technology

I wonder how modern “makers of things” understand how the “end-of-life product lifecycle” determines value, loyalty, and beauty? Do they account for the “end of life” experience of their products? Putting down Old Yeller (G5) this last week was an emotional experience. I have a 9-year old computer that I recently gutted, taking the first step to transform it into a nano-reef tank. I didn’t kill it because it didn’t work anymore – it ran just fine. My G5 lasted so long that I could no longer update it or run current software on it.

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.

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.

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.

I like old things – I like how they smell, how they age, and how they move, sound, and feel. An old possession of mine…

While attending the 2009 CHI conference in Boston, I encountered an interesting transportation ticketing system that used humans instead of computers. After four jam-packed days…

CAR DESIGN: Detroit is getting some things right – while screwing up other things. Now I can drive an electric car while increasing my odds of getting into an accident!