From Mapping to Spatial Interpretation

I recently read A conversation with Ken Jennings and Jesse James Garret.  @UXMagazine about Ken Jennings’ book Mapheads which was published in 2014. They discuss the relationship of maps and design. It reminded me of my early love for maps and the fascination I’ve had with them over time. As quoted from Ken Jennings “…elegance of the map as a solution to a visual problem ‘How do I convey information about the world?’ This is at the core of the UX designers goals.

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Every summer, my family would hit the open road for a vacation that normally included a lot of driving in our Ford Fairmont wagon, stops at seemingly random roadside historical markers and trips to baseball stadiums that were supposedly “on our way” to our final destination.

I lay in the “way back” section of the car, pouring over the intended route while imagining, alternate ways to get where we were going. Reviewing the various map symbols, topography and exchanges almost became another outlet for daydreaming and envision the possible excitement that lay ahead in the journey. It also caused me to think about how I would represent the 5420wisklandmarks as we passed them by and I saw exactly what they looked like. I recognized this desire to store and think about information in a spatial way. Ken Jennings shares his thoughts about it by saying. “That spatial way of storing information is apparently deeply hardwired into how our brain wants to learn things.”

This reminded me of the the quote from UX Researcher Ben Scheidermen  who states “The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures

fitbitWe see this value being manifest in our products everywhere now. Real-time data in relation to geography and time exposing the state of the environment around us giving us the ability to maximize the experience we live in. Examples include a rise in Data Visualization products like Domo and systems that expose real time data like wearable devices, home automation and  electric connected cars.

Ironically it was all there before. We just didn’t have the ability to expose it in the moment. And now we can tap in to that “deeply hardwired” way of storing information.

just-ui-to-conversational-uiAs Conversational UI, AI and ML become more of a reality understanding how to design great experiences has become more and more about the choices made about what to include and what to strip away.

How does this change the work done as an Experience Designer? It doesn’t. It really just makes it all that  more important. There are now endless opportunities for feedback and interaction with people and our products. As I was once told by a former executive, “It looks like your job is going to get a little harder now.”

I would suggest however that now, more than ever a firm understanding of the core principles of usability are needed to combat the never ending battle against scope creep and adding features because you can, never stopping to wonder if you should.


Other great topics addressed in the A conversation with Ken Jennings and Jesse James Garret.  @UXMagazine 

  • Importance of how visualization of a map influences people’s perception about the concept of topic.
  • Cartographer’s building on top of each other’s work.
  • Marriage of Maps and Mobile devices
  • Importance of geotagging
  • Maps as a metaphor for conceptual journey’s

Looking for some design principles resources?

Try these sites (designprinciplesftw.com), (uxhow)

Words that make all the difference

Player Created Content: Resurrecting and old discussion. It’s been said that gamification is dead. Is it true? It’s pretty apparent that just making a leader board or giving nicely designed badges to your users is not going to engage them in meaningful ways. But I believe the principles of behavioral psychology behind this research is still very valid. The question is what is the carrot and what is the stick? Check out this blast from the past video from Amy Jo Kim.

It’s not about new ideas, it’s about getting new ideas made….

In my recent position I’ve been reintroduced to the world of heavy documentation. There’s something to be said about a methodical and precise approach to building quality products, but I tend to get impatient with the urgency to get products to market. The idea of design has become much more than just making plans for something great. I cite the quote below:

It’s not about  ideas, it’s about making ideas happen” (http://the99percent.com/)

I think about this statement a lot. Certainly the in web design world this is very pertinent. In other worlds it’s not as immediate but still relevant. Think about the entomology of the term Architect. It literally means someone who creates plans to be used in making something. In my case “Information.”My desk is across the hall from actual architects for some of the most extravagant hotels and resorts in the world. In speaking with them I get excited to realize we have much more in common than just our titles.  The process is indeed a close parallel. Though web apps are much more forgiving even if we have a zero bug policy. Neither one of us are actually putting the code together or laying the bricks. But the real difference is in how the ideas get made. Which is why Information Architecture is losing it’s foothold. The skills to build the object are closer in nature and much easier to acquire than buildings. All it takes is an RSS feed from KillerStartups.com to realize that the knowledge of how to build products is being implemented at a blistering pace. Hence the catch all phrase Interaction Designer.

(A great foray into another post: Observations on Designers)

“We make our buildings and thereafter they make us…..”

I’ve been thinking alot about this quote which I found on the Case Western School of Design site.

“We make our buildings and thereafter they make us.”
Winston Churchill

It really is a powerful statement about design and architecture. It’s no real mystery, given that we are in an advanced age of creating buildings for specific purposes that design of buildings is important. Do a free flow of all the specific types of buildings that have special architecture created for having experiences; Churches, Temples, Synagogues, Arenas, Stadiums, Studios, Galleries, Showrooms, Theatres, Homes Theatres, Great Rooms, Resort Hotels, Conference Centers…. and many more.

I’ve found in my career, that I am of a better mood, and happier if I’m surrounded by an environment that adhere’s to open communication. It’s not required, but it feels a lot better. I think that’s the phenomenon behind sites like http://wherewedowhatwedo.com/.

I suppose it could also be said about the design of products as well. Does the design of our products make who we are?

 

 

Visualizing; The Real Power of Design

The business world is all about Design Thinking these days. As I contemplate weather or not an MDes/MBA is worth the time, and opportunity cost, I’ve become very cognizant of just exactly why the business world is so seduced by what they previously might have labeled, touchy feeling or to bohemian for the real world.

To start with they can’t help but be amazed by numbers like this. ” The Design Council’s latest research study has come up with a way of measuring return on design investment for the first time. According to the report, Design in Britain 2005-6, ‘design alert’ companies achieve an average return of #225 for every #100 invested in design.

The report also reiterates that companies investing in effective design significantly outperform their rivals on the stock market. Shares in ‘design-led’ businesses have outstripped key stock market indices by as much as 200 per cent over the past decade, says the report.” Design Week |August 2, 2006, | Scott Billings | (http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-149146326/study-pinpoints-firms-return.html)

And there’s about ten other studies that show similar results. This is very helpful for talking to those traditional business types.

While the numbers make their heads turn, the devil is in the details of how design led companies win. However it’s really very simple.They do exactly what those old school biz folks have always done, they just do it with a greater fidelity and better understanding.  They Visualize and attack!

In the past few months I’ve spent a lot of my commute time listening to material that focuses on Self Development, Positive Attitude and the power of Faith. Regardless of what source you prefer to follow on this topic, they all tell the same story of being able to visualize before you realize an idea, thought, process or product.  It’s no wonder that Design Thinking has become the new hot topic in business. Design is the essence of creating a good plan and being able to truly see it in your minds eye, then sharing it effectively.

The act of designing requires the designer to be in touch with it’s audience and create an experience for that fits their needs. And it requires the designer to be human.  In a world where experience is everything, traditional businesses cannot afford to separate themselves with the clinical type approach as they’re used to.

In the world of Self Development what you Visualize over and over again, becomes real and eventually you actualize your thoughts. (See the story of the Illinois Institute of Technology as told in “Think and Grow Rich” .)

Design is the act of visualizing.

Participation in Your Experience

I just spent 6 wonderful days at the happiest place on earth with my family. I’m sure the happiest place on earth is different for many people but indeed I mean Walt Disney World. Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

In fleeting thoughts before I went I thought, I’m grown up enough not to have fun at Disney. I can see through the artificial “curtains” of the fantasy. But as I walked in the park my cynicism died almost immediately. Just before I gave up my pride I thought maybe it’s because I was feeding off the sheer pandemonium of my young nieces and nephew. Two seconds later I didn’t care and started running around the park like I was six years old.

As I jumped on the Peter Pan ride with my 10 year old niece, who’s clearly moving from child to tween, I wondered; What is it about the charm of these rides, or this experience that makes middle aged men want to buy and wear hats they won’t ever wear again? With the realism we are served through cgi, special effects in movies and video games everyday why does trolling me over a range of fake looking mountains with a modified dry cleaners’ carousel and black light suspend my reality enough to feel the freedom of peter pan himself?

As soon as I had asked the question it was instinctively answered. It’s your imagination. The power of the our human intellect makes up the difference, it then become a participatory experience. When it’s a participatory experience it can actually far more powerful than being served an experience. We come to places like Disney, even movie theaters to overcome the threshold of reality. They create the environment that gives us permission to break the boundaries of our normal lives and in turn we do the rest. That cooperation creates a true participatory experience.

If you talk to a doctor of medicine, she will tell you that the feelings you get from alcohol are not about the alcohol’s properties, but about how the human body reacts to the properties of alcohol. Alcohol happens to be popular because anyone can do it. It’s easy to purchase a drink get a euphoria. Another example of how the human body reacts to an environment is the runner’s high. After some amount of effort the body reacts to the conditions and creates a boost of energy. Think of your favorite entertainment, muse or hobby I would be that in some way there are elements of this principle in your activities.

Our design world has turned it’s ear towards this idea. More and more the democratization of design with the users and communities creates that two part balance. We might even go so far as to call our “users” …..participants.

When we think about creating good experiences as designers we are setting truly setting the stage. However the only influence we have in the experience is limited to the software we serve. We’re even limited to the technology the participant owns. Fortunately the near future we’ll be able to overcome these boundaries as mobile experiences become more accessible. That stage grows to be a larger arena as well at the role of the participants. Blogging, Twittering and Sharing trends have this well documented.

Monday morning I jumped back into my routine to find this gem of a presentation on TED. Julie Taymor presents her work on of all things Disney’s Broadway Production of the Lion King and validates my thoughts almost word for word. Needless to say I’m a big fan of hers instantly.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/277