Observe

This learning unit explores the relationship between digital design and physical production by guiding students through design and creation of a real, tangible and usable object, within the methodological framework of Critical Design Thinking.

About This Learning Unit (3A-3E)

Throughout this learning unit we will be working within a creative framework of Critical Design Thinking, which has been created specifically for this class as a combination of Critical Design and Design Thinking. We will put digital and manual fabrication techniques in a context a of a user-driven design process (as defined by Design Thinking methodology) to create the real-world, tangible and usable objects that make us think critically, imagining alternative possibilities and different ways of being – which is an attitude and the goal of Critical Design.
Now there are a lot of new definitions, and we’ll talk about all of them when the proper time comes.

Download Lectures

There are several introductory lectures taking place during this class:

Review of Digital Image Course
This is the extended version of the lecture I gave in class, with things you must know, so I suggest you give it a look.
Click here to download lecture in PDF format.

Introduction To Virtual Space
Structure and methodology of the course and its relation to Digital Image course.
Click here to download lecture in PDF format.

Stuff
We are surrounded by stuff – over the course of one day we get to use over 650 objects on average – and that’s not counting the virtual stuff we interact with! This makes stuff a more than a valid object of study for this semester! This lecture tracks the history of Stuff and related disciplines of Industrial Design and Interaction Design.
Click here to download lecture in PDF format.

Designer’s Guide To Brain
A brief introduction to the basic principles on which our irrational minds work, and why it is critically important to base the design process on the assumptions that we are irrational creatures. Also: we will be introduced to the project assignment during this lecture, too, but we’ll take it slowly from there.
Click here to download lecture in PDF format.

 

In-Class Exercise: Divergent Thinking

diverg
(don’t let this image scare you – people who make 200, don’t have the 5 minute time limit)

We will warm up our creative muscle with a quick exercise in divergent thinking, which is an essential component of a productive design process.
Each student will pull from a hat an object, and will be expected to sketch, in a few minutes, as many uses for this object as possible (try to think of least 5). Catch: use of words is prohibited, only express your use scenarios through images. The exercise will be repeated several times with different objects.
Post all of your sketches on this blog by the end of the day to successfully finish this exercise.

How to do it: Forget everything what you know about the object – look at it as if you see it for the first time (imagine how it felt when you were a kid!). Focus on object properties (form, weight, material) and how you can interact with them – hold, throw, hang from it…

 

Introduction To Main Assignment

The project assignment for this learning unit is to create an object that makes us rethink one of our daily habits.
Over the course of 5 sessions, you will work in teams to ideate, design and produce a fully working prototype of a real-world product for an imaginary product brand “Superusual”. More information about the project, including the conceptual guides and technical details will be revealed in the next following sessions.

Superusual

superusual

Superusual is a (for now, at least) a fictional brand of products that you will create products for, as an objective of this assignment.
Please read the short company “manifesto” on the Superusual website that should serve you as a main guideline for developing your products:

http://superusual.net

The products you create will be added to Superusual website and advertised online as if they were a product line in the making, in order to provoke online dialog and conversations. But we’ll talk more about that later!

For now, to get started, we need to learn how to observe.

Homework 2 : Post Observations

The goal of this exercise is to collect as much observations as possible about  activities that make your daily routine. These observations will be a source material you will use later in class, so make sure you do this step thoroughly to make your design process more efficient and fruitful.

Why Is This Important?

Modern living made us all run on autopilot: from the minute we wake up, our day is a succession of routine behaviours that we mindlessly move through while our attention is somewhere else. We lose touch with space and time as the physical reality becomes a mere background to our daydreaming and screen tapping.

Carefully observing the ordinary, especially the routine activities that we never pay attention to, often results in surprising insights that can direct us to truly innovative solutions.

The best solutions come out of the best insights into human behavior. But learning to recognize those insights is harder than you might think. Why? Because our minds automatically filter out a lot of information without our even realizing it. We need to learn to see things “with a fresh set of eyes,” and observing the ordinary is a valuable exercise to train and refresh our eyes and our mind.

For more information on the subject, see the related lecture or the read/watch media below.

What You Should Do

You will observe some of your daily activities and the objects you use very often, and note them all into Observation Sheets (see below).
Then you should post these observation on this website, all inside the same post (more details below).

Make At Least 7 Observations

Please make at least 7 observations of different activities before our class starts.
Don’t give priority to either activities and objects: ideally try to observe as many activities as objects.

No need to write a beautiful, poetic prose, just write quickly to collect as many observations about the topic as possible. Even better – try to sketch or take photos, anything you want. In this step you are collecting material that you will use later in class, so it’s important to have as much material as you can, but you don’t need to spend time making the material well-polished. Just note it down in the sheets and post here.

Post Your Observations

Create a new post (which should automatically be created in 3A category) and add all your observations into that one post. Try adding your observations one-by-one on a daily basis, so I have a chance to comment and maybe ask you additional questions – this will greatly help you collect useful source material for the design project you will do during the class.

Try To Do This Every Day

Careful observing of people’s (or your own) activities in a natural context is how every successful design project starts, therefore it’s a skill that should be practiced on daily basis.

So try to do at least one observation each day – ideally you want to try to make observations at the very moment you are doing something you observe. So if you’re describing your breakfast, it’s much better to do that while you actually making it, because you can write down many details about your experience. If you write from memory, your observations may not be very fruitful.

Using Observation Sheets

To make it easier for you, and to get a more universal form of response (that we can later use in our design process) I’ve uploaded Observation Sheets for you to print, fill in and upload.

Activity Sheets

In order to note your observations, please fill in the Activity Sheets – one sheet per activity.

Click here to download Activity Sheet sheet in PDF format.

When you download the sheet, follow the instructions on the back of the sheet (page 2).
Here is a low-resolution preview of the empty Activity Sheet, as well as an example of the filled-in sheet:

cheat-sheet-activities

 

Object Sheets

In addition to actions, you should be observing objects, too. I made a separate “Object Sheet” template.

Click here to download Object Sheet in PDF format.

When you download the sheet, follow the instructions on the back of the sheet (page 2).
Important: It is required, in addition to filling the Object Sheet, to post a photo of the object you observe.
Here is a low-resolution preview of the empty Object Sheet, as well as an example of how the filled-in sheet should look like:

cheat-sheet-objects

 

Observation Sheets – Example PostThis post has two examples of observations - one for activities, and one for objects.

Topics For Observing Activities

If you get stuck and can’t figure out what activity you want to observe, I’ve made a list to help you – pick a topic, or invent a new one.

Click here to download the list of (possible) topics.

Read/Watch This

On Design

10 Principles Of Good Design, a video of Dieter Rams
This excerpt from Objectified is a timeless advice on making a design that matters and lasts, from an icon of 20th century design.

Super Normal, an essay by Jasper Morrison
The objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don’t try to grab our attention. They’re the things that add something to the atmosphere of our homes and that we’d miss the most if they disappeared. That’s why they’re ‘Super Normal.’
Please note that there is an important difference between Super Normal and super usual: the former objects are intended to subtly work in the background, while superusual objects are intended to stand out (as subtly as possible) and call attention – not to themselves though, but to the habitual action they represent.

The First Secret Of Design Is … Noticing, a TED talk by Tony Fadell
One of the creators of iPod explains how it is in our human nature to get used to “the way things are” really fast. But for designers, the way things are is an opportunity … Could things be better? How?

Objectified,  a documentary film by Gary Hustwit
A feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. Watch here
You should definitely watch other two design-themed documentaries by Gary Hustwit: Helvetica and Urbanized.

Helvetica / Objectified / Urbanized: The Complete Interviews, a book by Gary Hustwit
Transcription of over 100 hours of interviews Gary Hustwit performed while filming his 3 design-themed documentaries. Over a thousand of pages of incredible insight from the world’s greatest designers.

On Psychology

Are We In Control Of Our Decisions? a TED talk by Dan Ariely
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive  research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.

The Paradox Of Choice, a TED talk by Barry Schwartz
Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

The Power Of Habit, a book by Charles Duhigg
Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, a book by Nir Eyal
Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us?

Hidden In Plain Sight, a book by Jan Chipchase
Future-focused and provocative, this book illuminates exactly what drives consumers to make the choices they

Any questions?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.