I like this thought from Martin Geddes of why video conferences have never taken off:

“Without having something to gesticulate at — other participants, a diagram, the window — you’re left limp and lifeless. So perhaps there’s a Superman-style blue backdrop screen type of technology that can re-insert those elements.”

Perhaps this is a job for EyeToy hackers, or those with an iSight, Quartz Composer and a spare afternoon?
Bonus link: some lovely Quartz Composer work at zugakousaku.com


Clayton Cubitt and Tom Carden collaboration

A while back I posted a link to the collaboration between computational artist Tom Carden and photographer Clayton Cubitt.

Clayton’s family lost everything due to Hurricane Katrina (which he writes about here), and he is now selling prints of his work, including some of the collaboration with Tom (above); in order to help rebuild.

I just snagged myself a Brooklyn scenetake a look and see if there’s something you like.

Cognitive Design Conference, Lubeck

At Hamburg Airport… I have been in Lubeck at the International School of New Media for the first “Cognitive Design Conference”. I have posted some raw notes, but I will go back and tidy, illustrate and summarise as best I can come the weekend.

This morning’s talks (day 2) I found especially stimulating.

For now, it was a pretty stimulating start to a discussion area that can’t define itself too well yet. Brain science? Neuromarketing? Semiotics? Philosophy? Branding? Knowledge Management? Visualisation? Interaction Design?

All of the above?

It was quite a curates egg as a result, but curates egg served with relish on tasty German wry…

They promise to do it all again next year, and I look forward to the iteration.

Cognitive Design Congress, Lubeck: Day 2: Soren Pommer-Hansen

A fairly interesting talk, but IMO ducked some major issues, e.g. the rise in discussion about design and ‘design thinking’ (!) in business circles. One of the questioners, Cathal McKee pointedly asked whether he could give the talk the other way round.

Soren Pommer-Hansen
Philips Global Marketing
“How to sell design to business people”

“Our brand is credibility – you can see it from the blue of my powerpoint!”
We asked consumers what our brand would be if it were a person: “middle aged slightly conservative european guy”

450 design professionals out of 164,000 employees
R&D = 11% of sales

like most big organisations, sometimes too much silo thinking – but – design can be a silo too – become inbred! lose ability to communicate to non-designers…

histroy of innovation, but perhaps not great communication behind it – lots of philips inventions are mistakenly credited commonly to sony (audio cassette, CD)

philips invented the ‘play’ button…

new brand positioning

Strong user focus

| | |
designed around you easy to experience advanced

all three of these sub qualities need to be in the product for it to go to market in order to meet the new brand promise: “sense and simplicity”

A mea-culpa on complexity – moritorium on explicit new features…?
people have little tolerance for error on existing understood devices: people donöt want their TV to bluescreen
improve and deliver on the basic promise of devices

business people and design people don’t speak the same language

business people (generally) talk about existing production capabities, markets and channels…

(quotes from manolo blahnik and tom ford… on slide about being realistic about design)

Even when designers and business people speak the same language – the rarely understand each other…

Lack of shared background, “absorptive capacity”, jargon
importance of gatekeepers having translation, diplomatic spanning role.

There are different starting points and little common ground between design and business (?)
collaboration is incredibly difficult in this case.

Where can we find the common ground?

Competing logics on how people (working for the company) see the company – but what does the customer want to see it the company as?

Designer needs to understand the marketeer’s view of the business logic and the customer’s view.

(I’m reminded of the Eames sketch of what designers should think – Soren’s view is missing the societal/global view though…)

Pitching a philips.com redesign: 4 simple messages to the business

websites aligned with all consumer facing initiatives
companies change, so must website (modularity)
success only when business objectives = user requirements
no true website success without constant measuring and evaluation

Value proposition of using philips design for website as given to the business:

understand the phillips brand, the processes of product creation
can use this to align all consumer interaction points: web with packaging, product ,POS etc..

Design seen as user scenarios with business case for each.
performance tracking around design, rather than subjective arguements and debate or design by committee = gradual improvement

Picture of website printout of a product in someone’s hand as they are in the carpark of bestbuy – everything on the site is about getting to this moment!!!

Relate all your points to user-value, and user-value to business value

make sure there are some facts to takeaway – don’t just look for emotional response in the audience to the design work…

Cognitive Design Congress, Lubeck: Day 2: Prof. Loe Feijs

Another interesting talk, on semiotics, product and experience design:

The structure of product semantics
Prof. Loe Feijs
Technical Uni Eindhoven

was in phillips research labs for 17yrs
involved in embedded systems / software
then Industrial Design research

functions: usability, performance
meanings: implicit messages
aesthetics: beauty, balance

more soft concepts than he was used to!

got intrigued by the idea of products having meaning

gets more important when enter a world of ‘ambient intelligence’ or ubicomp whatever you want to call it

implications for semantics:

beahviour: embedded software
dialog: 2 way meaning
complexity: mediation, abundant data, programmed behaviour

progress of product design over time:
design for
beginning – craftsmanship
industrial rev – mass manufacturing
(electronics =) formless functions
now / next – programmed behaviour

computing science and semantics

syntactics, semantic domains and equations…

product semantics: tried to find a theoretic frame work from semiotics and CS semantic theory

symbol: must be learned
icon: resembles hting it stands for
index: imprint or physical connection (smoke is a sign of fire footprints in the sand sign of movement)

mechanism of sign production (eco)
ratio facilis: reusing existing sign
ratio difficils: creating a new sign

tried to apply CS structures: ‘meaning functions’

m(sign)= x

Eco calls it ‘s-code’

not clear in product … need multiple meaning functions
too complex to say what is a car mean
can perhaps say what is a car optimsed for (space, speed, comfort)

interaction meanings – see work by djajadiningrat (affordances?)
fritihjof meinel – deconstructing design meaning in furntiture
meaning at individual level (materials, form)
meaning at system level (stackable chair systems form, lightweight etc)

“every product is a medium”

meaning functions become very interesting and powerful in the role of how a product mediates

triangular joints = strong
= part of a system

prof burdeck of offenbach – product language is becoming the kernel of design

not everyone agrees:
stappers ,delft: product semantics is stale…

Work of richard appleby –

examples from design history conveying ideas through product design… e.g. streamlining of steam engines/futurism, reitvelt/de stijl -purity, duchamp – importance of context, found objects/reuse in products , memphis style, alessi, stark squeezer – non functional form

linguists and semioticians

lanaguage is a system – meaning of the sign is in the difference to the alternatives (saussure)
wittgenstein – language gains meaning socially
chomsky – innate language rules
gibson – meaning of object lies in the world – perception is through action in the world
eco – a design system should be able to lie
mcluhan – medium has social impacts, extension of the senses – embodied
ovebaker – all the senses and emotions are involved
samuels – semiotic pollution
baudrillard – the nature of the real

gave all this to students and said – design a chair / telephone!

students responded well! e.g. the ‘semiotic pollution chair’, seesaw chair

combinatory chair – made of tetris block – illustrating chomsky’s theories of combinatiral primatives and rules that grow language – blocks that fit together to ‘grow’ a chair. (very cool)

icons, indexes and symbols that combine in the form/behaviour of the product

education: “4d sketching” : asking students to express behaviours, emotions through time
using microprocessors, etc to sketch behaviours in objects
e.g. Dolly (love) by Jan Hoefnagels: embodies sweetness / generosity in it’s movements to deliver the user a walnut…

not good enough to animate it on computer – believe we need to prototype it and make it real – it’s important to hear the noise of the servo motors!!!

knowledge types necessary: a lattice diagram (seems reminiscent of Irene McCara-Williams “10d” model which she presented at 2002 doors?)

0 to many

with 0 people there is still logic, maths, philosophy
1 person: human factors, psychology, material, embedded systems
>1 sociology, ehthography, politics

one product: ergonomics, perception ,HCI
many products: Manufacturing, distributed software

1 person, many products: feature interaction product interaction ,semitotic pollution ,telecomms, shared resource
many people, many products: everything + economics…

fractal structure of the knowledge necessary to create success

what is the postmodern engineer?

“we try and address in educaton and research those topics that bring the digital and the physical together”
the virtual and the real – create a rich environment

Some upcoming related events:

DPPI: designing pleasurable producst and interfaces, eindhoven 24-27th october
DESFORM: newcastle, UK: november 11th – design and semantics of form and movement

Cognitive Design Congress: Day 2: August de los Reyes of Microsoft

August gave a great talk covering branding, cognitive models and their influence on the future form factors of the PC:

The future of the PC
August de los Reyes
User Experience Manager, Microsoft

Windows hardware innovation and emerging markets – hardware features that afford new functionality (“new affordances”)

(shows BBC3 clip of the ipod butcher’s shop – from “2004 the stupid version”)

(shows clip of steve jobs dissing microsoft: “the problem with microsoft is they have no taste – and i don’t mean that in a small way, i mean that in a big way”)

msft misconceptions:

first reaction he gets when he says what he does: ‘there are designers at microsoft?’

from 3 designers who only designed icons, to 600 designers and usability people at microsoft today

77 open positions atm!

we don’t eat children or kill puppies or kittens

we’re not the borg

sometimes I wish we were – the borg ships are such a beautiful simple modernist expression…

shows picture of the homermobile instead…

we don’t get fired for using ipods.

one thing unites us, which is we are all passionate about technology

creative lead – visual design, branding

previously: msn – redesigns of homepage, my msn, msn search

Windows hardware innovation and emerging markets – hardware features that afford new functionality (“new affordances”)

design references… his boss came up with the scroll wheel

other mission: emerging markets: BRIC

reason why they are put together – the two extremes of the bell-curve, the role of hardware becomes increasingly important to the user-experience at both ends

semiotics systems of branding and symbols in the visual design of the products

assignment: “change perception of the windows PC – POSITIVELY!”

an emotional deficit with the PC

‘performance and quality are not enough’ – don norman / clayton christianson chart

raise the bar – so that user expectations and experience are excellent

if you only improve the engine in a car, don’t raise the perceived value. need to raise the user experience and brand experience to match

MSFT – some interesting structural challenges: August recently had lunch with the PM who manages the graphics for excel for pocket PCs – every feature has a program manager who is very passisonate about their feature. Can be challenging to maintain a holistic user experience – hence the picture of the Homermobile.

transforming PC to:

experience facilitator
people center
with you
life relevancy

need to change the form factor, so it doesn’t reminder people of work when they are at home.

worked in amsterdam for philips

phillips – most trusted european brand? (colleague stated this – he can’t back it up…)

was in ‘brand articulation team’

got into branding by accident – commuted everyday from amsterdam to eindhoven (4hours a day – read books on branding!)

marty niemeyer

brand is not a logo, corporate identity, product

it is a gut reaction

emotional, intuitive, non-rational, individual

if a company thinks they can control a brand they ar esorely mistaken – it’s in the perceptions of the beholder.

branding is hot because there is too much choice… not much differentiation around features and benefits

we buy on trust – gut reactions….

evolution of brands:
commodities – industrial revolution – trademarks (garanteur of quality) – post war boom of choice – post war birth of ‘aspiration’ – assocaiting product with related ideas – endorsement by association lifestyle or celebrity ‘donna reed kodak ads: buy this film to be a good mom’

from N. Klein’s ‘no logo’ : william morris bought Kraft for 12bn USD – paper valuation of assets was 2bn… then a boom in branding and advertising… when ‘nontangible assets’ were realised to be so valuable

then ‘malboro friday’ they cut they prices 20% to compete with generic cigarrettes -sent shoicking message to the markets that brand doesn’t matter, as malboro was the longest branding acitivity in the world…

two camps emerged: those who resigned to the commodification of their brands and another which August thinks emerged victorious – who emphasised brand experience.

all in the second camp have strong cutlures and experience centred – e.g. starbucks – eevrything has it’s own language ‘baristas’, ‘venti’ -have strong symbols – to the extent that people tattoo themselves with them (sigils!)

tommy hilfiger – is in the business of signing its name on other people’s designed and manufuctured products, implies the product is incidental…

experience adds value.

brand as belief has generated many theories – (refs red herring article with tens of definitions)

ideas like emotional value are not based on robust models…. lots of theories which are like folklore…

cogntive theory and brand

a brand is a type of mental model, representation

mental models have two aspects

coding: how we attain info
mapping: how we bring it to context

coding: sensory impressions, propositional framework – acts like a function – an ontology…
mapping: metaphor, metanym

metanym is key: where a part of something is used to represent the whole thing

in the aspirational age, branding was very metaphorical and aspirations: buy this film to be a good mom
in the experiential age: direct experience not proposition: e.g. BMW driving school – drive it on the race track for aday, then asked if you want to buy it

next, the transformative age:

1. buying something is a way of participating in a brand
2. people buy based on symbolic cues
3. symbols born out of experience have the greatest impact
4. experience that transform strengthn the power of symbols
5. an example of transformation is learning (e.g. go to a wine store that teaches you about tasting wine)

shows slides of playstation button symbols: metanym of playstation -very powerful experienced symbols…

shows sony clip ‘germidol’ – according to sony, only 3% of the audience see the playstation symbols in the advert – created viral buzz.. .the 3% were keen to explain to others…

another brand base on metanym: ipod shuffle… the crossed/twisted arrow shuffle feature icon from itunes… used to build an entirely new brand.

ok -back to our problem: changing the perception of the PC…

first thing August looked at was the software itself… Vista has 60 designers working on it.

metonymic translation into physical envirnoments – drew out all of the design descions that went into creating windows vista… tried to do metanymic translations into physical design…

do apple do it the other way round? i.e. start from the industrial deisgn… end up with brushed metal UI…

microsoft cant do that for obvious reasons!

shows MSFT scenario clip – home use… digitla home, digital family… lots of inidvidual and shared tablets, shared displays – big screen: windows home concept – with HP – no keyboards…. no mice… natural gestures…

Call it: Natural Computing

get cues from nature
the computing experience is metonymic to nature
camoflague – tech shoul harnes sits own power to integrate and disappear into environments
mold to the individual
universals like the golden mean and golden section

shows a picture of the ipod -it conforms to the fibbonacci boxes/golden section…!

monitors/TVs going to 16:9 – the golden section

resulting design trends:
restraint in the aethestic
elegant simplicity is sophisticated
when technology is brought into the home, they remind you of home – want technology to be in context of home….

end: shows startsomethingpc.com design comeptition promotional video – closing date is in 2 weeks…

Cognitive Design Congress, Lubeck: Day One:

Notes from the morning of day one of the congress. I didn’t manage to take notes in the afternoon as I was speaking.

Cathal McKee
Founder and creative director of CMK, Amsterdam
(was CD of Lostboys)

advertising everywhere


explosion of new ways to communicate
driven by technology

integrated media, integrated media
brands need to be more effective in this massive range of media…

return to look at communication/information theory (sender – media – receiver – feedback)

feedback interaction

all the above are being changed by media technology

ambient media

gave everyone at Lostboys a bike – covered in branding, to ride around amsterdam on…
gave 50 bikes to barcelona office… it’s too dangerous to ride the bikes here… so just chain them up… but they’ll be stolen… Great!!!

Blow-up children in the road to raise awareness of dangerous driving through a dutch town

personal media and branding

why is someone putitng themselves on ebay to get tattooed with the brand of the highest bidder any different from david beckham wearing a logo?
lance armstrong / “LIVESTRONG” wristbands

nuns in amsterdam asked an ad agency to sponsor warm clothing for the homeless… with ad campaigns on the back of them, which the nuns then gave out…

LED belt buckle

modern version of someone with boards on their chest saying ‘the end is nigh’?

digital media

blurring of commercial boundaries… internet forces transparency

mass amateurisation of advertising – converse are inviting people to make adverts for them which if they like them, they will put on MTV

new ideas
mailshot of “10% off”, “20% off” stickers from a store in holland… allowed to wander around the store and stick them on whatever you want to take to the checkout for the corresponding discount.

nike ID – mass customisation

in-game advertising…

augmented reality gaming

Nokia’s 20lives…

products that give continuous advertising
examples by Gro Design

anti-advertising products: tv be gone


is advertising dead? in the sense that candles are dead after the invention of the lightbulb… however you now spend far more on a candle than a light bulb… effectively death de-commodified it…

Hermann Maurer

Technological Dreams and Nightmares
an outlook to the (near) future

pc of 2012a

no spinning harddrive : massive solid state storage, no screen, no keyboard, no battery: fuel-cell or energy harvesting

eyeglasses delivering audio via bone-conduction
direct retina projection

changes how we use computers
input: speech, gesture, sensors/direction, brain activity

changes communication between people
rememberance agents… information retrieval during discussion

maybe this will empty our brains

from dawn of literacy: “he who learns to read and write, his mind will empty completely”

lost ability to remember, calculate, what next?

logical combination? thinking?

What will remain of us?

changing how we learn – we should look not at how elearning should be done… but WHAT learning should be done… what should be learnt, what should be retrieved from our powerful systems when necessary? (and again, what is lost?)

Changes humanity-

paper became an extension of our brain, now the PC and internet are also

what happens if there is catastrophic failure of these systems once we depend on them?

it is a miracle that a successful cyberattack has not happened. give a group of computer scientists 500m euros and the goal of shutting everything down, and they could do it.

interconnection of computer grid and power grid. a large, long power outage could stop the net.

if power fails for an extended period of time in an industrialised city, very quickly descends to a civil war situation

(his sf book ‘paranet’ describes worldwide breakdown of the net)

Some thoughts on how to avoid this:

need to support some forms of regionalisation in the face of overwhelming globalisation in order to foster redundancy against catastrophic failure of global networks (trade, energy, info)

“Balance or Destruction” by F.J. Radermacher
future increase in production is possible without further damage to environment – the growth must be distributed unevenly…

also – global marshall plan (google it)

Globalisation where necessary, reginalisation where reasonable

e.g. “asymmetric distance tax” based on GNP
increases stability through self-sufficiency
supports new redistribution of wealth
supports regionalisation and natural life
also holds for non-material aspects

globalisation is not just in material products – knowledge, media , information

more stability in networks / computers

radical apporach: give up john von neumann’s concept of computing – no distinction of data and programmes – no more bootstrapping
operating systems and basic software on chips. advantages – cannot be easily destroyed, more reliable.
would this improve the quality of software, as it’s more tnagible, and more costly to update?
write-once nature would challenge virus writers…

other approach – trusted computing approach

in a very globalised society we are very vunerable to breakdowns.


The Nordic digital crafter revolution continues in style…

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The Nordic digital crafter revolution continues in style…

Advice for bloggers, podcasters – and conference speakers

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As seen on the Heathrow Express this morning.

I’m in Lübeck, Germany for the intriguingly-titled “Cognitive Design” conference, where Doors of Perception’s John Thackara will be giving the keynote tomorrow morning.>

I’m going to be giving a Post-Nintendo-Revolution remix of the talk Chris and I gave at Etech this year, with plenty of play in there.

In moving back to the UK, I forgot to bring any of the Nokia NFC phones with me. So unfortunately I won’t be able to demo them which is a pity – I’ll have to wave my arms about twice as much as usual.

There’s also a keynote by August de los Reyes of MSN / Microsoft on “The future of the PC” – which should be interesting given the very recent reorganisation of MSFT.

Terra Castronova

Some snippets from John Sutherland’s interview with Edward Castronova in yesterday’s Guardian:

EC: My professional interest is in what we can learn from this synthetic world. We’ve never had the opportunity to experiment ambitiously on a social level. We’ve never had the opportunity to say, “I’m Karl Marx and I have this idea called communism. Wouldn’t it be neat if I could set up five societies that have exactly the same population, exactly the same natural resources and at year zero and try it out?”

JS: We could field test communism without killing 60 million people.

EC: Exactly. We could do communism, we could do fascism, we could do America. You can experiment with any number of social designs. This is one of the futures I see for synthetic worlds in the university. I think in 15 years’ time when someone in social science writes a PhD thesis, they’ll be required to put their ideas to the test this way. Business schools are already moving in that direction. There are tremendous business applications. Universities should get very involved.

…I think the smart thing for the US state department to do today is build a game about Islam but make it a democracy. And set it up so that every 16-year-old from Morocco to Pakistan can go into that world when they get a computer. Not say anything overt about democracy but have them play – have them vote, for example.

And this quote I think is pretty interesting – in some ways it’s reminiscent of some of the ‘cyberspace’ utopian writing of 10 years ago, but restating it in more subtle, mixed-reality terms.

JS: What do you foresee in 10 years’ time? Is it going to plateau out, or keep going nova?

EC: There will be a plateau. People do have to have children. But the really open question is how much human time we will spend in cyberspace, using our surrogate characters, living through synthetic bodies. But soon people won’t notice the difference. Real and synthetic worlds will blur. I’m talking to you by phone but, psychologically, I’m just talking to you. I don’t focus on the technological interface. We’ll just move in and out of bodies and worlds without noticing. It’ll fade seamlessly into daily life. And there will be some very good things. The economy pulls people apart and makes them live separate lives, as units. Gaming brings them together in a pseudo physical environment.

I’d really like him to explain more what he means by this last part. Does he mean that ‘real-life’ will feature more and more sophisticated, technologically-supported ARGs or ‘alternate-reality’ games?

As ‘the technological interface’ to gaming becomes more spatial, more embodied and less-separate from the world, it’s certainly one possibility.

“But as the Game Cat says, Be careful, be very careful. This ride is not for the weak.”

» The Guardian G2: The ideas interview: John Sutherland interviews Edward Castronova