Posts Tagged ‘ critical design ’

Class notes F15 – Weeks 1 & 2

Some things to remember from the first 2 classes:

  • evolution of how we think about design: from human factors approaches to improving interfaces to user-centered system design and further on to reflecting on the impact of our design on people and society as well as stimulating reflection on their part: “…as technology designers it can be both exhilarating and unnerving to see how the design decisions we make, consciously or unconsciously, shape the micro-texture of people’s everyday experiences.” (from Reflective Design). Remember the 3 “camps” we talked about: UCD-ACD-GDD-UX vs. critical/reflective vs. human factors and their distinguishing features.
  • the concept of affordance
  • in UCSD, user error = poor design (Norman doors)
  • I also showed you some fun infographics about the various skills and disciplines involved in UX work. Here is my collection on Pinterest. Look at them a bit closer, and think about where you are and where you would want to be.
  • I invite you to think about which of the values and design philosophies we discussed appeals to you and aligns with your personal values and ethics.
  • some important names/authors: Don Norman (UCSD, ACD), Alan Cooper (GDD), Karen Holtzblatt (contextual design)

What are the most important 1-3 ideas you took away from class?


Fall 2014 Class notes: Types of Design

We began class by furthering our exploration of “natural” and “intuitive” interaction with computers. We played around with the idea of tangible design, informed by the belief that using our bodies is natural and intuitive. The argument comes from Paul Dourish’s book Where the Action Is. See also the tangible interfaces lab at MIT.

Quick recap of the very big main points about the design process to take away from week 2:

  1. There are many types and approaches to design. UCD is not alone. The main differences among them are in philosophy (the central goal) and some of the methods and procedures. For example, the central goal of critical design is to raise awareness, to help people reflect upon and question the status quo. The central goal of GDD is to design for the users’ larger aspirations, whereas ACD focuses on structuring tools to facilitate an activity. Be sure to remember and be able to differentiate among UCD, GDD, ACD, participatory design and critical design. Interested in the theory behind critical design? Read up on critical theory – here’s a very quick introduction. Or, you might be interested in Norman’s controversial piece against human-centered design and in support of ACD. It’s a bit inflammatory, he has some clarifications to it, and overall, it does make sense, IMO.
  2. UCD is an approach and a process. It is a philosophy, a value system about how we approach design, but also a  specific set of steps, procedures, methods, and principles. The major steps of UCD are: user research, conceptual design, implementation, and evaluation.

If you have further questions about the things we discussed in class tonight, please ask them in the comments below.

Snapchat: Critical design?

Although Snapchat has gained a reputation for silly uses, I would like to argue that it could actually be a piece of critical design:

Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life. It is more of an attitude than anything else, a position rather than a method (Dunne & Raby).

Assuming Snapchat works as advertised, and ignoring the NSA, I think the impermanence and stated privacy features of Snapchat could make people reflect on the permanence of other content posted online. Another website, Justdeleteme, serves a similar purpose of raising awareness about how difficult it is to delete various online accounts (sometimes, it is impossible!).

Products that get people to reflect on something, raise awareness about issues, or suggest new possibilities, would fall, by definition, in the category of critical design – even if their creators did not have that intention.

On a broader level, this post is about taking a second look – not dismissing something immediately because you think it’s silly or people think it’s silly. As a designer (as a creator), I invite you to imagine possibilities that others have not. – Have you encountered any situations where you see possibilities that maybe others do not? Where a second look reveals a completely new picture? When, once you go beyond the taken for granted and really see, the world is much more interesting than it seems? (btw, this is what makes a photographer or painter good)


A design review of Snapchat’s interface will come in a later post.


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