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Posted by frog  |   3 Feb 2014  |  Comments (0)


By Christine Todorovich / Design Mind

Curated by Bay Area designer and educator Jon Sueda, All Possible Futures features 37 projects from renowned designers Ed Fella, Experimental Jetset, Daniel Eatock, Martin Venezky, and many more. The idea for the exhibition originated from Sueda's interest in showcasing the value of design projects that failed for any number of reasons, including being rejected by clients. The result is an exhibition of speculative design pieces that celebrate the questioning of boundaries regarding concepts, processes, technologies and form.

Christine Todorovich / Design Mind: The title of the exhibit is "All Possible Futures"—it seems you're implying something about the parallel lives these speculative projects lead? Can you talk more about the meaning behind the title?

Jon Sueda: Before All Possible Futures was an exhibition, it was actually a title to an article I wrote in 2007 for a publication called Task Newsletter. The original piece was a set of interviews with five graphic designers, and also the renowned critical design team Dunne & Raby, investigating speculative design projects. At that time, the criteria was clearly inspired by "visionary" or "paper" architecture... each project had to somehow distance itself from "real world" parameters, perhaps representing potential imaginings of the future. The final selection ended up being a set of project proposals that were either rejected by their client or critical provocations never intended to be produced. This exhibition is a build-out, or expansion, of these early ideas.

Your interpretation of the title is correct. In fact, I titled the adjunct program for the exhibition Parallel Universe?. In a sense, you could argue that all the work in the show is an example of a "parallel universe" of graphic design... this work operates on the margins of practice, created by designers who initiate their own investigations that exist outside or question the traditional commission structure.




Posted by frog  |   4 Nov 2013  |  Comments (4)


By Roberto Veronese, Creative Director, frog San Francisco

The use of digital banking and electronic payments is expanding in many countries, as consumers embrace technology that facilitates financial services. Yet in Russia, people still cling to cash for most of their financial needs. In fact, more than 90 percent of all commodity purchases are in cash, according to the Bank of Russia, and the country loses over one percent of its annual GDP due to the huge amount of cash circulating and its maintenance costs. This poses a challenge to financial institutions, like Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, which is eager to transition customers to digital services. Sberbank asked frog to envision product and service concepts that could effectively support that transition.

We began our work with extensive qualitative research in the field, investigating the deeply personal reasons why cash remains so popular among customers in Moscow. "I cannot go around without cash," a young, wealthy and tech savvy Muscovite told us, while shopping at GUM, the city's main department store. This was a typical response, even for younger Russians who are regularly online. More than half the population uses the Internet at least once a week, and appreciates the convenience of new digital tools to browse for information and media content. Yet in some cases these technologically sophisticated consumers refuse to open a bank account, preferring instead to pay their bills with cash at ubiquitous payments kiosks, despite the high commission applied to these transactions.

We found a number of reasons for this reluctance to adopt digital banking and electronic-payment services. Foremost is the fact that only a small number of merchants accept credit card payments, due to charges of up to 4 percent on the seller's side and widespread tax evasion. Meanwhile, salaries are still largely paid with cash, despite the introduction of "salary cards" issued by a bank chosen by the employer. This is the main type of card issued in Russia, which on payday contributes to an extremely high volume of cash withdrawals that are usually not transferred to bank accounts.



Posted by frog  |  22 Jul 2013  |  Comments (4)


Our friends at frog design recently released a short documentary on Industrial Design in the Modern World, a kind of iterative manifesto (the consultancy's first but certainly not their last), featuring several key players of the design team. We had a chance to catch up with Creative Director Jonas Damon on the broader message of the piece, as well as his thoughts on user experience and a possible revision to Dieter Rams' canonical principles of design.

Core77: Can you elaborate on the points you touch on in the opening monologue? Specifically, to what degree do 'traditional' (or outdated) forms and materials embody value or character? For example, I recently came across an iPod speaker in which the dock opens like a cassette tape deck, evoking a certain nostalgic charm despite being rather impractical (it was difficult to see the screen behind the plastic).

Jonas Damon: The opening monologue is about the physical constraints that have guided forms in the past vs. forms today, and the opportunities that arise from the absence of these constraints. 'Honesty' in design is a widely admired quality, and in the past that honesty was expressed by skillfully sculpting with and around a given product's physical conditions, rather than just hiding or disguising these. So when products were more mechanical, they had a more imposing DNA that informed their character; their mechanics largely defined their identities. Many product types came preconditioned with an iconic, unmistakable silhouette.

Today, most products in the consumer electronics space can be made with a rectangular circuit board, a rectangular screen, and a rectangular housing. Therefore, the natural expression of these products today is limited to a rectangle—not really a unique identity. Expression of character becomes more nuanced and malleable. With that newfound freedom, we have to be more sensitive, judicious and inventive. These days, 'honesty' is more complex and difficult to design for, as it's about the intangible aspects of the brand the product embodies.

Traditional forms and materials have cultural value because of their iconic, built-in character. The starting point for many contemporary consumer electronics forms is generic and sterile, so historical forms are often tapped to artificially trigger our memory-based emotions. It's been a popular fallback that we may be a little tired of these days, but on occasion its been well executed, and even that can have merit.

Of course, the 'flat black rectangle' effect also implies a shift from traditional form-follows-function I.D. to a broader, UX-centric approach to design (i.e. some argue that Apple's focus on iOS7 is simply a sign that they've shifted from hardware innovation to the UX/software experience). What is the relationship between hardware and UX?

Hardware is an integral part of UX. A true "user experience" is multi-sensory: when you engage with something, don't you see, feel, hear, maybe even smell that which you are engaging with? (I'm not sure why anybody refers to solely screen-based interactions as "UX"; that notion is outdated) As an Industrial Designer, I am a designer of User Experience. ID has gotten richer since we've started considering "living technology" as a material. By "living technology," I mean those elements that bring objects to life, that make them animate and tie them to other parts of the world around us: sensors, screens, haptics, connectivity, software, etc. By claiming these elements as part of our domain (or by tightly embedding their respective expert designers/engineers in our teams), we are able to create holistic designs that are greater than the sums of their parts.


Posted by frog  |  15 Apr 2013  |  Comments (1)


A research report on the dynamics of crowd-sourcing music at the frog SXSW Interactive Opening Party, by Bonnie Reese, Mike Herdzina and Shaina Donovan—see Parts 1 & 2 for more information.

Crowdsourcing Gives Everyone a Voice

The overall response to the Crowd Sourced DJ was overwhelmingly positive. It was described as "novel" and people loved that it allowed them to participate in the music selection. When we probed further about what made it attractive, party-goers were enthusiastic about the philosophy of crowdsourcing, noting that it is a vehicle that gives everyone a voice. We were struck by the passionate tone and language of the participants. Some of the comments included:

- "It's for the community by the community,"
- "It's democratic,"
- "You have a chance to have a say"

However, while people embraced the spirit of crowdsourcing, many openly acknowledged that it compromised the quality of the output. We heard comments like:

- "The masses have bad taste"
- "I don't trust the public"

And yet those interviewed did not perceive the conflict between crowd selections and individual taste as an inherent negative. One music-savvy partygoer intimated that while the music being played did not align with his preferences, it still "fell within his range of acceptability." In the context of a large social experience, like a party, the spirit of empowering the crowd reigns supreme. Many people acknowledged the party context and noted that there's a time and place for everything. So while crowdsourcing is okay in one moment and social environment, it may not be appropriate for every situation.

Crowdsourcing Makes Everyone Think Like a DJ

So what were the biggest influencers when individuals had to make a music selection? First of all, people took into account the audience for the music as well as the party context. "Party music" was referenced almost as its own genre (although based on the range of musical styles we heard, we doubt that everyone would agree what the key characteristics of "party music" are). While many used the word "upbeat" to define "party music", we didn't see further alignment in the music played. One partygoer commented "What am I in the mood for? Something that will create the right environment. What will make the right environment? Upbeat music."

frog-SXSWi-CSDJ-infographic-fade.jpgOverall, the music that was selected could be described as more "upbeat" on the music scale. (Click to view full-size infographic)

People also mentioned that they overrode their own preferences to choose music for the crowd, noting music as a "shared experience." One party-goer said, "I avoided a few songs that I wanted to play because I wanted to choose for the crowd," while another person noted "I think it is more important that the crowd has fun." People mentioned avoiding songs they liked that might bring "down" the mood. They continually referenced music's role in creating the right social environment: "The music affects the vibe—it drives conversations and relationships." These comments acknowledge the importance of music's role in shaping the experience for individuals and the crowd as whole. They also point to a party environment as a scenario within which the greater good should come before personal preference.

It was also interesting that when asked to state their opinion about the quality of the music (on our scale from "it sucks" to "awesome"), a number of people said that "it's like voting for myself," showing an identification with the crowd. This leap from crowdsourcing to an identity alignment with the crowd was very interesting. Crowdsourcing went beyond simply being a method to create a shared playlist to creating a dynamic of communal identification. One person even said, "It's democratic, so people will like the music," voicing an assumption that music chosen by the crowd will automatically be embraced by the people within that crowd. It's worth noting that there were no overall trends in perceptions about quality of the music from the data we gathered at our Music Perceptions Wall; where people placed their dots on the scale truly ran the gamut (and some partygoers just wanted to be clever about where they put their dot regardless of what they thought of the music).



Posted by frog  |  10 Apr 2013  |  Comments (4)


A research report on the dynamics of crowd-sourcing music at the frog SXSW Interactive Opening Party, by Bonnie Reese and Mike Herdzina

Music shapes our experience of the world—it sets a mood, represents who we are (or who we want to be), captures memories, and defines a moment. The decision to embrace crowdsourcing as the DJ concept for the frog party was a risk in many ways. Who knew what the crowd might choose? What vibe would be created? Would it bring people together or further highlight our separate identities and divergent tastes? It was a meaningful social experiment—not only in music curation but also in social dynamics.

In order to fully embrace the experiment, frog dispatched 11 researchers to collect data at the party about music, crowdsourcing, and social dynamics. This article will both share the findings and reflect on the process that we used to take advantage of this research opportunity most efficiently and meaningfully.

Defining the Research Plan

Looking at the experiences that had been designed for the party, we realized that there was one piece of data being captured without any work required on our part—the music selections on the TouchTunes smart jukeboxes and mobile app. The crowdsourcing process would simultaneously build a data set about music preferences across the course of the evening. But like any quantitative data, this could be made more meaningful by supplementing that data with qualitative interviews and contextual observations.


As part of this experiment, we wanted to explore how to most effectively use a larger research team in a short amount of time (no one wanted to entirely miss the party to conduct research). We allocated three hours of time from each of our research team members—one hour to ramp up, one hour of research and documentation, and one hour to participate in a storytelling session. We created data capture sheets that made it easy to see the script and write down notes and quotes quickly. In addition, we created "end of shift" synthesis sheets that allowed us to quickly capture emerging patterns about social dynamics and environment from the research teams conducting research during the party. Two researchers then took the data forward to craft into the key themes.

We cast a relatively wide scope for the research, using a few focused questions that allowed the team to adapt their focus as themes emerged and the party progressed. Some of the questions we decided to explore included: What do people think of the music that's being played? What motivates engagement in the music selection process? What do people think about the value of crowdsourcing over curation? What's motivating their music choices (or their decision not to participate)? Does participation impact perceptions of the music and party environment? How do social dynamics play out when a group is asked to make a decision that is driven by personal taste? How do people go about making their decision as to what to play?

In order to answer these questions, we engaged in a range of research activities—spanning from video capture to one-on-one interviews.