer is all about subjectivity.

When we view an art / design we start with an impression of it. Over a time we start to develop an opinion about it. And these opinions over a period turn into judgments.
These judgments are what we call critiques. Thus if we analyze, any judgment is therefore ultimately what is what the judge thinks about it. And these jugdments are subjective. Thus criticism is a subjective act.
A critic is a judge of a piece of art, who gives his or her subjective judgments based on the opinions formulated after the impression of the artwork.
A peep into adolescence

Any design we do, any photograph we take is all about "one's own" ideas. Thus we have the option to believe these subjective opinions for getting an idea of the showcased piece.
So from the above example and from the comments over time that I have received on it, an impression would be "beautiful shot!".
An opinion would be, "great shot!! a little dark but very nice"
A judgment (critic) would be something like "An over all brightening of the shadows would bring this boy out from the shadows, isolating him and transforming this from a cute picture to a WOW picture. He is hard to focus on because of the aforementioned darkness."

Over a long period of time a debate has been going on in my mind about, we as designers having to create for objectivity. However, I understand that, there is subjectivity all around. As discussed in one of my class, a critique is an entirely subjective opinion.
When the judgment is passed, by these critics or rather subject experts, (which again are subjective) we tend to believe them more than we would to a classmate or any other person (not a subject expert).

So ultimately we are designing for a subjective opinion, with the hope that the critic’s subjective opinion matches ours. This would lead to a larger audience believing the subjective opinions of the critics (as they are the subject exerts) and over a period of time, spanning across many people, the design becomes objective.

Similarly for a photograph. There will always be difference in an opinion if different people are to see one same photograph. No photograph will appeal to all. Or in other words, everyone WILL NOT agree on the same points.
Being a designer and a photographer enables one to take criticism positively. This is one thing I have really tried to learn.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Inspiration de' Henri.





Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 --2004) was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism.

He is one of my idols !

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rhythmic Dance of Aesthetic Expression

Reflections from McCarthy and Wright: Technology as Experience.
Have you ever felt the adrenaline rushing through you in a movie.. or the sound of silence falling into the valley.. onto to rise into a crescendo, only to fall back into an inquisitiveness... that slowly slowly catches you.. comforts you.. and then .. then there is the sudden jerk of emotion again .. and the cycle keeps repeating itself again and again... You keep moving from one an experiences to another... In the end you say .. What an amazing Experience! Movies after movies , roller coaster rides after rides... and photo exhibitions after exhibitions..

Here we talk about the Rhythmic Dance of an aesthetic expression. Dewey previously mentions about the rhythms of life, tensions and releases of engagement, and feelings of vulnerability in the face of our own needs and desires. Thus "rhythmic flow of life is the basis of our experience of meaning and value in the world."
Basically there are four components to it. It has an internal, dynamic structure. Its called the Cumulation, the Conservation, the Tension and the Anticipation.

Roughly Cumulation is the build up of the experience in the absence of a priori information about the experience. This is a build up over time. The human capacity of deriving meanings over things increases in a temporal flow. Cumulation is a thing of the past, leading to the present. Without such a build-up there is no fulfillment and without fulfillment there is no aesthetic experience.

Conservation is the tendency to hold onto the some of what one has gone through before, in-order to make sense and a better experience of what is in present. Conservation is in the present. This takes cues from the past and is creating the experience along the present. An example for this could be you enjoy a particular kind of music more, if you have listened to that music before. Like say Jazz music.

Tension is where the fun begins! This is where movie makers make most of their money! Music invariably plays an important role in the tension. Tension refers to both the opposition of energies within the experience and between the people involved in the experience. Any resistance prevents immediate discharge and accumulates tension that renders energy intense.
Thus tension appears from this compressed energy that is seeking release. And when they try to do it, another form tries to block it. This struggle is the cause of tension. Analyze it this way, say in a movie, you are in a state of conservation.. enjoying the experience of the plot, and suddenly there is a gun shot. For a moment, you freeze.... its may be instantaneous, that time may be in milliseconds, but for that instant the hard pounds an extra beat. This creates that struggle within the energies that were already there with the experience you were having.

Then comes the anticipation. As one would guess, this is for the future with the knowledge of the present and the future. This thus occurs in two temporal phases. The first one occurs before the aesthetic experience is taken pace, and the other during the aesthetic experience taking place. Thus there is an expectation build up in this. When that expectation is met, the past is conserved as if the anticipation is molded into the experience itself. When it is not met, the conservation is breached. Often this would also lead to tension and then further lead back to conservation.

Thus, as Dewey says, a rhythmic dance connects aesthetic experience to its history and circumstances. This dance involves a continuous interplay between the past, present and future, each shaping and renewing the others.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Analysing Photographs

One of the things I have often wanted to during a photo-shoot is analyze why I enjoy doing it. After the past few readings on experience, I definitely feel I have some answer to it.
Now, I have traveled wide across India doing photography and had similar interesting experiences over and over again. One of the shoots that I recall well is the street photography on the streets of Kolkata, India. I had always wanted to find an answer as to why they call Kolkata the "City of Joy." This album resulting from the photo-shoot is a result of that quest.

Kolkata 2007

Everywhere around me when I am clicking I am seeking to get a good experience of doing the act. I try to capture the elements that would at a later stage give me as close to the same experience I had while clicking it.
Freshen Up

There were many factors that lead to the overall experience. Each moment that was experienced was expressed in the form of a photograph that can be said as an expression of that instantaneous experience. Today whenever I re-look at that photo album I am able to relate to the time I had, and the experience I had. For every shot I took there was a story associated with it and it was these individual stories or expressions that made up the entire experience a memorable one. These stories which are culturally constructed expressions, would be beneficial in a person recalling the experience, as well as to the people who are not familiar with the culture.

These photographs allow me to make a better sense of experience by virtue of connecting of the cognition (of what's there in the mind from the past), the feelings associated with it (the present) and also the expectations (the future).
After analyzing each photograph in the album, one is transcending the narrow sphere of experience by interpreting the expressions, as Dilthey would put it. These expressions (photographs) consummate to the overall experience of the city, as seen by the outer self and perceived by the conscious or the inner self. Here each photograph is a story that has a beginning and an end. These multiple expressions transcends together, in a temporal flow to give us the experience.

Smile

These stories presented in the photographs touched the heart, and hence we could call it of an inner felt experience. It is a testimony to the lived experience, as Dilthey would put it. The elements in the frames, the aesthetics associated with each frame compel us to have the “an experiences” in a similar manner across viewers. In most of the cases the expressions here would be the same.

The ability of photographs to be more powerful than a narrative, results in we being able to identify the context better. Photographs do a better job in trying to re-showcase the reality and an indication of the experience had. The elements in the photographs allow one to interpret the experience in a similar manner by different subjects. (I am actually trying this experiment with the online group of photographers I interact with.)

3 Kalis and a Shiva

Thus the photographs here are the reminiscence of the existing conditions in the city. Kolkata is also known as the City of Joy, but when one visits there it’s hard to find the joy in the experience of visiting that place. Through these told expressions (the photographs) we are trying to present a reality (of what is there) of the situation as was experienced by the photographer.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bloomington Startup Weekend

This is an interesting concept that has had me amazed recently. A group of people, get together over a weekend and build a company from the scratch, and launch it by the night before the weekend ends.
The one in Bloomington is to be held on the Feb 8-10th Weekend.

Read more about this here. Bloomington Startup Weekend
The idea is catching up and there are many places in the US and also in the other parts of the world where this is taking place.
The crowd composes of many kinds of people from business to technical to design background and I am so excited about it.
This is a unique three-day experience, Startup Weekend brings the best and brightest people together in a local office space to select the concept, break into teams, and develop the product, marketing and revenue model.

There are a few tickets left. They cost only 20$ and is definitely worth the experience!
You can purchase them here

This would also be a good way to put into the knowledge gained in the Entrepreneurship in Informatics class.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aesthetics

We all have a general conception about aesthetics.
In common terms, it is something that is appealing, an epitome of beauty, a piece of art, or more broadly something that gives us joy.
It is contextual. It deals with balance and co-ordination, it is a consummation or a closure.
Aesthetics is a subjective responses to the things we consider beautiful.

Wikipedia defines it as :
Aesthetics
is commonly perceived as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on art, culture and nature."Aesthetics is a subdiscipline of axiology, a branch of philosophy, and is closely associated with the philosophy of art. Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world.

So anyone would agree to this.
Now we know that there are some things that give us joy and that is not visible. There are somethings in life that makes us smile. Thus, can we classify these things as aesthetic?

Do things that are unpleasing to us not have aesthetics? What about a photograph of a war?
Is there a thing called the negative aesthetics?
Negative aesthetics are those that evoke negative emotions amongst us. This could be sorrow, pain, disarray, hatred, grimace etc.

Also there is something called the anti-aesthetics. Now this is something that is not aesthetical, but neither negatively aesthetical.

So when we talk about experience, we generally talk about the pleasurable experiences and hence the events are remembered for long. However, a nightmare, is equally reminiscence of the experience. An accident in an event that would have otherwise lead to a pleasant experience. The mind constantly aims to forget these things, but the very sight of any connecting element, reminds one of the bad experiences had.

Happens in movies.. You let out "an experience"s every-time you see them again and again. These incidents happens frequently in life as well. One small incident in childhood leaves a mark that haunts for life.

So when we think about experience, why do we always think of only a positive experience? As experience designers we are constantly trying to design for the positive expressions.
Is there a way in which using negative aesthetics, one could build up to a positive aesthetics and in the end result in a positive experience (suspense movies, horror flicks) .
Does a roller coaster evoke a negative emotion in course of its travel, and then when one has completed it, the overall feeling is of accomplishment, which is again a positive experience.

How the balance is reached between the two is important. It is imperative for the designer to be able to create the positive experiences in the end. After all who would not like to see more smiles on faces!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Genuine Compassion vs Personal Ambition

One of my photographer friend asked this question: "I have noticed many many photographers after a point seem to be sticking to some basic themes." like
Old people, people in old age homes , dying people, AIDS patients, child workers etc .
It seems to me that to be considered as a 'serious photographer' you need to touch upon this syllabus at least.

Is the above statement true? I personally don't think so.

Being a photojournalist is not easy ... Its a lot about being involved in the things you see around you....This involvement could lead to disturbing thoughts at times.. I had this feeling once when I had shot this image
It haunts me...
and every-time i see it.. I have the same haunting feeling.. I remember not shooting for days after that ... Many lives are changed because of the photograph. That one shot could give a photographer his stardom, but at the same time it also could end up in getting help for the subject and the surroundings. More often than not, its that one photograph or one shoot that changes ones life forever.

I have been so influenced by this person James Natchwey.. that I am again bringing his name up.. have a look at this TED talk
from the timeline 00:48 to 02:53 especially.

In another of his talks, he says this
The worst thing is to feel is that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. Its something I have to reckon with everyday because I know, that if i ever really allow our genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition; I will have sold my soul. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person's predicament. The extent to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other and to that extent I can accept myself."

The one thing that I really like about being a photographer is the fact that your vision changes. This could be for the good things, but could be the sad things as well.
You tend to become aware of your surroundings. There is certain level of association that you develop with the things around you. Being a photographer I feel its important to be aware / good at both extremes of things around us...

Any art form is known to generate a expression in a viewer, as discussed in the previous blogs... and numerous of those expressions combine together to form experience. Many a time we often tend to denote the beautiful things as being aesthetical and we tend to enjoy viewing it. Thus aesthetics becomes a parameter that invokes a positive feeling. However what about a war photograph / aids/ street children? Does it not evoke a feeling? There is .. only that in this case its more of a negative feeling.. feelings of sorrow, remorse, pity and a sense of feeling bad.
This feeling also cannot be neglected and one cannot capture any of those essence if one is not prepared to undergo those feelings.
So are these photographs not aesthetical ?
A photograph of a flower is aesthetical but so is a photograph of a Afghan girl and equally aesthetical is a street photo by Henri.

I like what James Natchwey mentions in his site called Witness
"I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

Being a photojournalist is not easy. Its a way of life. Being able to feel the same pain is an essential entity. Thousands of photographers attempt the themes as mentioned by Vinayak, but i am sure most drop out.

There is another aspect to it. There are many who would argue... that in those places there could be an atmosphere of positivity, and one could try capturing that. Its like trying to find the smiles in the sad faces...But we all know... as photographers we tend to bring in exactly what is mentioned above...i.e. ..the whole debate in our minds about the genuine compassion versus the personal ambition.

Photographers who go on to become world know would have perhaps put their genuine compassion over personal ambition. Again its important to mention that its not that only the war / aids/ poverty etc photographers become famous. We all quote Ansel Adams frequently, wonder how many pictures of sorrow he took in-order to become famous? And do we know him by that ...

This "genuine compassion" can be for flowers or people or war photographs.
Buds of Desire

In the end Photography, as all agree is that its subjective.
The human psyche is such that it tends to develop an interest in unfamiliar things. What slowly starts as a inquisitiveness to capture the world we are unfamiliar of, becomes a thing that could end up changing out lives.
This develops into a compassion and then into a determination to show to the world a thing that we feel and showcase our felt experiences through the medium of photography.

The point I am trying to make it, as long as that compassion is maintained, I think its SERIOUS enough.

Photographs have the power to change human lives. I am sure it would have done to many of us already. Photographers have this unique vision within them to show to the world something that they are not aware of...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kinds of Experience

Analysing Bruner's Anthropology of Experience.
So, which was the last movie that made you go wow! That was an amazing experience! For me it was "Taare Zameen Par", directed by Aamir Khan.

Which was the last photograph that you saw and made you go wow! This is great photograph. This was a series of photographs that I saw from the movie War-Photographer.


When was the last narrative that you read , that made you have a good experience?

Well... i am sure you would agree that the degree of experience is not the same in all of these. Most of the people would say that the movie watching is perhaps the best experience amongst all. I agree to that as well.

So getting a bit more into the anthropology of experience, we try to analyze why this is the case. Why a movie makes me go more wow as compared to a novel?
The answer lies in the way we define reality (what is there is there... ), expressions (how individual experience is framed and articulated) and experience (how the reality presents itself to the consciousness).
Experience is valuable only if its affecting the inner consciousness and that affect stays with us for long. Expressions or an experiences are short lived and we tend to get over it soon.

We know as discussed, that experience is a collection of a group of expressions or the "an experiences". Anthropologists and ethnographers aim at experiencing the cultures and look at retelling in their words. This often leads us to believing what they say. However,
there is a difference in the life lived ( the reality) , the life experienced (the felt) and the life expressed (the told).

Now there are two kinds of experiences. Felt experience and the Told Experience. More often than not, these two fail to match up. This thus, results in the an indifference in the way we interpret the experience and the way the person narrating the experience tells it. As Kapferer puts it, "I do not experience your experience, I experience my experience of you." This means that the actual experience of the thing is lost.
There are also some inexperiences that are called the inchoate experiences i.e. the experiences that we are unable to understand. Like many a times we say, I feel good, but don't really know why we are feeling good. These experiences are the ones that are the most often left out in the process of retelling and narration.

Quite often we tend to confuse between the experience and behavior. Experience is more personal, whereas behavior is what some outsider describes. Experience thus is more self referential. Therefore it is concluded that experience is also subjective.

Which brings me to my question!
How can we as designers of user experience, create designs that are objective in experience? How can we remove the element of subjectivity and try to look into a common thing amongst mind of users across a demographic, who will experience the design in the same manner in which I as a designer am experiencing?

There have been different ways of conveying experiences. The oldest way was perhaps Narratives. (Rosaldo, Bruner) This was often in the form of speech or written text. Story telling also forms a part of the narrative. However, if an incident has occured to the narrator, there is often a case of over emphasizing a certain chapter / portion in order to enhance the experience while saying it.
However, the narrator fails to understand that in the absence of an imagery, there is a picture in the mind of the listener that is constantly changing. Thus, the felt experience of the listener and the told experience of the narrator is not the same.

However if the context has been set, if the images (Fernandez, Kapferer) are used to give a clear indication of the culture in which the enactment had taken place, the listener (user in case of a design) is more likely to develop a better picture of what is being said.

And when this is attached to a movie, where we not only have a cultural context prior set, but also some parameters that help in increasing that experience. There is an enactment (Stewart, Babcock, Schechner) A movie is composed of those numerous expressions or say numerous moments of an experience. A movie makes us go wow, because these expressions are not just a collection, but a proper connected timeline of whats going on. This consummation of experiences over a period of time when presented to us, increases the felt experience thing and hence we get a better experience.
In a movie the reflexivity (Gorfain, Boon, Myeroff) factor also plays an important role. Here we couple the frames with our reflection with our own interpretation and hence the experience is enhanced.

As Kapferer puts it, we transcends individual experiences through the participation in the cultural expressions. While watching a movie, we are so deeply engrossed and our mind is full of these expressions, that we forget completely what is outside. This engrossment further enhances the overall experience.

Movies are thus, a field where the art of creating experience has been perfected!
It is now completely understandable why I watch so many movies!

Its for the experience!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Expressions and Experience

Readings from Dewey's Art as an Experience and Bruner's Anthropology of Experience.
One of the things that is really important and perhaps necessary for us to understand is the theory behind creating an experience. As interaction designers we are constantly seeking to create designs that are going to give our users (humans) a better user experience. This thus means that everything needs to be joyous. Experience has a aesthetic quality and when we say a good experience, we mean a good aesthetic value to it.
There is a difference between the experience and "an experience". When we say an experience, its the significance of an instance of time when we felt that way. Experience however is
For example if we say that this lady in this picture:
Mother
On interacting with a person, when you say a joke, or say give a momentary joy, its called "An experience". Its a function of time. It has a beginning, a maxima and an end. It is very mechanical.
Experience on the other hand is a consummation of multiple "an experience"s.
Thus when we see a movie we are able to remember of "an experience". These "an experience"s are called expressions. In-order to have an experience its important that there is a satisfying emotional quality because it possesses an internal integration and fulfillment reached through ordered and organized movement.

Being creators of experience we often tend to design taking into consideration our experience. This is highly mistaking as experience is a subjective thing and varies from one person to the other. However, on the other hand we should be trying to design in a manner that the experience of the users will be the same as the felt experience of the designers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Photography as Information Visualizations

When you look at Photography, do you see a transfer of information? Like you being the story teller trying to convey a story or a piece of information to an audience. How about thinking of your photographs as a source of data. Scientific photographers constantly try to achieve this by virtue of photographing things at the minutest levels, where they try to surpass information.

The following talk is by a Scientific Photographer,
Felice Frankel's Envisioning Science: The Design and Craft of the Science Image who on a grant from the National Science Foundation, did a book that the slides are now made up of.
Its a long talk, but quite interesting. I was glued to it!
This was a part of a talk that we saw for my Info Viz class here. I love it when she ends the talk on :
"Picture Making should be a part of the Vocabulary." Think about it!

Also today, I was doing an exercise on how we can use photographs to show valuable information.

C for Chicago

I would like to showcase is this photograph of the Chicago city along the Lake Michigan. The roads that are more lit have more traffic over it. All portions of the photograph have been exposed for the same time. Thus the more conglomeration of spots on the left indicate the high traffic zone. There is an area on the right, which is completely dark. This indicates the absence of any people / traffic there hence showing an uninhabited land. The left portion of the image, where there is more light spots show the areas where there is inhabitation. This kind of visualization would be extremely helpful for flights, which are crossing the area. An indication of a water body is further enhanced by the reflection along the pier.

Similarly thinking of photography as a tool to represent data can be exciting. What we see in the talk is the use in the case of a scientific context, however I feel the same can be applied to other fields. Some of the fields that i find this being applicable is the street photography (showing patterns in crowd movements, traffic snarls, busy locations) and then in nature photography (showing the patterns in nature).

A pretty exciting field when I think about it this way.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Apple and Design

I recently came across this post... And I found it well written and perhaps an answer to why Apple products sell well! A very well written article and worth pondering over.

10 things to learn from Apple

Excerpts from the article...
There’s no need to restate the high reverence (or pangs of envy, depending on where your loyalty lies) of Apple. They have innovated, floundered, and in recent years, risen from the ashes to make one hell of a run in computing and electronics devices. Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that they are adored by their fans. Their brand has reached that highly sought-after place in the world of marketing: they can do no wrong.

So how did they get there? Is it dumb luck? Or are they just much smarter than the rest of us? The most common reason given is Apple’s rabid devotion to design. That is, without a doubt, a key component of Apple’s success. But I think there’s more to it than that. Here are ten reasons why I think Apple is so successful today, and what we can learn from them

.
..
Now I love Apple products but not necessarily that I find them the most usable, but they have something more to them than just design.
It's a lot to do with the three kinds of design that Don Norman talks in his book Emotional Deisgn, namely the Visceral Design, Behavioral Design and Reflective Design.
One interesting example that Norman gives in his book is about the not-so-usable kettle for his morning tea, but still prefer to use it because of its form and other features.
The chapter where he discusses these three kinds of design is a must read! I find it so true with the facts that he mentions in the chapter and what is applied at Apple.

Recently I shifted from Windows to Apple. Initially I was pretty uncomfortable with the usage but now it seems set. I guess here it is more of being used to the system and creating a mental model of the softwares that one uses. Over a period of time a design pattern is set on the user's mind. If we go by this argument then all design will be a success over a period of time. But this is not the case.

One of the things that I recently am having trouble in using is the Master lock, that opens with a number combination in a particular order, through a combination of clockwise and anti-clockwise rotation.

I have nothing against it but yesterday I spent almost 30 minutes trying to open it and still I find it difficult to use it. This product definitely over a period of time is not going to give me better user experience. However, there are people who open it in seconds!
Perhaps I will get used to it someday soon!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Waves of HCI

This is perhaps one of the important things that we need to know as an Interaction designer. The waves of Human Computer Interaction.
This is a precis and some of my understanding from the paper "When second wave HCI meets third wave challenges" by Susanne Bødker .
Roughly classified as the 1980s-first wave, 1990s-second wave and the 2000s-third wave and possibly a 4th wave in the 2010s.

So the first wave HCI dealt a lot with rigid guidelines, the testing of the guidelines against the products. There was a strong focus on the user and the user dimensions. Thus the fields like Human Factors and Ergonomics were the guiding forces. There was a notion of uniting everything on the desktop. The notion that the desktop is where all the work takes place and that everything on the desktop needs to be for the person using it. The machine centered notion was in place and almost everything was defined in this context. Things like usability testing and experimental psychology came into the picture where the emphasis was on the ways in which the users were able to complete tasks and what were the cognitive aspects behind performing each task.

The second wave turned out to be more context specific. The context played a huge role in the design of things. This was where the focus shifted from the desktop to the workspace. The office and the places around where the people did all the interactions with the computers. The focus also started to shift towards computers that were not a part of the desktop interactions.
The focus was now on "Humans" rather than "Users". The stringent boundaries between the workspace and the non-workspace started being discussed in circles and also emphasis on trying to design for the workspace. These boundaries were later to be broken in the third wave.
Here we also see the emergence of the design-as-a-science paradigm. The focus here was on methods too but it was too much rationality oriented. There was a seeking for a proper rationality behind everything that was done. Participatory Design became famous owing to its involving the users in the design process so that the contexts could be well defined.

In the third wave, the current wave, there are a lot of challenges. One of the most important of those is the role of the user, the humans or better to call the Actors. The roles that the humans now play in the design process is more than what it used to be ever. There is an emergence of the design-as-an-art initiative. But on the downside of it, many fear that this may well lead to design becoming too art oriented. Or as is mentioned in the paper, artsy-fartsy.
The focus in the third wave seems to revolve around cultures and ethnography. There is a non-rationale approach to design being adopted at times. The domain of looking is now expanded to a wider area that now covers homes, leisure places, homes. The whole aspect of tying emotions to design is really hot and forms a major chunk of the research.
interaction design is now no more seen for a single mediator (like the desktop as seen in the 1st wave) but as from multiple mediators. This I believe has a lot to do with the expansion of computers to a wider range of applications. The context is not so well defined in this wave, because it is not sure in what form the user will be interacting with the interface.
As a designer, it now becomes imperative to focus on the "lifeworld" and the gamut of our design space is large. Now everything around us revolves around design.

A possibly 4th wave could be coming where the user has completely different says in the whole design space. The whole aspect of the users defining the content like the Facebook, the Flickr, etc could form a major part of what would be termed as the 4th wave.

In the end as a designer, we should all remember and constantly try to answer the question, how is my design going to change people's lives. Is it going to be better? Or worse? Ultimately, we should ask ourselves... will the design bring about a smile to the people who will use it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary

Just heard news about the death of Sir Edmund Hillary today. He was the first person to climb the Mount Everest along with Tenzing Norgey.

(Photo Courtesy: The Auckland Museum website)
I remember meeting him in 1997, back in Darjeeling when I was a student at St Joseph's, North Point in class 10.


(Photo Courtesy: The BBC Website)

He was perhaps one of the first world famous personalities that I had seen and shook hands with. We as class ten students were given this privilege that we called the "Tenners Privilege" to greet and welcome him to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, where the body and soul of his partner, Tenzing Norgey resides.

I remember standing along side the roads, waving the flags, and he walking to the gates greeting all students and people along the way.

A very humble man who of all things respected other cultures values and traditions.

May his soul rest in peace.
Amen.

Taking Joy in what you do...

One of the things that I truly believe is being a designer is about being passionate about life the way it is.. and also the things around us.. This all boils down to taking pleasures and joy in what we do... and this will only come if we are passionate about what we do..

One thing i really like is traveling and i was recently at the Grand Canyon...
Oh Boy! What an experience! There I stood against one of nature's most amazing wonders.. The millions of years of wind-work.. the rains.. the snow.. the forces of nature showing its prowess...
The breathtaking view that it provides is a sight to cherish all through life.. Its one of those places that you would want to go again and again if possible...
A wonder called Grand Canyon

This is one place where you could realize in a single moment how small we as humans are ...
What helplessness could mean if one were to get lost in here...Suddenly a thought strikes that no matter how much advancements we make in technology... mother nature is watching us.. and we can be reduced to dust in just one blow....
Red Canyon

The ride on the Pacific Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles was nothing short of inexplicable..
The blue ocean on your side as you make your progress on the roads.. is wonderful.
The miles of visibility of the winding roads making you wanna reach out.. making you want to go on it forever and ever..
Morning Mist

The sunset is one of the best I have seen... the wonderful sky.. the lovely waters..
A Pacific Sunset


There have been more places and sunsets that I have covered as a photographer... but this time I felt I was more trying to enjoy the places that I was visiting.
The number of shots that i took were fewer... perhaps this time I was happier taking photographs with my eyes!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Rise of the Pro-Ams

This is an interesting talk about the value of communities in today's innovation. The whole talk about the communities and the users being the content creators and the ideas that they generate and execute! Interesting to hear!

Friday, January 04, 2008

About me...How much do u think is true?




What Kshitiz Means



You are a seeker of knowledge, and you have learned many things in your life.

You are also a keeper of knowledge - meaning you don't spill secrets or spread gossip.

People sometimes think you're snobby or aloof, but you're just too deep in thought to pay attention to them.



You are the total package - suave, sexy, smart, and strong.

You have the whole world under your spell, and you can influence almost everyone you know.

You don't always resist your urges to crush the weak. Just remember, they don't have as much going for them as you do.



You are truly an original person. You have amazing ideas, and the power to carry them out.

Success comes rather easily for you... especially in business and academia.

Some people find you to be selfish and a bit overbearing. You're a strong person.



You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing.

You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long.

You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start.



You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life.

You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home.

You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble.







You are incredibly wise and perceptive. You have a lot of life experience.

You are a natural peacemaker, and you are especially good at helping others get along.

But keeping the peace in your own life is not easy. You see things very differently, and it's hard to get you to budge.