Design Engaged 2005

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Buddy Henge 🙂, originally uploaded by pachanga.

I spent the weekend with 30-or-so engaged designers of things, thoughts and theories in Berlin.

Design Engaged is a small retreat-which-isn’t-really (an Attack?) staged by Andrew “Hey” Otwell two years running now. last year was the first, in Amsterdam.

The premise is that everyone presents, performs or produces something – that there isn’t really a static audience for anything, and he introduces just enough structure for something to emerge from it.

As last year, it was fantastic, frustrating, engaging and tiring – and has dumped me like a Tamarama roller: battered, but exhilarated and re-enthused.

This year was slightly bigger I think than last year – at around 33 participants; and, our group at Nokia underwrote some of the set-up costs of the excellent venue – Spreeblick.

I didn’t present anything, as Andrew had given me an assignment already: design a game for the particpants to play through the 3 days. I’ll write about that in a separate post.

My favourite moments would take to long to filter from the whole thing, but here’s a few:

  • meeting the inspiring visualisation crimefighting duo that is Eric and Mike from Stamen
  • walking through Alexanderplatz, then storming the Bond-villain-lair aquarium of the SAS Raddison with excellent company
  • Mike K’s sterling efforts in coordinating insightful and interesting local guides for us, especially ours who didnt mind my tacky desire to go and see giant Bond-villain-lair aquariums
  • Ben’s take on Aldo Van Eyck
  • Nurri Kim’s poetic Tokyo Blues project
  • general sparring with Greenfield, Butterfield, Ward, Poisson, Chang and Schulze
  •’s “Graphic Language of Touch” project, and his flying fingers-style of Final Cut Pro fighting
  • “Pizza Fagin”
  • Heathcote getting all the triple word scores
  • what it felt like being the first creature with an eye – and bumping into the second
  • Malcolm McCullough and Christiane Woodley holding everyones (constant, partial) attention expertly without powerpoint
  • Gastromancer
  • the Poisson distribution
  • managing to shake hands at last with Kevin Slavin, but not managing to actually talk with him
  • Fabio Sergio’s thunderingly-thought-provoking question: “what is the material of interaction design”
  • Ulla-Maria saying “Not now”
  • Regine’s retina-scarring clothing
  • really great retina-scarring buffet food and lunches
  • really great pizza (fagin!) after huge steins of beer
  • the visual energy of Berlin
  • and, of course spending a wonderful rare weekend away with Foe.

The very best bit in terms of renergising and renewing my enthusiasm for what I do, was, as last year – the group ‘charrette’-style design exercise.

Last year, there was a bit of frustration for me at least at the start of this, as people argued over what the problem or breif should be – this year – in the spirit of Andrew’s general goals for the gathering – there was just enough structure for something to emerge, and just enough brief to have some real fun with.

We were asked ‘what is your favourite place?’ and how we would respond to what we’d seen in Berlin in terms of creating devices, designs, services or experiences that might resonate with that question in peoples minds.

Our group (Fabio, David Irwin,, Michelle Chang, Adam and myself) went for a walk and started talking about our favourite places in general, our favourite places on the walking tour we had done as a group, and ‘placemaking’ as a human behaviour in general.

Quickly on our return, we moved from debate and theorising to making things. Many things, which we presented back to the group under the banner of ‘Your new favourite places’.

One of my responses is pictured above, and was performed or ‘bodystormed’ by Fabio: the Gemurtlith.

We gathered words for ‘cosy’ or comfortable places in many of the languages we had represented: Dutch, Norwegian, and German, where it is ‘Gemütlich’.

As frequent readers will know, I am fond of a pun – so quickly this became The GemütLith – small ritual stones that make cosy places whereever you may be.

Jack Schulze had presented earlier in the event a prototype of a USB-connected puppet that physically represented buddylist presence/status information.

Combining this influence with the primtive figures / coptic jars from Anthony Gormley’s “Field” gave me the BuddyHenge – a ritually placed circle of GemütLiths that brings my friends to me wherever I am.

In his performance, fabio upped the shaman-technopagan content, by sprinkling a demarkating circle of arphid-smartdust around him, prior to laying down his nanotarp (a active mediasurfaced tarpaulin inspired by Nurri’s work and brought to life onscreen by Ti.Mo’s 20 minutes-flat guerilla video compositing) and arranging his GemütLiths just so…

Enormous fun. It’s left me not just looking forward to Design Engaged 2006, but also looking forward to being a designer in 2006 in general…

Y’know – for kids!

Mike Sugarbaker writes:

“The split between “casual” and “hardcore” gaming leaves a huge gulf in between: people like me. Okay, maybe not huge compared to the market for casual games, but I’m part of a grossly underserved market at least as large as the hardcore PC gaming crowd. When I play casual games, I find myself wanting more substance, meatier gameplay, but when I play a PC game, I, typically don’t end up playing it for long because it’s simply too complex, too stressful or too hard.”


I find myself playing a lot of ‘pick-up’ games, more so on portables (DS and Gameboy Micro mainly, as there are no good PSP games for playing on the move – having said that – the notable exception is ‘Everybody’s Golf’ which I’m playing to death) – and games that seem to be made or marketed for younger players: Katamari, Zelda the WindWaker, Alien Homonid.

They seem to have more novelty (often especially with reference to the semantics and mechanics of the game), their are easier to get into, while often becoming engrossing, and you can dip in and out of them easily.

More please.

DUX05 (Partial) Notes: day two

Again – without warranty, very incomplete notes from DUX 2005.

dux day two

“out in the world”
exepriences beyond the desktop

robert fabricant: frog
emotion and culture are the big issues in design for the next 10 yrs
subject is deep relaxation

entrepreneur who had an idea for a new way of managing stress
no concrete ideas – but he did have a name ‘stresseraser’
multi-d team from frog design came together to discover what it would be

what is behind stress:
(piece in HBR this mopnth)

vagus nerve: primary pacifiying nerve in the body
heart rate varialibity

handheld devices: a leading contributor to stress and mobility

big challenge to connect user research to insight and design

talked to people who did yog and meditation
and their ‘mentors’ – teachers etc

principles: touch / routine / ritual
tech responses: feedback / rhythm / reward

on market / people have fallen in love with it…

Shelley Evanson: The Sense Chair
people and robots at CMU
compelling robot products for aging communities

developed and prioritised 22 concepts from user research with elders

(shows video of sense chair – lots of disbelief, shaking of heads and giggles from audience about machine that assists people. Extreme lack of empathy with the old and infirm? or with robots? The uncanny. WOuld this response be different if we were in Japan?)

SICS / Anna Stahl : EMoto
Emmotional communication in mobile

enhance texts with animations, colour, graphics
colour theory, animation principles

Designing an arabic user experience

the talk doesn’t seem to illustrating any deep difference – perhaps cos there isn’t? or is it that I preconceived that there would be some baffling ‘otherness’ about doing it?

ritual of coffee making in s. india
the ritual and affordances of the vessels are interconnected – embedded in the utensils

movements involved echo the shapes of the tools = U n

aethestics of the movements in the ritual important

sudden yearning for personal identity in growing countries

cultural languages and movement grammars

designing for the chinese migrant worker
neema moraveji: MSR Asia

largest migration in human history: 120m people from villages to cities…

– levels of literacy: not binary – multiple layers of literacy: none/some/local/dialect/more/full/mandarin/pinyin/english
– privacy: community not individuals: not a sin to read someone elses mail
– sync: calling ahead to schedule another call on a shared phone
– no unique ID (official)
– kids trump cost: family and offspring important
– shared displays: shared newspaper reading – pinned out on noticeboards

stylus input
used to spelling by writing in the air with a finger

lists better than maps when it came to identifying home towns


Syncromate: supporting digital intimacy
Uni of Melbourne

phatic interactions
stregthen social bonds – create ooportunity
often a neglected part of communications
what goal could tech play?

DUX05 (Partial) Notes: day one

Without warranty, and certainly not a complete record – but here are raw notes from Day One of the DUX 2005 conference:

Dux day one

user steered content

coloursmart app / home depot usa

mr blandings builds his dream home
90% of all paint sales are whites/neutrals

experience model of redecorating/painting process
‘mindsets’ for personas


buying loose diamonds at
“i really don’t want to screw this up” = person’s primary thought through this task

cut/colour/clarity/carat-weight = parameters

no way to tell the size/scale

people are scared of getting ripped off, and the system shold be designed to build confidence

(screenshot of really nice ajaxy-slider app)

learn – refine – learn = loop

300% increase in sales.

Avenue A/Razf

developed a social network for the designers internally
rapid turn-around of questions answered by the community via rss feeds of queries being posted.

playing on the inherent curiosity of groups about their particpants.

showcase of your own cool stuff- create identity

the paradox of the library
messy libraries vs neat ones…
abe crystal / chapel hill

library as a symbol vs library as working place

messy informally organised personal collections are some times more often used than more organised collections

information ecologies




fred dust / ideo

smart spaces

“it’s not technology unless you’re crawling around on the floor”

started out as a frustrated architect

talk about the difficutly of the word user

design for parlimentary syztem of finland?

empathy as a tool

we need to love our users, not just understand them.

designing for behaviours rather than target markets – psychographics not demographics

storyteller / functionalist / camper

campers are people who NEVER really move in…

design for activities / behaviours and you get more than your target

rhona tannenbaum

obsessed with information + people

new products for the NYT – generated from observation of the readers

using eyetracking to establish how people read
arts and leisure section

worked on alexa for brewster kahle

visualisation of large amounts of data for alexa: the collective intelligence of the internet

working on the open library project, that launched last week

understand how others are reading the text

own project: storymixer

also working with


Friday/DUX: BBC English Regions message boards

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Friday/DUX, originally uploaded by blackbeltjones.

At DUX2005 in San Francisco.

As part of the first session on “user-steered content”, The BBC’s Jane Muirison just gave a wonderful, witty little presentation about using tagging in message boards in order for particpants to find conversations that interest them. I think the papers are going to be online.

Good stuff.

Veen Blog Meme

Veen suggested this: What are the titles of the posts you have in your draft folder of shame?

The things where you’ve just thought of the title, but written nothing to back it up? The momentary points of self-deluded genius that in the cold light of day you thought better of?

From the last five years of rubbish, here’s just the titles of what I still have in draft:

  • 5am London
  • Who’s zooming who?
  • Short, steep and sticky
  • Tracking/emergence
  • Pop will eat itself
  • “There goes the fear”
  • (Rip, Mix,) Burn, Hollywood, Burn
  • Web services and brand
  • Which side are you on?
  • What dogs hear
  • DPH2004
  • The semiotics of CeBIT
  • Geoflow

Together now, these make now sense to me at least, as a list with a certain… resonance.

But individually?

Nah. Still nothing.

BBC News video in RSS!

BBC News Video in RSS!!

Just found this in the BBC News site’s video player… You can now subscribe to the video via RSS.

A quick bit of copying and pasting from the little orange buttons gives this list of A/V feeds:

Just subscribed to the Sci/Tech feed to check it out, and it works nicely in Bloglines: clicking a headline pops you to an individual pagelet for the video – which is another subtle advance, IMHO.

BBC News Video in RSS!!

One thing they could do is add the duration of the clip to the headline or description so it shows up in your RSS viewer.

Very nice stuff – I imagine this will mean a few interesting ‘mashups’ and alternative interfaces might be showing up on in the near future. Look forward to that…

Now, if only they were Quicktimes… or PSP formatted…