hello, i'm a designer
i design both digital and physical products, but enough talk, check out the work...
let's design together!
check out the projects below, then let's talk about working together.
Mixing Digital with Analog
Designing Functionality Through Role Playing
The objectives for this project were initially quite open. The clients wanted a whiteboard with a digital picture frame, but also wanted digital elements for family communication. We used paper prototyping and scenario role playing to initiate ideas for interaction concepts.
Our solution was a whiteboard with digital “mailboxes”. The user could record a video or audio message for a family member, then leave a quick note next to the mailbox button such as “for Micheal” or “Bill, check out this song I wrote for you”. If the user simply wanted to write out the whole message, that would also be fine.
Sketching Prototypes by Building (Coding)
Prior to this project, our process was to design the interface in Illustartor, and then create detailed engineering flowcharts. The flowcharts would be sent to our China office to be engineered into the first prototype. A month or two later, we would get the prototype and test it. Only then would we know the resulting experience users would have with the product. I felt there was something wrong with this giant gap in feedback, and I was determined to figure out a better process.
I knew from being efficient in the industrial design workshop, that a quick and dirty working model could teach you more about solving the problem than 100 2D sketches. For digital interaction, 2D paper prototypes work great for usability, but don’t provide great insight into the holistic experience of the user. I needed real digital prototypes, so I threw myself into learning Flash with ActionScript. I painfully learned how to hack out some aspects of the digital whiteboard in Flash, and it worked! With a working, digital prototype of the product in our hands, we could easily test the product with users, truly understand the their experiences and make changes in minutes.
Painting + Ladders
The client came to us with an idea for a product that could help users when painting on ladders. The idea was that it would stick inside the hollow aluminum rungs (steps), and then a paint can could be hung from a hook, freeing the user from holding the paint can while painting on the ladder. Questions to answered included:
Transforming Into End Users
After interviewing painters and learning about how they currently manage ladder painting, we pushed ourselves to become painters as well to get a deeper understanding of the project (this worked out well for me because my house needed painting).
Sketching Working Prototypes and Testing
After a minimal amount of sketching on paper, we started sketching on wood, foam and other simple building supplies to make crude, working samples. These samples went straight to real life testing on the ladder. This process was repeated a number of times, and in the end we had designed a product that we loved to use. Although the goal is always consumer acceptance in the market, designing the right product means that designers must be passionate about the same things as the end users.
Built From Scratch to Distribution
As an industrial designer, the most challenging part of my job is the complexity of manufacturing and distribution. I wish there was a magical way to get great designs into the world. In the digital medium, the world wide web is that magical tool. For an industrial designer, uploading prototypes or websites to the web is quite empowering. Users’ acceptance and trust in web applications (mobile and desktop) also make web design more appealing.
Designing a Lifesaver
The objective of this project was to design a second generation device to help elderly people call friends, family and/or neighbors for help in case of an emergency. To program the first generation product, the user was forced to rely heavily on the manual. We wanted the next generation device to be simple enough for 80% of users to set up without the manual. While making it easier to use, we also had to focus on keeping cost extremely low. That meant working with hardware such as an ultra low res LCD display and a limited processor.
Building Working Prototypes and Testing
The basic functionality was predefined. When the user gets in trouble, they press a button on a wireless pendant worn around their neck or on a watch. The pendant sends a signal to a control hub located in their home. The control hub then dials a phone number that is predetermined by the user, and plays a message asking if they are able to help the user. The control hub calls up to 6 people until some confirms they can help.
The general interface concept was derived through use-case role playing and paper prototype construction. Once a general direction was established, I dove into Flash to create a prototype for testing. Within a day, our team was testing the prototype and contributing to iterations.
Within a week we were testing with perspective users. Through these interviews, we found that a majority of elderly people would never attempt to set the device. They would have a son, daughter or grandchild do it for them. Therefore, we needed to test a wide range of users.
The feedback we received from users helped to guide further iterations. At the start, only about half could set the device up without getting stuck. It was amazing to us how everyone was getting stuck at the same spot, regardless of age or education level. The main issues with the interface were clearly defined though testing. Changes were made and new users were tested. At this point, around 90% of users were completing the setup without serious issues.
Remote Controlled Light for Night Fishermen
The objective for this project was to design a remote-controlled light that would float in the water. The benefits of this product (versus an in-boat spot light) would be that it would not attract bugs toward the fishermen, and it could also be positioned near the intended casting area for a superior lighting situation.
I created a flash mock-up to demonstrate the functionality. The mock-up worked well to focus our team, and helped the client understand how the device would ideally function.
The first step (after the flash mock-up) was to prototype the light, get it in the water, and see if the product could really do what the inventor was envisioning. After a few attempts, it was clear that if the light shined in all directions it would always create a hot-spot in the user’s eyes, causing their pupils to get smaller and everything would be perceived to be even darker. If this project had any hope, the light would have to be directional (shine away from the user) and could not be a nuisance to control.
The next step was to build a prototype that could be tested in actual night fishing situations. To do this, we used Arduino hardware modules and a pre-existing RC boat. When completed, the prototype’s LEDs provided an amazing amount of light at an extremely low voltage. In addition, the boat and the light were pretty easy to control and keep pointed in the correct position.
I love designing collaboratively and openly, whether it be with other designers, engineers, stakeholders or perspective users. I believe that designers should not only forge an understanding of the end users, but become the end user by doing what they do, and joining their club if they will allow.
A good design process is one that constantly outputs materials that can be tested, and changed according to feedback. At the beginning, this might be paper prototypes that can be tested by fellow co-workers. In later stages, it could be specific goals, such as decreasing the amount of time it takes users to complete a task by 20%. The idea is a constant feedback loop, which takes the designer from listening, sharing, learning, designing, building and back again, until a product is built that provides an exceptional experience for the end user.