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Many ideas came to my mind today at class… Here there are two of them.

* I think that art might be a form of control… how can the artist create art that really leverages society? It you’re educated on criticism and to do critique, you may get critical about your role as a designer and about your work… Therefore, you won’t be able to ignore the degree of “commodified dreams” that your work might represent, your work environment might represent, and your work context (micro-world/business world) might represent.


* When students start learning about design, they go easily à la “Dieter Rams” way. I believe that as “older” as you get, and as better “knower” as you get (regarding Design), you may observe that design is a) richer and b) there’s no right or wrong design.




“Nothing could be deeper or more meaningful than the objects that surround us, what are “more numerous, more sound, and more subtle” than all the portentous symbols dredged up in sessions of Jungian analysis, about which ordinary people know nothing and regarding which artists may be deluding themselves in supposing they know more.” (Danto, p.79)

That quote comes at a point in the reading where Danto is describing the historical context, both in art and philosophy, surrounding the creation and publication of the Brillo Box. The abstract impressionism movement promoted a rejection of the daily culture in preference for a connection with the subconscious and primal expressions of humans. Pop art, in Warhol’s words “is about liking things” (p.74) The philosophical community was having a similar debate when it came to language and what kind of language we should be using to describe things, along with demoting the importance of common sense and “ordinary language”. Yet J.L Austin (Oxford Philosopher) makes a remark similar to what Danto says in the quote at the top of this post, and similar to the Pop art movement, saying:

“Our common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth making, in the lifetimes of many generations: these are surely likely to be more numerous, more sound, since they have stood up to the long test of the survival of the fittest, and more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any that you or I are likely to think up in our arm-chairs of an afternoon.” (p.78)

What this means to me, and in connection with the top quote, is that everyone, together, as an active role in the meaning making of how we interpret, interact, or perceive the world. Our objects we make are like the words we create to draw ‘distinctions and connexions’ with the world around us. Because of this, no artist, philosopher, or psychologist can tell us what is art, what is a well-designed object, or what language is truly appropriate for certain spheres.

This impacts my understanding of HCI design because we make digital objects. But like the artists, philosophers, and psychologist who cant tell us what to think, we can’t tell our users what a well-designed digital object is. This idea means a greater responsibility not to create dull, temporarily useful, objects that take up time in our daily lives and add little to them. But rather to approach designing objects, perhaps as ‘meaningless’ as another app or website, as you would creating a new word that will be added to the dialogue of humanity, perhaps standing the test of time.

My capstone project is about problem framing, and its relation to design or the design process, and reading Danto’s piece made me think about framing in a different way. If I think about an object like I would a word or piece of language, then there should be a clear reason for it to exist. While I can armchair my way through hundreds, maybe even thousands of potential new words (objects), this is in now way an effort equaling “all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth making, in the lifetimes of many generations” (p.78) THis gives me a new analogy to work with when trying to understand the link between problem framing and the design process. I think critical design can work in some ways like the Brillo box in that, while the Brillo box served to challenge nearly everything we understood art to be, critical design can serve to challenge designs as they solve a problem. Critical design can then challenge not only some finished design, but the problem framing and perhaps even the process itself.

I also think that this highlights the mandatory inclusion of outside perspectives in the design process, beginning with framing. We cannot sit in a room and think of the problems that exists in the world. At best, these problems will be cursory, much different from the complex, real problems that need actual solving. In understanding problem framing, I think this can be used to explain some of the problems of assumptions in the framing of problems, as well as bias in its many forms.

“…The term “visual” indicates concentration on the visual sense, which is the central human sense, occupying “almost half the brain” (Ware, 2008, ix).” – Tractinsky

This quote just reminds me of all those times when people comment that you are either more left brain or right brain dominant. I think left brain is science and right brain is more art related, correct me if I’m wrong. All the times, because I do have a bit of an artistic background, I hear that I’m more right brained… but I’ve also heard the “myth” that if you are right handed, your left brain is the more dominant… so I should be oozing out science.

I don’t like this distinction because in a way, I am both. I like the side that can think logical and I like the side that doesn’t need to be logical but can still be wonderful.

Kind of like how Jeff Bardzell critiques Tracktinsky for separating the scientific “visual” from the definition of aesthetics, I don’t like how they are separately defined.  For “visual aesthetics” to work, I think that they have to work together. Some times the collective goes towards the aesthetics that’s more towards the philosophy or “it just is” and sometimes, it is because of some scientific reason that it is visually aesthetic.

An example of the first for me is historical architecture. Sometimes a building can look extremely plain, because of it’s history, there is a sort of visual aesthetic to it. It kind of makes me think of some very old churches that were very simple and plain. To me, they beat out the contemporary, elaborate, convention center-like churches in visual aesthetics of the building. An example of the the second, to me, is like fibinocci in nature, like the shells, ferns, tree branches, etc. There are probably other good examples but they are avoiding me… probably because I’m still badly jet lagged.

I am actually kind of happy I waited a while to write about the Cross reading. While looking over my notes , I wrote down, “people know what to do because of experience.”  From this quote, I really believe this is the biggest take away I have from this paper.

Probably the only part of the reading that grabbed me was the section about Phillip Starke and the Juicy Salif.  It was a concrete example that backed up what Cross was saying in Design Ability on page eight, “…designing is not a search for the optimum solution to the given problem, but that it is an exploratory process.”  By looking at this lemon squeezer, would anyone really know why it was designed the way it was just by looking at it?  Probably not, because they do not share the same experiences as Startke.  Even if they read the same comic book, there is a good chance each person understood it differently, maybe they did not even pay much attention to the alien insects in the story, but rather the army fighting back the space invaders.  The experience shaped what Starke thought Juicy Salif should look like and fit into the home, he would then just have to leave it up to the engineers to figure out how it would work.  However, how would an alternative experience have changed Starke’s design?

Cross wants to say a lot of it deals with intuition, using the examples of two faces or a cup and two triangles or the Star of David.  Now having the chance to discuss this paper and coming back to it, I understand a lot of what he is arguing by this example.  A lot of things really depend on how the designer wants to look at things.  Starke got a plate of calamari, which probably had lemon on it, and he was able to draw a connection.  An example outside the reading is one I saw on Project Runway Allstars.  In the first episode, designers had to design a look for singer Deborah Harry.  Elena had a leather jacket that was not turning out the way she was wanting it to, but intuition told her to look at it differently.  She decided to put the jacket on the model backwards and the judges absolutely loved it, including the person it was being designed for.

What this comes down to, it really all depends on how the designer wants to look at things.  If you look at it just as a plate of squid or as a really bad jacket that cannot be worn any other way, then the intuition of design will be harder to come to.  It is when things are looked at in new ways, I believe, is what Cross was trying to argue is design thinking.

Jared’s post reminded me of the discussion we had on that day as well and I thought I’d ramble and write about the topic. Most of us are training to be “user experience professionals.” However, I don’t believe user experience professionals will ever able to be attain the same professional status as Medical Doctors and Engineers. Now, I believe most people won’t find that argument too surprising. However, I want to argue that it should be more gray and complex. A professional has many connotations, but the two I’m going to ramble about is that

  1. A professional acts in a professional manner and there’s an established code of ethics.
  2. There is an established body outside of the normal judicial system to hold them to said rules and punish members that do not adhere to them.

Both doctors and some engineers such as those who build bridges and nuclear power plants fit this definition. These professions and others have successfully argued to society that only they should have an exclusive right to practice their craft because others will get hurt if others besides themselves practice their craft. By this I mean that if any of us were to setup a doctor’s office and started to treat people, it would be shutdown, and for good reason; most people would hope that when they’re on an operating table the surgeon knows his saw from his scalpel or else you might find yourself with one less kidney.

Now where am I going with this? Design is dangerous. It changes the way people behave and how they should think and not always for the “best.” It’s why were taught in this school to be “human-centered” and that we should go through the process of figuring out what people really want before going down that direction. And yet, everyone designs sometimes. Cross calls

The evidence from different cultures around the world, and from designs created by children as well as by adults, suggests that everyone is capable of designing. So design thinking is something inherent within human cognition; this is a key part of what makes us human.

This is troubling for crafting a profession because of its exclusive right to practice its craft. It would be wrong to monopolize design thinking in what Cross calls design thinking. Now am I saying we should professionalize? It’s hard to say. There are probably organizations out there for UX professionals that are trying to do this, but obviously there are a lot of problems here. I will end this rant with one final thought. I suppose it is the utmost importance that our designs must come from somewhere and they mustn’t be “just magic” and that we recognize this. I would probably argue that thinking that our designs emerge from conjuration are more likely to lead to poor design decisions that influence people in “non-good” ways.

I have been wondering lately why has it taken so long for industry to become aware of UX, interaction design, human centered approaches, hci, etc. Some companies where the design culture is prevalent, began as design focused organizations. On the other hand, we have seen many other companies embrace design in their endeavors, and found success in part because of this shift in their culture.

Now, why is it so difficult to bring in interaction design into a company culture, or even, successfully introduce interaction design? I believe part of the problem is that UX is not scalable. Many of the products, services, and systems that have been created are designed for the abstract user or customer. However, as designers, we know that no problem or opportunity is the same, and what works (let’s call it a solution) in one place, cannot really be replicated (due to context, needs, etc). In part, having such connectedness in our world, and shifting the expectations of products and markets to be global, universal is part of the problem. UX is being treated like this universal fixer, when in reality it will be context specific within that organization. Perhaps even UX is being treated as a one size fits all role… I am not sure if this comes from the industrial revolution, or later, but it is as if different organizations are trying to replicate success by adding the same parts to the organization… Like UX is something you can buy.

While reading Rowe, I wanted to find how each of the design processes used in the case studies were related to the design process I have taken part in.  Each case study and the design method used by the respective architect has its advantages and disadvantages, but what really surprised me, was how they are professionals in their field and doing some of the things they did.

To start with the first case study, it appeared as if they did not really understand the whole problem and it is the case study I found to be the most problematic. They were very much focused on how the buildings should appear together, but did not focus on the whole problem.  They would complete a design and then discover something they forgot, such as a parking lot, which they knew was going to take up a lot of space in order to facilitate parking for all the employees the new development was going to bring it.  What really stood out though was when they then had to change the design significantly because they did not take into account the geography of the development lot.  It was not until the very end when they said, “Oh yeah, we have to work with this body of water that is also here.”  It appeared to me they did not look into the whole problem before designing, which slowed down the entire process, which was to understand the area they were designing for.

The second case study I had issues with was the third case study.  It reminds me a lot of a project where my group was undecided as to what we wanted to do.  We decided to each come up with a few ideas and then decide from those.  As a result it just becomes messy and it never became clear to me while reading as if the architect was actually confident in the final design for the library.

The final case study I wish to look at is with the second.  It is the one that I relate the most to.  The designer had a vision and an aesthetic, one that was not given up on, however, problems appeared early as to how the design was going to fit around the body of water in the middle of the site.  They ultimately had to walk away from the initial design and go for a much simpler idea, however in the process, it appeared as if their aesthetic was lost and it became a much more standard design.

How does this all come together.  These are all mistakes I have made personally in my own design processes, but until you make them yourself, this is the only way to see them as they happen.  While I do want to say Rowe was able to identify some attributes of design thinking, it almost appears as if he inexplicably identified it as being a process trial and error, which in some aspects, that is true and it is better to find out early than after the actual physical development being started, but it just seems in all three case studies, the architects did not look into a lot of very important requirements into account.

After reading over Rowe’s three case studies involving various architectural designs, I found the second study, focused on making a building from a “Formal Type” to resonate most closely with the work I do outside of the classroom. My role as a GA is full of situations where our UX team is responsible for evaluating the interfaces and experiences of student-facing services (many of which have long-standing design patterns, for better or worse). As such, much of our design work is done piecemeal, and involves

[a] process of refinement, adjustment, and embellishment…[with] subsequent modifications to the overall arrangement of the complex [arising] through attempts to extend the strategy of expressing various site constraints (18)

This becomes increasingly evident when compounded with the fact that we are not designing for students of IU Bloomington alone, or even the entire IU system. Instead, our team works collaboratively with developers in the Kuali Foundation, particularly on student registration. This foundation for our group’s activities means that we are effectively making prescriptions for as many as 12 other universities of comparable size to IU, each with their own scheduling systems as conventions (e.g. semesters vs. trimesters vs. quarter systems, etc.).

The result is similar to Rowe’s observations in this case study, “often involving the a priori use of an organizing principle or model to direct the decision-making process.” (18) The system as a whole moves very slowly, with small visual or UI changes requiring consensus across a wide variety of stakeholders. It also impacts our own process to a certain extent, as we are also frequently constrained by the framework itself when we provide suggestions for new systems or processes for something as complex as class registration. I feel that many of these complexities are due to the long history of the system that is currently in place “the earlier preoccupations…exerting a pronounced influence over subsequent lines of investigation.” (19)

None of these observations are meant to be a direct criticism of any one group or system, but rather an acknowledgement of the situated context in which a great deal of interaction design work takes place. I’ve worked with the UX team here on everything from small wording tweaks to dialogue boxes, to proposing entirely new tools for sifting and sorting through the hundreds of classes offered here at IU. None of these projects is devoid of preconceived notions of what “scheduling” means or the difference between a term and a semester is. Design itself does not take place in a vacuum, and our goal should be to tailor our design approach in a way that “constraints may be absorbed and whenever possible inverted into positive elements.” (34)

The biggest thing I took out of this case study that I can relate to myself is CONSTRAINTS!!!!  The architect in this case study had to work with several constraints as said by Rowe, “…its immediate site environs were clearly controlled by the idea of the grid pattern. An explicit concern with context is another hallmark of the case study. Here homage is paid to to Burnham’s earlier plan and to the buildings of the Chicago Exposition, as well as the general layout of contemporary Chicago.” (27)

I took this as the architect couldn’t just design whatever building for the space given. Like most things we design, we can’t just do whatever we want. Someone, whether it is the client, the people we work with, or ourselves, will put some sort of constraint on our design. An example is our capstone. Technically we can do it on anything, but we constrain ourselves to a certain space that we are interested in. There are also particular requirements in the class like having to choose a track that also places constraints on what we decide to do. Hearing feedback also help determine what sorts of constraints we put on our project.

This case study also touches on a part of my design process that often happens. In the beginning, we would always sketch to figure out how the design will look but when we later move to making the prototype or even to build it, things will change. It will most likely deviate from the original sketch because things come up. In the case of the case study, this is shown, “At this stage of development, however, a programmatic evaluation of the scheme suggested to the designers that the linear proposal would both require more building facilities than were available and prove to be an inefficient arrangement for library use.” (22) They tweak it to, “…vertical library stacks and close proximity to supporting services dictated a more compact shape… organization of the scheme became more concentrated at a single location and the linear structure began to recede.” (22)

Whatever I decide to design for my capstone will probably solidify in the middle of the semester but there will probably be deviations by the end of the semesters due to new information, limits, situations that come up, etc.

I just wanted to put this much down for now…

I have read most of the posts on Cross and instead of replying to each one, Ill just write my thoughts here. Like many of you, there are passages in the text that made me want to scream, others made me want to make a strong Gin and Tonic. This is a good thing! One thing I don;t think I read in the critique of the text is that we really need to take into consideration the context surrounding the publication. This was written in the late 1980’s. This is extremely important for a valid understanding of the arguments as laid forth in the text.

This is very first wave thinking, but it is the edge of first wave and the start of the discussion that motivates and propels the coming of second wave HCI.  You can tell by reading it with this perspective that professionals are beginning to have the conversations about what design is and how it is different from engineering, or engineering thinking. Do they get everything correct? No. But its a good start.

I think texts like these are best understood holistically, taking into account all the arguments in the text as well as the historical and cultural contexts that enrich the meaning of the argument. All in all, I think the contribution of this paper is to raise more questions than it answers, and I think it does this fairly well.


SO THIS IS MOSTLY WRONG AS JEFF DID A GOOD JOB AT EXPLAINING (THANKS).  Although I do standby the idea of reading a paper holistically, that part is still pretty cool.