To prototype or not to prototype

This has been a question that has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks whenever i’ve needed a paper bag to help me breathe (which occurs often enough these days considering i have 4 weeks left to this thesis) or was interviewed by tristam sparks for his thesis prototyping. A mantra of the school, thanks to Gillian Crampton Smith, its founder has always been “JEP” Just Enough Prototyping. This means that you need to illustrate your idea with the right amount of prototyping, and not push it too far, this also implies that you are able to prototype your project yourself and you will know when to say “when” in a way. I find myself however in a situation where i could go 2 ways with prototyping: 1. video prototyping the service i am designing using props and smoke and mirrors, or 2. spend an indecent amount of time trying to come up with a functional prototype that ultimately i do not have the skills to build and will only be asking Massimo Banzi to help me with this.

This is part of my frustration with considering technology in design within the school. I see a difference between understanding what technology can do and designing within those constraints and being limited by what i can personally implement. It’s as if my school was expecting me to develop a skill-set some people spent years developing and that by being able to hack a fridge, i’d somehow be able to infuse more value and meaning into what i am designing.

At this point in time i think that video scenarios have a much bigger chance of explaining the value of my project and the interactions through time than a functional prototype which might be just one touch point of the service. So frack it as my friends would say : )

Last.fm

So because of feedback during the exam, i decided to sign up for Last.fm and see what all the fuss is about.

Good things:
1- Interesting ways to surf for music and good indication of the popularity of a song
2- I like the simplicity of the interface and browsing through the different elements of the “service” if one can really call it that, i’m not sure at this point.
3- Kind of a direct way to buy music, not so dissimilar to iTunes
4- I like the friends/neighbours category.

Elements that might need improvement:
1- How on earth do you find someone with your tastes??? Very hard to properly browse for users although each user has an interesting profile. i think that this is the feature that lacks the most innovation for tis service. It’s also extremely anonymous in the visual display of users, no sense of where users are from, and can one really look for someone based on location? isn’t the great thing about music to be able to hook up with people who share your interests and not your location?

I think that i am definitely no interested in making this service i am developing a way for people to browse other users as a main element. I am much more interested in displaying and developing a platform for music exchange that documents use and history of the listening habits, catering to small communities of people who know each other, are flirting, are using music as a way to discover what they are about. This, i think is the best way to discover someone and be introduced to new music.

Exam 1

Had my exam 1 on friday, some really nice crits were there: Mark Delaney from Plan Design, Jay Melican from Intel research, Chris Downs from Live|Work and Steve Thompson from Newport School of Art and Design in Wales.

I hate to say the critique was very harsh and pointed out some really important gaps in my thinking , maybe related to the fact that i had so little time to prepare for this exam, right after Salone. Well that’s no excuse really. So i thought id make a diagram of the foundation of my thesis so i avoid having to discuss it again and can go: here it is and avoid a lot of communication problems i encountered in my presentation.

So essentially I am looking at sustainability and the ways in which our society is supposed to address it. Through concepts like PSS (Product Service Society and service design, we are advocating that we should do more with less; use more services and less material objects, transition from a society that values access versus ownership. I think that this is a very valuable way of looking at the future but it hardly addresses the designer’s role and how we design within and for these services. If we are advocating that we should use less, does that mean that we should care more and therefore throw away or discard less? When we talk about high tech personal devices, we often find ourselves with a little bit of ause-phobia mainly because use and the degradation of those objects is not something that is desirable or appealing. I am calling this negative history. What i seek to find out is if we can design for “positive history” or to create meaningful object-subject relationships by using and treating fabrics as a material that displays history in an appealing and engaging way. History of use is something desirable in a pair of jeans or a teddy bear, so why not in a high tech device?

To test this theory out, i wanted to find a design space that would allow me to address mack of emotional relationships and i found that the area of music and its more recent form the mp3 and its player was a convenient case study. With the disappearance of a physical token for music and an ephemeral attachment to its containers, this was the perfect area to start.

So there, I have laid down the foundation of my thinking for this thesis and can now concentrate on the design work that is necessary for the next review which will take place on the 15th and 16th of June 2006.

Working for Salone

So i havent been a good little designer and haven’t updated you what is up these days. I’ve been working on the 2 radio projects that me and Dave Chiu developed first more than a year ago. These will be shown at IDII’s presence in Salone del Mobile 2006 at the Fabbrica del Vapore from the 6th of April to the 10th actively ( i will be there in the evenings) and then till the 20th on exhibit. Come and see it as well as my Service design project that we did with Haiyan Zhang.

Down load the invitation.