design discipline

I spent a week in Switzerland last month for work – walking by shops, eating on it’s streets, and working in a building that overlooked a cobblestone plaza. In my off hours, I found myself wandering the streets exploring my surroundings. Upon arrival, I quickly became impressed with the strong quality of human scale that existed in the city where I was living. Everything from the streets, building size, and landmarks resonated an existence in harmony with the people that lived there. This is what I describe as human scale – a design quality of an experience, system, or device that expresses a strong sense of the creator’s own scale as a limiting constraint of development.

I wonder where we all went wrong – thinking that computers and making programs and services was really to help people, when it just doesn’t seem like it turned out that way. I used to be able to remember my best friends’ phone numbers. I could dial their digits in the dark. Now, I can’t contact a single person more than 4 blocks away if I don’t have a computer! Amid the cell phones loosing connection, and microwaves blinking with the wrong time, I recently found a silver lining in my computer world.

I’ve always believed that a good designer shouldn’t “work in a vacuum” – this design statement is often thought of as a pleasantry, but rarely becomes a mantra or philosophy of action for most designers. Reflecting upon this statement certainly yields insights that influence the way we design, and some designers may find that such reasoning challenges their predispositions of what “design” should be; if you shouldn’t design alone in isolation, then what should you do? If you’re a “design keeper”, such a question inevitably disputes your role as designer.

The increasing amount of digital capital in our society has helped designers move beyond the input devices of keyboard and mouse, and have revealed new interactive methods that are based on systems that claim to be more “natural”, “intuitive”, and “organic”… but how does our temporal expectations facilitate the user-experience when we interact with intangible content, abstract controls, and artificial feedback?

Design accountability is the idea that we design, test, iterate based on visual accountability – the stuff that we really put on paper – and…

Find out why most design programs fail at creating real designers and why designing without constraints isn’t designing – it’s just dreaming.

DESIGNING THE GOOD IDEA: What constitutes a “good idea”? Who judges it so? When does any idea become a good idea?