For reasons of equal self-indulgence and completism, here are the nominations with supporting text I sent into the Design Museum for their “Designs of the year” exhibition.
I was surprised that neither of my console game nominations got through, but on reflection is this the right venue for games?
Surely they are the advance-guard of interactive, digital design – the cutting-edge of interaction design from which, increasingly, techniques are trickling-down to other applications.
But, then, as they are media, stories, toys, places – the experience of which changes through play – that makes Design with a big D uncomfortable. Ah well. For debate.
What would your designs of the year be?
Designs of the year nominations: Digital
Cabspotting / Trulia Hindsight / Oakland crime / work of Stamen in 2007
2007 was the year that information visualisation came out of the academic shadows and the research labs, onto the desktop – and into the art galleries. Much of this is to do with the work and debate around the work of Stamen.
While Cabspotting makes the jaw drop at the beauty of everyday data in the city, Oakland Crime Maps makes subtle political points as well as being a handsome interface for a complex, live data set. Instead of just profiting from UI conventions being set in this new field, Stamen is driving them — and a questioning, critically-thriving community of practice.
While YouTube has the headlines and the hordes, Vimeo has very happy users. Privileging quality of experience and quirky-though-painstaking design (such as its log-in screen! Possibly the most gorgeous log-in screen ever?), its privacy controls and ease-of-use have carved it a loyal niche.
By area/code for discovery channel online
Despite the clean graphics and straightforward gameplay, you might think this is a run-of-the-mill promotional game for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week? You’d be wrong. You set up a virtual team of shark researchers and navigate your vessel in the ocean off the southern california coast. The twist is that the sharks you are pursuing are not coded, they’re GPS-tagged, real sharks leading you a merry dance, in real time, around the Pacific! A pioneering, well-executed and playful way to explore natural history online.
by Clover Studio
As the sheer graphical horsepower of games consoles increases, it’s more and more gratifying to see designers opting out of the realism arms-race and creating vivid, original worlds such as that found in Okami. The core of its success is the close-coupling of the visual look of the world with the game mechanics and control-system. Turning the 3D world into a 2D traditional Japanese artwork, then using the joypad to draw calligraphic solutions to your problems creates a satisfying, involving and, often jaw-droppingly-beautiful experience.
A great home-grown exemplar of wonderful physical/digital service design. From the delightful, straightforward user interface of the website, where you create various printed objects from your content (Flickr pictures, Habbo-hotel characters), to the little touches of copywriting in the emails that keep track of your order, to the
delightful packaging your finished product comes in.
From the prolific volunteers at Mysociety.org, a very neat exercise in using constraints positively. By returning a ‘gamefield’ of only a very small area around your postcode, and allowing only observations/fixes to hyperlocal problems – extraordinary levels of feedback and concrete solutions result.
iPhone/iPod touch OS by Apple
A beautiful bit of holistic digital/physical design, executed incredibly well with cutting-edge technology. “A remarkable v1.0” as has been said. Important for not only the quality and consistency of the UI, but also for being a genuine example of the overused term “paradigm shift”. Lessons from games UI: direct manipulation, physics and flow are now going to be everywhere – not just on mobile but on the desktop, as the iPod touch/iphones metaphors bleed back into the desktop. Expectations have been raised for the rest of the consumer electronics industry by Apple once more.
Nike+ by Nike/Apple
The cutting-edge of ubiquitous computing is not perhaps in medicine or warfare, but in personal fitness, and purchasable on the high street for about thirty pounds or so. Nike+ is the slickest, neatest, most-well-put-together fusion of physical product, digital service and networked community that’s out there (for now). If there’s any fault one can pick with it, it’s that it allows only one thing (running) to be so slickly-enhanced, and it’s this slickness that precludes further innovation by the community.
BioShock by Ken Levine / Take-Two Interactive
It’s rare that a video game is an enjoyable experience for a spectator, and even rarer to hear a spectator ask the player to go back so they can look at a design detail, a piece of scenery or architecture? The sheer detail and horrifying beauty of BioShock’s art-deco undersea setting is nothing short of Kubrick-meets-Jules-Verne spectacular. An astonishing bit of art, that also has literally killer game-play.