It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Review: _designing for interaction_, Dan Saffer

[Have to make this a brief review, as it’s not required for school nor work.]

In _designing for interaction_, Dan Saffer gives a concise and well-written introduction to the relatively new discipline of interaction design. This is the sort of book I’d love to see on a first-year design class reading list or in the careers section of a high school library. It’s also the sort of book that I’d give to any boss of mine that questioned the need to hire an outside designer for a project. (“Here, read this, then tell me if you still want to let engineering do everything on their own.”)

Saffer uses modern, popular technology (TiVo DVRs, mobile phones, web sites) as examples for interaction design or to illustrate his ideas. There are also a number of brief interviews with notables in the field giving their take on different design issues and concepts. These examples and interviews make the book more friendly and the reading experience is more enjoyable than the typical academic text.

Content is not sacrificed for accessibility nor is it dumbed-down for the non-designer. The basic framework and terminology of interaction design (and even design in general) are laid out in an easy to understand way. Terms or practices that might be unfamiliar to someone outside of design are clearly defined using plain English instead of design speak or computer jargon. Someone couldn’t go out and become a designer the day after reading this book but they would learn enough to lead them to further investigate interaction design as a career or to be able to make better decisions when hiring a designer or design firm.

designing for interaction, web site
O Danny Boy, Dan Saffer’s design blog

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posted by jet at 07:54  

Friday, September 29, 2006

Science Fiction or Design?

Something one can read either as science fiction or a twisted user scenario:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google

Los Angeles, 2026

Ted got busted because we do graffiti. Losing Ted was a big setback, as Ted was the only guy in our gang who knew how to steal aerosol spray cans. As potent instruments of teenage social networking, aerosol spray cans have “high abuse potential”. So spray cans are among the many things us teenagers can’t buy, like handguns, birth control, alcohol, cigarettes and music with curse words.

I tried hard to buy us another spray can. I’m a street poet, so really, I tried. I walked up to the mall-store register, disguised in my Dad’s business jacket, with cash in hand. They’re cheap, aerosol spray cans. Beautiful colours of paint, just screaming to get sprayed someplace public where everybody has to see what’s on our minds. The store wouldn’t sell me the can. The e-commerce system simply would not allow that transaction. The screen just went gray and stayed gray.

That creepy “differential permissioning” sure saves a lot of trouble for grown-ups. Increasing chunks of the world are just… magically off limits. It’s a weird new regime where every mall and every school and every bus and train and jet is tagged and tracked and ambient and pervasive and ubiquitous and geolocative… Jesus, I love those words… Where was I?

Full story at

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posted by jet at 09:56  

Sunday, September 17, 2006

It finally sinks in

Three weeks into school and my routine is well established:

  • leave the house at 0710, catch the 0730 bus, get on campus at 0800
  • dump all my crap in studio, go find some tea, head back to studio to do any last minute tweaking
  • start studio (design or drawing) at 0830
  • break for lunch, take one of my required, non-studio classes (Human Experience in Design or Japanese I)
  • head back to studio to do work or head home to do for-pay work
  • in bed by 2200 if I’m lucky, but usually it’s more like 2300

One morning last week, as I was returning to studio with my morning tea, I paused in the outdoor rotunda of Margaret Morrison and it hits me: I’m here. I’m actually here, in school at one of the top design schools in the world, and I’ve manage to survive the first three weeks of school. Ok, so there are approximately 125 weeks left before I graduate, and when I hang my work alongside that of my peers I begin to question the competence of whomever decided to let me in, but I for now I’m here. The classes aren’t as difficult as I feared they would be, but the amount of work to be done is pretty overwhelming. I can do this. Ok, I can do this semester, we’ll see if I can do the entire year.

While I was standing there kinda giddy and overwhelmed I finally read the entire inscription that runs around the inner frieze of the rotunda:

“To make and inspire the home; To lessen suffering and increase happiness; To aid mankind in its upward struggles; To ennoble and adorn life’s work, however humble; These are women’s high perogatives.”

If I substitute “design” for “women”, I think it’s one valid way to think about design — to make the world a better place starting with the most humble of objects.

(And yes, the inscription is sexist, then again our building used to house the Margaret Morrison Carnegie College where women could earn a degree in anything from Home Economics to Secretarial Science or Nursing.)

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posted by jet at 16:19  

Sunday, September 17, 2006

dorkbot pittsburgh, 21 Sep 06

dorkbot pittsburgh is back, meeting details at

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posted by jet at 15:32  

Sunday, September 10, 2006

When the Environment is the Enemy: Teague

Yet another surprise in the mail bag.

WTF? An expanded polystyrene (EPS) box from Teague? What manner of prank is this? Did someone I know get hired at Teague and put me on their elite client list? (Well, not too elite, it is made of generic EPS and not Styrofoam(TM) brand EPS.)

Um. Ok. A EPS box with a little booklet inside it.

A little booklet showing me their work in hopes I’ll hire them. I’m a software engineer by day and an ID student by night. Why are they sending me this? Did they send this to every student member of IDSA?

The box lets me know that it “can be recycled”. Well, lots of things “can be recycled” if you live in the right part of the world, but how many of us live in a place with easy recycling of block EPS? In the back of the book there’s a note saying I should call a 800 number or go to a website to find out where to recycle it, and that if I can’t recycle it, I can mail it back to Teague and they’ll recycle it:

No joke. Apparently I am either supposed to throw it away, figure out where to recycle it, or pay postage to send it back to Teague.

Looking at, the nearest place that takes EPS is 45 miles away. I should burn how many gallons of gas to recycle something I didn’t need or want in the first place?

Why not just send me the little booklet in a fancy little cardboard box? Or better still, not send me anything at all until I’ve expressed interest in their services? What’s the fully-loaded cost in terms of natural resources of developing this little piece of advertising and shipping it out to who knows how many people? How many of these boxes will get recycled? How much fuel was burned by the vehicles delivering these boxes?

Perhaps the actual content in the booklet have been better delivered to me via the web. The booklet is smaller than a CD insert so the type is very tiny and the spine won’t lay flat. Even if I wanted to read this it’d be difficult to do so.

Thanks, Teague!

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posted by jet at 10:05  
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