2010

I like to think of a language, as a system for encoding and decoding information. Technical instructions, poems, words and sentences relate meaning, in an agreed-upon system of understanding. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how languages, as systems of understanding, have limits and challenges. In other words, the ability to understand a particular concept can be limited by a specific language or medium. As I’ve tried to introduce some new interactive ideas and concepts in the past couple months, I’ve recognized that some of the resistance I’ve encountered has been a result of the languages that are used to encode and decode the sketches, wire frames, and mock-ups I’ve been presenting. I’ve come to realize that new ideas need new words to set them free.

Over the years, our society has constructed a “designer” paradigm where design is embodied and idealized – even romanticized – within an individual. Even today the discourse found in design communities and education supports design values of self-creation and authorship, focusing on the individual as the “keeper of creativity”. The problem with this view of design – is that it inhibits innovation and fuels society’s excuse that non-designers can’t create. Organizations that wish to be innovative need more design thinkers, not design keepers.

One could write a 500 page book on the drawbacks of the Kindle – a device attempting to redefine the paper-bound medium we’ve known for the last 1000 years… the book. The Kindle and Nook are devices that challenge the way we think of books and the narrative values they embody; this poses uncertainty in cultures that are made up of story-telling people. The Kindle will never be able to properly mediate narrative content that wasn’t created for it! Anyone wishing to really change the narrative experience through a new device needs to consider providing content created specifically for the new device and medium.

Contextualizing human judgment with automaticity can be challenging. Additionally, designing systems for judicial procedures, either human or computer-based, comes with certain risks which should be thoroughly assessed. I believe that one of the natural side effects of incorporating human judgment into system procedures, is that people find their jobs more challenging and fulfilling. Recently, while riding the bus to campus, I was reminded of the value that UX designers can add to an interaction by purposely including a human element, or human judgment.

Within minutes of it’s unveiling, the entire world began documenting the iPad’s unmet expectations. Most people saw an XXL iPod that didn’t have any bona fide qualities of a useful computing device. The lack of features and functionality were easily discerned by techno-geeks world wide, including myself. But Apple figured out a long time ago that computers were capable of embodying experiential qualities other than just “productivity”. People in the technology and business worlds never understood why someone would design or buy an enclosed computer that looked like a toaster or was missing “standard” connective ports; proving why Apple’s market share has never defined by units sold to the business world. While the PC world has been duking it out over large service contracts and anti-trust lawsuits, Apple has been selling cool.