What about that iWatch? It’s about the Software!

I’ve seen commentary that it’s “disappointingly familiar”, i.e. it looks just like several other computer watches, like the Pebble or even the iPod Nano attached to a strap. Or that it’s Much Ado About Nothing. But I think that commentary misses the point, because it focuses just on the hardware. 

It’s true that the Apple Watch hardware, at first glance, is kind of boring. I am really sorry to have to say that because it does seem like some world class design went into it, especially the amazing collection of straps, one more beautiful than the next. But still, it looks like a little rectangular computer thing on my wrist. That’s the hardware.

The software on the other hand is a breakthrough. I haven’t played with it but I sense that it contains one new invention after another and it will set a whole new standard that others will definitely imitate. 

So my prediction: the Apple Watch is like the first iPhone. In retrospect a little clunky, maybe a little slow, maybe without the battery life you would like. But it is a foundation on which will set the standard for wearables for a long time.

Design Thinking vs. Lean Startup

Point

Solving Problems for Real World, Using Design – NYTimes.com:

While the projects had wildly different end products, they both had a similar starting point: focusing on how to ease people’s lives. And that is a central lesson at the school, which is pushing students to rethink the boundaries for many industries.

A fascinating article about the “Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford” also known as the D.School.

 Everyone knows that Design Thinking is great and the new hotness. I love great design, and am in awe of it when I see it or have it pointed out to me. Furthermore, I am blown away by Ideo, which is the famous industrial design company founded by David Kelly (what a mustache!), who is one of the founders of the D.School.

“The school challenges students to create, tinker and relentlessly test possible solutions on their users — and to repeat that cycle as many times as it takes — until they come up with solutions that people will actually use.”

… “That is how Mr. Kothari, a mechanical engineering graduate student, started his ramen project. He spent hours at local ramen shops watching and talking to patrons as they inevitably spilled broth and noodles. Together with a group of other D.school students, he built a prototype for a fat straw that would let patrons have their ramen and drink it, too”

(from the same article) 

This is the same philosophy taught at Olin College where I teach. At Olin we call it UOCD or User Oriented Collaborative Design. In fact at Olin there are numerous interesting courses that come at Design from many different perspectives.

Counterpoint

Now the courses that I myself have taught have been based on so-called Lean Startup and I use the excellent book by Eric Ries called The Lean Startup. The Lean Startup process receommends: 

“The Lean Startup provides a scientific approach to creating and managing startups and get a desired product to customers’ hands faster. The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup-how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere-and grow a business with maximum acceleration. It is a principled approach to new product development.” (from The Lean Startup)

As I was reading the New York Times column about the D.School, I wondered if the two approaches are different or the same, in conflict, or just two ways of saying the same thing.And as I am writing this long post, I still am not sure. The easy answer is they are two sides of the same coin. The provocative answer is that two highly acclaimed approaches are 180% opposite to each other.

How do you fit a 365 day calendar on an index card?

I designed the calendar to the right to help me keep track of my piano practice. As you know, maybe, to learn piano you need to practice every day. Well I don’t do that regularly enough, and as a result (and general clumsyness) my piano study is going at a snails pace. So of course, technology to the rescue.

Jerry Seinfeld described how he would force himself to do something every day. In his case, work on his comedy. He would put an X on each day in his calendar when he worked. He would then psych himself up to never break the string of X’s, and the longer the string was, the more it hurt to break it. Sounded like a fine idea to me.

The idea with the piano calendar is the same. I put an X over each day that I practive and, so goes theory, I am more likely to respect a string of days and not break the chain. It kind of works.

But in the meanwhile I have a fairly clever design that fits all the days of one year on a tiny bit of paper. That’s cool!

Intellectual Property? Copyright? Or just a lot of LOVE?

I was rather proud of the art I designed for a t-shirt this summer. It’s cool but of course it’s a direct ripoff, um, no, I mean, it was inspired by a well known piece. If I show you my design, below:

JBSlogoonly

You will immediately see the resemblance. You might say, oh that was on a postage stamp:

220px Lovestamp

Or you might say, oh, that was a New York City thing. But you would be remembering wrong:

I Love New York svg

Actually, the stamp was based on an design and sculpture by Robert Indiana.  Yes, it was a sculpture first:

200px LOVE Indiana

 But you can see another copy of the same sculpture in New York City. I saw it just a few days ago:

LOVE sculpture NY

Actually I didn’t take that picture, because if you see it on foot, there is always a line of kids waiting to pose for pictures with it. 

Anyway, you can see that my idea for a T-Shirt design was clever but hardly original. I admit to having some guilt about appropriating the design, but also I have been keenly attuned to see who else and where else folks might have borrowed the design.

In Chicago, I saw this:

LI sculp hope 001b

On TV I saw this:

Go On intertitle

In a promotional email from the Institute of Contemporary art I saw this:

GeneralIdea AIDSwallpaper for mc

So, what do you say? How badly did I infringe the copyright of Robert Indiana? Will I be asked to take it down (and destroy the 16 one-of-a-kind t-shirts.) And will I win the case in court, because, “everyone else is copying it”?

Designed in California, Made in China

James Dyson (the vacuum cleaner guy) said something which may seem obvious but is nonetheless very controversial:

“Apple’s success as a technology company is built on hardware. The current fixation with digital is misplaced.” (fromThe Real Meaning and Future of Apple’s Mantra – Designed in California)

Good article. Read it.

Great new book on Object Oriented design (in Ruby)

I first came across Sandy Metz in this video:

2009 – Sandi Metz – SOLID Object-Oriented Design from Gotham Ruby Conference on Vimeo.

If you are interested in Object Oriented design you will enjoy this. She is a wonderful speaker, and fun to listen to. Even if you don’t agree with (or understand) some of the concepts, I promise that you will enjoy listening to it. Since then Sandy has come out with a wonderful new book which I highly recommend:  Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby: An Agile Primer (Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series). You should definitely take a look at it. I won’t even attempt to summarize it but I really love her writing and how she expresses herself. The writing here is a cut above all the other techie books I’ve read recently. I’d go as far as saying that it’s “literate” … whatever that means, exactly!

The book starts with a wonderful expression of “purpose” as an engineer thinks of it:

“We want to do our best work, and we want the work we do to have meaning. And all else being equal, we prefer to enjoy ourselves along the way.”

is that not just perfect?

[GAMING] Article about game designer Jonathan Blow

A good article in the Atlantic about game designer Jonathan Blow. Interesting quote:

“I continued. “You’ve been chasing some deep form of understanding all your life, and what I think you’ve found is that questing after that knowledge brings alienation with it.

The further you’ve gone down that road, the further it’s taken you from other people. So the knowledge is ultimately destructive to your life, just like the atom bomb was—it’s a kind of truth that has a cataclysmic impact.

You thought chasing that knowledge would make you happy, but like Tim, part of you eventually wished you could turn back time and do things over again.” (from Atlantic Magazine)

And read this thought provoking way to represent a fourth spacial dimension visually. I don’t know whether it works but the description makes it sound quite amazing:

“Well,” ten Bosch countered, “this is what it would be like if there were.” And that was about the last thing he said that I understood for quite a while, as he and Blow chatted avidly about extruding surfaces and imagining flat planes as tubes.

In Miegakure, two spatial dimensions are constant, and the player solves puzzles by swapping between the two others with the press of a button. (fromAtlantic Magazine)

If you read the comment thread on the article you see that this guy (Blow) elicits a lot of negativity because supposedly his games aren’t actually that good, and he’s so full of himself. I haven’t looked at the games so I can just go by what the article says, but I liked what I read!

Why doing design for Facebook is a thankless job

A friend of mine hates, HATES, the new Facebook timeline. She wants to turn it off, but can’t. I happen to think the timeline is really cool, well designed, useful. On occasion it even gives me goosebumps. But. She. Hates. It. Wants to turn it off. Can’t.

I was thinking, Facebook has something like 700,000,000 users, right? I don’t know the right number or how many are online every day. But there are many.

So imagine you are responsible for the design of this important new Facebook feature called the TimeLine. You need to invent the look and feel of the new Facebook Timeline. You design your little heart out. You have user tests, A/B/C/D/E tests. Hundreds of people and thousands of dollars later you release your baby.

95% of the users love it. Success right?

35 million people still hate the design.

Bummer.

Fibonacci series and Photography

You can’t be a self-respecting computer or science geek and not have heard about the Fibonacci series. You know, 1-1-2-3-5-8… etc. How about Fibonacci’s Ratio? How about the Golden Mean or the Divine Proportion? Not sure, right?

Fibonacci, and its role in art, design and photography is a little less well known. As I continue to study photography and art I came across this excellent article about that very topic:

“Hopefully, this article has shed some light on a somewhat mysterious subject in the world of photography. Fibonacci’s Ratio is a powerful tool for composing your photographs, and it should’€™t be dismissed as a minor difference from the rule of thirds.

While the grids look similar, using Phi can sometimes mean the difference between a photo that just clicks, and one that does’€™t quite feel right. I’€™m certainly not saying that the rule of thirds doesn’€™t have a place in photography, but Phi is a far superior and much more intelligent and historically proven method for composing a scene.” (from Divine Composition With Fibonacci’s Ratio)