Sketching user experiences – part 1

I recently finished the book Sketching user experiences and I was pleasantly surprised. There are so many HCI types of books out there that are either too technical or not relevant to the practitioners world. Actually I wish this book had been written 7 or more years ago. Some of the practices that I have had would not have seemed so bizarre by my colleagues.

The underlying premise of the book is “that there are techniques and processes which we can put experience front and center in design. This lies in the extended tradition of sketching”.

The Apple use case
The apple case study was interesting from the standpoint of showing how design affected the success of the company and its products. For example even though ipod is immensely successful revenue growth is not keeping up with sales. Apple is forced to reinvent itself or have some that new that will be relatively as successful as the ipod to keep the growth of the company going. Hence the introduction of the iphone.

The bossy rule is that as a software product reaches maturity the cost to bring each new release to market increases while the size of the addressable market decreases.

Design process
Bill spends several pages on discussing a better process for developing products. Essentially, the story here is that every project should start off with a design phase, or even better a research and development and then get a green light for engineering. The work in the design phase includes problem setting and problem solving. The former is for making sure that you are solving the right problem.

One strong argument is how can we not afford to do this? By not planning for design we will have to pay costs of products being late, cost of fixing bugs that resulted from inadequate design, planning and testing. The cost of these activities is nothing compared to these other costs.

Film making which has been around for longer than software design allows for the various teams to work through the process including a pre-production state prior to committing time and resources to make the film.

By focusing on design first you leave yourself open to discovering unexpected things. You don’t want to schedule these – its impossible. If you have the time you never know what you might find out to make sure you are solving the right problem.

What is a designer anyway
Design as a profession is as rich as medicine, law, or mathematics. Not everyone is a designer.

Sketching has been around for centuries and is a distinct activity that a designer uses to explore and communicate ideas. It is an activity is not just a by product of design – it is central to design thinking and learning. Sketches are a byproduct of themselves; meaning that the activity generates more sketches.

Linus Pauling said – the best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

Since design is a profession it makes sense that the creation and reading of the sketches requires specialized skills and distinguishes designers from non designers. Since we know this as designers, we have to be aware that others do not know this or that the process is know. We will have to spend some time education others and making them aware. Support for this type of activity needs to be within an organization and culture.

There are several attributes of a sketch:
Clear vocabulary
Distinct gesture
Minimal detail
Appropriate degree of refinement
Suggest and explore rather than confirm

Larger family of renderings:
There are 5 distinct types of renderings identified and defined in the book
Memory drawing
Presentation drawing
Technical drawing
Description drawing

the new term for what we do – Experience design term as defined by Bill as “engage the people in an experience, that is largely shaped by the affordances and character embedded into the product itself; which aesthetics and functionality plan an important role in this.

Sketching and ideation
For us training in the design field its obvious to us that sketching is a way for us to get distinct ideas out and eventually they have to be reduced down to a smaller set of ideas, then to a smaller set of ideas, then you end up with something you can get feedback from users. This means that some ideas dont live on but this is all part of the process.


Kapla blocks – kid toy or mom & dad’s

If you have not seen them before Kapla blocks are amazing. They seem to defy gravity. I had never heard about them before or played with them before until I took my kids to Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, Ca. Anyone, including kids, can quickly and easily build towers and structures. There is no messy glue or nail or screw. Structures rely on balance and gravity. If a structure falls its just as fun to start over and create something new. The designs are endless and you can create something in a short amount of time. They push your creativity and allow you to think differently. I also think that as you see more structures built by other people you can pick up inspirations from others. This was certainly the case at the Lawrence Hall where the public interacts with the blocks and structures made by others were up all over the place.

They are precisely made so that they fit rather well together. They are very creative and low tech. They are also eco-friendly – they are made from of pine coming from renewable French forests.

It is a great activity to do with your kids and can keep you busy for quite a while. You can introduce other toys to make it even more fun like hot wheels or poly pocket.

These are great toys as well as creative tools. Many creative folks have toys in their cube either for play or to inspire themselves. I think these would make a wonderful addition to an innovative space or a collaborative activity in a common space to bring teams together or just have fun.

these blocks are just cool!

Baychi and Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki spoke last night to Baychi at XeroxParc on the topic “By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09”. I have never heard him speak before so I did not know what to expect. Boy, what a funny guy! He is definitely a professional speaker / entertainer. His sharp wit and snappy responses were very enjoyable. One of his amusing comments came early in the talk when he said “bloggers are one of two people. They are either first a 50 year old man, geek, check that a virgin geek living with their mom or a 16 year old geek (male) living with their mom with buzz light year sheets”.

Essentially he had been doing work as a VC and now turned his effort to doing something real/tangible – which is the web site that he built for $12,107.09 called The site allows users to post rumors, which finds to be 90% true anyway, via: telephone, online, email or text message. some of the categories on the site include Crap, Autos, Sex and Dumpster. During the presentation he demonstrated the site and broke down the cost and stated where every penny went. amazing. the site has a $1,500 run rate which he can easily afford. or as he says he can just do another speech and cover the site costs for more than a year.

Interestingly enough, he gave kudos to Don Norman who was in the audience upon which thunderous applause rose. Anyway if you are interested in what else Guy is up to or what he says you can check out his blog: