Yesterday (November 1st 2011) was Ideas Day 2011. The day in which in the past few years, people from industry have come up to Dundee to see the work the Product Design department has done and to, in a way, collectively brainstorm, question, praise, etc, all the ideas that have been completed by the students and find out which direction they are to go in or what is the preferred direction they are to go in for the rest of the year for their personal project. I’ll point out now, that these are my thoughts of what happened on the day and they may have become a little scrambled over the course of the long day, and I’m just telling it as it is.
In past years there have been names from large companies making an appearance such as from Nokia, but due to changes this year, there were less leading industry members (from large multinationals) and there was a stronger focus on what could be considered to be more relevant people to the product design students, but also to the interaction design students who of course, have been merged together for the fourth year.
Here is a list of all the guests (and where they are from) who made their way to Dundee for the purpose of Ideas Day:
- Tim Regan: Microsoft Research
- Chris Van Der Kuyl: brightsolid
- Martin Bontoft: Design Research and Facilitation
- David Bain: DC Thomson
- Ade Murray: Prototypes and Installations
- Pablo de la Peña: Interaction Design Graduate
- Kate Saunderson: Lecturer for Design Ethnography
- Tom Metcalfe: Product Design Graduate
- Michael Shorter: Design Researcher
On top of this list, other people from the course were spoken to as well along with master students and a variety of other students who found their way into the room we were in.
Unlike previous years, we had to present three boards that were relating to the direction that we wanted to go in, whereas previous years had to show 100 ideas to the visitors and hopefully by the end of the day get a clearer idea of the direction they would like to go in. Along with that, the interaction design are now with us so there was a large number of people who were looking to speak to the visitors.
The day was split up into three parts which eventually became two. In the morning, the visitors/students were free to talk to each other about their projects, after a lunch break of an hour, this resumed for what should have been a further hour and a half. At half past three, when the ‘mingling’ was supposedly to end, there was meant to be a Q&A session with the guests, but this was cut from proceedings as many of them had to leave early, which is a shame really.
So without further ado, I will give a brief summary of each person who I spoke to and what they said in regards to my projects.
Martin was the first person I spoke to, and luckily I was the first person that he spoke to as well. He came into the room via the door I was standing next to and I made my move early, and did the James May-esque move of “Hello”. Martin, from what I can tell form the “menu” that was created for the guests about each of the students projects before hand, used to work for IDEO and has become very successful in the field that he is in. He was very knowledgable and provided many a good insight about work he had previously completed that bared some resemblance to my project. He asked thoughtful and thought provoking questions that managed to help me to start narrowing down my idea choice.
He spoke about a project that he worked on regarding redesigning the interiors of British Airways planes, and said that for people to get good quality sleep, it wasn’t necessarily the physical constraints of the cabin that prevented good sleep, it was the ambience of the cabin. He also said it would be good for in the case of my project and the nature of it, it would be good to use myself as a research tool in the beginning, but later on it would be more beneficial to begin using others, partially this was due to it being quite a personal issue that not everyone has, but because the area of my projects (using technology in the sleeping environment) tends to be more for younger generations rather than older ones.
He left me with one piece of advice which should really prove useful in the rest of the project. You should know what to research, record and prototype but you should also know that your project could end up taking a different direction to the one you had hoped it would.
Ok, fair enough, Andrew Cook isn’t one of the visitors for Ideas day, and is one of our tutors for our normal classes, but he said to me that he would put his “ideas hat on”, and would give me his honest opinion about my projects. He had been seeing other students about their projects throughout the day and the more honest opinions about my projects are better than none.
He said that the first brief that I have (Avoiding Temptation of using technology in the sleeping environment) has the most potential of the three, and that the use of light and colour (which was purposefully removed from the briefs to keep them as open as possible) could be reintroduced as a reward to the user. The second brief (Avoiding Discipline), was said to be too constricting and would probably not produce the same overall effect that the first one would. Avoiding Temptation had a certain ambiguity with it that could keep it between a commercial product or a critical design one whereas, it would be difficult to turn the Avoiding Discipline project into a commercial project from a critical design one.
Pablo de la Peña
Pablo is a graduate of the interaction design course and is currently a freelancer based in London. He was looking over my boards when I was taking a seat, reflecting and making notes of what had already been said to me and I quickly got up to speak to him. I wasn’t expecting him to be as much help as he was due to him being from the interaction design side of things but he provided me with some of the richest pieces of information from Ideas day.
His overall opinions about the briefs were that the first one is good, the second one has potential and the third one wasn’t really that good, but luckily I agreed with him with the third! He said that it is something that he had problems with too for a certain extent, but due to some factors it isn’t such a problem for him anymore.
When he moved into the flat he is currently in, he didn’t get a signal in his bedroom and when he put his phone next to the radio it made that noise radios or speakers do when a phone is placed next to them when it is sending/receiving/searching for a signal so he put his phone into “airplane mode” because he wasn’t getting a signal anyway. Soon it became second nature and his phone would be put into airplane mode when he was in bed because of the interference with the radio and that no one could speak to him on the phone without a signal. When he stayed with a friend who did get signal in their flat, he still automatically put his phone into airplane mode even though there was a signal. He has said that, as a result of doing this, he has been able to sleep better, but using his laptop in bed sometimes plays havoc to this.
Discussing the laptop side of things, he discussed a programme or a plugin that can be downloaded for browsers that limits time on web browsers or certain sites and once the time has been used up, that is it.
The next things Pablo talked about was a project one of his course mates/friends had done. The friend had sent out texts telling you to delete things on your phone or your computer, such as delete your 25th person in your contact list, or delete you facebook/twitter account and you had to do it. If you didn’t do it, you had to reply saying why. He willingly deleted the person in his contact list but couldn’t delete his entire email inbox. This idea fittingly complements the Avoiding Discipline brief.
The final thing that was discussed with Pablo was the complete disconnection of technology by the user and he said it would be good to attempt to see what the effects could be. He said that a friend (I can’t remember if it was the one who did the text campaign/project mentioned above) had done this and found that because he wasn’t getting in from work or uni and going straight onto the computer to facebook because he had nothing else to do, he had become more social and had gone out more to be with friends and was generally more productive. Pablo said it would be good to see what the effects would be if I had tried it, but there were obviously limits as to how much technology could be ignored.
As a parting note about Pablo, he liked the idea that your phone or laptop could be put into an object (that could be designed to look like an antique or obviously showing it is to stop you using gadgets in bed) and it could be on some sort of time lock. If you tried to get into the box during the time lock, it would lock you out for an even longer period of time.
Tim was one of the people who I particularly wanted to speak to, not really because he works for Microsoft, but because he potentially looked into projects that covered this area. Unluckily, just before he spoke to me, he was given a hurry up as he had been speaking to everyone for a decent period of time and they were running out of time until the Q&A session (which was still going ahead at that point). I didn’t really get that much information from him or any groundbreaking opinions because of the ‘hurry up’ but he did throw another idea into the mix.
The possibility that the project could be turned into a group venture where there are a group of you trying to help each other into turning off technology collectively. This could ultimately turn the project into something a lot greater but possibly more complicated than I could manage in the timescale of the project. If I think about it, it is possible that it could become integrated with social networks to a certain level that you could be helped by your friends, or even strangers to try and get sleep, but this could be abused by many and some who could use it to keep you awake. Unfortunately this idea does sound a bit like someone else’s project in the class and I do seem a little skeptical about it as it could turn into the project that was done by someone in previous years, but it will be explored nonetheless and, you never know, it could be the thinking behind the idea which is implemented.
I asked him if he had done any work into this already since technology has become much more involving over the years and he said that he had done something similar but in the realm of meetings. He said that when he was in meetings in the US, people would spend most of their times fixated to their laptops and occasionally throw something into the meeting rather than focus on what was being said in the meeting all of the time, and they tried to devise a way of limiting the amount of time they looked at their screen, or tried to determine the optimum time for people to spend looking at their screen.
I got the general feeling that he was getting bored (Update: in the comments below, he has pointed out he was a bit brain dead after looking at 90+ ideas which is rather understandable!) of looking at peoples projects at this point, however I did get to speak to him and I got some feedback which is always good no matter what the circumstances are.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the research paper about the meeting scenario that was mentioned courtesy of Tim Regan who has posted below. Thanks to him for that! LINKY HERE
The paper will be added to my research for this next phase of the project, which after this week were I am taking it easy after the previous couple of intense weeks, it will all begin again.
Overall the day was quite good but in some ways equally disappointing. There seemed to be a strong divide in the class yesterday. There was very little mixing of Product Design and Interaction design with people going off into their own little groups, but this is usually the case but in the context of it being quite an important day, I’d have thought more would have been done by each party to resolve this.
It was quite a long day too, we were stationed in the room from about nine in the morning until almost four, and it seems obvious when I say this, but was difficult to try and get the attention of any of the guests with many of them gravitating to certain people who spoke to them for a very long time and you could tell peoples egos were getting far too large. However, I won’t complain too much about this all as it still was a very good day.
It was very good to get feedback from a few people and I do know the sort of direction I would like to go in and which brief I should use. Some of the best opinions came from a few other students, namely John Paul whose boards were located to mine and a few masters students who I had the chance of speaking to.
Lastly thanks to the guests who made their way to Dundee for the day, it of course would have been nothing without them.