The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

Archive for interaction design

Sylvia Harris’s slides on Wayfinding at New York Presbyterian Hospital


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Inspired by this presentation by Sylvia Harris, I went out and did some field research at two hospitals in my Charlotte neighborhood.

Carolinas signage

I found that both organizations were doing a fine job of planning the information architecture and experience design of external signage and supporting materials for visitors and patients. Only a few signs reminded me of the New York Presbyterian Hospital before Sylvia’s help.

don't try to bring your cat to the hospital

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IDEA conference slides from Mike Kuniavsky


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Mike Kuniavsky put a PDF version of his slides here.

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WSJ has one answer to the “what the hell do we call ourselves?” question…


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In our last hour at IDEA on Friday we all moved close to the stage and sat in the front rows in Tishman Auditorium at Parsons New School of Design. We talked about the experience shared and knowledge created at IDEA 2007. This whiteboard summarized the concepts and discussions that flowed from two great days of talks by some of the foremost designers, information architects, and researchers in the field.

Bullet point number three from our concluding discussion is “what the hell do we call ourselves?” — this topic continues to be a recurring theme in IA circles and was touched upon in the pre-conference workshops with David Bishop and Paul Gould from MAYA Design.

Wayfinders was the answer provided by this Wall Street Journal article today (free access for 7 days). While it focuses on the work of a single firm in designing user experiences at airports around the country. The firm mentioned in the article, Carter & Burgess, describes itself as a full-service, multi-disciplined, consulting firm offering services in planning, engineering, architecture, construction management, and related areas. Not as succinct as the one word Journal description for sure.

Thank you to all who attended IDEA 2007, and if you couldn’t make it to NYC last week, I hope you’ll plan to attend in 2008. Stay tuned to this blog for location and date information. Additionally, we will be posting podcasts from the conference soon, and slides from speakers as they release them for publication. In the meantime, for more IDEA 2007 photos, check out our official Flickr group and photo collections from various artists.

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Storytelling in the City: An Interview with Jake Barton


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JakeTelling stories to strangers is not something that most people seek to do. But finding these stories, encouraging them from people in unlikely scenarios, and making the experience enjoyable, is exactly what Jake Barton aims to do.

Barton, through his design studio Local Projects, seeks to encourage the telling of stories in public spaces. In projects that account for high-tech, low-tech, and everything in between, his studio is currently working on projects from the a cellphone tour of the Statue of Liberty to a memorial of the September 11th attacks. And many of the projects happen in Barton’s own backyard—New York City.

IDEA talked with Barton about his work in New York, and some of his plans for the upcoming conference.

IDEA Q: Is it important for you to be here, in New York, doing the work that you do? Does the city itself provide a backdrop or inspiration?

Personally, I think New York is a phenomenal place to make participatory media, as the urban experience is about collective participation—with its crowded streets, with dense clusters of activity from hot dog vendors to hip-hop groups. I especially like that “normalizing” of behavior (i.e., yelling at other New Yorkers) is typical—it makes the New York experience one that is contingent on sharing with others.

IDEA Q: As a resident of New York yourself, what’s it like to have to use the experiences you design (passing by the Story Corps Booth in Grand Central Terminal, for example)?

Its really gratifying. Local Projects’ name comes from the classic Tip O’Neill quote that all politics is local. For us, design is local, steeped in the specific conditions and challenges of a site, client, or audience.

By building things in our hometown, we get consistent feedback and response, and can gauge how the projects and their meanings evolve over time. I’ve gotten “shushed” more than once in my own movies, and its very heart-warming.

IDEA Q: Where do you look for inspiration or direction outside the field of design?

Well, it depends on what you consider design, but mostly I listen to the radio. “RadioLab” from WNYC is a brilliant communicator—The Simpsons meets NOVA. “This American Life” has a consistent knack for mixing the everyday experience with profound larger meanings. And even though our design work is done, I love “StoryCorps,” each story is a jewel.

IDEA Q: What should the audience remember about your talk when they go back to their desks on Monday morning?

That you need to have a point of view about what you want the audience to do, learn, be, achieve, and dream through your work. And that making design functional and beautiful can be done and done well.

IDEA Q: Can you describe what you’ll be talking about at IDEA in just one word?

Freedom.

~ Liz Danzico

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Interview with IDEA attendee Scott Berkun


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I last spoke with Scott Berkun in person at OSCON 2005, just a few months after his first book; “The Art of Project Management” was released. I was working for his publisher, O’Reilly Media then, and we were all a bit surprised at how well Berkun’s book sold in a market filled with books about project management. The reality is, Scott’s years of hands-on experience in designing and leading creative development projects were instrumental in connecting with readers through practical insights. No slacker, Berkun was already bouncing ideas off me and the ORA publisher for his latest book, “The Myths of Innovation“. A Seattle resident, Scott attended IDEA in 2006 and I thought I would take this opportunity to do a short interview with him.

IDEA Q: IDEA brings together designers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to address the challenge of designing complex information spaces. What did you learn about the creative process and innovation at IDEA 2006? Did any of these lessons make it into your new book “The Myths of Innovation”?

Scott: All design is problem solving and IDEA 2006 showcased how storytellers, architects and visual designers share the same challenges: finding new ways to solve problems for people. The myths of innovation book is related, as it explores the patterns of innovation that we often overlook in how new things have come to be. There are definitely strong connections between what designers, and innovators, try to do.

IDEA Q: In recent writings and presentations, you talk about decision-making authority and specifically with regards to the IA, product designer, or usability engineer role in authority over design or usability issues. Can you explain what you mean by this? Is there really that much of a split in your view between being a Decision maker and being a Consultant? Are both roles needed in the innovation process?

Scott: It’s always good to know who in the room is going to call the shot - otherwise everyone spends more time fighting for power than actually trying to solve problems. I think designers can play the decision maker role, but they have to then be willing to incorporate business, political and engineering constraints into their decisions. But yes, both roles are useful. Consultants can take bigger risks in their ideas since the final decision isn’t theirs - it can be empowering not to be final decision maker.

IDEA Q: What was your “ah ha” moment of IDEA 2006?

Scott: The most amazing thing I saw was Cabspotter by the folks at Stamen. Not sure how useful it is, but I was entirely mesmerized.

IDEA Q: Will you be attending the 2007 conference in October in NYC?

Scott: What could be better than NYC in October? I hope to be there.

About Scott Berkun:
Scott is an author, public speaker and consultant. He worked as a manager at Microsoft from 1994-2003, on projects including (v1-5) of Internet Explorer, Windows and MSN.

He started his own consulting practice in 2003. Wrote the best seller “The Art of Project Management” (O’Reilly 2005) and “Myths of Innovation” (O’Reilly 2007). And teaches a graduate course in creative thinking at the University of Washington.

He’s an excellent speaker for hire, and frequently performs workshops, talks, and courses for organizations, conferences and the occasional living room couch.

Scott grew up in Queens NYC, studied design, philosophy and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, graduating with a B.S. in Logic and Computation (’94). He currently lives somewhere deep in the woods outside of Seattle, Washington.

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Cheeseburger in Paradise.


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A fun read for you Info Architects: 

http://www.informationarchitects.jp/the-interface-of-a-cheeseburger

 

 

-Kate Peterson

PS: Isn’t it funny that I can choose uncategorized and various other categories to categorize my post? Can anyone explain the ”meta” category to me? I thought meta was an html tag for search engines??? 

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Audio and some slides


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We have audio from every talk, and slides from many of them, free for download. Enjoy!

Day 1

Peter Merholz’ Introduction. Slides (PDF), MP3

Linda Stone. No slides, MP3. Questions and answers MP3.

David Guiney, Designing Across Multiple Media for the National Park Service. Slides to come, MP3
David Guiney, Addressing the Challenges of Designing for the National Park Service. Slides to come, MP3.

Dave Cronin, Art for the public: supporting a visitor-directed museum experience. Slides, MP3.

Jake Barton, Interaction Design in a Physical Space. Slides (PDF), MP3. Jake also showed a few movies during his talk: Building Timelapse movie. Jetblue booth movie. Timescapes sample chapter movie.

Ian White, The Design of Data. Slides (PDF), MP3.

Ali Sant, TRACE: Mapping the Emerging Urban Landscape. Slides to come, Part 1 MP3, Part 2 MP3.

Day 2

Stamen Design, Project Work. Slides with no movies (7.37 MB PPT), Slides with movies (164.78MB ZIP), MP3.
Fernanda Viegas, Democratizing Visualization. Slides (PPT), MP3.
Stamen and Fernanda Question and Answer. MP3.

Dan Hill, The New Media. Slides (PDF), MP3.

Next-Generation Libraries panel:

  • Deborah Jacobs, No slides, MP3
  • Ed Vielmetti, No slides, MP3
  • Paul Gould, Slides (PPT), MP3
  • Question and Answer. MP3

Robert Kalin, O Advantageous Interfaces! Slides (on Rob’s site), MP3.

Bruce Sterling, Closing Keynote. No slides. MP3.

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O Advantageous Interfaces, Etsy’s Robert Kalin


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Somehow, some way, during Tuesday’s afternoon break, the conference began a slow right turn into philosophy, contention, and larger topics. And it all began with Etsy’s Robert Kalin.

The talk was one 1/3rd cultural analysis, 1/3rd digital philosophy and 1/3rd about the history of his website and business, etsy.com. On the analysis front, he challenged the assertions of Linda Stone, claiming instead that for the younger generations that have grown up with so many digital demands for their attention, there is no sense of loss: it’s entirely normal for them to manage this many interactions, just as its normal for Gen-Xers to deal with TV, stereos, computers and other simultaneous inputs that their parents could not handle. Ripple in the pond was a common metaphor in his talk.

Robert KalinI wondered about the boundries of this argument: just because a technology can be assimiliated doesn’t mean it’s benefical or good for culture, human psychology, or human survival. There has to be some thinking about the impact these technologies, that we barely understand (as we’ve just made them), have on culture, society and psychology (See Neil Postman’s Amusing ourselves to death).

On digital philosophy: he briefly mentioned Mclluhan, a trickster of a philosopher who’s often (mis)credited with predicting and explaining many of the challenges of the digital age, but quickly moved on to the semiotics of interfaces, and how every successful UI model reveals something important about a particular culture (Urinials were a brief example, with a hat tip to Duchamp).

The history of etsy was told in brief - started as getcrafty.com, a site to sell handmade products done for a professor’s wife’s friend. They liked the core ideas, had learned from their mistakes, and launched etsy.com soon after. Kalin believes that innovation in design can be a way to differentiate and establish brand, despite other’s abilities to copy or mimic those traits. They work remotely (IRC): Kalin in Brooklyn, others in NJ, FL, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Kalin expressed that his own vagabond background (some art school, some music performance, stints at various colleges, some construction work, etc.) deeply impacted his views on design, culture, and more.

One point raised during Q&A was the curious, if not contradictory, relationship between Stone’s comments, etsy’s value proposition of the authenticity of handmade goods, and etsy.com’s construction as a cutting edge, uber-dynamic, web 2.0 experience. Can a website be an authentic experience if it’s trying to be innovative and buzzword compliant? Does the medium (wink to Mclluhan) impact how authentic you can be?

I left the session with more questions than answers, both about Kalin’s opinions, the signifigance of etsy.com, as well as whether value systems can work independent of a particular mode of communication.

Intellectually it was the most challenging (and in places frustrating) talk of the conference, that is until Sterling’s closing notes.

-Scott Berkun

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Dan Hill, The new media


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Dan Hill (BBC & Cityofsound.com) gave what might have been the greatest unintentional experiment in mass communication at the conference - his fantastic slides hinted at many interesting crossover ideas, but was unfortunately combined with a sound experience that left most of his utterances incomprehensible. I was seated 5 rows back, on the far side stairwell from the podium, but despite my attempts to relocate to beter audio conditions, couldn’t make out most of what he said (And afterwards I learned I wasn’t alone). Between a low range podium mike and his informal delivery, many of his words didn’t make it intact to my ears.

But that said, I’m far more intrigued to get my hands on his slides than any other material at the conference. So what follows is an extrapolated recap of what the ideas that reached my ears (or were invented for my by my little brain).

Key points:

  • Interactive media is out of the designers control. But can a designer design with an out of control medium?
  • Other media has paths we can follow. He offered several fascinating examples from music, including George Crumbs spiral orchestral score - a design pattern Hill applied to both the lost TV series as well as interaction design.
  • Urban planning - (He scored points for refering to LeCorbustier’s work as insane but beautiful, a sentiment I share). Explored how these models of interaction can be borrowed from for digital works.
  • Composers vs. Performers. He offered that design for interactive, social systems demands thinking more like a composer, who’s work is interpreted by others, and designers, who’s users make use of the spaces for their own aims. He suggested that co-creation is a better model for designers that the designer as solo-artist many are trained to have.

If Hill makes his slides available, and I hope he does, it’s definitely worth a thoughtful look. Even without consistently comprehensible audio, I found many layers of ideas in his carefully designed deck.

Dan also wins 10 presentation award points for the best historically relevant audio/visual aids: including a rare LP of one of John Cage’s experimental works on LP.

-Scott Berkun

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Jake Barton, Local projects


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It’s unfair to play favorites, especially on a conference blog, but Barton’s talk about his Local projects work was my favorite so far, hands down. He packed a summary of various conceptual, creative and interactive gems, into a single talk, blending ideas from NPR’s this american life, to Alan Lomax’s global jukebox, with the magic of generous experience design.

Most of the projects shown were variations on the theme of connection: finding ways to help people connect with each other through some kind of technological mediation: sometimes paper and pen (Memory Maps), sometimes videocamera (JetBlue), and other times a table and a microphone (StoryCorps). Many were mobile (thus the Lomax reference), enabling them to serve a unique kind of cultural purpose, traveling to towns and villages where exhibits this clever, and reflective, rarely arrive.

Its clear the folks at Local projects are doing some amazing work: I just wish I knew where there next project installation will be so I can check it out in person.

-Scott Berkun

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