The past 4 days have been extremely challenging yet fun. I must admit it has been quite difficult to understand a few computational concepts though what I’m most happy about is the vision I have acquired over the week. Past the obstacles of program errors and wrong commands and sometimes just blankly staring at my screen wishing I could just talk to it and make it do what I want ; I have learnt that there is immense need to learn this language. From whatever I have been exposed to this week coding seems to be a powerful prototyping answer to all.

I took this week as a pure learning exercise and tried to experiment with as many things as I could. Amongst other things I dabbled with I spend a day and a half doing the below for the show & tell presentation on Friday. It was an iterative process that started by building a bunch of dots in a push pop matrix which I later tweaked lines of code from from 2D to 3D space to transform from points to lines to surfaces.

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{a new world }

Today is first of the many firsts here at CIID. My first day to write a line of code!

I have never written any sort of computer program ever (except maybe a visual language called LOGO in middle school). Hence, this week I think will be particularly challenging for me. We have Dennis Paul to teach us the basics of Introduction to Programming. I made my first processing sketch today with a rectangle that moves around the screen and flashes my name. Super primitive  but good to get a hold on the basic syntax and principles of this amazing tool “Processing” which from what i understand will open a whole new world for me.

“Learning to scribble with code rather than scribbling with code to learn”- overheard at CIID 🙂

People Centered Research

This is one course I was really looking forward to ever since I thought of studying at CIID. Mainly because it was being taught by CIID’s founder Simona Maschi whom I have always admired for service design approach and design thinking.  Along with Simona we had an amazing lineup of faculty for this course which included Shelly Evenson who oversaw ux research at Fjord, Facebook, Microsoft etc and with Dr. Christena Nippert Eng who is a cognitive sociologist & ethnographer and author of many acclaimed research writings. They were assisted by Amy Bickerton (Carnegie Mellon alumni)  & Sara Krugman (former CIID alumni). This gave the course structure an amazing mix of strong design research methodology coupled with business/ industry perspective along with student perspective from across the globe.

I believe my strongest forte as a designer is working with people and cultivating my design research approach towards creating new experiences. Over the years I have realised I simply love people! Whether it is talking to them and discussing ideas with them or quietly observing them; there is a certain magic I feel when I find myself in the shoes of a researcher.

However, the course started with one stark difference to the approach I have followed in my past experience. We were sent out to interview people without knowing anything about them. In my past experience whenever we set out to do a qualitative one-to -one interview we often took time to choose our subject. The interviewees were carefully picked out in terms of their background etc especially in a scenario when we knew we would only be able to interview a handful of people in the given timeframe. But, here we were sent out to interview people with just basic knowledge of their names and location. The idea as Simona put it was ” Look for inspiration, not truth or evidence.”

This proved to be an exciting approach to the research process. By the end of three very different interviews my team (Zaza, Daniel & me) were surprised at the broad spectrum of our findings. By the end of the following week we will hope to present a design opportunity for this along with a few concept scenarios that have potential to go further.

Prototyping Interaction with Video Scenarios

We started with a quick warm up session shooting a few clips around the studio. However when we came back to edit Vinay give us a twist. We had to swap our clips with some other team with no idea of their storyline. What came out was a super interesting take on jumbled storyboards with extremely different interpretation & thought process. Pier & I swapped with Zaza & Shamik & this is what we produced!

Once we familiarized with this we took a moment to sit back and understand the finer details of this medium. As one of the most powerful communication toll used by Interaction designers today video prototypes are used for the same reasons any prototypes are – testing, evaluating, iterating, communicating, etc. But video is an especially useful tool when we have to quickly represent design concepts that often involve complex relationships or require a high level of technology.

We went through the spectrum from low to high fidelity video understanding the importance of how to weave design stories in it that evolve over the design process. We had less than a day (and full night.. our first at CIID!) to sketch a dirty video scenario (in terms of aesthetics) but with a strong narrative. For the sake of concentrating on only the video aspects of this course we were provided a concept from the teachers however we could interpret it any way we want.

There are 3 purposes for which videos can be used:

Video as a sketch (Validation of assumptions, process tool, rough & simple) : Check

Video as a scenario (Explaining, storytelling, empathizing, contextualizing)  : Check

Video as an exhibit (Self explanatory, impressive, packaged, convincing) : H0pe to do this in the coming few months!

It was interesting to see how most of the video scenarios by my classmates used a screen based app for this concept. However my teammate Pier & I find physical objects more interesting and hence for our sketch we actually built two physical devices (one stationary & the other bodycentric) that could prototype this experience (in just 1.5 days that included building prototypes, storyboarding, shooting, editing & presenting)…. Phew!

Sound is another very important aspect of video that often gets lets weightage in terms of refinement. There is a growing tendency towards slapping random music onto videos without paying much detail to the actual storyline. With a 2 hour lecture on sound design by Lasse Munk we tried voice over for our videos to practice voice modulation, recording, sound editing further.

Interesting references:

Soy Cuba opening title : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=eOLVm_9UcRw

Introduction to IxD

Gillian Crampton Smith & Phil Tabor gave us intensive 5 day lessons in Interaction Design theory to help us build up a strong base. Having dabbled in the field of User Experinece Design for the last 4 years it was interesting for me to see the fine line between these two fiels and the interesting overlaps in between. We tried to re imagine the current metaphors in interaction design within a completely different physical space with its objects. Gillian & Phil also flagged a range of interaction design topics full of possibilities which can help shape the future of the world.

(click images to enlarge)

We learnt about the IxD palette using quick brainstorming, mental model mapping & flowchart exercises to understand the nuances of the IxD system process. We changed groups for every small activity and so got a chance to mingle around and bond with almost everybody. I consider myself very lucky to be in an environment full of so many creative minds and by the end of the course made up one motto: I shall make it a point to work with everyone in my batch for the coming courses so that at the end of the year I would have worked with 20 extremely talented people with such varying backgrounds and skill sets.

On the third day of the course we had Bill Verplank to come and teach us.

For the final presentation the idea was to construct a space similar to Bill Verplank’s house of UX (where all objects in space are metaphors with varied usage). My team (Wouter, Shamik & Luke) created an office scape for the distant future.

CIID Kickoff

Today, Sunday 14th Jan’13 marks the start of what I hope unfolds into one of the most enriching period of my life.

The day started early with all of us reaching Østerport station trying to place photos we had been seeing on to real faces. 20 students from 13 countries with varying backgrounds together in one place off to visit the Aarstiderne farm just north of Copenhagen where a traditional Danish brunch in the countryside awaited us. Sunday brunch is probably one of the most important meals of the week – the Danes meet up with family and friends to enjoy a selection of gastronomic delights such as cheese, fruit, eggs, bacon, muesli, good coffee and home-baked bread. This farm is a special place as they deliver organic produce to over 45,000 homes in Denmark and Sweden and they run special programmes for both children and adults, educating people on how food goes from the farm to the fork. It’s service design at it’s best.

Here I got to see first-hand the true meaning of the Danish word ‘hygge’ which means being in a super cozy atmosphere enjoying the good things in life. There were a variety of conversational ice-breakers and team-building exercises throughout the course of the brunch conducted by Mike Hughes where apart from many other things we spoke about ‘food’ from our country. Much to my surprise the traditional Danish brunch we were served comprised of a dish called ‘Dhal’ that looked very similar to Indian ‘Dal’.

Once we mingled around each other and had our stomachs full, we headed back to the CIID studio together for a brief course induction. Here we were supposed to present a brief introduction about ourselves. As I reflected upon in retrospect what is that one thing that stands out throughout my life I realized it was the term ‘Contrast’. The following graphics were what I created to talk about a bit about me. Whether it was:

contrast in me

1. my love for swimming and extreme phobia of invisible deep waters

2. the fact that even though I come from India where drinking is considered a social taboo in some parts I was lucky enough to be born in a family that loves to drink and be merry and my dad worked in the liquor industry for 20 years, YET I gave up drinking a couple of years back!

3. How I love experimenting with different cuisines and mixing strange flavors but still don’t know how to cook

4. Am madly in love at this moment but half way around the world from the person I love the most

5. And lastly how I’m standing at a school that is the world’s top notch in technology but how I still hope to merge craft & grassroots level design during my future projects here.

Hence one of my philosophies in life is to achieve balance between these, not set them apart from each other, or let go of one and keep the other, for wholeness is formed by both halves.

CPH at first glance!

This is it. I’m here. In the land of my dreams! CPH is more beautiful than I imagined (and yes definitely much much more cold than I expected).

The last few days have been amazing. I came here about 2 weeks before my course kicksoff so that I can figure out logistics like housing etc. And since Ashish is here to drop me off we had a nice vacation before the grind! The endless parks, the frozen lakes, serene sunsets, cozy cafes this place sure is making me fall in love with it!

More pictures on my FB page here.