Friday, September 22, 2006

Blended materials

Well, Philips seem to be pushing the limits of what can be achieved with blended materials, that is, materials that have both a physical and a digital component or aspect to them. Here are some of there new designs. It is fascinating to see how those attempts or experiments raises so many questions and issues. Once you have seen the designs, with their combinations of sensors and digital fabrics reflecting the state of the human body or mind, it is easy to expand the design space in so many directions. This is a good example of how knowledge and intimacy with the material at hand influences the possible design space. Any interaction designer or human computer interaction designer today has to include these material changes in their repertoire of thinking. (Thanks Richie for sending me the link to Philips)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Design Problem Spaces"

A colleague gave me a copy of an article from "Cognitive Science" from 1992. It was an article with the title "The Structure of Design Problem Spaces" by Vinod Goel and Peter Pirolli. I have never seen this article before but it is fascinating. The authors take design seriously and they use a strict cognitive science language. But, underneath the abstract and highly scientific language is a real, rich and insightful description of design as a specific human activity separate from what they label as "non-design problem solving". They present a list of "overt features of design task environments" that largely overlap my own understanding of design (apart from the language and choice of concepts). Interesting reading for anyone interested in design thinking.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

BitPhys Materials

It is not a surprise that we are entering the era of blended materials. The attempts to make new materials that combine the properties of physical materials and the digital material are many and we are now seeing some of them in real products. Here is an example of such a new design. These BitPhys materials have qualities that we recognize from their physical and digital parts, but the interesting aspect is that they also have emergent qualities that creates fascinating and challenging design tasks. So, the question is how should we design with and for these new blended materials. Will these materials make it possible to design things in ways we have not anticipated. This raises also the issue of design skills and knowledge of materials. With these blended materials, these bitphys materials, who is the lead designer, and what is the needed competence? Is it the designer who has the traditional understanding and knowledge about the physical materials or is it the designer who knows and understands the digital material? We will see a lot of confusion and debate about this, both in the business world, but probably even more in the academic educational world.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I was excited the other day when I found a new book by Cass R. Sunstein, it is called "Infotopia -- how many minds produce knowledge". The excitement was caused by my high appreciation of an earlier book from him "". But, I am quiet disappointed. The book is far from precise in its argumentation, not at all in the same fashion as in I am no expert in the field of deliberation, but I have problems with accepting some of Sunstein's basic assumptions. I think that one of the difficulties stem from the fact that I read the book as if it is about change and development, but I think it is about "what-is". I am of course reading through the lens of design thinking and with that lens there are so many things that are not only strange with Sunstein's argumentation but wrong and also quite uninteresting. Changing the world is not necessarily about knowing about what-is and how things are. Change and design is about will and desire. Neither deliberation or prediction markets (two of Sunsteins core concepts) are closely related with change when it comes to true design thinking and action. There are a lot to be said about the gathering of information in the form of wikis and other means but that is not something that in itself lead to change, which is why wikis work well although people have distinctly different wishes and desires. Anyhow, I am disappointed but I still would like to see more from Sunstein.

(I am also quite unhappy with the text itself, there are many, many repeats of the same arguments and more or less identical phrases. I get the feeling that the book is written too fast and without any real critique before publishing.)

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