Deadlines are creeping up here for the Core77 Design Awards, and so is the end of our jury captain interview series! We wanted to familiarize you with some of the captains so you knew more about the amazing team responsible for picking our design award winners (you can catch up with some of the other jury captains via parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series). Now we're ready to introduce you to our final installment of interviews for three other categories, while also reminding you that the Regular Deadline and a chance to save some money on your awards submission is only one day away!
Dan Chen is an interaction designer and improvisational engineer. He has several degrees including a MAS from MIT, an MFA in digital media from RISD and a BFA in communication design from UConn. He has over 7 years of design experience and now works at Johnson & Johnson as Senior Interaction Designer. Working in the realms of robotics, communication design, interaction design and product design, Dan explores the new ways of communication and human experience through working prototypes and storytelling, inviting a reflective evaluation and implication.
What do you think have been the most significant changes/developments in Open Design/DIY in the past few years?
# Open Access Information, standard parts, codes and tools are more accessible in recent years for the designers. Places such as Instructables and GitHub are allowing users to share and collaborate. Places such as McMaster-Carr, Adafruit, Sparkfun, Pololu and Amazon are providing standard parts for the designer, allowing for a standard reference and access to the same parts. Codes and boards for the Micro controllers are also made accessible, their libraries and schematics are often open source. This allows the designer spend more time designing, less time coding and sourcing parts.
In computation, networking and machine learning space, services such as amazon's web service are more accessible then ever. Companies are developing platforms with APIs for people to hook up to their own project, utilizing one open design on top of another without having to start from scratch.
Open design also enables biohacking, utilizing open hardware and software, the designer no longer need the traditional expensive equipment.
# Cheaper & better tools & parts Tools are more accessible in terms of price and availability, for individual and small workshop communities. The cost has gone down for electronic parts as well, for sensors and micro controllers. They are not only cheaper but also precise and reliable. Think about the $1K Camera vs a $30K camera today, in terms of image quality and price, you only get incremental quality improvement as price go up. This is the same with the 3D printers, a $4k 3D printer today can produce parts in similar quality compare to a $300K 3D printer.
# Factory for makers Facilities such as PCB house, injection molding factories are realizing there is a big market for startup companies and DIY makers. They know that the manufacturing market needs to innovate and they are trying to find ways to work with the makers.
Factories are starting to offer PCB or injection molding services to the makers or small startup companies. They also provide tools and advise to validate their design. You no longer have to be a big company to work with the factory to produce your product.
In some parts of the world, cities such as Shenzhen, the government sees the value of DIY maker movement, trying to facilitate the movement. For them, it's a way of transforming from manufacturing to a hub for innovations.
What do you think is the greatest misunderstanding about Open Design and DIY?
Some people think 3D printers are the only way to do open design, but it's just one of the tool for open design. For some, open design might be viewed as unreliable and complicated to follow. That is why as a good open design designer, we need to consider our users, creating clear instructions and documentations that are easy to understand, replicate and spark interest. In terms of the unreliability, it can only be improved overtime, with more testing, user feedbacks and contributions. The users needs to have patients as well, help one another.
For some, open design carries ethical and safety issues, things such as 3D printed gun or bio safety concerns. Like any technologies, they can be used for evil. I feel confident that most designers, makers are aware of what they put out and considered it's implication.
Protecting Intellectual properties are often viewed as a way of staying competitive, however in today's world IP often restricts innovation, only for the people who can pay for it. I think a right mixture of IP and open design could enable rapid growth of ideas, vetting, improvements and innovations, keeps each other more competitive.
Where do you see Open Design having the biggest impact in the future?
I see open design as accessible in standard parts, tools, documentations and sets of principles that allows for modification and alteration. It should allow for improvisational making and prototyping during the design process. Better and cheaper tools and parts will enable that even further in the future.
I think the future of Open Design will change the way we learn, teach, make, collaborate, prototype, manufacture and innovate. Open design has a low point of entry, without needing a deep understanding of everything, user can create projects using libraries and standard parts, it creates small moments of success for them, making them wanting to learn more, find out more, use it more and modifying it more. Like repositories, people can "branch" out, make a new version or something totally different. I see it as the new education and innovation platform. This is a way of learning how to learn.
This will also improve people's lives in developing countries, allow them to make tools cheaply and effectually.
What serves as your greatest source of inspiration these days?
Anything improvisational. From improvisational comedy to improvisational making, design and engineering. It's inspiring to me to see people who can use materials in front of them, and think on their feet and quickly come up with ideas that are fresh, risky and coherent to the source material.
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Joe Speicher, 2017 Social Impact
Executive Director, AutoDesk Foundation
Joe Speicher is the Executive Director of the Autodesk Foundation. Under his leadership, the Foundation supports the people and organizations designing and engineering high-impact solutions to the world's most pressing social and environmental challenges. Prior to joining Autodesk, Speicher was on the founding team of Living Goods, where he spent six years leading operations for the global health organization.
Our interview with Joe Speicher on Core Talk—
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For our last installment of the jury captain-focused chapter of "Core Talk", Joe Speicher discusses how new advents in technology are changing the social impact design space and what he recommends to organizations and groups looking to get funding for their social impact design project.
Listen to more interviews from the series on our Soundcloud
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Eric Grant, 2017 Interaction
Creative Director, SapientRazorfish
As Creative Director for the SapientRazorfish Emerging Experiences group, Eric manages and inspires global teams that create groundbreaking, interactive experiences that live on screens, in physical spaces and among virtual worlds. Working with clients like Mercedes-Benz, Adobe, and T-Mobile, Eric's work focuses on compelling storytelling moments that create memorable and dynamic experiences.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the realm of interaction design?
The path to where I am today was an odd and rather unconventional one. I went to school for political science, worked in politics and actually ran for the Wisconsin State Assembly at the age of 22. I lost (thankfully) but along the way discovered a passion and a talent: print design. In college, I was involved in a number of student organizations and campaigns and began to try my hand at designing fliers, newsletters, logos and posters on my Mac LC. My first job out of college was a policy analyst, but after a few years came across a position for a "graphic artist" with the state legislature, applied and got it. It's there when the Internet sprang to life and when I got my first taste of interaction design. One of the first projects I ran was designing—and building—one of the first websites for the State of Wisconsin. Still an avid print designer, I designed all the pages in Quark, cut apart the images in Photoshop and built the entire site in Adobe PageMill.
As technology evolved, the mediums I designed in changed. I went from print and branding, to web, mobile, retail and large scale installations to where I am today: designing for a multitude of mixed reality and connected experiences. I like to say "the medium doesn't matter" in design because if your thinking is grounded in solid design principles, you can design for anything.
An Interaction designers job is often—and correct me if i'm wrong—to synthesize a large amount of information in a way that feels accessible and friendly. To you, what are some of the easiest ways to keep this in mind in the midst of a design project?
The first step is to make sure everyone involved—client and design team—is aligned on the goals of the project. Ask questions; don't assume. But... Fail often but fail early. Designers need to feel empowered to take risks, even if those risks result in failure. Design is fun and it's messy and not perfect. It's an extension of who we are and should encapsulate who we are as designers. Nobody and nothing is perfect.
All this said, when I joined Hot Studio in San Francisco, one of my first projects was leading the redesign of BART.gov, the region's main transportation system. We had a fantastic team who did a lot of research and forged a great collaborative partnership with BART. And as a result of one of our visual design workshops (to align on the look and feel), we had our marching orders with how the new site should look. We presented four concepts: three of which were variations of the look they wanted, and one that was completely the opposite of what they desired. I took a risk by going with my gut on how it should look... and it was the option they chose. Research, question and go with your gut.
You work in a very fast-moving and evolving field—what are a couple trends or phenomena that are starting to come into fashion that you think will be big in the future? To note a few examples, things like Flat design, etc.
Natural user interfaces (NUI): how users interact with experiences is going to evolve in a huge way in the next decade. Over the past three decades we've moved from command-line interfaces (CLI) to graphical user interfaces (GUI)—which were enabled by the mouse—to NUI and we're starting to see the first real-world applications of them in virtual and augmented reality experiences. When we start to augment or change the world around us with interactive experiences, we're going to need to tie the user experience back to natural human behaviors. This will require designers to not only think about how interfaces look, but how they interact with our environments. We're no longer just dealing with a monitor or a cell phone; we're dealing with physical spaces, lighting, sounds and other human beings.
"Microinteractions" is a fairly new term relevant to interaction design—what are your thoughts on this? What are good examples to you of microinteractions and how do you make something like this truly memorable and enjoyable?
Each moment of my day is a microinteraction. I shower and move on. I brush my teeth and move on. I indulge and eat a bag of Doritos and move on. Microinteractions are completely natural and are what make successful interactive moments successful. It's why Snapchat is now worth $28 billion and why Facebook is used by nearly 2 billion people.
People are busy, juggling lots of things and quick wins in interaction design is key. For businesses, it's understanding what people really want. One of the best examples for this is the Starbucks app which solves a basic problem consumers have: waiting in line. Now you can walk out of your office, order your latte and have it waiting for you at the counter. No lines required. For designers, the problem to solve is how to make these experiences quick, easy and delightful.
It seems like in the world of UX, there are a number of different elements to consider to make an experience pleasurable; obviously visuals but there's also sound, color, etc. I imagine all of these concentrations require people with different skill sets and titles so I'm wondering: what are some of the weirdest job titles you've seen at your firm or elsewhere?
I would say it's interesting, not weird, that SapientRazorfish now has a Harvard physicist as its director of data science. It's interesting because now designers will be creating experiences crafted with knowledge from deep learning algorithms, allowing us to anticipate the needs and desires of consumers... sometimes before they do. Welcome to the connected world.
You have one day left to submit your project under the Core77 Design Awards Regular Deadline—so save yourself some money and submit your project now!