Weekending 19122011

On the Swiss front of the laboratory (Nicolas), there is progress on the game controller project. Laurent and myself indeed met with scenographers in Lausanne to discuss the upcoming presence of the joypad collection at the Swiss Museum of Science-Fiction (yes, there is such thing as a Swiss Museum of Science-Fiction) in 2012. We chatted about the way the controllers will be presented, a chapter I wrote for the catalogue of the exhibit and also a new visual representation to be displayed as a complement to the devices. It’s the diagram that you can see at the beginning of this blogpost, designed by Laurent Bolli. What started as a book project is now slightly more complex with various artifacts like these. It seems that we’ll also sell the poster with postcards. We have the outline ready and part of the book is already written but the design approach we favored lead to intriguing bifurcations: it seems that every opportunity we get to discuss the joypad history lead to some new viewpoint that we try to express visually. And this representation then enables us to get a different perspective on the topic per se. Hopefully, I’ll write during the Christmas vacation!

Apart from that, the week was also devoted to a day of lectures at the Geneva University of Arts and Design. Monday was about interviewing techniques in field research and the afternoon about user participation in interaction design (from user-generated content to designing “hackability”.) This fostered an interesting discussion about repurposing and hacking. Students argued whether designing something so that people can create new features/functionalities is different than letting extreme users hack a system. What we agreed on at the end of the course was simply that those are different kind of possibilities along a certain spectrum… which allowed me to highlight the work of Michel de Certeau and the importance of observing peculiar ways to repurpose things in the environment (food for thoughts for designs).

And finally, I spend the end of the week conducting a field study in the train between Geneva and Zürich. The point of this project is to explore the use of (light) head-mounted displays used in conjunction with cell-phones. I can’t talk much about this but we’ll make things public at some point, perhaps an academic publication if time allows it.

At the Los Angeles Station (Julian) most of the last week was focused on a workshop at the Nokia Advanced Design Bureau where we had a wonderfully intense two day Project Audio workshop with our friends Tom Taylor and Phil Gyford from RIG. That was great good fun and engaging. Working with friends from outside the bubble of Advanced Design provides a bit of a checksum on the work. That’s to say — facing inward and not nearly as public about what we do and how we do it as we should be (and could be), bringing in trusted, thoughtful, engaged partners helps validate or repudiate the design we may *assume is fab, but may or may not be. With them alongside, we were able to move from some axioms and principles that came out of our first workshop in London a month or so ago to quite tactical plans as to how Project Audio moves forward in the 2012. Some more thinking, lots more making and some things that are very fast moving and involve multiple other participants who should be engaged in the design and making work. In between those two workshops we managed to find a way to work across eight timezones — and realized that the tools for doing so are a bit broken.

In other news, questions still abound in the Executive Floor as to when and why to make things become real produced things and when things are best as props and prompts to help shift and advance what design does.

On the one hand, making a “real” thing can be quite viscerally satisfying. You can say — “Look! I *made that thing hanging there on that rack in that box. I *made something that is real!” I understand that motivation. And oftentimes making that sort of real thing in that sort of real world is necessary because that, ultimately is how you make money to buy bread, if you work at a place where revenue is made through paying consumers. That’s good. And maybe along the way you’ve helped make people think differently about what can be in the world because many people? Well..many people consider least common-denominator crap like Color Changing Digital Alarm Clock Cubes is as good as it gets. And all good advanced designers aspire to advance that assumption and do things like set new high-water marks in the realm of little things that make the world just a little bit better.

On the other hand, making theory objects, props, prototypes and MacGuffin’s have the effect of poking and provoking the practice rather than the consumer — they are effective as ways of changing design in a wider sense because designers are the audience. They are potentially infectious and pedagogical. Of course, it is guaranteed they are incomplete almost by definition — you’ll never get the thoroughness and inevitable compromise that comes with tooling for manufacturing or constructively arguing with “The Business” about what this is and who it is for. The design priorities are sanctioned by the priorities of getting something that goes to the larger marketplace and you end up with a diluted thing that does/teaches nothing. I guess my point is that the prop can teach and the “real” (eech) thing has the potential to be a sad, diluted thing that eats time and money.

Continue reading Weekending 19122011

Design Fiction + Advanced Designing + Trust in Volume Quarterly

The most recent — now a month or two old — issue of Volume Quarterly was on the topic of The Internet of Things. And within that was a small sub-volume of essays and articles on Trust compiled by Scott Burnham who has been running a project called Trust Design for Premsela which I understand to be The Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion.

((The Laboratory seems to be a recurring guest in Volume Quarterly. We were in one a couple of issues back — their issue on The Moon.))

Scott started his project on Trust just as we in the Advanced Projects (then Design Strategic Projects) Studio at Nokia were beginning a project with the same name and some of the same questions. One of our questions was to understand what Trust is and how Design can somehow illuminate where Trust exists and its paths and relationships. When I say “illuminate” the image that comes to mind is one of a special detective’s forensic UV light illuminating something under specific conditions that would otherwise not be seen. Or, in those weird 1950s era medical treatments in which a subject drinks some wretched fluid or is injected with something that shows the paths of digestion or the networks of arteries when shown under X-Rays or something. (Maybe it isn’t wretched, but the thought gives me the willies for some reason.)

In any case there were many facets of the Design work we did in the studio, one of which was this Alarm Clock which was meant to operate precisely in this fashion — to focus our attention on a simple interaction ritual in which we were forced to consider characteristics of Trust.

The essay far below below was my contribution to the Volume Quarterly issue.

But first..

There’s a thing or two to add as well, that have more to do with this particular way of doing Design — or Design Fiction. The process of *making these clocks — which were made out of plastic and aluminum and electronics and solder and all that — was only partially about the specifications that determined how those things would be configured. Beyond those pragmatic, specified things were the ideas we sought to force to the surface — the concepts that we wanted to make ourselves address and consider directly. The preposterousness of the interaction ritual that the alarm mechanism forces was a deliberate way of compelling us to think and talk and design for this ephemeral social bargain called Trust. There was no way around it. We couldn’t lose ourselves in the geekery of circuit design; or choosing a color for the LED numerical displays; of obsessing over compound curves in the industrial design of the thing; or fetishizing any aspect of the “Design” as it is traditionally understood — a material instantiation of an already-accepted and well-understood object. There’s not much movement these days in Alarm Clocks. They are what they are and the variations come in things like…size. Like…color. Like…brand. Like…AM/FM or longwave. Like…number of alarms. Like…style. Like…box-y or round-y. Etc. You get it.

You’ll get stuck with those sorts of boring variations if you think about Alarm Clocks traditionally. Rather, thinking *not about Alarm Clocks but about waking up, and the rituals around it changes one’s approach. All of a sudden, you’re mucking with tradition. You’re getting people upset. You’re not responding to the client’s brief the way they expected. You’re not just doing color and materials variations.

Pfft. So what? Well — looking at things a little sideways is, for lack of a better moniker, advancing design. Advancing it beyond the expected. Doing the Fosbury Flop for Alarm Clocks.

The other thing to say about the project is that the making of the thing — all that plastic prototyping; all that circuit design; all that figuring-out-of-colors-and-materials; all that CNC machining; all that figuring out of tool paths; all that figuring out of firmware and interaction algorithms..why was all that done? Yes, of course — to make the thing *work, in the plainest sense. But, more than that — it was all done to do the Design. The making of the thing is *also a way of doing the Design of the thing. We didn’t figure everything out and then said, “right. now we can make it!” The making was the designing. Assumptions and questions are raised. We interrogate our own ideas and create new ones, whilst making and building and handling material and trying out little scenarios. The peculiar nature of the clock was such that we had debates, one in particular was about what the display should do when the little keyfob alarm-buzzer part was removed to be given to a friend. I felt quite strongly that the display on the main clock should go off, so that you’d have to Trust completely the person who was meant to be your human alarm. Otherwise, you can wake up and check the time, which is an implicit way of not really trusting that human alarm person.

This was the bit of fiction insofar as a clock like this would be quite otherworldly. There would be a very different set of assumptions about how relationships work; about what waking up entails and what it is for (getting to a meeting on time; making sure the kids are ready for school; not missing a flight and all the weight and significance of what happens if you *don’t do these things when and what time they need to be done.)

It would be a very different world if we just *woke up when we woke up, rather than waking up to the same time nearly every day. It’s a slightly skewed universe that this clock came from, but it’s crucial to do this kind of design. Why? Well — it advances the realm of possibilities and begins one considering quite directly about creating new, more curious and sensible interaction rituals. It is also a way of advancing design — doing design differently; questioning and challenging assumptions not only of materials and colors and forms and such, which is good. But questioning the actions and rituals and behaviors of the humans, even to the point of something so seemingly absurd as waking up in different ways. This isn’t to say that people will want to wake up to other people knocking on their doors or shaking their pillows, but it forces a number of unexpected considerations and questions and new ideas that plainly wouldn’t come about if one just focused on different colors for clock displays or snooze button styles. Its a kind of advanced design that is able to engage in its topic by throwing out all base assumptions and free-fall a bit into a weird world and then *not allow the usual questions to arise. Sink into the discomfort zone and do some advanced designing.

How does the underpinnings of social relationships become a design principle? How does one design for trust? Can an intangible like trust become embedded in an object?

The principle that “theory” can be expressed in an object plays a part in this question. Substitute “Trust”, a kind of philosophical principle that is perhaps, in my mind, best expressed through exemplars that represent it, rather than the abstractions of philosophical discourse.

The topic of “Trust” presented itself in October 2008 with a tremendous force. The world rattled as global networks of “Trust” institutions collapsed on a scale that sent apcoloyptics scurrying for Old Testament passages consistent with the sequence of events witnessed across the globe. “Trust” became a keyword for these events as macro social institutions that were once “too big to fail” failed despite their size. These institutions that were once the bedrock of society cracked and dissipated and in their failure, revealed what Trust is, at its core. It is, of course – people and the networks of relationships that define what it is to be a social being.

In the Advanced Design studio at Nokia, we were curious about Trust and what it means. Trust is recognized as a core values of the Nokia brand. The worldwide events brought the topic to the fore and provided an impetus for a design-based experiment. Our question was — what is Trust and how could one design with Trust as a guiding principle? How do you embed Trust in the material of a designed object?

The project walked around the topic, building up the studio’s expertise on the topic through the Design equivalent of a “literature review”, both in the sense of readings as well as a more tangible equivalent. We collected essays and books and made things — objects. We brought in both internal to Nokia and external experts on the topic. A social psychologist talked to us about how ordinary people become extraordinary liars. We followed closely the daily events of the macro level systemic failures of insurance companies, banks, economies and entire governments.

Our goals were deceptively simple — to develop a set of principles that could become “actionable” and be “designed-to” in order that Trust could be embedded in the material of an object.

Amongst a dozen principles, one is worth highlighting and is best paraphrased and represented in one of our tangible exemplars. The principle goes something like this: facilitate the trust network — allow people to trust the people they already trust.

Our tangible prototype was, of all things — an alarm clock. We called it the Trust Alarm Clock. The design brief was simply to make an alarm clock that embodied the principle — an alarm clock that highlighted the idea that trust is a relationship between people. At the same time, it was a platform that allowed us to experiment with this simple principle. As you will see, it is an almost absurd object. But it was the response to the brief that we made, without questioning our motivations, but rather following our curiosity on the topic of Trust.

The clock is best described directly. It consists of two components. The main component is not unlike a conventional bedside alarm clock. The second sits nearly where one would expect the canonical “snooze” button of a conventional alarm clock. This second piece is a small, removable “fob”. When one sets the desired time to wake up, the fob is programmed with a digital count down timer. The alarm setting ritual starts when one sets the wake-up time using a dial on the back of the clock. While doing this, the fob timer is configured so that its count down would expire and the fob would “alarm” when the alarm clock setter would like to wake up. The ritual is completed when the fob is removed from the main component and given to a most trusted friend. In that ritual of handing over the fob, the network of trust is established and embodied. The “handshake” of the passing represents the creation, or the invigoration of trust in its most elemental form. Handing over the fob signals that there is Trust amongst this small, two-person social network. If one wants to wake up — or be woken up — one must first consider a number of things. Primarily — who do I trust to wake me up? Who would I want to be woken up by? To whom do I want to convey that I do indeed trust them?

Short animation of an interaction ritual.

We did not suppose that a bedside alarm clock like this has mass-market appeal. It’s a theory object — a way of questioning and probing and exploring the idea of Trust as made into this provocative material exemplar. In a way it is a bit of fiction, only not written, rather made as a physical object that compels one to think of the stories and “user experiences” that may surround it. The fiction is established through a provocation created through design practices.

Theory objects are like material instantiations of ideas — perhaps even our hopes and our imagination. Theory objects refract some social practice in a peculiar and hopefully thought-provoking way. They are “theory objects” in this sense, ways of shaping refining, refracting and altering social practice hopefully in a way that creates more habitable worlds.

The theory object is a way to think about “technology” as something that does more than utilitarian or instrumental. It is an embodiment of some sort of practice that is not outside of the realm of social action. In other words, the theory object is a social object — one that can shape and mutate social practice. Technologies are mutable. They can be what we need them to be, and shape how we experience the world and in that way, are social. What we are doing here is over-emphasizing this point by skirting around the usual assumptions about technology in order to make this point about their social nature more evident and obvious and provocative.

Why should we care enough to make this point that technologies are embodiments of social practice? Because we need to reveal the human hand in their creation and their possibility. Once we can see that people put these things together (and show this process plainly, through images and descriptions without secrets) it becomes possible to talk about how they could be different, or obey different laws and assumptions — possibly become more environmentally conscientious, or help us find playful ways to be more compassionate to mean people, or find ways to be kind to strangers (whatever..need some concrete examples, perhaps anticipating the projects.)

In the case of the Trust Alarm Clock, we were confronted with a rather exciting and unconventional direction for ways of waking up, which everyone does, with the regrettable exceptions, of course. The question evolves beyond *who do I want to wake me up, and who do I trust the most to, say — make sure I get up to make an unusually early meeting or airplane departure. Rather, through this theory object we were drawn into thinking about other *things one may wake up to besides the time of day. What sort of alarm clock might the near future bring that represents a trusted evolution of the waking-up ritual. Perhaps an alarm clock that allows someone in my networked social graph to wake me up. Or — are there things that I trust more than people in these circumstances? Somethings that are beyond the rather mechanistic and mundane ritual of waking to the time, which, after all — is not particularly exciting. Might the things that are more relevant or consistent with our connected age be what wakes us in the near future? In the near future, might we trust more an alarm clock that wakes us up when other people start waking up in order to facilitate that sense of being amongst a larger group of people who are also starting their day. Who are we to say that the now common ritual of waking to a specific time become as antique as luggage without wheels.

Weekending 12122010: Clarity via Complexity

Thursday December 09 17:50

A week spent last in the Nordic EU discovering the knots and twists and snarls and kinks of the imbroglio that goes along with executing on damn good design. On the one hand there was the work of workshops meant to work *upon the work; on the other hand, there are the traces that appear as — if illuminated by forensic investigators UV light — the trails of interconnected relationships, goals, aspirations, roadblocks, paths of hope, begrudging words, encouraging words, optimistic personalities and personality disorders, cues and clues as to how things work, or how they do not; who talks to who, and who does not; where things can get done, and where they will not, despite everything. Very intriguing. Certainly not unusual activities; just the analysis and awareness that comes with trying to understand, and that from the perspective of a science-technology-studies kind of person. It’s like being inside a Latourian analysis of the making of things. I should draw a map.
Continue reading Weekending 12122010: Clarity via Complexity

The Wall

Thursday December 02 09:48

This is an interesting paper called The WALL: participatory design workspace in support of creativity, collaboration, and socialization written about workspaces using various techniques to support creativity, collaboration and “socialization.” The paper describes and advanced design studio for a “Nordic EU” country and the use of a wall — in this case, a real wall, not a video wall or something like this — and the ways in which design work forms on, in and around the wall. This is interesting to me because of the direct opposite of typical assumptions from the world of technology where high-tech is often used — video conferencing systems, telepresence devices, and so on. In this particular studio, the wall becomes a place where work happens. Things that go up on the wall become projects or intersect or leak-into other projects.

The challenge in this particular study (two or three days of observation) is that the studio has a sibling that is a great distance away so the team is separated by space as well as a significant time difference. THe challenges in this case are to share the wall in some fashion — which is not entirely solved. Various approaches are tried — sending high resolution photographs, creating large format plotter-prints to create a facsimile of the wall from one studio to the other, etc. Some video conferencing can happen, but even this is only effective at communicating verbally because the persistence of shared images, sketches and so on is low — it is only around for the call. The bulk of the design activities happen with people together, in the same physical space, standing/sitting/couching/laughing at and near the wall. Casual encounters while walking by a team working on a specific bit of material at the wall can inflect and inform the work in substantial ways — even by members of the design team not directly assigned to a specific project. In fact, it sounds like every member of the team is working on every project to one extent or another by virtue of the fact that the projects wrap around the studio on the wall. Walking by representations of a project can spark an insight or ideas for other projects. Material from one stream of work can find its way into another quite naturally as the boundaries of ownership, share-ability, and so on are made permeable in a creative, productive way by the maturity of the team, the transparency the wall facilitates (everything is there), the rather flat-ish structure of the design team, and the implicit trust amongst the team (no one needs to be policed or watched; attendance isn’t taken, &c.)

Why do I blog this? I’m very interested in what makes creative, productive, advanced design/technology teams work well. This idea of the analog wall — a pin-up wall — is simple, does not need to be plugged-in, allows for sharing and viewing and collaborating.
Continue reading The Wall

Northern Nordic

Monday December 06 23:06

Monday December 06 13:27

Just a quick note to remind myself that I’m in the northern Nordic for the week, translating and workshopping and clarifying much of the work that has gone on in the studio over the last many months. It’s quite interesting to see how important the communication work is in the design process. Not so much showing as alliance building and enrolling people into something that is new to them and foreign in the sense that it has come from *outside — not their studio, not their work. But then — how do you make it theirs so that it becomes “ours” all for the common good. It’ll be a fun, wintery few days doing this. Always learning. It’s also intriguing to bring advanced design, which has humility as represented by the people who have done the work — into the more execution-oriented variety of design. It’s just design at the end of the day, different ways of making things better, each with their own assumptions about what it takes to do the work of better-making.

Continue reading Northern Nordic

Weekending 11212010

Friday November 12 12:22

Well, I haven’t done a weekending in awhile, partially because I was away in Switzerland (for the Swiss Design Network Conference) and then Italy and Spain on vacation and I almost didn’t take any kind of computer, but I did take an iPad partially as an experiment. In any case, I mostly read and photographed and walked and didn’t do any real blogging.

In the meantime, coming back I barely got home when I went off again for some friends’ wedding in Seattle, then back and then a drive down to San Diego for a team meeting with the larger international members of the Design Strategic Projects studio, which was good. We’re onto something here and if I could say more, I would. Aside from the substantial work, I’m also intrigued by the design process — mostly the translation of ideas into their material form as specifications for components and all that. I see it as a way of making the ideas legible in a specific way to those who have to make it. I should say that this is as you might think things work, except that they don’t normally when ideas are coming from advanced design, which in the past has been more involved in *vision or *concept work that rarely if ever becomes something much more tangible than a book, or short film or concept sketches. While I have been intrigued by that sort of work in the past, mostly because anything closer to the metal is often clipped in the expanse of its thinking, or is just ruled impractical or beyond scope — or whatever — now I found that it is difficult to translate, or get it closer to the making-of-things for a variety of reasons. In many cases, I think its systemic. By that I mean that it could be the case that parts of an organization are just completely unaware of another — or they don’t have the languages and linkages to communicate, or the mandate. That’s systemic or organizational. But then even when you do create the linkages you need to translate what might make complete sense in one studio into the terms and idioms of another, or into the language of code and software, or machines for making and fabricating. Whatever it might be — it’s a huge bit of work and in the process of doing the work, you refine the idea and iterate upon it, and learn from it when the gaps start showing, or when questions start coming in for clarity and refinement. Things that at one point you could ignore, or you didn’t even know about.

So — that’s what’s going on at this point. Learning about how to do advanced design thats relevant, rather than just sort of ideating or concepting or visioning.

I also went to Calgary Canada basically just for the night. It was cold. There was snow. I had to hunt around for my Patagonia Windstop, which I found just in a nick of time. And I wore sneakers, which was fine but I felt silly not thinking that snow meant more than cold. In any case, my hosts at the Faculty of Environmental Design had me up to do a talk for their “Design Matters” lecture series, which was fun. Another opportunity to refine some thinking, mostly editing together some new examples of science fiction film clips to explicate the conventions of design fiction.

Continue reading Weekending 11212010

Weeksendings 07302010 and 08062010

Friday July 23 12:01

Sketching in Hardware 2010

I can sum the last two weeks up briefly and, again — for my own record keeping. Nothing useful here, likely at all.

The week that ended on 08062010 had a couple of days off during which time I stayed here in LA and the super fun opportunity to photograph the X Games, ESPN’s blitz of extremely nutso sports.

The weekend before was the ThingM produced “Sketching in Hardware” event for 2010. It was held appropriately at the retro-future “Encounter” restaurant smack-dab in the middle of LAX. I presented a brief and generalized thoughts on the Design Fiction business. In the midst of it, I realized that this was an appropriate continuation of the previous three presentations at Sketching I had done. There was this theme of how making things is a way of answering questions, but pushing those questions beyond the pragmatic sort of prototyping — asking “wouldn’t it be cool if..?” and then answering that question by making something. I think this is a different approach from the more engineering-style prototyping which asks “I wonder if this put together with these other things will work?” The difference I was thinking about is that the former is closer to story, whereas the latter is more instrumental and less speculative. Or something.

I spent the weekend *trying to finish the 5000 words I was asked to put together for a keynote at this Swiss Design Network conference this fall. I think it sounds repetitive. I’m trying to find a way to write about design fiction genre conventions or, as Tim Dufree put it during the opening ceremonies for the Art Center’s “Made Up” summer studios “the lanugage of design fiction.”

Enterprise from Foam

Found during the studio pack-up! I think Andrew made this to test the new CNC tool-pathing procedures that were made infinitely easier with the Nikolaj’s hard work.

We packed up the studio so all our *stuff that had been hiding and unnecessarily accumulating so it could be moved aside for new furniture which was generally grumbled about before it even was installed for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with the inertia that settles around what you think is best for you because it’s already there and works fine. I straddled the line and, if I’m honest with myself, used the opportunity to grumble only because I felt grumbly. Now that the new stuff has been in for a week, it’s an awesomely refreshing change. No over head storage (grumble..sour looks..) means more light (aaaaAAAAH..unicorn-y twinkle noises..) and I can actually see across the entire studio (hip-hip-hooray! my other studio mates!).

Last week was mostly a week of trying to design UIs back and forth from UI principles. It’s hard work, as in bailing hay hard work and by that I mean I feel this delicate balance between knowing what’s right and hearing in my head the voices of people who might be, like..that? It’s all wrong. Where’s the Augmented Reality Door Knob we’re meant to have attached to the side?


I looked over the original Drift Deck notes and spreadsheets — I need, need, need to write up another 20 or so cards to bring the deck for the digital edition up to 52. No big deal — it just needs to get done.

I got some new Laboratory work gear to make for some of our associates for putting in work on the Laboratory’s projects.

The Choreographed City - Mona Breede

Wonderful book of photography by Mona Breede, also found (never lost, just made apparent from beneath the overwhelming piles of stuff and shelves of books.)

Why do I blog this? I missed the week before, so I’m catching up. And I find it extraordinarily useful to have this running log of what I’ve been doing, when and with whom.
Continue reading Weeksendings 07302010 and 08062010

Weekending 06272010

Thursday June 24 12:11

An amphibian podcast interview by Chris Sallquist for Frog’s Design Mind on Air podcast. Great questions. I saved the cheat-sheet for future reference.

Thursday June 24 11:02

Seattle. A scooter tucked away.

Well, well, well..no more phoning-it-in, as they say out here in Hollywood. If you’re doing it, do it til someone gets hurt. So, bulls taken by horns and all that with some promising conversations around the start of things for what will likely result in some defining design executions and implementations. It will be a curious road, working across worlds with teams who almost certainly do not see things the way we do, but — that’s okay. I wish I could say more. In the best of outcomes, it’ll be quite a tale someday.

Thursday was a trip up to Seattle where Dawn hosted me for a short talk at Frog Design, which means I also got to meet Jon Bell, who’s been working hard on the next edition of the drift deck and even though we didn’t get to work on or discuss it cause of the smash schedule, it was still swell to meet up. ((BTW, it was a rare 24 hour day, as my flight back was delayed a full 4+ hours, meaning I opened my front door at home at just about the time I woke up the morning before to catch the first flight up. *shrug*))

What else? Well — finished that essay for the 01SJ festival catalog and the notes are just now in for revisions, which shouldn’t be too hard seeing as it was quite short, and quite fun to write. Some discussions about writing an essay on design fiction for this curious journal called Volume Magazine. There was a bit of fun in the shop — nothing huge, really, but I want to spend more itme in there and absent something specific on mind, I laser cut a stencil for the Venice Skateboard and Surfing Association so I could put their mark on a huge cooler I got for them to keep at the park to keep stuff cold.

And I think that was pretty much it.

Continue reading Weekending 06272010

The Week Ending 050310

Thursday March 04 09:47

Man..was *that a week. No one’s counting, or probably even noticing, but I missed my weeknote from the week before — there’s a gap — so this is really a weeks notes. ((Now I’m definitely talking to myself, I know that.)) But it was all a strange, hopped-up, late-night-then-squeeze-of-port sort of blurofatwoweeks. It was all around developing sound, evocative, provocative poke/prod/converse communication around this Trust project. And it all went splendidly. Only I noticed the holes, skips, bumps and false-starts, so that’s fine. It’s the *auteur’s eye — ((stated with all humility)), but when you get to the point of such profound intimacy with 3200 frames of a short video, you begin to notice as no one else ever will. And, it was also two weeks of an incredible design team hitting on all cylinders without trying. So..there’s that.

So, preparation, making small movies which is way more involved than I would’ve *ever thought, especially given that they ultimately end up being maybe a minute or at most 90 seconds long. Pitifully tedious compositing work that becomes more tedious because I didn’t think ahead to how tedious it could become if you don’t take care of, say — one super small detail ahead of time. &c.

Why little movies? Why small little films? Well — the rough thinking is to communicate differently to engage good folks who are perhaps optimized for being talked to via PowerPoint. *Death by PowerPoint, is what one might say. And *Death by CAD renderings. The death of the imagination. What we want are things that start conversations — a clever idea, something that compels a discussion and encourages a new way of doing what needs to be done. It’s also, despite the pain of production which presumably gets better with practice, quite a good way to think and design and not just a means of communication. The process of being forced to tell a small, momentary story about a thing or an experience — it gives you special language powers and new perspectives, and visual metaphors to help shape and smooth and refine the thinking. Clearly — it’s not just the film itself which is the outcome of all that work.
Continue reading The Week Ending 050310

The Week Ending 021910

Thursday February 18 19:59

Well, another week, another set of tardy week notes..it only seems like sheer anxiety about not being diligent propels me and that only when the subsequent week begins.


It was a week of production of things related to project Trust; completing, debating, refinishing, redesigning as these things go, which seems classic completionist dyslexia, seeing as the next, next *done-by that we set was, technically, the end of February and already the calls are coming in to see it to help with whatever-whatever other thing someone else is doing that they feel could use a burnish or a braze from Trust. We’re genuinely excited to have these conversations — almost a dozen such over the next two weeks according to this scrap of paper with names, dates and locations.

In the midst of this, at this point is the curious letting-of-things-go insofar as the *intelligence or the *ideas in the project have been assumed embedded directly enough in their exemplars that actually figuring out what the ideas are, or refining them and so forth — this has gained little attention with a pure, slightly unnerving emphasis on the communication of them through small films, and a focus on the means and mechanics by which the communication happens. I suppose this is as these things go — for the writer in me (I mean this quite modestly), this is like the polishing and editing of the thought, with the thought and story quite well completed and beyond the point where major revisions can happen. If I can keep on this track of pure production, pure editing, I’d be surprised, knowing my penchant for rethinking at the last minute.

There was a short, two day trip to San Francisco to visit the facilities there and participate in an in-depth technical review, which was 2 parts engaging, 2 parts intriguing and 1 part exhausting. Communicating the experience of interaction touchpoints and *user (bleech..) journeys in order to feedback into the circuits of design, technology, logistics and accounting is something quite new to me, but something I genuinely want to understand and participate in, *only to know how design can shape an influence and be instrumental to the work that (a) engineers do; (b) software programmers do; (c) middling, junior designers do; (d) people under tremendous pressures with financial incentives calibrated to meeting some date in a calendar, um..do; (e) accountants and business people do..etc. ((This thinking calibrates with a talk Mike Kruzeniski gave at IxDA, which I hope to hear one day where he conveys this important, crucial notion that if you cannot make your design criteria, pattern, process, thinking — whatever — communicate to the sensibilities of the engineers making the stuff you draw in story boards, then you may as well take up horse shoeing.))

What also occurred to me during this workshop-y couple of days was the means and mechanisms by which one communicates *feedback. The spreadsheets and awkward photos seems positively medieval, which is not to register anything negative about the facilitators. I think we’re all meant to contribute to this new, new process of review and it got me thinking about another mechanism that is closely to small, short visual films (of course..it’s all we’re doing these days) that may be more impactful if less didactic.

Finally, a lovely close to the week — I sprinted off of the bloated plane from SFO, jumped into my car (becoming the mayor of Parking Lot C on Foursquare, in the process, much to the ridicule of *friends) and headed over to the Gadget OK! exhibition, talk, dinner at UCLA’s D|MA. Sadly, I missed Maywa Denki perform, but I did get to see the exhibition and buttonhole Tosa-san for our obligatory weird photo. ((More photos of the exhibition and stuff are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/julianbleecker/sets/72157623486756774/)

Thursday February 18 21:27