Posted by core jr
| 21 Nov 2013
Well, here's an unexpected scoop from our own Don Lehman, who just documented what is likely the most surreal scene we'll see this month: Jony Ive, Marc Newson and Bono piling into a custom Fiat Jolly—designed by the two industrial design megastars for their muscian friend's charity event—for a photo opp with Lot 43 of the upcoming (RED) Auction.
Don stopped by the exhibition, which is open to the public at Sothebys' New York City HQ at 71st and York, this afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the one-of-a-kind desk and Leica camera, also designed by the dynamic duo, along with some 40+ other art and design objects, only to find the room closed off for a private gathering. It turns out that the triumvirate were inspecting the goods—Don reports that he also overheard Bono's fingers dancing on the custom Steinway—in anticipation of Jony and Marc's (RED) Auction this Saturday.
Here are a couple of videos of Jony, Marc and Bono having their way with the Fiat:
Posted by core jr
| 21 Nov 2013
Photos by Sarah Rottenberg, Yilin Lu, Yoshi Araki and Anna Couturier
By Mathieu Turpault, Director of Design, Bresslergroup
Last summer, we got to live vicariously through a group of Integrated Product Design students at the University of Pennsylvania who traveled to Ghana.
They were conducting ethnographic research at the Yonso Project, a Ghanaian rural organization that provides educational and economic resources to help people in the region break the cycle of poverty. In 2009, Yonso added a bamboo bicycle workshop to their roster of empowerment programs. The workshop builds skills by training locals to make beautiful bamboo bike frames that are sold internationally. It creates jobs, leverages local production from the bamboo plantation, and helps fund Yonso's educational initiatives.
Strategy and Research
While the folks at Yonso are incredibly knowledgeable about their core initiatives, they're not as experienced in product development. They approached UPenn for help in 2012 when they wanted to expand their bamboo product line. In turn, Sarah Rottenberg, Associate Director at the Integrated Product Design program, asked Bresslergroup to help mentor the students who were going.
Sarah and the team of IPD students, Yoshi Araki, Yilin Lu and Anna Couturier, visited our offices last spring for a couple of strategy and ideation sessions with our designers and engineers. We guided them through brainstorming and ideation exercises, talked about how we prepare for conducting ethnographic research and brand language development, and suggested strategies for narrowing and choosing product categories that could be pursued most successfully. We've gone through this process many times before, for many different types of products, so we've run into walls and we know how to avoid pitfalls.
Read more in our blog post about brainstorming about how we structure this phase of the design process.
Posted by An Xiao Mina
| 12 Nov 2013
Photos courtesy of Square
The first time it happened, I took time to notice the experience. A food truck vendor handed me his phone, which had a little white square sticking out of the headphone jack. "What is this?" I asked, wondering which one of us was the crazy one. "Square," he replied. "You can make payments on your phone." I swiped my card on the strange device and then I signed my name with my finger. The receipt went straight to my inbox, and the deed was done: A delicious meal was mine to enjoy, all with a few taps and a swipe.
What was once a revolutionary gesture—a vendor hands me his or her smartphone, and I swipe and pay—has now become second nature. Countless friends and I have used Square to pay for coffee in chic cafes, fruits and vegetables in a hectic farmer's market food stall, and small works from independent artists, yet we rarely think about it. And that, I've learned, is by design. Whereas most design objects draw attention to themselves, the Square Reader and the accompanying software help you get the job done quickly and then quietly fade into the background.
Jesse Dorogusker demos the packaging for the Square Stand.
Anyone who's spent time haggling in a street market knows that payment is not just about money changing hands but about a conversation. Hardware Lead Jesse Dorogusker took the time to demo Stand, Square's newest product, a point-of-sale system designed to sit on vendors' countertops and operate with an iPad. In the spirit of conversation, the stand rotates, allowing the vendor to type in the total and then have the iPad face the customer as he or she signs it.
"The merchant will very quickly understand that there are things that I do, and there are things that I want my customer to do. And we're going to have a conversation, and this is going to facilitate that conversation," noted Dorogusker, who has previously worked at Apple, in an interview with Core77. After the sale is complete, the Stand can be rotated back in place with a satisfying click.
Image courtesy of Square
After spending several years in the habitation department at NASA, developing living spaces for the International Space Station as well as multiple off earth exploration vehicles, designer Garrett Finney left in 2009 to launch his dream recreational vehicle, the Cricket trailer. At the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Finney introduced a prototype of the FireFly, an even more compact and utilitarian next-gen trailer, designed to fit in the back of a pickup truck or be towed by a small car.
The FireFly's interior is minimal, lined with folding bench tops for the sleeping/living surface with room for storage underneath. Although he initially hopes to attract the eco-campers who require the robustness of a trailer and the serious off-roader, Finney also envisions industrial or disaster-relief applications, such as deploying temporary base camps in remote and disaster stricken areas. Working with the small team of Evan Twyford (recruited from NASA in 2012) and Cricket Lead Designer Brian Black, the FireFly was designed in a three-week blitz after several months of sketching, mockups and CAD modelling.
"We worked with one of our local metal vendors to cut and fabricate the majority of the exo-skeleton," Black says of the development process. "Most of these skeletal components were laser cut and bent sheet aluminum which, when fastened together, create rigid structures."
Combined with the welded square tube sections, this created a rugged yet light weight architecture. We borrowed many construction methods and materials from our NASA/aerospace design experience as well as our experience designing and manufacturing with the Cricket such as the use of light weight yet highly insulative composite panels. These panels are high R-value, inch thick architectural siding with .04inch aluminum skin and an eps foam core. This use of aluminum and composites allowed us to create the rugged volume seen with this prototype while keeping it weight at just over 600lbs.
Evan Twyford sketching
Vehicle profile iterations balance ergonomic sizing and human factors concerns, such as bunk width and ceiling height, with technical sizing constraints such as truck bed dimensions and under-bench stowage.
Early concept sketching depicts multi-mode use on trailers, in a truck bed, and on a notional lander-leg package. Sketches also outline separate habitation module and frame/decking components with modular stowage/water tank compartments.
Firefly with deployable lander leg package. Concept sketch by Evan Twyford.
Westergasfabriek - The administration of the Western Gas Factory in front of the newly constructed main gas container building, 1903
Interaction14, the next highly acclaimed interaction design conference, is 100 days away. Moreover, the event, which is organized by the Interaction Design Association (IxDA), will take place in the lovely city of Amsterdam.
We asked the two conference chairs, Alok Nandi and Yohan Creemers, to tell us more about what has been planned.
Core77: Interaction14 will be in Amsterdam in a few months. What will be different from the previous editions?
Alok Nandi & Yohan Creemers: This will be the 7th edition of the annual conference and the second time it takes place outside North America (in 2012 the conference was held in Dublin). The upcoming edition will definitely be the most international yet, as it is the first time the conference will be held in a non-English speaking city.
Our vision is to make sure that there are dimensions specific to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Europe. Otherwise, why travel and come here?
So the first answer to your question is the city, the location. It will be different, but we are hard at work to make the attendees feel they are at home, in a creative city, and that they have the space to experience Amsterdam for its own sake.
The second answer is that there will be more non-Americans, both in terms of speakers, and most probably also in terms of attendees. The upcoming Interaction14 conference showcases in other words how global IxDA has become.
In terms of content and experience, our team wants to make sure to cater to different types of attendees, from the ones looking for inspiration to those wishing to connect and be part of the community, and from the newcomers to the regulars. Very early on, we actually created five personas to bring the typical attendees to life, and they have guided all our planning.
Finally, this year we also want to find ways to better engage the 50,000+ members of IxDA members worldwide. The 4-day experience of the 850 conference attendees and the knowledge that is generated should ripple back to this community.
You have recently announced all six keynote speakers: Peter Greenaway, Irene Au, Daniel Rosenberg, Saskia Sassen, Scott McCloud and Gillian Crampton Smith. What was your logic in selecting them?
The guiding 'theme' we gave to the conference is "Languages of Interaction Design." We want to see the theme in a very large, inspirational sense. Clearly, it is not about linguistics, but about exploring the diversity and hybridity of our practice(s) and craft(s) while getting inspired by other disciplines. So, if we think of terms like conceiving, connecting, engaging, empowering, optimizing, disrupting and expressing—which, by the way, are the six IxDA Awards categories—how can the attendees benefit from two types of content: those provided by keynote speakers and those by our community based on a call for speakers?
In the end, we wanted to shortlist different types of topics and points of view. Initially our list of potential speakers was very long, but the conference theme and the overall motto of IxDA—"Interaction Designers create compelling relationships between people and the interactive systems they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances; Interaction Designers lay the groundwork for intangible experiences"—allowed us to narrow it down.
Storytelling, urban design, education and enterprise were some keywords we had included explicitly in our roadmap, and these topics were brought to life through the five personas that I mentioned earlier.
We think these six speakers offer a balance between different points of view, inspiration sources, expertise and experience in various fields connected to interaction design. The keynote speeches will of course be taking place in a context of talks provided by 50+ speakers.
Posted by core jr
| 21 Oct 2013
Last week, we took a look at the story behind the bespoke baton that Glasgow's 4c Design, Ltd., created for the XX Commonwealth Games in 2014. The baton was unveiled at a special ceremony on October 9, the occasion for remarks from Prince Imran of Malaysia (President of the CGF), Lord Smith of Kelvin (Chair of the 2014 Games) and of course Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II herself.
The BBC's Mark Beaumont filed his latest report, from Sri Lanka, yesterday afternoon; the Baton is about halfway through it's tour of Southeast Asia and will be in Australia by Halloween (view the full 70-country, 288-day route here).
We're pleased to present a series of exclusive photos documenting the making-of the baton, courtesy of 4c Design.
Testing ithe durability of the handle.
The "Birdmouthing" join comes from 1,000+ years of shipbuilding tradition
The form was 3D-printed with Direct Metal Laser Sintering, but the rough titanium requires quite a bit of manual polishing...
Posted by core jr
| 16 Oct 2013
Shane Kohatsu's Vapor Laser Talon for Nike / Frank Stella - 'K.162' (2011) sculpture
In what will certainly be a must-see exhibition this holiday season, New York City's Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is pleased to present Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital, which opens today and runs through July 6, 2014. Billed as "the first in-depth survey of digital fabrication in contemporary art, architecture, and design," the exhibition includes a catholic selection of "more than 120 works of sculpture, jewelry, fashion, and furniture by 85 artists, architects, and designers from 20 countries." Curated by Ronald T. Labaco, Out of Hand explores various approaches to and modes of computer-assisted production through works—"including commissions created especially for Out of Hand and objects never presented before in the U.S."—by the likes of Ron Arad, Barry X Ball, Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor, Maya Lin, Greg Lynn, Mark Newson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and many more.
Seeing as the works date from 2005 to present, MAD is clearly planting a stake in the ground with this first look at what will eventually be considered 'early' examples of art and design in the digital era. It's too soon to tell whether some of the work on view will be canonized or it will be forgotten, but the fact that these technologies will likely evolve over the course of the nine-month run of the show is precisely the point: Out of Hand is a timely snapshot of the intersection of art and technology at this moment in time.
Dror Benshetrit - Volume.MGX Lamp (2009)
Richard Dupont - Untitled #5 (2008) / Michael Schmidt with Francis Bitonti - Articulated 3D-printed gown (2013)
We had the chance to speak to Labaco in anticipation of the opening.
Core77: How did this exhibition come about? Is there a serendipitous origin story, or has it been in the works for some time now?
Ron Labaco: The concept for the exhibition came out of a meeting with the director and chief curator about two years ago. We were tossing around ideas for exhibition topics and the subject of 3D printing came up. If you think back to then, which wasn't so long ago, 3D printing was not as familiar a term with the general public as it is today. You could count the number of articles about it in popular magazines and newspapers on one hand.
But rather than simply focus on 3D printing, I suggested a more inclusive exhibition on digital fabrication—including CNC machining and digital knitting/weaving—to provide a broader look at how computer-assisted manufacture has changed our physical world. By doing so, I was able to develop a more complex story about how these methods of fabrication were being utilized in individual artistic practice across different disciplines. I opened up an interesting dialogue between practitioners who approached the same technologies from different perspectives with differing goals. At first I had also planned on examining developments in the medical sciences, but with the wealth of material that I was finding, I had to limit the scope to design, art and architecture.
Lucas Maassen & Unfold - Brain Wave Sofa (2010)
Posted by Deena DeNaro
| 16 Oct 2013
Most Americans are slightly awed by the British ability to reinvent, update and have fun with their own customs and heritage whilst staying true to the roots that give those traditions magic and meaning in the first place. This was plainly evident at Buckingham Palace last Wednesday, October 9, at the launch of the Queen's Baton Relay. The empty baton was escorted to the palace by pipers of the Scottish Guard and presented to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, by Britain's most successful track cyclist Sir Chris Hoy. As she has done every four years since 1958, the Queen placed the message she will read out at the opening ceremony of next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow into a custom-designed baton and sent it on a 288-day tour around the 70 nations of the Commonwealth. Both the design and fabrication of the baton tell a powerful story that embodies not just Scotland's culture but also the Scottish tradition of design and engineering excellence.
The phrase "one must learn to take the rough with the smooth" is quite popular in the UK, and no one does this better than Glaswegians... or the rest of the Scots for that matter. The aesthetic features of the baton are equally influenced by the rich tradition of Scottish pageantry (and all its associated regalia) and the natural, rough-hewn craft work found in the castles, crofts, weathered landscapes and pastimes like boating and curling found throughout the land. Furthermore, the fabrication technologies reflect the duality of Scotland's unique cultural heritage by joining the cutting-edge innovation of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) with woodworking practices from a 1,000-year-old tradition of boat building.
Combining leading-edge technology with artisan skills, the design is literally centered on The Queen's Message and the tradition of the baton as the symbolic invitation to Commonwealth nations and territories to attend the Games. At the heart of the baton is The Queen's Message, inscribed on a sheet of parchment handmade in Glasgow using linen and plant fiber. The message will be scrolled and held in a transparent cylinder within a pure titanium latticework frame. For the first time, the message forms the visual core of the baton design—illuminated from within by LED lights, yet unreadable until the Opening Ceremony.
According to Will Mitchell, Design Director of 4c Design, Ltd., the studio behind the baton:
The Baton has several features to enable the Queen's Baton Relay team to monitor its overall health on the journey. The batteries have been selected to ensure that the light will run for a minimum of eight hours straight. There is also an LDR sensor on the outside to compensate for brightness.
Although the battery power is more than enough, should there be any doubt the unit has been fitted with a piece of monitoring software which can be read via Bluetooth and a phone App to show what percentage of charge is left. The App updates the team on the electronics operating temperature and will also allow the operator to turn the unit on and off, which was demonstrated at the Baton launch, when the Queen held the Baton after the message was inserted.
Posted by core jr
| 15 Oct 2013
Images courtesy of IDEO
If a recent segment on 60 Minutes is any indication, IDEO's David Kelley is among the design superstars who have crossed over into mainstream recognition. David and his brother Tom, also a partner at the leading innovation consultancy, are pleased to present a new book, Creative Confidence, to prove that deep down (or perhaps not so deep) inside, "each and every one of us is creative." We had a chance to catch up with the Kelley Bros. to chat about their latest page-turner and how each of us can tap into our own creative potential.
Earlier this year, Bruce Nussbaum published a book called Creative Intelligence. To what degree is this premise—that anyone can be creative—a new trend, and why do you think that is? Or alternately, if the idea has been in the ether for some time, why now?
While creativity is timeless, trends like Maker culture open up new opportunities to unleash creativity. Our great friend and IDEO cofounder Bill Moggridge strongly believed that most people were vastly more creative and capable than they knew. We agree, and we're glad more people around the world are starting to agree, too.
We define creative confidence as the natural human ability to come up with breakthrough ideas and the courage to act on them. Since everyone was creative at some point in their lives (consider kindergarten), the challenge for us is more about unlocking creative potential than generating it from scratch.
Both in David's work at the d.school and in IDEO's collaborative work with client teams, we've witnessed many personal transformations when people who do not self-identify as "creative" get exposed to design thinking methods—and then surprise themselves with just how creative they really are. We've seen over and over that when people experience a series of small successes, they gradually gain confidence in their own ability to generate creative ideas and act on them. Creative confidence, what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura would call "self-efficacy," comes down to a belief system about your own ability to have positive impact in the world.
Creative confidence is like a muscle—it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and practice. In our experience, the best way to do that is through action, one step at a time.
The anecdote about Akshay and Ankit [engineers who end up in a d.school class] definitely rings true: We often hear from engineers who realize they'd rather be designers but don't know where to start. Do you have any advice for them?
If you're an engineer, then you're a problem solver. The way to move in the design direction is to move from pure problem-solving to need-finding. That's the empathy part of it. So instead of just doing your normal job, look for ways to reframe the problem that you're working on, ways it might be solved in a different or a better way. Complete the task you were asked to do and then do it again in a more creative way using design thinking tools. Present both directions to the boss.
What you need is a bias toward action, to jump out into the world. Engineers tend to shy away from the messiness of the human part. So if you're working on a new cell phone, instead of just considering the circuits or the software, go out and watch people use cell phones. Watch people use cell phones in extreme situations. Watch unusual phone use, and watch regular phone use. Ask people questions about it. Ask people to draw their cell phones. Do whatever it takes to get deep into understanding what's meaningful to people about cell phones, rather than just working on the technology.
Posted by core jr
| 5 Sep 2013
Core77 has had the pleasure of chronicling New Skins, a workshop led by designer Francis Bitonti, which took place from July 22 to August 8 at Pratt's Digital Arts and Humanities Research Center in Brooklyn, NY. As a pioneer in the digital fashion design space, Bitonti's practice is primarily concerned with the wearable applications of computationally-based design methodologies and cutting-edge manufacturing technologies. His efforts in the classroom are an extension of his work in the studio, a fast-paced, process-centric approach to new and emerging technologies and their potential to yield never-before-scene results.
We've previously published coverage of weeks one and two of the summer intensive, which was sponsored by the Pratt DAHRC, Makerbot and 3D NYC Lab. In addition to the report on the third week and final project, Bitonti has graciously allowed us to present the video documentation of the course as it unfolded this past summer.
By Francis Bitonti Studio
The third week of Francis Bitonti's New Skins: Computional Design for Fashion Workshop at Pratt Institute's Digital Arts and Humanities Research Center brought the students together in the creation of their final garment: the Verlan Dress. All twelve of the students worked together throughout the final week to realize a new design, which integrated different components of the two garments previously selected by the jury at the end of the second week—designer Vito Acconci, fashion designer Jona from INAISCE, and representatives from MakerBot—as chronicled in our Week Two recap.
The students created the geometry for the dress using 3D anatomical models of the human body, then abstracted hidden lines and vectors of the human body (muscles, veins and arteries) into curves that could be manipulated in a 3D modeling environment. The inspiration for turning the body inside out, projecting the interior to the exterior of the body, creating a second skin from what lies underneath led to the name Verlan dress; the French slang word refers to reversing the first and last syllables, turning the word inside out.
Throughout the design process, the students focused on developing a unique formal language that would conform to the body through a procedural algorithm; finding a voice through a new emerging manufacturing paradigm. "We do not want to be teaching technology for the sake of technology," explains Bitonti. "This isn't about training technicians or draftsmen. We are trying to teach students to think through the computer as a medium and develop sensibilities for these new virtual materials."
Posted by core jr
| 30 Aug 2013
My grandfather, Alfred Easton Poor, was a New York City architect with many major projects to his credit, including the Jacob Javits Federal Building in Manhattan and the restoration and extension of the US Capitol Building's East Front in Washington, DC. The Wright Brothers Memorial was his earliest major design win, and perhaps his most visible. One of my treasured possessions is a letter from Orville Wright to my grandfather, thanking him for a print of a photograph he had taken of the memorial.
It was a fitting project, as he was an early aviator himself. He learned to fly when in high school, but was too young to enter combat when the World War broke out. Instead, he went down to the Florida Keys where he taught pilots to fly floatplanes. For World War II, he was too old to fight, and spent at least part of the war overseeing aircraft production in Ohio.
Posted by core jr
| 5 Aug 2013
Reporting by Kat Bauman
In its first iteration, the Leatherman multi-tool was a Double-Oh-Seven-worthy gadget idea, born out of a traveler's frustration and initially snubbed by major tool companies. These days, Leatherman is a synonym for any dozen-in-one dream tool you can fit in a pocket. The idea came to Tim Leatherman back in the 1970s, when the recent mechanical engineering grad and his wife Chau decided touring Europe in a questionable Fiat would be a good use of a year. Leatherman found himself regularly eyeballing the guts of the car, wishing for one tool he didn't have in his Swiss Army Knife: pliers.
Back in Oregon, he spent the next several years developing a design for the tool he had craved, patiently supported by Chau. After partnering with a friend with a machine shop, he pitched the first Leatherman multi-tool to knife and tool companies to resounding disinterest... until Cabela's unexpectedly ordered 200 for their mail-order catalog. They featured it on their back cover and ordered 500 more before the first order was filled. With that, the Leatherman snowball was off and rolling.
30 years later, the Leatherman Tool Company is still growing. Every Leatherman tool is made in Portland, OR, where the company employs 525 people full time, and runs 24-hour production at three locations. The smallest space is the site of the original machine shop, and the largest is the 90,000 sq. ft. factory, which I recently got to tour because I am an important regional figure.
Video Production by Outlier Solutions
After chatting with ID honcho Blair Barnes, I left the aggressively air-conditioned design and business offices and entered the stream of activity on the factory floor. Like most factories, this one is laid out for efficiency. Production flows from one side of the building to the other, starting with the lifeblood of the factory: a custom die shop. The die shop (curtained off to outsiders) houses what I imagine to be wizardly figures, conceiving, crafting and repairing the dies used in each machine. Having the designers and machinists in close proximity with production makes it quicker to design new dies and fix broken ones than sending things out of house.
Posted by core jr
| 24 Jul 2013
Text & photos by Robert Bye
I first envisioned initial concept for Hangen 18 months ago, and since being featured on Core77 in February 2012, it has since gone through four major re-designs with over 100 development iterations, bringing the clotheshanger from concept to prototyping. I'm pleased to announce that it is now ready for manufacture.
Initially, Hangen was a simple problem-solving product created as part of design internship competition where I was asked to design an innovative hanger. During the lecture in which we received this brief, I immediately began sketching out quick ideas and within a few moments had a simple line drawing that I could see had potential. Taking this idea to an initial product render only took a few hours, and even though there were still many flaws in the design, the idea and function was clearly there.
At this point, I was lucky enough to have this design featured on Core77—since I was just a second year Bachelor's student at the time, this gave me a huge boost in confidence and made me want to commit to working on the project further. However, due to time constraints and an extremely busy study schedule, I only managed to find time for to return the project six months later. Even so, this happened to be enough time for me to develop a love for the design aesthetic of Naoto Fukasawa, Yves Béhar, Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, and I wanted to try my hand at creating a product in a similar style. Taking the initial functionality and transforming it into a completely new design was a worthwhile experience, involving many sketches and quick computer illustrations to see what it would look like.
I uploaded this version to a number of design networks and after being the most viewed and liked design for a number of weeks—getting over 6000 views, receiving many comments and even having people contact me directly asking where to buy it—I realized that it might have some commercial potential. So the next step was to adapt the design for manufacture, which entailed countless CAD iterations: adding draft angles, changing injection points and developing the shape to suit the injection moulding process. Using the software Solidworks and Moldflow Synergy made the process easier, but it was still a time-consuming process. This was quite a learning process for me, as design students are generally encouraged to focus more on the idea than the nitty-gritty of manufacturing. Thankfully, since the shape of the hanger is quite simple, I only needed to make a few changes, and I encountered very few problems.
Posted by core jr
| 23 Jul 2013
Everything in the built world has been designed and crafted by someone. This is not news to most of us, but I'm amazed that even as engineering and design have taken more visible roles in shaping how we experience the world, there are still so many who see themselves as consumers, not makers.
We Are Makers is a new short film that explores the workshops and institutions shaping a new generation of makers and designers. It's the first documentary on the Maker Movement—a global cultural shift aimed at empowering more people to create. Most of the film was shot on location in New York last spring in places like the School of Visual Arts, NYC Resistor and the New York Hall of Science. But it wasn't at all clear from the beginning that the film would take the shape it eventually did.
I work with a team of media producers and storytellers at Abilene Christian University, and when we were approached to produce a film on making in education, the goal was purely local, something focused on our immediate community. Faculty and staff at ACU were planning a large digital fabrication space to support engineers, designers and makers on campus, and the film we produced would essentially make the case for this new idea. Over the course of several interviews in just a couple of weeks, we realized we were tapping into a broader story about the full spectrum of makers in museums, hacker clubs, design schools, creative businesses and communities everywhere.
It's clear today there's a growing emphasis on craftsmanship and a return to making with the hand, that we can and should reclaim this somehow-forgotten part of our human identity. But I've noticed there's a certain complexity to this new movement that distinguishes it from past eras of DIY and craft. This is an open movement. It blurs the lines between disciplines, it encourages the generalist, and it seeks to bring together makers of all kinds. Today, the focus is on increasing access. It's about fostering a universal sense of creativity, and it's about making sure the tools are within reach for everyone.
In our visits with Dale Dougherty of Make Magazine, Allan Chochinov of SVA and Core77, Liz Arum of MakerBot and the others we've captured in the film, it quickly became clear this was not really a story about tools or places; the human element took center stage. It's not hard to imagine how this struck us. As makers ourselves, immersed daily in the creative process, this project felt deeply personal and intimate in an uncanny way: this was also a story about us.
Posted by core jr
| 15 Jul 2013
How To (How To): The AIGA Research Project by Ziba
Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5 · Part 6
Welcome back, once again, to Project Medusa. This final installment in our three-part How-To series aims to illuminate the last phase of any design research project: what are you to do with all the information that result from your brilliant effort? How do you decide what's relevant, and what's not? Needless to say, it can be a bit complicated. Many of the considerations introduced earlier are also helpful at this stage: remember your goals, and understand your audience (which shifts now to whoever you're preparing the research results for.) Confused? Visit Part 1 for a more thorough introduction. If you recall Part 1 but missed Part 2, now's your chance to catch up.
While there are no right or wrong answers in design research, not all data is equal. Assuming you've carefully prioritized your goals and outreach, it's now time to prioritize results. At Ziba, we use a four-part process to synthesize the data research yields.
1. Aggregate the data.
This could mean digitizing handwritten responses, stacks of sticky notes stuck to a wall, dozens of photos printed, or whatever works for you and your material. You'll need to be able to see the data—and ideally search through it efficiently—before you can plunge ahead.
2. Sort for theme(s).
Like goes with like, and making logical groupings of related information will help you identify the trends and anomalies within your data set. Embrace the granular: this is most likely the only time you'll look at each and every survey question, listen to every minute of recorded discussion, and squint at all those doodles. Stop worrying about your goals, momentarily, and evaluate your results as honestly and objectively as possible. Everything is allowed to be interesting, at this stage. If, on the other hand, you feel overwhelmed with the amount of data you're confronted with, the sorting process will allow you to reduce complexity.
Themes emerge as you connect the strongest trends in the data to your hypothesis or hypotheses. Think of it as a naming exercise, if you're stumped: with the data sorted into buckets, each bucket needs a concise handle. There may be some hard choices—fascinating but quirky individual responses sometimes need to be cast aside if they fail to play well with other, larger groups of more typical answers. Force yourself to make decisions about what's meaningful and what can actually have an impact on the work to come.
Frustrated with the lack of decent keyboard stands on the market, Mikael Jorgensen began sketching ideas for a stylish lightweight touring stand some ten years ago—as lead pianist and keyboardist for the band Wilco, he'd spent the better much of that time on the road—but with no background in design or fabrication, he didn't really know how to proceed. He had given up hope until years later, when friend and producer Allen Farmelo, who showed him a mixing console that collapses for traveling, designed and built by François Chambard of UM Project. After an introduction from Farmelo, Jorgensen met with Chambard at his Greenpoint studio and immediately connected with his design sensibility and craftsmanship.
The stand breaks down to fit perfectly into a standard keyboard case for touring and can easily be configured to function as a desk for laptops; executed in Chambard's signature style with a matching bench, the UMJ-1 looks like nothing else on the market. I stopped by UM Project's studio to get a hands-on demo before the distinctive stand's debut at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Chambard enthusiastically assembled the unit before my eyes, explaining the thought process behind it, as the storage room next door was being set up for the photo shoot.
Posted by core jr
| 18 Jun 2013
When we last heard from Bruce Nussbaum, on the occasion of the HarvardxDesign Conference, he mentioned his forthcoming book, Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire (HarperBusiness 2013). Available now, it makes for a surprisingly good beach or travel read (Kindle version recommended, as the print version comes in hardcover), at least for those of you who prefer nonfiction for leisure reading.
But the insights and learnings from Nussbaum—a former editor at BusinessWeek and current professor at Parsons The New School for Design—are applicable for a broad audience, from recent grads to practicing designers to C-suite execs. We had a chance to speak to Nussbaum about those very insights.
Core77: What is Creative Intelligence?
Bruce Nussbaum: Creative Intelligence is a way of amplifying our creative capacities. It's a series of five competencies that we can all learn to bolster our skill at generating originality that has value, often economic value. Individuals and business organizations can increase their Creative Intelligence by getting better at Knowledge Mining, Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting or Scaling. The concept embraces the notion that creativity is crucial to capitalism and the source of most economic value.
You write about "creativity anxiety, noting that "creativity scares us." Why do you think that is?
We have false notions of creativity. We are taught that creativity is rare, random, and reduced to special brains. We feel we should be creative but can't perform creatively. Rubbish. We are all born creative and can easily learn to be more creative and innovative. Creativity is a social activity, an ensemble or team play, not an individual gift of genius.
Many of us picture so-called creative types sitting alone in a studio or office, either filled with inspiration or waiting for it to strike, yet you write of interactive creativity and collaboration. Is there a difference between the two?
The "Aha" moment of insight, when we connect the dots of different things to come up with something new, are often done alone, walking or running, taking a long shower or slowly drinking your morning coffee. These insights come after intense social interaction and observation. They come after the research, the learning, the gathering of information and the engagement with the world. You need both.
Posted by core jr
| 17 Jun 2013
Content Sponsored by Braun
We recently had the chance to chat with designer Naoto Fukasawa and IDEO's Jane Fulton Suri, who served on the jury for last year's Braunprize selections. As keen observers of the world at large and the man-made objects and obstacles we encounter on a regular basis, both Fukasawa and Suri had plenty of interesting things to say about the current state of design and just what it means to be 'normal.'
Core77: It seems that you are both highly attuned to the world around you—or rather, us. Both the Super Normal and Thoughtless Acts document what might be considered as everyday or mundane, but actually have been accepted or adopted by users as conventions. Have either of you noticed memorable examples of these things that we take for granted lately?
Naoto Fukasawa: I have been conducting the 'Without Thought' workshop to young designers for over 15 years. In these workshops, what I have been hoping for the participants to understand is that our behaviors and movements are not produced by ourselves thinking of how to move our bodies every second but instead, such acts are produced by our body naturally responding to given situations and environments.
For example, walking is defined by a sequence of movements of our legs and feet: placing one foot forward on the ground and then moving the other to follow. When we recognize a surface that is not the greatest to step on, we naturally avoid it and if we lose balance by doing so, perhaps we try to put our hands on walls and so on. Mountaineering and rock climbing face limited surfaces to place our hands and feet and sometimes the areas everyone subconsciously grabs get polished. Making a decision for a behavior is a response of body beyond one's consciousness, and in this context, we are all sharing something greater than being individuals: human as bodies.
Our environments, situations and information ignite our behaviors. Specifically, our environments, situations and our body are synchronized to each other and create our environments.
Jane Fulton Suri: Boarding planes these days there's always a scramble to find space to stash luggage in an overhead bin—people close the bin when it's full and thereby simplify the search for everyone. And I see lots of new habits have emerged with our attachment to flat-screen mobile phones: The phone is always with you so it's a handy bookmark for your magazine when you have to put it down for a minute; it's a weight to hold the page open when cooking from a recipe book; an immediate surface to attach a sticky-note as a reminder, the lit screen is a flashlight to find the bathroom at night or, in unity with a crowd of fans, to light up a stadium, and if you reverse your phone camera, the screen is better than a mirror for checking if there's something in your teeth or putting on makeup! Social cues come into play at meetings too: if your phone is placed on the table face down, you're there to pay attention, if it's face up, you signal that something else is important!
Image courtesy of IAMECO
I recently met Colin Fitzpatrick at the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies, where he spoke about the IAMECO (pictured above), a product service system that he and his research group worked on with an Irish SME, MicroPro Computers. Colin is at MIT this summer, researching "Conflict Minerals," which are the raw materials used in electronics that come from the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. Needless to say, he's doing great work in the area of sustainable electronics. And lucky for us, he had some time to chat about his work and where he thinks all of this is going in the near future.
Xanthe Matychak: So, tell us about yourself. Who are you and what you do?
Colin Fitzpatrick: I'm a lecturer in electronic computer engineering at the University of Limerick in Ireland and I've been working in the "Electronics and the Environment" area since about 2004. I teach a course at Limerick called "Electronics and the Environment," and I lead a medium-sized research group there on the topic. We look at anything to do with technology and sustainability. Product design, energy, smart grids, you name it. We go where the opportunities take us in that whole space.
When I heard you speak at ISSST, you shared a project that you and your students worked on with MicroPro Computers, the IAMECO.
Right. To be clear, MicroPro is their brand and we worked as consultants. They had an ambition that they really wanted to have a credible environmentally friendly product, not a greenwash sort of fashion. So we helped them make sure they didn't leave anything out, any bits and pieces along the way. We helped them consider the whole life-cycle of the product, as much as a SME (Small-Mid Sized Enterprise) can do so. We sat down and said that it isn't just the product but the product-service system that is important.
Posted by core jr
| 31 May 2013
UPDATE: Illumifeet will be on view at Treasure&Bond at 350 West Broadway, New York, NY, 10013, until June 22.
About two months ago, designer Craig Winslow II unveiled "illuminimal," a design concept that uses video projection mapping on a real footwear product to completely change the look of the shoes. Now, he's collaborated with BucketFeet to bring the concept to life as 'illumifeet,' an interactive evolution that's currently on display as part of a storefront pop-up shop in Treasure&Bond in Soho, NYC.
Winslow offered to elaborate on the process in his words:
I've been infatuated with video projection mapping for the past few years now. Seeing the way that light can completely change a building or environment is incredibly inspiring. However, many projection executions felt like tech demos to me. I wanted to create work with story, purpose and function. Although this new digital+physical medium is many years old, it continues to evolve and find its place in the world, and I wanted to contribute to its growth.
Posted by Ray
| 7 May 2013
[Ed. Note: This post has been updated to reflect new dates: the exhibition will be on view from Thursday, May 16 – Saturday, May 18; hours and location posted below.]
Following a very successful showing on very short notice last year, Jen Krichels and Jean Lin of DesignerPages are pleased to present the second edition of Reclaim, an organization that debuted last December with a charity auction for Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Along with designer Brad Ascalon, the two design editors enlisted old and new friends in the New York City design community to participate in the exhibition and silent auction.
Marius Kyking × Vidar Koksvik
This time around, the theme is "design that's more than the sum of its parts," and we're excited to see that many of our favorite designers and studios are teaming up to bring new work to the table (so to speak). Our friends at Token and UHURU are among the 50+ participants in Reclaim x2, and as longtime occupants of Red Hook—a neighborhood that was submerged under 3–4 feet of water during the storm—they had firsthand experience of the wrath that Sandy wrought. "We were very excited for the opportunity to get together and put collective energy behind this collaborative project," says Emrys Berkower of Token. "And being that it is in support of such a great cause makes it even more meaningful." UHURU's Horvath shares the sentiment:
It's too bad that it took a hurricane that trashed both our spaces, but I'm glad we are finally able to make it happen and that we can represent Red Hook at the show. It has been great working together so far, both in the initial brainstorming sessions and during our afternoon in the hot shop blowing glass into crazy forms and setting them on fire.
Ladies and Gentlemen × Nicholas Nyland
Once again, we had a chance to catch up with Jen and Jean on the occasion of Reclaim x2, which will take place in the middle of the first annual NYCxDesign festival (see the first Q&A here). Some two dozen pieces by twice as many designers—per the collaborative theme of the show—will be on view from Wednesday, May 15, through Friday, May 17, at 446 Broadway, 3rd Floor, with a reception on the night of Thursday, May 16.
Core77: How did the inaugural Reclaim event go? Lessons learned? Any good stories to tell?
Jean Lin: We had so much fun organizing and executing the first exhibit. I think a lot of its success can be credited to pure adrenaline after Hurricane Sandy. We all wanted to help so desperately that all of us—both Jen and I, and the initial group of designers—sort of fed off of each other's energy and enthusiasm for the cause. I still marvel at the fact that we were able to pull it all together in little more than a month.
Jen Krichels: Because the first event came together so quickly, we didn't have much time to think about whether Reclaim NYC would have a future after the first show. But the night of the event and in the days after we were asked so many times when the next show would be (both by designers who wanted to participate and by people who wanted to attend or support the cause) that we started planning a Design Week show right away.
With the luxury of more time, we are launching an online presale before Design Week, which will be followed by the exhibit and sale on May 15–17. We also have a range of price points to allow people to make a range of donations to Brooklyn Recovery Fund. The presale, which will be hosted on at60inches.com and shop.lin-morris.com, will give collectors more time to consider some of the heirloom-quality pieces that are part of the show.
JL: Honestly, my biggest regret was not buying anything at the first show. I was so busy during the auction that the items I had my eye on were snatched up from under me. Jen bid on and won a gorgeous UM Project lamp for an amazingly reasonable price. I kick myself every time I see it in her apartment. Hopefully the presale will prevent this from happening again.
Egg Collective × Hangar
Even the fabrication of the objects has been a collaboration—Hangar brazed the initial bronze masters, from which we created molds and plaster castings. Both the collection of masters and the cast objects will be displayed together as a landscape at Reclaim x2.
-Stephanie Beamer, Egg Collective
Egg Collective × Hangar
Posted by Steve Portigal
| 6 May 2013
I'm pleased to share this excerpt from Chapter 2 of Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights. This part off the book sets up the overarching framework for successful interviewing: most experts have a set of best practices—tactics, really—that they follow. But what really makes them expert is that they have a set of operating principles. This ends up being more like a framework for how to be, rather than a list of what to do.
I've talked to a lot of practitioners about their own experiences in doing fieldwork and often they try to address challenges when they experience the symptoms, but that's usually not the right time. Consider this analogy: if you have insomnia, the best solutions are not those that you roll out at 3am when you can't sleep. To effectively counteract insomnia you have to make specific choices during the day, before you go to bed. Doing research with people is the same thing and ideally you approach this sort of work with a well-defined perspective that will inform all of the inevitable detailed, specific, tactical problem solving.
I think getting to this point as an interviewer (or for anything that we do at a certain level of both passion and expertise) is a journey. I'd love to hear about your journey or any other feedback or questions that you have!
* * *
When Wayne Gretzky apocryphally explained his hockey success as "I don't skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck is going to be," he identified a key characteristic of many experts: the underlying framework that drives everything. This platonically idealized Gretzky could have revealed any number of tactics such as his grip, or the way he shifts his weight when he skates. Keith Richards explains his guitar sound, which involves removing the 6th string, tuning to open G, and using a particular fretting pattern, as "five strings, three notes, two fingers, and one asshole." Even though Keith is explaining the tactics, he's also revealing something ineffable about where he's coming from. The higher-level operating principles that drive these experts are compelling and illustrative. Expert researchers also have their own operating principles. In this chapter, I'll outline mine, and I hope to inspire you to develop your own interviewing framework. As you develop, the process evolves from a toolkit for asking questions into a way of being, and you'll find that many of the tactical problems to solve in interviewing are simply no-brainers. As George Clinton sang, "Free your mind...and your ass will follow."
Check Your Worldview at the Door
I've been asked, "What was the most surprising thing you ever learned while doing fieldwork?" I scratch my head over that one because I don't go out into the field with a very strong point of view. Of course, I'm informed by my own experiences, my suspicions, and what my clients have told me, but I approach the interviews with a sense of what I can only call a bland curiosity.
As the researcher, it's my responsibility to find out what's going on; I'm not invested in a particular outcome. Even more (and this is where the blandness comes from), I'm not fully invested in a specific set of answers. Sure, we've got specific things we want to learn—questions we have to answer in order to fulfill our brief. But my hunger to learn from my participant is broad, not specific. I'm curious, but I don't know yet what I'm curious about. My own expectations are muted, blunted, and distributed. Although I will absolutely find the information I'm tasked with uncovering, I also bring a general curiosity.
Now, the people I work with don't have the luxury of bland curiosity. Whether they are marketers, product managers, engineers, or designers (or even other researchers), they often have their own beliefs about what is going on with people. This makes sense: if there's enough organizational momentum to convene a research project, someone has been thinking hard about the issues and the opportunities, and has come to a point of view.
Figure 1 - Capture everything that everyone thinks they know so that it's not stuck in their heads. Photo by Lena Blackstock (2012)
The Brain Dump
At the beginning of the project, convene a brain dump (see Figure 1). Get what's in everyone's heads out on the table. Whether it's real-time, face-to-face, in front of a whiteboard, or asynchronously across offices on a wiki, talk through assumptions, expectations, closely-held beliefs, perspectives, and hypotheses. Contradictions are inevitable and should even be encouraged.
The point is not establishing consensus; it's to surface what's implicit. By saying it aloud and writing it down, the issues leave the group specifically and enter an external, neutral space.
It's also not about being right or wrong; I encourage you to anonymize all the input so that people don't feel sheepish about expressing themselves. I wouldn't even go back and validate the brain dump against the resulting data. The objective is to shake up what is in your mind and free you to see new things. Think about it as a transitional ritual of unburdening, like men emptying their pockets of keys, change, and wallet as soon as they return home (Figure 2).
Figure 2 - Transitional rituals are actions we take to remind ourselves that we are shifting from one mode of being to another.
Posted by Ray
| 26 Apr 2013
Images courtesy of the artist
We were duly impressed with David Soukup's painstakingly detailed stencils when we first saw them back in 2011—I could hardly believe that some of those ultrafine lines were stenciled and not applied by an implement (or at least masked off). He's pleased to announce a solo show at Maxwell Colette gallery in his current hometown of Chicago: "This show is one of my most personal to date, and marks a return to some of the imagery and technical precision that I became known for."
I hadn't realized that he lost his way (the mural project, pictured above, dates to October of last year), but earlier this year, Soukup wrote that "I had been cutting stencils for so long that I really lost what made them most important to me, and why I started doing them in the first place."
In any case, we're glad he's back on track with his first exhibition in 16 months, featuring "over 20 pieces of new work (both stencils and screenprints)." The title, Perennial Escapism, is an obvious play on the subject matter, but the rather literal take on an exit strategy belies the integrity of the subject matter: the imagery is "derived from the artist's own photographs of early 20th century wrought iron fire escapes in Chicago." To hear Soukup tell it:
This work represents a personal 'escape' so to speak. I went back to what first made me passionate. I drew inspiration not just from the city imagery itself, but from the textures, the grit, and the distress that makes up a city. Perennial Escapism marks the beginning of a new direction, one I've never been more excited to pursue.
Where his previous work was more collage-y and surreal, the stark new compositions evoke film stills, superimposed on a baselayer of impasto on the wood panels to achieve the effect of a vaguely patina'd or otherwise weathered surface. Per the press release:
Soukup's paintings combine visual elements of graphic design and collage with the tactile elements of paint and reclaimed materials to create decidedly urban motifs. He hand-cuts the elaborate stencils, some up to four feet in length, that are utilized to create his paintings. The resulting latticework of iron bars and shadows echoes the visual experience of his everyday life, and reflects his obsession with meticulous detail.
We're pleased to present an exclusive preview of Perennial Escapism:
Posted by frog
| 15 Apr 2013
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."
Overall, 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 Ray
| 11 Apr 2013
Back in October of last year, we stopped by BUNDSHOP's Shanghai HQ, a month prior to the launch of their e-commerce platform. In my conversation with Diana, Stephany, Michael and Donnie, they mentioned that they were considering a 24-hour flash sale model, but ultimately went with a traditional online storefront for their holiday season debut.
Now, just five months later, BUNDSHOP is pleased to announce that they're relaunching with the more exclusive approach, featuring a new design from China every day. Billed as "the first and only E2 (Experience + E-Commerce) platform to bring the emerging independent designers of Asia to the world," the international upstarts are poised to become the definitive online portal for "not only products, but also news, interviews and industry opinions to keep our global community informed about a rapidly accelerating design revolution." Hence the tagline, "Made in China is dead—Designed in China killed it."
Wine Bottle Lamp by John Meng
Although the site is currently invite-only, Diana and Stephany are pleased to offer our readers a VIP hookup: Head over to BUNDSHOP.com, click "Get Immediate Access" at the bottom of the center column, and enter "Core" as the first name and "77" as the last name (and your personal e-mail as well, of course).
Posted by frog
| 10 Apr 2013
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.