Design History Reading Club


Last year I spoke about the importance of knowing our field’s history at UX Brighton. One of my closing tips was to start reading the articles collected by Dan Saffer at the IxD Library. However, as is often the case with good advice, it is something I haven’t done myself (yet).

So, what if we do this all together, and read a selection of the articles and essays that have shaped the history of interaction design in a book club format?

It’s not easy to to pick a starting point, but the people who curated the great New Media Reader start with the following two texts:

  1. The Garden of Forking Paths – Jorge Luis Borges (1941)
  2. As We May Think – Vannevar Bush (1946)

A selection that I’m happy to follow and recommend.

11 June at 6.30PM

Somewhere in London.

To keep up to date follow @dhrc_london on Twitter.

P.S. the great logo is designed by my friend Tessa at buro vandiedagen.

Hermeneutics for designers

When we think about our work as designers, we imagine ourselves with our head in the future, surrounded by the latest ideas of how things will be: the natural user interface, the internet of things and self-driving cars. Within this world it’s easy to forget that the future is made entirely out of ideas of the past. Everything we can imagine comes from this past and has been shaped by thousands of years of human history.

The past is often dismissed as a collection of outdated technologies and failed business models, and we derive great pleasure from reminiscing on how far we’ve come. This, however, only works if we look at the past through the limited frame of technological and economical progress. If we expand our vision and add society and culture to our view, we can see the past as a rich landscape of ideas, artefacts and people, all telling us something about what it means to be human.

How might we expand our vision and learn from the past?

Read the post on Medium

The futures of the city

Why do we talk about the future in the singular, when at any moment in time there are many futures to consider?

At the London IxDA April meet-up I shared some of the things I learned at the Urban IxD summer school, a workshop event where we worked on various scenarios for the futures of cities.

Read the post on Medium

LSE Urban Data conference – a review

Adam Greenfield’s LSE symposium ‘Urban data: From fetish object to social object’ set out, as Greenfield stated, to “problematise the area of urban data”. An aim it easily achieved: by the end of the day I collected way more questions than answers. It turns out that once you stop fetishising data and start using it as a social object what you get are keen insights into the functioning of local politics.

Continue reading LSE Urban Data conference – a review

Design of Understanding 2014 – a reflection

The Design of Understanding asks the question: what does it mean to understand in a postmodern world? An age where Truth with capital T has disappeared, where the big narrative has been replaced by 140 character sound bites and where systems of flow have become the preferred model of understanding the world. And where, on top of all this, digital technology provides us with a maelstrom of data but where tools to play and make sense of these facts are still few and far apart.

To think in systems means to focus on the relations between nodes. We can see the world, for example, as a flow of people (or smaller groups like consumers, managers and service providers), of money, of information, of goods, of regulations and even of ideas. To choose which relations to map depends on our question and our expected outcome.

Even when we use adaptive systems as a model of understanding the world, we still haven’t escaped our age-old problem: no matter how hard we try, no matter how much data we collect, we must choose what to put in and what to leave out. By picking one flow over another, we remain haunted by the feeling that there could be another, a better way of understanding the world just beyond our reach.

To design for understanding is then to create tools and methods that can be used to work one’s way through the world, to enable people to find that brief moment of clarity they need to take the next step.

Continue reading Design of Understanding 2014 – a reflection