A sixteen-year-old stands in line at the DMV, waiting to take the driving test to obtain her license. Nervous though she is, it’s a fairly mundane affair. The others in line are begrudged to deal with a bureaucratic inconvenience, and the sense of “time wasted” saturates the room. Even for the sixteen-year-old, it’s hard to get excited about standing in line at the DMV. Yet if she passes, few other milestones confer an independence as tangible, as official, and as immediate as the license to drive a car. The young woman may not realize it fully, but she is about to experience a dramatic shift in her social life...Read More
I recently participated in an interesting experiment during one of our class sessions in Managing Interdisciplinary Teams taught by Jeremy Alexis at the Institute of Design. The course puts graduate students from ID as Team Leaders in the IIT Interprofessional Projects Program otherwise known as iPRO. Week by week we are introduced to various leadership techniques as well as exposed to actual team dynamics through interactions with undergraduate iPRO teams in the program.
The experiment was a prototype of an exercise meant to reduce boundaries of participation for interdisciplinary professionals from fields not typically associated with creativity or creative "doing". It was designed by Shiyi-Li who facilitated as well. Short (~3min) clips of music were played and participants were encouraged to explore the different tools available to express what they were hearing. After completing 4 sets (songs) of drawings we shared our creations and discussed the way the experiment unfolded.
Here are some images of the exercise with captions of some of the things that we learned from our experience.
How do you begin to know the leading debates and trends in design? You read -- a lot. When the co-chairs were trying to determining the theme for the Design Research Conference, we didn't want to leave any stone unturned.
Don Norman, Tim Brown, and Bruce Nussbaum may come up in your list of design thought leaders. But, this list is also colored by your specialty (Fast Company did it); graphic designers have their own list, just as different as those lists from architects, design research or business. Design, we thought, integrates all of these fields, so each of us dove in following our passions: art, engineering, business and graphic design.
As we read, we tried to place ID’s view of design into this bigger picture, which we were just learning to do as first-years.
We made some conjectures and iterated our thinking, but there was no real answer. These discussion mimicked those in the broader design sphere: what is design anyway? It seemed so full of contradictions: Embrace complexity and make it simpler. Trust our guts and be systemic. Avoid technological determinism and also drive technological innovation and adoption.
The Compelling Contradictions: Ego & Empathy. Technology & Humanity.
For this year’s conference, we chose to focus on the most compelling contradictions that impact all designers: ego, empathy, technology, and humanity.
As innovators (and design students), we need to stand at the front of the room and recommend wholly new innovations; we must be confident that we have the answer. Otherwise, your ideas will never get out of the conference room.
This is in stark contrast to the empathetic designer who encourages us to let our guard down, and enters our lives, homes and thoughts. These designers must be open and nonjudgmental, hearing our stories and gaining insights as they earn our trust.
Technology and humanity have been fighting each other ever since the two coexisted. Humans haven’t always been supportive of the latest technology, and it’s no surprise to hear about early electricity fears and the response to Google Glass.
The Power of Reflection
If designers, the conference co-chairs reasoned, aren’t aware of these choices and the subsequent balancing act, how do we know we’re making the right choices? It takes a bit of reflection to understand ourselves better and we reasoned the conference would be an ideal place for this. We sought out designers, engineers, academics and entrepreneurs who had already started these reflections and we’re encouraging them to explore these tensions or polarities more deeply at the DRC.
I’m looking forward to when the conference planning is complete and I can enjoy the conference reflections and rest. I hope to meet you there and when it’s all over, I’m especially excited to get back to my ever-lengthening reading list.
Another exciting year at the Institute of Design has kicked off with weeks of orientation and the ritual "class shopping". On behalf of The New Idiom I would like to welcome all new and returning students. There are many exciting changes going on in the school as well as very exciting research and projects going throughout the semester. We will do our best to bring some of our thinking to the virtual space and hopefully inspire some new level of thinking in your everyday.
"We are exploring emerging technologies, and environmental interactions leveraging heads up displays, specifically Google Glass, and design a new visitor experience at the Bronx Zoo. The new service will enable park visitors to access headsets, navigate the zoo, explore animal habitats, and stay connected with their party" -says Knowl a second year student @ID.
Enjoy and for all new students make sure to follow the blog via your favorite RSS reader or on twitter @thenewidiom
-Wojtek & Adam
New Idiom Co-editors
I have been hearing a lot about resilience lately. It's the core topic of Andrew Zolli's book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, the central theme of PopTech in 2012 (directed and curated by Zolli) and the theme of this year’s Compostmodern conference about design and sustainability. What’s so interesting about resilience?
For me, it’s the implied optimism. Even when everything “goes down the toilet”, you know in the end that things will work themselves out. The natural world adapts and evolves to changing conditions; for example, coral reefs documented as completely destroyed could be thriving in 10 years time. We can expect little to stay unchanged for long.
Designers and engineers have had to confront these issues head-on, especially in planning for the degradation of parts and materials. What designers create won’t last forever and as long as we make products, there will be a weak link and failure point somewhere. The key question is not if it will fail, but when. WIRED magazine explored this issue in depth with Ford and their own dangerous issues of gas-pedal hinge reliability and fallibility.
Designers are frequently challenged to create the next best thing, but we should be reframing the problem. In a world where we can build anything, have you ever considered what would happen if our old products could find a life after our desire and use for them is gone? Design is all about "failing early and failing often" and is comfortable with ambiguous answers.
Next time you’re considering a design solution, I’d like to offer these thought-starters:
- What if failure became a problem that was solved for instead of avoided?
- Instead of failing early, what if designers built products to fail well at any point?
- What about a future where products are easily fixed or could fix themselves, no matter how complex they are?
- Over time as a product fails, can it become another, different usable product?
That’s sounds like a greater and more exciting challenge to me than creating the next big thing. Designers are optimistic people and I think people and product resilience fits well with our M.O. The ability to embrace failure is what makes the design process unique so let’s take it to the next level.
If we fail, we’ll just adapt to make something better, right?
We would like to wish all our fellow ID'ers good luck landing their dream summer internship or full time job. We are keeping our fingers crossed for all of you. Special thanks to our ID Student Activity Board co-chairs Maggee Bond and Sarah Ekblad for providing the much needed, New Bauhaus inspired, breakfast sugar and caffeine boost on Day 1. :) (Illustrations by the one and only John Trotti)
The bi-annual recruitID event attracts companies from around the world for a three day opportunity to interview and network with the Institute of Design students and alumni. Companies represented this year include Microsoft, Facebook, SC Johnson, Nurture by Steelcase, United Health Group, Yahoo, Goodyear, Jump Associates, Moment (NYC), Artefact Group, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Teague, Thoughtform, Morningstar, Siren Interactive, MJV Technology & Innovation (Brazil), Aquent, cars.com, ClearStory Data, Design Concepts, fuseproject, IA Collaborative, Inflection, Johnson Controls, Lancaster General Health, Lincoln Financial Group, Sears, Thrive and Trek Bicycles.
On behalf of all the ID students we would like to thank all the companies and recruiters represented at this year's recruitID for their new and continued support of Institute of Design graduates.
And finally a special thanks to Ashley Lukasik, Raina Russ and the rest of the faculty and staff in their support leading up to and during this event.
British DJ Bonobo teamed up with animator Cyriak to develop a video for his latest track Cirrus. The result is a beautiful and surreal visual mashup of robots and film clips from the 60's. According to Cyriak, the stunning video is produced using Adobe Photoshop and After Effects. Take a look below...
The annual Rotman Design Challenge is taking place this weekend in Toronto, CA and two ID teams are making a run for it this year. The annual competition is a design business challenge attracting ambitious young minds from some of the world's top business and design schools such as MIT Sloan, Darden, NYU Stern, Stockholm School of Economics, Aalto University in Helsinki and others.
ID's Team Beta (Lauren Braun, Helen Wills, Janice Wong, Jorge Angarita, and John Shin) took top honors last year with their TD Stacks solution so the pressure is on this year's participants to defend the title.
This year's team's have been working hard for the last few weeks on a challenge brought forth by Target so if you see a lifeless Rotman ID'er in the hall somewhere, either a hug or a high-five will go a long way.
Good luck to both the ID teams!
Click here to learn more about the RDC and check out the video from last year's competition.
Street life in India captured through the lens of Wei Sun's camera during the ID India Immersion Program (January 2013).
Brilliant piece of filmmaking depicting the state of the art design, additive manufacturing, machining and construction of the Red Bull RB9 2013 Formula One World Championship challenger. Red Bull Racing factory is located in Milton Keynes, UK.
CNN's video essay on how new digital photography tools are redefining the way in which we think of, take, store and share still images. Click article title for full CNN story
Does reflection really exist? Are we essentially looking back on an interpretation, which was made using a very different understanding of the world then the one we currently have? I hope that we are seeing the world in a different way than we did 17+ weeks ago. Some might say that these mind shifts are the essence of graduate level education and anything is simply not good enough. Others might argue that is the essence of life and that it’s this dynamic interpretation of the world around us that makes us unlike any other living organism.Read More
When I’m researching, I am thankful for…
…knowing when to shut up and let the participant do the talking.
…labeling my photos immediately, before I forget why I took them.
…remembering to bring a backup battery for the video camera.
When I’m conducting analysis, I am thankful for…
…knowing when the framework I’m using has outlived it’s usefulness.
…recognizing a red herring when I see one.
…my teammates building the insight matrix without me.
I’m the researcher in my house. Last spring, my boyfriend and I were in the market for a new car. I generated lists of needs and wants, culled car-buying webpages and bought a copy of the Consumer Report auto guide. I designed spreadsheets of car models with columns for features, ratings and prices and searched locally for prices and dealerships. Within a month, I’d selected top contenders and within a weekend of test-driving, we became satisfied owners of a used Hyundai Elantra.
I thought I knew how to conduct research, make sense of disparate sources and build an opinion. But, the ambiguity of design problems is turning out to be far more complicated than finding a new car.Read More
The premise of Transcultural Design is that differences among people exist. That these differences pervade a geographical region and vary with change in location. Yet, we are weary of being cast in one and we talk in defiance or fear of them. In order to understand a culture that is different from our own, it is imperative to build or adopt notions that can be tested. These notions are usually an impression of the culture from the outside which help us work inwards.Read More