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.


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