I had a discussion recently with someone about a not entirely uncommon situation consultants can find themselves in. You get hired to solve a problem, but the reason they have hired the work out rather than do it internally is because they aren’t really committed to making the project a success. What do you need to know to best deal with this situation?Continue reading “Designed to fail: An absence of commitment”
The open source community has produced a number of serviceable tools for two-dimensional design. These include GIMP for bitmap graphics and photo editing, Inkscape for vector art, and Scribus for page layout. On the 3D side, Blender, Wings 3D, Art of Illusion, and a few others have served the needs of those doing surface and subdivision modeling. And while lots of good work has been done using those tools, I haven’t found surface and subdivision modelers very useful for industrial design work, except for occasional rapid ideation or visualization. FreeCAD is different in that it’s a parametric modeling tool, which has a history of effective use in ID.Continue reading “FreeCAD for Industrial Design”
It happens sooner or later to all consulting designers: your client decides not to use your work or — if it’s what they hired you for — take your advice.
It’s common in the web and app development industry for stakeholders to make a distinction between “designers” and “developers”. One of the things I’ve noted about this distinction is that it opens the door to antagonistic perceptions and even behaviors between the two camps. At a conference a few years ago, in the presence of developers expressing disparaging views regarding designers, I suggested that, “Designers are developers.” The deafening silence suggested I had to explain what I meant:
I haven’t had the chance to do so in the last couple years, but this year I was finally able once again to help critique student work for Barry Kudrowitz’s Toy Product Design course at the University of Minnesota. It’s always great to see the interdisciplinary reach Barry’s work is achieving.
You often hear that to work with graphic displays on the Arduino platform you need to use a Mega or other high-performance board. I got curious about how much you can actually get done on an a measly Uno and similar boards based on the classic ATmega328P. You can find the ongoing results on my wiki.
With the mainstream shift away from desktop to mobile devices, it seems the relevance of open source ecosystems is diminishing. The two major mobile OSes have a very effective grip on the mobile OS space, and they have engendered app models that do little to encourage or motivate open source designers and developers. So now might be a good time to remind ourselves of some of the benefits that open source confers.
One benefit I am considering increasingly is the control open source projects give communities over their experience and priorities. In particular, in the current context of mainstream device use there’s little room for economically disadvantaged voices. Where the entire raison d’être of a platform is monetization (which applies to both mainstream mobile platforms, though they go about it differently), lack of economic might translates directly to lack of impact.
The marginalization of limited income impacts everything from design (personas taken from the developing world aren’t likely to appear on a design team’s list) to implementation (everyone has a recent, fast device, right?). Open source projects empower communities to develop solutions tailored to their own needs, independent of their monetization potential or other considerations. So, no matter your role in society, if you want help establish more equity in the world, then please support open source!
In spite of some valiant efforts, I very much doubt that a mainstream mobile OS that is truly open for users will become a reality anytime soon. The next best thing we can do is focus attention on open source apps. In future posts, I will try to discuss some mobile open source projects that work well enough to replace popular proprietary and/or monetized ones. But for now, if you are on Android you can check out F-droid: the go-to store for open source mobile apps. Many of these projects are eager for contributions from designers and developers. But even your simple act of using an open source app helps to establish and promote it.
A recent chassis redesign project I undertook for Audio by Van Alstine is now in production.
This project pushed “constraints as creative resource” to the limit. The client specified that the design language and elements from the product’s predecessor be maintained—down to the knobs, faceplate treatments, and typography.
The project brief revolved around electronic and industrial design work to bring the client’s preamplifer platform up to functional parity with current market offerings within a framework that fits with the client’s existing manufacturing capabilities. The result is a platform that is significantly more capable than what it replaces yet easier for the client to manufacture. It is also amenable to comprehensive appearance changes if and when the client deems the timing is right.
So while it might not seem there’s much innovation on the outside, there is a lot of innovation for the client on the inside.
According to Fast Company, John Madea is positing that writing skills are important for design because many interactions still depend on text. I’d like to approach this from a different angle. What I’ve found in my personal development is that the better command I develop over my natural languages, the better everything becomes. Visual thinking, musical thinking, engineering thinking … everything.
Some people have described my approach to design as linguistic. In addition, I think of coding primarily as an extension of linguistic skills. So the apparent close relationship between natural language skills and other skills might just be me. But since language is such a core part of how the human mind works, it could very well be universal.
So, yeah, writing.