Focus on Design
For your first assignment, you will begin to look at the world with “designer’s eyes,” reflecting on the things with which you interact, and the quality of that interaction. Pay attention to anything and everything with which you interact: from door knobs to software user interfaces, household appliances to automobile dashboards, alarm clocks to library kiosks. Reflect on how the interaction unfolds. Do you experience breakdowns? Why or why not? Do you notice the artifact because of a breakdown (present-at-hand), or are you able to remain focused on your goal without thinking of the artifact per se (ready-to-hand)? When the interaction is successful, what properties of the design make it so? Try to generate a set of design principles that apply to interaction in general. An example might be consistency, meaning that a design choice or convention is maintained throughout an entire product (internal consistency), and/or the choice or convention is found in other similar things (external consistency). Another example might be appropriate feedback, meaning that the artifact presents its state to the user appropriately, especially after actions are taken. (Thinking broadly, feedback applies to simple artifacts, not just software user interfaces. Think about tactile and auditory feedback, not just visual feedback.) For your assignment, do the following: ♦Breadth. Generate a list of 10 distinct things with which you interact over the next two weeks (carry a small notebook around with you). Write a paragraph (5-8 sentences) describing the interaction with each thing. Was it successful or not? In what ways? Where did breakdowns occur? Where did confusions occur? Most importantly, why did they occur? (In your list of 10, at most 3 things can be desktop software user interfaces. Also, try to balance poor interactions with successful ones.) ♦Induction. Derivea list of at least 10 design principles that apply to interaction in general, indicating which are positive/desirable and which are negative/problematic. Name each principle and describe it in 1-3 sentences. Again, these are principles that you derive or come up with on your own based no your experiences. There are several lists out there. While you may be tempted to borrow some of these ideas, please resist such a temptation. Instead, think analytically why a specific concept with respect to design is either positive/desirable and which are negative/problematic. Come up with a name for this concept, which we will call a principle, and describe it in a few sentences. What about it is good or bad? Why? ♦Depth. Choose two artifacts. One artifact should be a thing whose design you adore, whose virtues you can extol to no end (a “beloved thing”). Chose another artifact whose design you hate, whose faults you can disparage forever (a “hated thing”). Write a 1-page in-depth description of interacting with each of these two artifacts (2 pages total), using the design principles you generated to describe the virtues/faults of each artifact. Which principles do they violate? Which do they uphold? Bring one of the two artifacts to class during Week 4, where some of you will have an opportunity to present your artifacts and extol/disparage them. (If you can’t bring your artifact, take photos of it and email them to me in a PowerPoint deck, and I’ll show them on-screen.) WHAT TO TURN IN Your list of 10 things with which you interact, each with its paragraph description; your 10 design principles with short description; and your two-page in-depth write-up about a design you love and a design you hate. Your write-up should be approximately 1,600 – 2,400 words and submitted electronically through Canvas.