Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nike Considered

On Monday, Dec. 8, Portland Spaces Magazine and Editor Randy Gragg hosted a lecture with guest Lorrie Vogel of Nike in their Bright Lights series. Vogel works on sustainability and an initiative called Considered.

Some of the good stuff: Nike shoe materials are re-used and made into sport courts. Their sites run on renewable energy and their Laakdal site actually puts energy back on the grid (windmills, I believe). They are strong drivers of sustainability and low impact manufacturing processes and products. It does give one pause, wondering what they may not be saying, but the work they are sharing is impressive.

Vogel talked about design for disassembly, a laudable goal, but also noted that huge systems need to be in order to make that type of cycle valuable. Creating a shoe that can be disassembled is great, creating a process to reuse the material would be awesome.

The conversation also hit hard on how important financial impact is to obtain buy in for sustainability ; something we know from being in business, but something they don't necessarily teach you in school. If you say, "we should use this new system so we produce less waste," a CEO may understand it, but not drive it to reality. If you say "this new system that reduces the amount of waste our company creates and will save us $1 million dollars," you get a conversation and a plan of action.

Most interesting was the software Nike developed to assist the Considered effort. When creating a Bill of Materials, designers see the direct impact and environmental effect of the materials they are choosing. Designers see which material or process is more or sustainable and can choose to use a low impact process or material to counterbalance a higher impact one. This transparency and visibility into the process sounds like the Holy Grail of design tools. Imagine how quickly we could lessen the impact of all products if every designer had insight into the impact of the materials and processes.

Tools similar to this are popping up in many places lately. The Kill A Watt device lets you see your home energy consumption real time, and menus now give full calorie information. It begs the question, what else would you do differently if you could see the impact and make an informed choice?

Vogel's talk and conversation with Bragg was enlightening and engaging. Thanks Portland Spaces!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In a hurry...

At a nearby Taco Bell, a colleague and I experienced this bad design of locks and door handles. One bathroom said vacant but was clearly locked. Once inside the bathroom, it was easy to see why. The lock and the "Vacant" sign are not connected. An example of underdesigned utility devices.   

Sunday, November 30, 2008

HiTech Dressing Rooms

Before I post this, I have to mention that it has taken me a ridiculous amount of time to figure out how to get months of photos off of my phone to my computer. Now that I have, I can catch up on posts. 
This is a great idea, a button in a fitting room at The Gap in downtown Portland. No more standing half dressed wondering if they have a different size or color. No more getting completely undressed and dressed again to find the right color/size. The push of a button gets the help you need. Ahhhh...
More information and vision pieces on cool new dressing room technology:


As humans, we learn to adapt to our surroundings. This poster was created to adapt to it's surroundings. Was there really no other surface in the airport on which to stick this poster?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


urf08 002 by steve.portigal.
Thanks to Steve Portigal for Aviva's Pic

On Friday, November 7, I travelled to San Francisco, CA to check out a 1/2 day conference put on by Nate Bolt and Bolt | Peters. This event, dubbed User Research Friday, brought together design research and user experience professionals for education and conversation. The big conferences can be great - CHI, IDSA, IXDA - but there was something great and very tangible about this short and fairly small gathering. 150 people gathered for 5 hours to learn and network - then it was gone. But it was good! The limited amount of speakers meant you only saw great speakers, not 5 so-so and 1 great one in a day. The topics were right on target for things that UX and design research professionals deal with every day. 

A brief overview: 
Steve Portigal of Portigal Design
Focused on the symbiotic relationship between research and design. We are indeed co-dependents. He shared a reminder that prototypes are just that, they are development tools and don't always have to be usable. He put into words something most of us do naturally, but reminded us that should not talk to people in our language, but in theirs - that is the language of the user, not the language of your client. 

Indi Young now independent, but a founder of Adaptive Path
Indi's claim to fame is the development and refinement of mental models. Though her talk jumped in head first with nary an explanation of what exactly a mental model is and isn't, she brought up interesting ideas for segmentation and analysis. She suggests segmenting by behaviors, beliefs and actions rather than the traditional market research strategy of age and gender. A chat with Indi afterwards clarified mental models for me. If you want even more information and her new book, check this link: Mental Models

Aviva Rosenfeld of
Nate Bolt, event host, asked Aviva to particularly address the ethnography debate between designers and anthropologists. She queried why it was difficult to see ourselves as ethnographers. After a life altering experience at EPIC a few years back, I've been afraid to use the word myself! The conclusion was that it's important to do good research. Whether or not it's "ethnography" is fairly irrelevant. My two cents: It is almost impossible to do "true ethnography" on the product development timeline. 

Kris Mihalic of Yahoo! Mobile research
This was a very brief presentation - I can't say I have any relevant commentary. 

Dan Saffer of Kicker Studio
A great way to end the afternoon! Dan took all of the practical advice of the day and spun it on it's head. He talked through every way possible of tweaking your research to make it show exactly what you want to show. Though we've all been tempted, I do hope it was all tongue in cheek! 

Core 77 Post with video links to full presentations

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The tragedies of war

When you hear about them, older men, a few women, those who served their country in past battles, it all seems far away. Romantic to some, scary to others. The ravages of war touch some, but not many these days. 

I had the occassion to go to the Veteran's Hospital in Portland this week and have to say I think I may have audibly gasped upon walking into the waiting room. This VA center has a very active waiting area. As soon as the doors opened I was faced with a sea of walkers, oxygen tanks and men who had clearly seen better days. What was difficult for me in the moment, was difficult for them for the rest of their lives. 

Why don't they show these men when they show ads for "be all you can be." If all you want to be is aging with war wounds and potentially unknown substances poisoning you from years on foreign soil, then yes, by all means, "be all you can be." 

After processing this sea of infirmity, I pressed on to talk to the good folks who are using research and technology to help their fellow citizens deal with their ailments, medications, and ongoing healthcare issues. There is great research going on in these institutions, and my hope is that these war veterans can gain some value from it. 

I'm also going to advocate for putting VA hospitals next to recruitment centers, just to make it fair and be sure you know what you are getting into. 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

To friend or not to friend? That is the question.

As social networking creeps up from the teens and twenty somethings to my generation of forty-somethings and above, more and more people join who I didn't expect to see in this space. Not surprisingly, many hi-tech colleagues are also in this space. 

There is often a line each of us draws at work. I just work and go home, preferring to keep work and socializing separate; I work and sometimes hang out with colleagues; or my workplace is all of the socialization and hang out time I get because I work too much! 

This morning, I went online and decided to see who of my tech-laggard friends had joined Facebook based on a search of my email account. Wow! 84 contacts now had a Facebook account. 

As I scrolled, I had a decision to make. Many of these people are past colleagues and future clients. How much do we want to and should we know about each others daily lives? Is it good to "friend" your recruiter so she sees all of the posts that say "working"...or dangerous because she sees you put up a post at 1am that says "just got home from the bars?" (sadly, rarely the case for me) Should I be privy to photos of their kids in the pumpkin patch or their wild weekend in Bermuda? 

The workplace has definitely gotten more casual in recent years. It's interesting and curious to see if social networking will cause a backlash and have people opting out for privacy or if we will all be virtually connected and know far too much about each other's lives. Seems as if we are leaning towards the latter. 

I'm really curious to hear what others do or think. Please leave a comment about how YOU manage your online social networking for business and pleasure. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sick Around the World

Last night I had a chance to view Sick Around the World, a Frontline production (public broadcasting), at a local Unitarian Church. Prior to the movie, there was a short talk about what Oregon is doing to attempt to get health insurance for all of its residents. As a self-employed individual whose COBRA will run out next year who has pre-existing conditions, I have a keen interest in both local and national attempts to right an increasingly broken healthcare system in America. 

The astonishing number to me was that 75% of the money spent on health care goes for chronic care. More and more I believe that not only should our health insurance be focused on wellness and prevention, but our health technology needs to help intervene before we are so ill that we have a condition for the rest of our lives. The work I was doing previously and the work Intel continues to do in telemedicine may also reduce this burden, allowing technology to more closely monitor chronic conditions and keep people healthier, longer. 

Sick Around the World features a journalist, T.R. Reid who visits the UK, Taiwan, Japan, Germany and Switzerland to see what the U.S. can learn about health care. 

This review will surely be an oversimplification of an oversimplification, but worth looking at nevertheless. 

In the U.K., the government is too involved in health care. A general practitioner is the gatekeeper and you cannot see a specialist until you see the GP.  Waiting time is long for surgery and specialists. When doing my own research on the ground there, I also heard that the doctors felt very stretched - seeing patients only for a few minutes to meet the NHS goals of patients per hour. Their pharmacists were starting to do interesting work, scheduling long visits with patients in order to help manage all of their medications. This is also starting to happen in the U.S. and is reimbursed by insurance. 

In Japan, the country regulates what doctors can charge for various services. There is a fee book  that all doctors use(MRIs are $98 and an overnight stay in the hospital is....$10!). The hospitals are going broke (though it's nice not to see patient's going broke as in the U.S.) There is no wait time to see a doctor and  you can go as often as you would like. 

In Germany, doctors are not allowed to make a profit. They have a "sickness fund". Some doctors feel undervalued and underpaid. However, malpractice insurance is very low and they don't have loans when leaving med school. Again, the government sets the prices. 

Taiwan has mandatory insurance, there is no opt out position. There is also no gatekeeper and you can see any specialist you like. They have a wonderful smart card with all of your health information - imagine no more papers in triplicate every time you visit a new provider! Taiwan also has the lowest administration costs in the world. Again, they aren't bringing in enough money to cover services provided. 

Finally, Switzerland, who switched in 1994 from a system similar to what we currently have to mandatory/national coverage.  Employed persons are covered by their employer. The poor and individuals are covered by the government (so specifics on self-employment). Some still buy supplemental insurance, but everyone is covered in some form or fashion. The pharmaceutical industry was hit by having to decrease their costs, saying they wouldn't have money for research. Fortunately, Americans still pay painfully high prices for drugs and they are able to continue researching thanks to sick, bankrupt Americans who need medication. 

So what's the answer? Likely some combination of the above. The real answer is that what we have is NOT working and something needs to be done. The economic downturn hits the sick even harder. People cannot afford their chemotherapy, insurance only covers the employed and the healthy. The system is very broken. Let's hope a new administration can fix it.  

Monday, September 8, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Making Things

On Thursday, September 4, the Portland local CHIfoo (Computer Human Interaction Forum of Oregon) and IDSA (Indsutrial Designers Society of America) collaborated to bring Matt Cottam of Tellart to Portland for an evening lecture and a full day workshop.
Tellart was brought in to share the art of "sketching" for digital interfaces. As any designer knows, be it interface or furniture , it is important to start early and often with a physical prototype to get an idea to a space where you can discuss it, change it, and build on it and see if it "stands up" both literally and figuratively.

The projects they shared were great. They are the kinds of projects many of us dream about doing for either love or money, bridging the physical and digital worlds. The workshop was just like being back in graduate school and being given the chance to dream of anything, not worry about whether will it make the company the necessary million dollars, or if can you replicate it and make 10 million of them. It was an exercise in thought without boundaries.

They shared a wonderful array of digital sketch components, some of which I am familiar with or have used and others which are new. Arduino, Scratch, Phidgets, Basic Stamp and Easy I/O were suggested for quick mock ups along with interface software such as Flash. Other sites of interest included Making Things, Trossen Robotics, Buglabs, Ultimarc for pre-hacked keyboards and Sparkfun.

Our team used a grid of passive RFID tags placed behind a tablecloth and hung over a freestanding screen. Using an RFID reader, the game player was tasked with touching the "prey" so the Blob knew where to move. The Blob then ate the prey and was able to live to eat the next. The game was a combination of thoughts from game theory and a desire to have a game based on gesture and physicalization, moving away from the static computer screen. In just an afternoon we were able to brainstorm and build this game as a "sketch" to what could be.
The photo in the upper left shows another team's work where they pasted RFID tags to the inside of a Kleenex box and used it as a controller for a memory system. When you flipped to Tuesday, a short video diary came up with what you or a friend recorded on any given day. A Sprite bottle controlled the on/off and speed of the video.
Attendees had fun to be sure. The only disappointing part is that still can't go back to my project teams with an easy to use solution, or at least one that I've tried before, to make similar sketches. The hardware is easily attainable, the code we used was something special they use in-house and, sadly, I don't code Flash. It reminded me that it's still best to work with engineers, and software gurus but maybe I'll start spending my wee hours learning basic code to make digital sketches.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crowdsourcing Sneaks

From the "I heard it on NPR files..."

They were talking about a small firm here in my town of Portland that I had yet to hear about. (This town seems small, but I'm constantly amazed at all of the small and medium sized businesses ticking away out here.)

NPR was talking about RYZ shoes, a company with a new way of designing shoes. The time honored technique of crowdsourcing - that is asking the public to the work once given to highly trained professionals - is at the heart of this business.

Threadless is another example of crowdsourcing. However, if you go to their site, most of the T-shirts, again, given their look by the public, have been significantly reduced from $20-$15 all down to $12. Is this a successful example of crowdsourcing?

There is a time and a place for crowdsourcing. Netflix used a contest to have their site redesigned in a genius use of crowdsourcing. However, the RYZ shoe takes me back to the conversation of "what is design". You are putting an image, colors and images on the shoe. But the shoe itself was "designed" by, hopefully, a shoe designer. When I buy a shoe, maybe this is the sign of my age, I want it to look cool, but I also want it to be comfortable! RYZ sells essentially one shoe in many different colors and "designs". If the shoe fits, you can wear it.

So, is this the future of fashion? Is this the future of technology and new products? Mass personalization seems to ebb and flow, never completely getting off the ground, but showing small successes like the boutique companies above. It's likely to work well with sneakers and clothing and even to design the skins on your technology, but I don't think researchers and designers should be terrifically worried about being outsourced by the crowd.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

All the Amercan Girls

For this post, I believe the pictures are worth the 1000 words. I had the opportunity to go with my 5 year old cousin to the American Girl store on a trip to Chicago last weekend. The trip was for her, but also a social science moment too good to pass up.

What was inside was incredible. Three floors of dolls, accessories, a hair salon, a hospital and a "museum". It's honestly difficult to discern if this is a horrendous marketing scheme or just a good idea gone bad. Teaching young girls about history through dolls is theoretically a good idea. Paying for your doll to go to a hair salon, enjoy a fancy tea and being swept up in the "stuff" of it all is a different experience entirely. The good news, is that there is hope for the economy based on the masses of people there with disposable income spending money on something other than food, gas and housing.

I'll let the pictures speak:
One American Girl doll has an unassuming demeanor. This case full of genetic options (hair, skin and eye color to match that of your 7 year old) is downright creepy.

One might question the choice of this diorama, showing the option to buy accessories and night clothes. Should the American Girl really be sitting spread eagle on a bed with shiny pajamas on? I suppose the American Girl does need to represent all career options for your 7 year old's future.

Yes, they really have a hair salon. You can pay $10-$20 to get your doll's hair done. For an extra $5 you can get the pampering package - a facial scrub and decals on the nails to mimic a manicure. Really.

And finally, representing the incredible attention to detail paid in this space, the bathrooms sport these American Girl doll holders. While you relieve yourself, Kit, Josefina or Nellie can rest easy supported by this ingenious doll holder. Hopefully, nobody will try to use it for their 1 year old.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Aging Conferece Day 2

Long overdue overview of Day 2 of the conference

The talks for day two began with Tracy Zitzelberger from OHSU giving an overview of her team’s work. She discussed the idea of continuous assessment and using and elder’s progress as a point of comparison, and not comparing her progress to that of anyone else. The distinction is important since the research focus is on predicting impairment and decline which can be noted by changes in behavior caught by sensors in the environment (i.e, doors, keyboards, etc.)

Work on cognitive impairment and medication tracking by Tamara Hayes and her team was discussed. A portion of this work was done in conjunction with the Digital Health team at Intel during my tenure there. Papers on the subject can be found here, here and here. (Sorry, I realize you need to purchase these. If you are interested in papers on medication reminding, drop me a line and I can share our publications directly.)

For those interested in these subjects, a plethora of information can be found at ORCATECH and the Layton Center on Aging.

Jonathan Cluts from Microsoft presented his team’s research on smart homes, looking 5-10 years into the future. He likened the work to concept cars. No, you can’t go out and purchase the technology today, but having a working demonstration helps both developers and potential end users engage with the technology, promoting conversations about the experience.

There is an assumption stated in their design that things you purchase in the future for your home will come equipped with RFID tags. These tags will help to track and organize the items in your home, including telling your child that Dumbo is missing from the bin in which he is normally kept. I don’t have children, but the anal retentiveness that ritual may create in children may not be worth the pay off, i.e, Dumbo must go into the red bin or the toy chest will see it as empty or not put away.

What caught my eye the most, having spent about 2.5 years looking at medication reminders, was their idea for medication tracking and reminding. The idea consisted of a ceiling mounted projector which projects onto a counter. The projector will prompt you to put a pill bottle under a camera at the right time to confirm which pills you are taking and then it prompts you to take out meds to confirm actual pills.

In the spirit of conversation, there seem to be a number of issues not considered in this scenario. The foremost issue in my mind is I don’t know anyone with 2 feet of unobstructed counter space in their kitchen on which to cleanly project something, especially elders living in small spaces. The device can assumedly project onto any flat surface, but again, a large unobstructed surface in a home is an anomaly rather than usual fare. It also assumes flat colored countertops. Simple black and white would be best for projection. The profusion of granite countertops (other than black) would likely render the projection useless with their bits of many colors not offering enough contrast for readability. The other conversation they need to revisit is that people, yes, even seniors, are very active. They are often not home at medication time. It would be important to add an override for medication taken outside the home.

What the device does offer that seems valuable based on my research, is that it allows a patient to keep their pills in the bottles from the pharmacy. This avoids the confusion of taking pills out of their pharmacy bottles and remembering how many and when to take them when filling a weekly reminder box. It also allows for easy medication change, again, it avoids undoing and re-doing the weekly or monthly meds box. Of course, the question there remains, who programs the device? Is there a remote programming option for a paid or unpaid caregiver? Do I need to go to the house to set up the system?

All in all, it’s a really nice next step into the complicated world of medication prompting, and quite different than many of the relatively “dumb” boxes being sold today. Definitely worth a continued pursuit.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to comment on the other speakers that afternoon since I was unable to attend the final afternoon sessions.

It’s a conference I would definitely attend again. The price was right and the information was valuable and varied. Thanks UW for continuing the conversation around the growing topic of elders and technology.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Comparison Shopping

I still owe a day 2 download on the aging conference, but I've been distracted by consumerism lately. Gone, apparently, are the days when you walked into a store, there were 1 or 2 versions of a product and you decided then and there what to buy. I am now paralyzed by my fear of purchasing an inferior product.
First, it's time for a new computer. Honestly, I just want a red one. But, it also needs to run Photoshop, Illustrator, support multi-tasking, have bluetooth, ideally a webcam, be light enough for easy travel, and work fast enough to keep up with my oh so fast typing speeds (my current computer can't always do that...) And it needs to store a LOT of data and run large programs. So, off I go comparison shopping, Dell, Sony, Toshiba. Circuit City, Best Buy, Staples (never shop for a computer at Staples).
Back home to the Dell Outlet, Sony online, Toshiba. (Toshiba has a really great interface called the Laptop Finder to help you choose the best model for you, but each time I engage with it it selects something different. Hm.)
The purchase has been on my mind for months as my computer slows to a halt, but the options are brain numbing and my fear of making the wrong purchase has me making none at all. Then, it's time to get a TV converter box. The TV in my kitchen (keeps me company when preparing a meal or during a late night snack) does not have cable. My coupon arrived and a LIST of 49!! converter boxes that are eligible for use with the coupon. 49?! How complicated is this? Now the government in their infinite wisdom has created yet another mind boggling piece of technology that I must have in order to enjoy the company of David Letterman as I eat a late night bowl of cereal.
The issue is, what can we as information and product designers do to make things easier for consumers? How can we create simple, elegant devices? Or, how can we create simple, elegant decision trees for the overwhelmed consumer? Find out what they want/need in the device then show them the top three choices. Don't make them spend time searching forums, consumer reports, asking the neighbor and the barista what they did. Make the information gathering for the ever more complex devices as simple as possible, even if the device is not.
Once again, I thank Apple. There was 1 iPhone. Now there are 2. One is old, one is new. That's it. Let's make the best product and put it out there in an understandable way so consumers can simply purchase and use it, not get a stomach ulcer over a ridiculous box that will take my already lousy reception on a TV with a 10" screen and make it visible for years to come.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Supportive Technology and Design for Healthy Aging

This week, the University of Washington's Institute on Aging hosted the third conference focused on technology for our aging population. The numbers you know: 10% of the world's population was over age 60 in 2002. By 2050, 21% will be over the age of 60. (I'll hopefully be there, too)
By 2025, 1.2 BILLION people will be over age 60. Sixty seems to be a very random magic number. I will pause here to say that from my life and my research, 80 is the new 60. Frailness and serious decline are more prevalent.

Nevertheless, we are a more crowded planet and people all over the world are living longer, hopefully healthier lives. Technology can help people stay in their own homes longer by offering physiological feedback, memory assistance, aids for socialization and sharing this data with family and health care professionals as needed.

One interesting theme was living spaces. There is a push to move towards new models. Lydia Lundberg of Elite Care here in Portland shared its unique set up. While residents have private rooms, they are in townhouses, not high rises or buildings with hundreds of people. They are in shared homes. They take meals together in small groups in a local kitchen. Small residences also avoid walks down long halls for already frail individuals. Residents are asked to wear an RFID tag that captures their location. There are no gates, but wanderers with Alzheimer's are usually stopped by a sprinkler system that turns on if they veer off campus. Family members can check in through a portal on their loved one(s) to see their level of activity, time spent in bed, weight, and other vital stats. It's a great view to the nursing home of the future.

Victor Regnier March discussed his research on housing for the elderly in Europe. After his presentation, we had a conversation about intergenerational housing, a concept that seems remarkably undeveloped in this country. Co-housing allows like minded people to live cooperatively and make group choices on their communal living spaces. When elderly residents live in these arrangements, the upside is that their neighbors are not all over 70. The downside is that because they are often retired or working fewer hours, they are expected to do the less desirable work. Resentment builds and the community is at odds. Generally, intergenerational housing seems like a fantastic idea, done well at the Natalie Salmon House in Chicago where students and seniors live side by side. Students get reduced rent and a grandparent figure, since many don't have grandparents or are living far away. Seniors get some liveliness and able bodied neighbors as well as meal and healthcare assistance. The idea of college, pre-school and mixed age housing should be a natural, but in the U.S. especially, we seem to feel the need to push all of the elderly into a corner and ask them to live together.

Two final talks focused on robots as assistive technology for the elderly. Maja Mataric and Jim Osborn discussed how robots and robotics can assist the elderly with everything from socialization to facial recognition. Maja talked at length about how robots were used to motivate individuals to participate in therapy and promote generative play. She also talked about the research pairing people with "like minded" robots, that is a more "extroverted" robot with a more extroverted person. This match made for a stronger attachment and led to a longer engagement in key activities. Though the robots are not due on the market any time soon, the research should be used as a resource for those making brain games and interactive web sites for seniors.
More on Day 2 tomorrow...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Buxton and Design

Bill Buxton, one of the early user experience researchers, came to Portland last night as he was invited by our local CHIfoo.

There is definitely more than a blog post of information to report from this entertaining and enlightening lecture. (the man kept my attention for 2 solid hours, not an easy task)
The Big Idea of the lecture was twofold, in my opinion. He spent time talking about how designers are underrepresented in management and how poorly that effects a company. The larger message was that design doesn't happen in a void. Everything happening socially, economically, physically around that product, service or interface helps to create what the final piece will eventually become.
Some of my favorite quotes and ideas:
  • We need to continue to make the computer go towards the user, not force the user to the computer. In other words, make it intuitive, make it make sense, don't make me have to learn it.
  • "It is not failure, but expansive/expensive? education"
  • Users subjectively overrate what they see
  • Being able to "read" a sketch is as important as being able to make one
  • Figure out what makes you distinct, that's your value. (As a consultant, I think about this one a lot.)
He spent quite a bit of time on sketching and prototyping. The piece that is stuck in my mind refers to a comment about having 999,000 ideas, 998,999 of which don't make it to the product. I would challenge that phrasing. The 998,999 sketches not "used" all are somehow in that final product, and if not, the fact that they are not present was a choice. The choice not to choose, is still a choice. The ideas may not be visibly present, but conceptually, all roads, and all sketches, lead to the product solution.

What struck me most was his ability to seamlessly be an interface designer, design researcher, user experience lead, software architect, design manager -- and probably others. Though we do need to know what makes us distinct, how we add value to a team, that value changes for any given team and the overlap between product/interface and product/service design is becoming muddier and muddier. I believe this is a good thing. If we overcompartmentalize ourselves, we end up with an interface that doesn't fit the product or a service idea from marketing that can't be carried out by the interface designer. The ability to seamlessly flow and wear different hats depending on the group, the project or the topic can help build interesting, well rounded and effective teams.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Everyone Old is Young Again

Courtesy of: SparkleGlowplug

Wednesday was my first day back at the gym after breaking my leg. I hobbled in and hoped for the best. After doing 20 steady minutes on the stationary bike as instructed by my physical therapist, I headed to the downstairs to do use the weight machines.

As I walked down, I realized there was a "Silver Sneakers" class, an exercise class focused on seniors. Here's where it got interesting. These seniors all seemed to have working limbs. My 41 year old self was only able to walk with the assistance of a cane.

I moved into the room with the weight machines and at a break in the class, the seniors did too. I was doing minimum weight on many machines, they were doing a few more. As I did my sit ups and listened to their conversation, I heard talk of friends and foes, email and technology (some love it, some hate it). The best bit I overheard was the woman who said,"I don't have a computer or a cell phone, I don't like technology, heck I don't even have a dishwasher!"

But the interesting thing was how vital, interesting and interested this group was, and how frail I felt in their presence. It's a great testament to the aging population that they are like a group of teenagers, having conversations about email and sharing ideas about technology, their friends and how much weight they can lift. May we all live to enjoy a healthy retirement.
By then we may all be marveling at/complaining about too much brainmail and what a pain it is when all of this communication traffic comes in through our implanted receivers that allow calls and letters to automatically pop up right in our eyes and ears.

Of course, in Japan, they have it all figured out and will be using new technology to help the elderly gain needed strength. Who needs the gym when you have a RoboSuits. 'Nuf said.

Monday, June 2, 2008


The word has been in the wind, now the newspapers are writing about it so it must be a trend. It's twittering. I will say, upfront, I have yet to try twittering. With curiosity, I read the news article and then went to the Twitter site, but I have to admit I'm still unclear on the draw. (They do, however, have an incredibly clever video introducing twitter with simple paper cut outs that make me feel much better about my drawing skills...)
They say it's a way to stay in touch with friends, longer than a text, shorter than a blog entry or an IM. Between Facebook, a Blog, potentially a website and texting, does anyone have time to twitter? What can they twitter about other than the fact that they are keeping up with their blog/text/IM/website? Do I really need to know that my friend went to Starbucks at 2 pm today or sat down and read a book at 7?
The change in what being "social is" is interesting. People say we are more disconnected, technology is a way to connect. In general, I agree. There are people I am in touch with from college and even highschool that I may never have reconnected with had we not had email, or even facebook. Twitter may be much the same, but frankly, I'm technologied out. Must we really share every detail of our lives with potentially 500 or 1000 contacts? (numbers mentioned in the newspaper article)
I will also admit that these sites raise the bar on cleverness. Anyone on Facebook knows that "drinking a cup of coffee" is not really the answer to "what are you doing?" Catchy phrases are definitely preferred "jonesing for a java in janestown" (ok, it's still not that catchy, that's why I have social networking anxiety) So now, if I want to tell my friends about the play I saw the book I read or the fact that I walked in the woods, I need to: get to the appropriate technology, be witty, post it, then go on with the next witty and wonderful thing on my calendar.
For now, my answer to "what are you doing?" is "contemplating a twitterless life." Sad, but true.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A new way to drive

In my continued search to make the world accessible to myself, with a still healing broken ankle, I contacted a local mobility company to find out about making my car accessible. There seem to be no great temporary fixes, but Enterprise Rent a Car actually rents out cars with hand controls. (Mobility devices such as left hand controls with spinner knobs, left foot accelerators and pedal extenders are available at no additional charge. In fact, I got a great deal)
They leave the foot pedals on and leave the hand controls. My thoughts after a few days of using this. My key to some freedom!
  • Making all cars with hand controls would significantly cut down on the amount of distracted driving. You must have one hand on the wheel and one on the controls at almost all times. No cell phones, no makeup application, no eating or drinking. A pro and a con. Would it make for safer driving?
  • The brain is imminently adaptable. About 14 years ago, (about 12 years after I learned to drive) I fell in love with a manual car. I bought it and learned to drive it. Lo these many years later, I spent 2 days driving with no radio and no passenger, paying total attention to the motions forward > brake, down > gas. Not to mention trying to be sure my reflexes didn't move to the floor pedals altogether. It seems to have taken...mostly.
  • Human factors and user experience people abound in automotive design, trying to make intuitive controls on the dash and an easy to use "cockpit" but is anyone really deconstructing driving itself? Is sitting in a seat, sipping a cup of hot coffee, steering a wheel and pushing pedals still the best solution? What about moving your body to control the direction of the car, or again, hands, shoulders, arms, head -- can they engage? I'm no auto designer but it seems like this area is ripe for a full redesign. Maybe we can get Apple to take a stab at it! Some interesting ideas from the big guys, a Segway type car and of course, Fusion Man(though that landing might have a serious impact on the health of anyone's ankles!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Video for the greater good

Video is a medium used for fun, persuasion, entertainment and documentation. As designers and researchers, we often use video to tell our story. It's a persuasive marketing tool, within a group or to a client, to share edited video that allows the end user to really tell his/her story directly.
Today I ran across a group using video in another unique way.
The American Refugee Committee (ARC) International is arming women and girls (and men) with video cameras to directly address the issues of "gender based violence". With these cameras, the community is making their own videos based on their own experiences and knowledge. This is apparently having a profound effect on the communities understanding of and talking about the numerous events of rape, forced marriage and wife beating.
This Through Their Eyes program gives a voice to many who may have otherwise lived with these secrets their whole lives. It is now documented, on video and made real to the community empowering others to step forward and tell their story. Hopefully, reducing the amount of stories in the future.
Another great example of technology empowering people all over the world and a nod to the power of video, made by real people for real outcomes.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Human Kindness

And yet, another post on the adventures of having a broken ankle. What I've noticed in being able to get out and about more, is the basic human desire to do good and be kind. Yes, I really believe that underneath all of our daily griping, screaming at the TV or radio when various members of the government speak, and even among soldiers killing in Iraq, Iran and points far and wide, when given the chance, people want to be nice to each other.

This has been very apparent as strangers go out of their way to hold heavy bathroom doors, otherwise barely maneuverable on crutches, offer a seat in an otherwise crowded lecture, special dispensation at the local public pool to a private lane...the list goes on and on. Along with the wonderful friends who have stepped up to help in amazing ways, I have truly learned that to depend on "the kindness of strangers" as Blanche DuBois suggested (via Tennessee Williams) so many years ago.

As you go about your day, assume that people really do want to help, that they do want to be nice to you, they really aren't out to make your day more miserable. Perhaps, if we each can assume that, we will create a conscious circle of kindness to one another, not just acting on instinct, but working at purposefully sharing this innate kindness.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

IDSA Western-District Wrap Up

This weekend marked the culmination of months of work for many of us working on the Western District IDSA conference. There was, as is often the case, a strong showing of students about to graduate and looking for work. From my experience of the job market, they may have a tough road. I met a particularly enthusiastic group of students who were attending all 4 conferences in search of work. One said he had 15 interviews at the NE conference, but was not so lucky here.

There were a wide range of speakers, many with traditional ID backgrounds: Max Burton touting the new Nike Sports Band - though I have to say I think the original Nike Plus with audio prompts exceeds the user friendliness of an interface you have to stop to look at while jogging. I do LOVE the simple interface they shared which downloads your run in a slow, sweeping curve instead of just a pop up of the data. It almost feels like you are doing your run again.

Howard Meehan and Carson Lev took the spots for old guard designers who had made and remade themselves into many fascinating iterations.

Wendy March of Intel did a wonderful job of turning design on its head, as always, posing new ways of looking at things and encouraging us to turn into, instead of away from "boring design" and pay attention to the little things, "like lunch" that will be with us for years to come.

My unexpected favorite was Winston Wang of TMobile's Creation Center. He talked about "orchestrating socialization using wireless technology." I love it. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise by now, but I'm happy to see so many hi-tech companies saving creative space for researchers including design research and ethnography. He shared some of the fascinating work they are doing with gesture and call management.

Finally, Greg Raisman hit the proverbial ball out of the park with his great presentation sharing the issues behind bike parking and traffic calming. These seemingly static problems were made concise and interesting by Greg's enthusiastic presentation. PDOT is working hard to make sure bikes, cars, pedestrians, etc. can all safely share the road. The thoughtful attendees of this workshop came up with great solutions keeping material costs down, but cleverly working within the set parameters. I will take a moment to humbly comment that this design charette was put together by myself, Zara Logue and Steve Chaney. Portland's bike community also came out to share their input including bike aficionados Bill Stites, Jonathan Maus, Mark Lear and Sarah Figliozzi of PDOT and Teri Peterson and Ronnie of SCRAP.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Healthcare is Broken

As behavioral researchers, we are trained to talk and listen. To ask questions and really understand the end users. My current situation, thankfully temporary, has once again magnified for me how broken our healthcare system is. I have talked with and listened to elders, people with a disability, and people who are chronically ill. We listen, we sympathize, we might even empathize, but at the end of the interview or project we walk away, thankful for our health, our mobility, our cognitive ability and use these abilities to work to help others. The key is, normally, we can walk away, go back to our lives.

At the moment, my life is healthcare. Healing a broken ankle. Tragic? No. Inconvenient? Hell yes. In the dark? Hell yes.

I think first about the work being done in Ireland with the Digital Health group. They have done some investigation about ride sharing. Getting seniors to the doctor, on an errand, food shopping. There is a small system there to help with this. There are also some systems here. None too great. As a middle-class, non-elderly American, the services are almost non-existent. There is one rideshare in my town for people not on public assistance. You need to call 4 days ahead of your appointment and then you find out only 1-2 days ahead of time if you can have a ride. I have friends who can help, but am working at not wearing out my welcome. It's my right ankle and I can't drive. Public transit is a bit of a walk from here on my crutches. I'm unstable and can't stand for long periods waiting for a bus. The options are somewhat dismal. I can pay for a cab, but it's expensive and I'm now self-employed, waiting for 30-90 day payables from February and March. I also live in a purportedly green city. We should have a daily ride share board. "hey, I'm going this way, anyone need a lift?" Or leap even further ahead and have a device where you can log where you want to go and have it alert you when someone in your neighborhood is headed that way.

If I had interviewed someone about this I'd think, wow, we need to do something about this transportation issue. Let's spend 6 months researching, getting info and a few years implementing. That's realistically how these things happen. It is amazing what is still broken. I believe being in the circumstance is why people like Lance Armstrong start their own foundations. Only when you have the experience or sit next to it, do you really realize the work that needs to be done and the money that needs to be put behind it.

The other astounding finding is the lack of information, good information, shared by the doctors. I have a broken ankle. I never had a broken ankle (though I have spent time on crutches from sprained ankles). They hand you crutches and a brace and send you on your way. No conversations on how to make yourself comfortable, how to sit/sleep/work. How to get food for yourself when you can stand only on 1 leg and both hands are grasping your crutches. How do you carry things? What's the best way to bathe or shower? What should I expect over the coming weeks?

The hospital handed me paperwork encouraging me to "ask questions" and ask "have you washed your hands?" Really, that's my slightest concern. What I really want to know how my life is changing for the next 4-6 weeks and how I can manage. My doctor sees broken bones, every day, but this is my first experience. I don't think he realizes that. I've read research papers on what happens when you leave the doctor's office. How confusing and scary it can be. How many questions you forget to ask or don't even know to ask. Mine wasn't a heart attack or diabetes, a chronic or life changing event, yet the confusion and scariness is likely to be more profound with chronic illness. Health education is extremely behind the times and as designers and researchers it's our job to get this information to the patients, into the hands of the sick, the worried, the scared and empower them/us, make us feel safe and that somebody in healthcare actually might care.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The View from Down Here

Being that I am experiencing the world from the viewpoint of a temporarily disabled person, this gives me new insights to an old area of interest in design for disability.

Suggestions for the rented wheels, that is wheelchairs or electric scooters in malls and stores:
  • Add a location to clip on or rest crutches or a cane. There are no good ways to carry them while you are maneuvering about.
  • In addition to the mobile cart, rent out a grab stick. Though I know this from being a relatively short person, it's even more apparent when you are seated ALL the time, the world is designed for standing tall people! A grab stick at the grocery store while using the wheeled cart would be an excellent addition to the experience.
  • I'm putting this one in the public domain and hoping someone acts on it: collapsible crutches. They are tall when you need them, but telescope in for when you are riding in a car, wheelchair or just sitting at home and don't want the entire world tripping on them.
    • a quick web search shows that I am not the first to think of this - no surprise - but most models are hard to come by. One seemingly useful, albeit spendy option:
  • Make wheelchairs fun! The kids all get to ride in these cute, colorful molded plastic cars, they are having fun and people look at them and smile. Wheelchairs are incredibly utilitarian, and people mostly avoid looking at you if you are in one, or look with pity. Make wheeled devices for adults more desirable.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Magic is Back

Just 12 hours later...
I plugged in my Magic Jack to the computer this morning. I plugged in an old GE trimline type phone and Voila! A dial tone, and the ability to dial anywhere in the country, basically for free (ok, a one time, nominal fee). Loving it!
The interface on the software is relatively intuitive, allows you to save contacts, though not multiple numbers for one name without creative naming (apparently the designers didn't look to cell phones for inspiration on their phone book).
Now I can lie, foot in the air, and talk away the day...spreading the gospel of usability near and far.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Not So Magic Jack

There is nothing like a frustrating user experience for good blog fodder.

Several years ago, I gave up having a land line, opting for a cell phone which took care of most of my needs. Now, running a business, I need much more phone time than any decent cell phone plan allows. I've successfully used Skype for the last few months, but always wanting to save money I decided to look into the next big thing. The Magic Jack.
It came highly rated by many hi-tech magazines and the infomercial looked good. Free local and long distance and voicemail. Too good to be true?
The claim is that in 5 minutes, with a special USB that is sent to you, you can plug in your phone and make all of your calls through your computer for $10/year. Great! My phone bill problem is solved. But my technical problems have just begun.
I asked for expedited delivery since the need is sooner than later. The device arrived in a few days. It's not too overpackaged and comes with a single color card wrap. It looks easy. But it's not.
Rather than walk through what has become a painful scenario (45 minutes and it still doesn't work) I'll share the highlights:
  • Asking for passwords that were never sent or given and then acquiring a password via email that doesn't work.
  • Continued difficulty bringing up Live Chat for tech assistance and no possibility of a phone conversation.
  • Confusing queries on set up and a box that you don't know to click that is supposed to offer "quick help"
  • Requiring upgrades to a brand new device. Most users won't know how to save and run an .exe file. (this assumes a fairly advanced user)
  • No good answers on how to fix the "connect to the internet" error message when I am clearly connected. Apparently they are upgrading and I have to wait 24 hours to try my new device again.

What did work was an extension USB dongle in the package since the USB is large and would cover needed plugs in my laptop, fairly simple packaging, though they could use less stryofoam.

So far, I am less than impressed and hope they are continuing to try and fix this user experience.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Remote Coworking and Gratitude for Technology

The view from here.
It is often the unexpected that makes us take stock of things. Last week, I broke my ankle. Right, not exactly in the plan. Since then, I have noticed and been thankful for a number of things.
Although it means that driving and walking are out of the question for the moment, two working arms and access to technology has allowed me to keep working, from my couch, foot hoisted in the air to reduce swelling.
What I'm finding most comforting is the friends that actually feel nearby. A simple change to my "status" in my Gmail and my facebook accounts and many of my friends now know what's up with my life and what's important. It's a feature I sometimes find mundane, but have recently found more interesting as both I and my friends use the feature more regularly. The couch just doesn't feel as isolated with those little green dots next to my friends on gmail. Friends in Atlanta, Portland, Chicago and San Francisco are just a button click away. Even if we never "talk" via email or IM, I think of them and somehow feel closer by the mere presence of their name and their little green dot. In the morning I see a colleague in the UK, and friends on the east coast log in. As the day goes by, those on the west coast become more active. Later at night, we get to see who the real geeks are (present company included) by who's online late at night.
Facebook, though the applications are way too vast for my taste, also brings a closeness to my own circle of friends at this time of some isolation.
I know these social networking opportunities have been around for awhile. Normally I prefer to meet my friends ITRW (in the real world), but for now, on my couch, alone, pumping ibuprofen every few hours, those little green dots sure do make me feel supported and surrounded by the important people in my life. :-)

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Last week, I called AT&T/Cingular with a problem on my cellphone. The voicemail icon on the phone wouldn't go away even though I had no voicemail. It was a problem that was fairly easily remedied.

However, in the process of my call, I had a fascinating interaction. When the customer service agent said, "how can I help you today?" I responded by saying that the voicemail icon on my phone wouldn't turn off. "Icon" she said. What is that? She may have asked if it was the picture on the phone. I don't remember. What I remember is the curiousity surrounding the interaction with the customer service agent at a cell phone company who didn't know, at least not for sure, what an icon was. "Icon", I supposed, is a bit of a specialty word. Maybe more recognized by interaction designers and designers in general.

A quick google search shows 531,000,000 hits for the word "icon". Wikipedia has entries for both the religious and the computer pictogram types of icons. So how did AT&T manage to miss this in their customer service training? It's really not her fault, but one does wonder if/how these folks are trained and compensated to do what is rapidly becoming anything but a minimum wage job, working customer service for our increasingly complicated mobile technology.
And, as an afterthought, I have to ask. What IS that icon anyway? It looks a bit like an old cassette tape winding. Given that most of us have probably not used a cassette tape answering machine in at least 10 years, it is the designers job to work on a new image. Think digital, think people, think asynchronous communication, think voice. I'm no graphic designer, but perhaps this will spur someone to replace the archaic cassette with an icon, yes a picture, of voicemail for the digital age.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bathroom Bablyon

Continuing on the theme of bathrooms....I have a number of photos I've taken in bathrooms over the years. There are always interesting design and user experience moments hiding behind bathroom doors.
This one in particular was posted in a toilet in Greece. The fascinating user experience in this country is that they ask you to throw used toilet paper into a basket next to the toilet and flush only bio materials. I imagine this is best for the sewage systems. It's really important, yet unfamilar to westerners from both the US and Europe (and I imagine others, though I'm not as fluent in their bathroom habits).
Realizing the importance, but also wanting to put their country on the proverbial map, visitors from all over the world have attempted a service for their fellow travelers by translating this request into any number of languages. My favorite being "don't chuck the bog roll down the loo."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Connection and Relief

If you look closely at the blurry, but interesting, photo above, you can see it says "Free WI-FI", "Not so Free Public Restroom!" An interesting testament to our time. An interesting testament to the privilged white collar worker. And is WI-FI really "free"?

Free Wi-Fi. The siren's call to a weary traveller tracking their vacation on their trusty laptop, a worker in a strange city who needs to check in, or a consultant who simply needs a place with people around to work and "feel connected." Any coffee shop worth it's mocha offers this service nowadays.

Is the Wi-Fi really free? If I walked in with my laptop and sat down and started to work. Would anyone come over after a period of time and tell me that I must order a tea/non-fat, soy latte/muffin to continue to use their airwaves? Unfortunately, I didn't get to test this. If I have a laptop, does that I assume I am clean, have money and can then use the restroom? Does my laptop mean that I will treat everyone and everything I encounter with love and respect?

And, what exactly is it that makes establishments so very protective of their porcelain thrones? What great treasures lie in the bathrooms of so many establishments that I must pay for the privilege of using their restroom? Why must a weary traveler or shopping wanderer be restricted from releasing the much more urgent biological needs, but be allowed at any given moment to simply open up and log on?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Declaration of Independence

In our lives, there is constant change. Buddhism reminds us that nothing is permanent. Too true. I had a job I can honestly say I loved. How lucky to ever be able to say that in one's life. I've had a few of them, actually. My department was downsized and I and others were sent off on new adventures. Working in Digital Health was exactly what I had hoped to do after returning to graduate school. The work encompassed healthcare and technology. At the end of the day, our work might actually make a difference and the work and environment was continually challenging and interesting. Now it's time for me to take that knowledge and work with other companies who have similar visions.

After leaving Intel, I have decided to delve back into the world of consulting. As you may know, my previous company, Accessible Threads, focused on creating sewn prototypes for consultancies such as IDEO and Herbst LaZar Bell, and manufacturers such as SunTech Medical and Trek Bikes.

In this new iteration, the focus will be on healthcare and technology, also encompassing projects that fall under “design for social change”. I will bring my expertise in user research, ethnography, concept generation and general design thinking to consultancies, manufacturers, and non-profits. When working with participants, I offer expertise with special communities such as elders, people with a disability and children.

Work with Ziba and Oregon Health and Science University and Techtronix, has already gotten underway. I'm excited to see where this adventure goes. If you want to collaborate on a project as a client or as a partner in design crime, I'm at dezinr at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Praying to Mecca?

I was with a colleague today returning from lunch when we passed a construction site on the road. We passed the usual gang of workers and the expected construction equipment. Just past this, we saw a man in an orange vest looking like he was "praying" or sitting in "child's pose" from yoga. (Really wish I had a camera...) We both stared and wondered what was going on. Upon closer inspection, we realized he was crouched on the ground writing some site notes in what looked like a most awkward position. Being people well versed in user experience, we marvelled at the fact that this man had not found the simplest of tools, a clipboard, to use in the field and help him do his job.
In retrospect, I wonder what would have helped. Can his tools be made digital? Is there a way he can carry a fold up writing surface on the job site? Should every construction horse have a fold out desk? We think often of mobile workers as those with cushy desk jobs who are out on the road, when in fact, many of our mobile workers are literally in the field every day, or on the streets or climbing lightpoles. What can we do to simplify the work of these ever mobile crews?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It isn't easy being green

I have noticed an interesting trend, of late. Let me preface this by saying I am a huge proponent of living life so that we have the smallest impact on the planet. We should live as if the planet is our house, our home (novel, I know). Replace things that we use up, not leave our dirty footprints everywhere, and live quietly and respectfully as if we have neighbors next door. The green movement is helping, talking about a carbon footprint is helping. My concern is that industry is not. Some industries do share products that are genuinely trying to help. Phosphate free soaps, clothes made out of sustainable materials like hemp and bamboo, furniture out of bamboo and reused items.
My concern is this. It seems the advertising, and possibly the subsequent habits, actually encourage people to get rid of their perfectly good: furniture, applicances, cell phones, dishes in favor of the green dishes. Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't help! Now, instead of a slightly less energy efficient fridge in your home, there is a large box of metal and chemicals lying in a landfill. Want to ditch your Corelle wear in favor of bamboo plates? Great, but what happens to the Corelle lying in a pile waiting for the next thousand years to breakdown to it's basic chemicals.
Many of the folks I know - esp. those greenies here in Portland, are great about sending items to Goodwill or putting them up on Freecycle or Craig's List. But I know so many people who also just dump them in a bin assuming they'll go to that great trash compactor in the sky. If you really do favor earth friendly items in your home, please try to get rid of the old ones responsibly.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The flow of a new office

It is interesting to be anywhere new. You pay particular attention to things you won't notice 6 months down the road. It's particularly interesting to change offices and compare say a hi-tech firm to a design office.

What I've noticed in the first few weeks:
  • It's weird not to be in a cube. Wow. As a creative person, you would think I would abhor the cube. I got used to my own little space, a few walls, a mini cubby to call my own. Though, the grey walls got old (ok, the first day I bought a Kandinsky poster to add as much color as humanly possible to the dismal gray). It's actually quieter because people don't holler randomly over the walls, they can actually converse face to face.
  • People listen and support each others ideas! It's not a battle of wills, its a group working together for the right solution. What a novel concept.
  • When you see people working, you are actually more productive. I know there is a good bit of theory behind this including the Portholes project (Dourish and Bly 1992, but I'm here to tell you its true. It is motivating to see others working.
  • I have been around for a week and haven't been in one meeting where we all sat and stared at the output of a projector. How refreshing! We talked to each other in a well lit room and used a white board to generate interesting ideas and conversation.
  • You are never too old to feel like "the new kid". Wherever there are lunch tables, there will be a person who feels awkward sitting down for the first time. Remember that feeling from grade school? It never quite goes away...
  • There is nothing cooler than a whole set of bookshelves full of design magazines just waiting for you to browse them. At your leisure, refer to them in your work and just enjoy them for the inspiring content. (ok, maybe a few cooler things, but it's quite wonderful)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Design for Social Change

In the last week or so, I've been talking with potential employers. Learning about new companies, discussing ways we can work together. I've also been talking to colleagues and friends about my "dream job". I'm fascinated by the response. My dream job these days involves something similar to strategy, systems and user research combined. It would involve a project like getting health information to rural Appalachia or Africa. Reworking a broken or not yet evolved system to help people in all parts of the world have access to the information they need, be it healthcare, technology, growing crops, etc.
The words being used lately are "design for social change". When I mention this to some folks they say, "yeah, nice pipe dream, good luck." But many, many others, espescially those kindred spirits here in Portland say, "Yes! I want to do that too!" So, why can't we? Why aren't we doing this work? Many of us (present company included) point to the almighty dollar. I need to pay my mortgage. Fair enough. But why can't I make a living and do something good for the planet and/or the people on it? Why do these things become mutually exclusive? Must you pull vast amounts of oil from the earth to make a living? I realize there are many options in between minimum wage and oil baron, but when looking to do the work or make the change, the options feel limited.
And yet, I am heartened, elated, thrilled to find so many like minded people, designers and otherwise. Surely, if there are enough of us out there, it is bound to happen. Hopefully, soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Where DOES that come from?

Noticed: So, I went to a basketball game tonight where they served a bottled water I had never seen. I inspected the Oregon Rain bottle and found a disturbing line of text. (see below)
Never touched by the earth? Water that was never touched by the earth? I don't understand, how does this happen? Where exactly is this water from? Was it made in a test tube?
After looking at the site,, it's apparently captured as it falls, from the sky. Thus Oregon Rain. But really, NEVER touched the earth? There is a water cycle last time I checked and most of those particles probably hit the earth at some point in the last 1000 years. Either way, it's just plain bizarre that their slogan for water is that it never touched the earth. Isn't touching the earth a good thing?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Meeting Colors deux

I have had the previous post in my head for weeks. Then just last week, I attended a meeting of medical professionals. I'll preface this with the fact that I am a designer. I woke up Monday in a good mood and thought I'd wear a nice bright orange jacket, one of my favorites.

The meeting was for medical professionals and was a group I had never attended before. I walked into a veritable sea of grey, blue, black and dark muted tones. I also walked in late. The orange was quite the bright beacon in the muted sea of professionals. I would say I will know better next time, but I would probably do the same again!

Meeting Colors

You walk into a meeting. You sit down, do you notice anything? Have you ever noticed that, quite often, there is actually a color theme to the room? Do you and your co-workers tend to wear the same colors on the same day? It's an odd phenomenon, pay attention, you'll be amazed!