Andy Cameron


This morning I received the shocking and very saddening news that my ex-lecturer and colleague, friend and mentor, Andy Cameron died yesterday (May 28th) of a heart attack. Yet another great loss to the interactive media world.

Finding words is not usually something I struggle with, but today they are stuck in my throat. Andy quite simply changed the course of my life.

When I was a first year BA student, intending to become a film director, Andy was my “digital media” lecturer. He introduced us to Photoshop 2 and Macromind Director 3 and ways of thinking about this new thing called “interactivity”. It was with Andy that I wandered into the college’s VAX computer lab and got my first e-mail address, back in 1991, and where he first showed me “The Web” in line-mode text as it was back then and, later, Ted Nelson’s and Hypertext. Film directing went in the can as I saw the future potential of interactive media.

But it was Andy’s playful curiosity and enthusiasm that made the real difference. He encouraged us to explore and mess around with these new forms and technologies. He would gleefully tell us that we “should go and try” something, not really knowing if it were possible, but knowing that we would probably work it out. We did and we learned a great deal in the process. He would then feign his dismay at being out-done by his students – an experience I later had as a lecturer myself. He had a powerful intellect that placed these emerging media forms into context and was quick to call-out post-structuralist bullshitters – of which there were and still are many in the new media arts scene – and could do so due to his great knowledge of the material. His charming, slightly chaotic manner was a deceptive ruse. Underneath he was as sharp as a tack – just read some of his writing.

His greatest impact on me, though, was that he had the humility to let his students become collaborators and co-discovers. He saw the potential in the group of us who were playing with this new medium, going around to each others’ houses (including his) and showing off and swapping the little interactive “toys” we made. He encouraged us to take our playful exploration seriously, but managed to do so without sucking the life out of it. It was he who encouraged us to apply for an Arts Council grant and to set up shop as a collective studio. Andy was a pioneer, but shared his knowledge freely with us and encouraged us to come along for the ride. Without him, that group of us would never have eventually become Antirom and spawned the various careers and agencies with their roots in those early days and his intellectual generosity. We owe him a great deal.

Andy was a mentor for me for many years and shaped me intellectually and professionally more than anyone in my life, even after Antirom disbanded and I went on to have a similar hybrid commercial and academic career myself. His intellectual DNA is all over my PhD on playfulness and interactivity, which arose out of a conversation about trying to define the language of interactivity. I will always have fond memories of late nights at his place coding, designing and jabbering on about interactivity, of staying with him in Italy during a heatwave and his attempts to argue in poor Italian with the air conditioning engineers, and of those extraordinary formative years together at Antirom.

The other day I found a photo (a real, physical one) of Andy taken in the Antirom studios. I realised he was about the same age then as I am now and I realised just how much he gave me. Now I know just what a loss it is that he is gone.

My thoughts and sympathy go out to Emily and the boys.

(Creative Review has a nice tribute and comments about Andy).

Without Design Methods, I Feel Like I Am Cheating

Without Design Methods, I Feel Like I Am Cheating – another cracking post from Jon Kolko. This one is close to my heart because I teach design methods on HSLU’s MA Design and always make a point of saying that theory is practice and that methods are simply tools. As Jon says,

a design method won’t lead you to a good solution, because a design method has no natural relationship to the content of the problem. There’s no presumption of quality in the method, as each method is simply a series of artificial constraints that are introduced into a particular design context in order to help frame it.

There is a useful set of links at the end of Jon’s post too.

Research and Experience Prototyping Tools, Tips and Apps


I have been giving lists of experience prototyping tools and tips for doing research to quite a lot of students recently, so I thought I would start compiling it into a file, which has turned into quite a lengthy – and I hope useful – resource. I’ll try and keep this regularly updated.

[Last update: 2015-08-19 added link to Principle for Mac]

Mockups & Experience Prototyping Tools

Pen, Paper and Scissors

Yes, that’s right. Basic pen and paper mockups, along with a bit of double-sided sticky tape, glue, sticky notes and scissors or a knife can get you a long way. Often you’re just trying to get a sense of the flow of something or you might be trying to quickly visualise how something will work or feel. It takes almost no time to sketch up something with some markers, cut pieces out and stick them onto cardboard. It’s a good way to workshop ideas in a kind of 3D brainstorming/bodystorming way.

It’s also a useful way of building quick mockups for a slideshow/demo video of how a concept might work. Need an iPhone app screen? Sketch the app on a bit of paper, stick it to a real iPhone and photograph someone using it. This is much better than just showing a sketch of the app screen alone – context is king.

Stickers on Boxes

An extension of this approach is Stickers on Boxes, a “prototyping tool for generating objects that communicate concepts quickly & simply,” created by Anvil. It’s what it sounds like – a set of small cardboard boxes and lots of stickers that you can stick on them to create basic prototypes with. Conceivably, you could also expand these into functional prototypes by adding some Arduino circuitry and LEDs, etc.

Clickable prototyping apps

Keynote and Keynotopia

Keynotopia is a set of Keynote templates for creating Web and app (iOS and Android) mockups and wireframes in Keynote. Keynote’s snap-to-object and alignment tools and the ability to assign hyperlinks from objects to other slides makes it an ideal wireframing/mockup tool. You can export as a clickable PDF and run it fullscreen to test a web or smartphone app prototype, or any other interface you care to imagine (a ticket machine, for example). Can be powerful in combination with LiveView Screencaster running on a touchscreen iOS device. Edenspiekermann recently wrote a blog post about how this fits into their workflow.

Another use of Keynote is to create narrated slideshow concept videos of a service. Shooting video demos is, of course, possible if you have the skills, but for most people the effort required to get these looking better than your uncle’s home-movies is time better spent doing some good mockups and design work. On the other hand, photography is relatively easy to do relatively well. Even without a decent lighting set-up you can shoot either in natural light or with a good, ceiling-bounced flash and get some decent images. The other advantages it that it’s easy to Photoshop a still image of sketched screen mockup into a photograph of someone holding a smartphone. It is is possible, but a lot of work to try and do the same thing with video.

Once you have created your storyboard images (which might be a mix of photos and sketches), you can import them into Keynote and then play the slideshow and record a narrative at the same time. Keynote can export this as a movie for you. It’s a lot easier than trying to do all this in a video editing application, such as iMovie.

Keynote Kung-Fu

A Keynotopia alternative is Keynote Kung-Fu, which also provides a set of wireframing tools and templates for Keynote and is only $12.


Mockapp is was another tool for iOS to mock-up clickable applications. They are now “working on something awesome.”



POP (Prototyping on Paper) App was one of the first apps to allow you to very quickly make clickable prototypes. You simply sketch screens on paper and photograph them. Then you can add hotspots and gestures to link them together. It’s probably the quickest way to go from rough idea to experience prototype out there. They now have Dropbox sync support and a few other goodies too. Also, they have a whole bunch of sketch template PDFs to download.

Free for two projects. Paid POP app plans allow for extra or unlimited users and projects.

Marvel App


Marvel app works much the same way as POP app, but with more of an emphasis on Dropbox syncing and support, so that you can upload designed assets and link them together quickly (which you can now do with POP app of course).

Free to use. Paid Marvel plans add extra features such as export, security, sharing, etc.



InVision’s web-based tool allows for rapid and easy prototyping. You “upload your designs and add hotspots to transform your static screens into clickable, interactive prototypes complete with gestures, transitions, and animations.”

It is extremely comprehensive, allowing for version control and feedback commenting, and several of my students have had great success using it to mock up very believable prototypes. The “export” is a URL, which is embeddable in a web page, but it also runs full-screen on mobile devices, so you can save it to your home screen and it feels like a real app.

Free for one project. Paid InVision plans include more projects, users and extra functionality.



PencilCase “will provide everything you need to make fully interactive and native applications for the iPhone and iPad. Using the built-in Cards and Supplies, you can incorporate the features you expect to see in mobile apps, from menus to buttons to galleries.”

If you are a long time Mac user and remember Hypercard or are familiar with scripting in applications like Director and Flash, or even Automator or AppleScript, you’ll get the idea. You can publish to the iOS simulator or to their player app on an iOS device. Since these appear to be published to the cloud, you can share them with a link and password too.

Adobe Proto

Adobe Proto is was “a new Adobe Touch App, lets you create interactive wireframes and prototypes of websites and mobile apps on your tablet.” It has since been discontinued.


Codiqa is a paid online service that allows you to build mobile prototypes with real HTML5 elements, so you can be sure that what you end up delivering is actually workable. is another web-based prototyping tool for mobile applications. It’s also a paid for service, but there is a free plan that allows for one active project.


Principle is a Mac app that “makes it easy to create animated and interactive user interface designs. Whether you’re designing the flow of a multi-screen app, or new interactions and animations, Principle lets you create designs that look and feel amazing.”

I haven’t yet used this, but it looks like it might be a useful local tool to build quick mock-ups.

Other tools

PlaceIt by Breezi

PlaceIt by Breezi is a wonderful little web service that allows you to generation app screenshots in realistic environments. It’s basically a set of close-up images of people holding various mobile devices onto which you drop your screenshot. It then drops the image into the photo and sets the correct perspective for your screenshot.


If you need some icons, try Glyphish.


iMovie is Apple’s consumer-level (read: amateur) video editing application, but it’s surprisingly powerful and pretty easy to use. It can eat up hard-disk space, because it’s not terribly efficient with your media library. However, it’s a great tool for putting together demo videos or putting together the results of observation research, interview vox pops, etc.

LiveView Screencaster

LiveView Screencaster allows you to send a portion of your computer screen to an iOS device for easy simulation of an app. Can be set so that touches on the iOS device are passed through as mouse clicks on the computer. This means you can prototype in Flash, HTML, clickable PDFs, Keynote (or Powerpoint, if you’re desperate), etc. and “play” it on an iOS device. Needs a normal WiFi connection – HLSU’s set-up doesn’t work, but you can run it by creating your own WiFi network with a laptop. Amazingly, it’s free.


Omnigraffle is the best wireframing tool around (although in many cases Keynote will do the job). It allows for sophisticated templating and has a number of other tools for building flowcharts, site maps, and all sorts. I love it because of its smart guides. It’s everything Illustrator fails at being in terms of ease-of-use. There are a bunch of different templates for it over at Graffletopia, which also give you the ability to create interactive wifreframes of iOS, web and other apps. You can export in a wide range of formats, including clickable PDFs (i.e., PDFs that have internal links between pages). The formats include:

  • OmniGraffle document — an OmniGraffle document. You can make the file read-only (not editable), and you can choose to include linked images in the file so that they show up properly on someone else’s computer.
  • PDF vector image
  • TIFF bitmap image — This format supports transparency.
  • PNG bitmap image — This format uses lossless compression to retain the details of an image while decreasing its file size. It supports transparency.
  • JPEG bitmap image
  • EPS vector image
  • HTML image map — A hypertext file and a JPEG, PNG, or GIF image. URL actions in the original OmniGraffle document are coded into the image map as links so that the image can be clicked to follow them.
  • OmniOutliner 3 — Represent the diagram as a text outline, using the connection lines between shapes to create a hierarchy.
  • SVG vector drawing — An open internet standard that uses XML.
  • PICT vector image — A legacy Macintosh graphics format.
  • Photoshop image — File format for the popular image-editing application.
  • BMP bitmap image — A legacy graphics format.
  • OmniGraffle Diagram Style, OmniGraffle Template, OmniGraffle Stencil — Resources for OmniGraffle.
  • Visio XML document — The XML-based file format for the Microsoft diagramming application.

Wireframing resources online

If you’re really getting into wire framing (this post is really about experience prototyping) then check out Wireframes Magazine (yes, really) and I ♥ wireframes, which has some nice examples.

Hardware Prototyping


If you want to get a bit more hardcore and start to put together some interactive hardware prototypes, then you can use the Arduino circuit board that comes in several flavours. It’s pretty inexpensive for what it does and you can create some very cool finished pieces with it (a lot of interactive artworks use them), but it’s great for building a convincing product prototype. It uses a version of the Processing programming language to run it (and Processing itself is worth checking out).

If you want to get started with Arduino, Massimo Banzi’s book Getting Started With Arduino is a good place to, er, get started.

Tom Igoe’s Making Things Talk is good too.


ThingM have a growing number of products for quick prototyping. Most famous is their BlinkM, a programmable USB led. Sounds simple, but it’s useful for a lot of passive notification systems, such as blinking certain rates or colours based on data (tweets, server states, etc.). I haven’t used them myself, but I like the idea of things like that that are more subtle rather than devices beeping and talking.


The WunderBar is “the easiest way to start developing apps for the Internet of Things – without needing to learn about hardware.” It consists of six smart modules. Three provide sensors to monitor temperature, proximity, light, colour, humidity, and movement. A fourth helps you control your home entertainment system with an infra-red transmitter. The last two will be chosen by those backing their crowdfunding project.

It is easiest to get a sense of what it does through the demo video, but essentially it’s a circuit board of modules that you break of into individual ones. When a sensor is triggered, it relays it through relayr’s system and you can tap into it with your app.

Audio, Interview and Transcription Tools


Of course everyone knows Skype, the free video chatting application with the worst interface in the world. Now that Microsoft own it, they’re ensuring that the interface and quality only get worse. However, most people have it, so like the wailing horror that is Microsoft Office, its ubiquity trumps quality. Let’s hope Apple’s Facetime (which is also pretty idiosyncratic) helps put a dent in Skype’s world.

Anyway, you can use Skype to prototype all sorts of interactions, such as call-centre experiences, etc. Skype allows you to view other people’s screens or let them view yours (Apple’s iChat and Screen Sharing is better for this, but there are other Remote Desktop Protocol apps that enable control of remote computers too). This means you can also do testing of website mockups, etc. remotely, without having to actually build the website or app.


iChat is Apple’s video chat application that came before Facetime. It’s quality is much better than Skype, which isn’t difficult to achieve. It also connects nicely to Garageband if you are trying to record conversations, which is easily done in iChat. The downside? Only people (you know, the good-looking ones) with a Mac have it.


Facetime is Apple’s newer video chat app that shipped with Lion and is also on iOS, so you can video chat with people on their iPhones and iPads. The quality is pretty good, but most people seem to struggle to get their Apple ID and all that jazz set up. You can’t record calls directly either.

Call Recorder

Ecamm’s Call Recorder is a plug-in for Skype that allows you to easily record audio or video calls on Skype. Of course, the remote site of the call is subject to Skype’s call quality (i.e., not good), but Ecamm also provide some tools to split the saved files into separate tracks, your side of the conversation and the remote side. iChat does this better in conjunction with Garageband, but that’s a very Mac-only and rather heavy-duty setup.

Skype’s lack of quality is fine for research, but pretty awful if you need to present anything or if you’re trying to do an interview that will be a podcast. You can clean up things a bit in applications like Garageband or Sound Studio, but the golden rule is “rubbish in, rubbish out.” It’s impossible to add fidelity that was never there in the first place.

Tip: If you want good quality from both sides, ask the person you are calling to record their side of the call – either with another device and mic, or with Call Recorder or separate audio recording app. You will do the same on your side of the call. Afterwards, ask the interviewee to send you the audio file (or video, but it will be big) or to drop it into a Dropbox folder. Then you can use Garageband, Sound Studio, iMovie or another, more professional tool like Pro Tools, Final Cut, etc. to import the two tracks and export as a single mixed audio/video file. The quality will be high because you’ve got local audio recordings from both sides and not Skype’s munged versions.

Piezo and Fission

Piezo is a little app from Rogue Amoeba that allows you to record any audio source on the Mac. So whatever app you are using for interviews, etc., you can record it. You can also record any other audio streams. Rogue Amoeba also make a nice little audio editing apple called Fission, which is an alternative to Sound Studio.

Sound Studio

Sound Studio is an audio editing application that has pretty good features, but is still pretty simple. If you don’t want to pay for an audio editing app and you are on a Mac, you can always use Garageband, but Garageband isn’t quite so quick and easy.


Garageband is Apple’s audio and music recording and creation tool. It’s usually installed on most new Macs and is really intended to create music with, although you can do some audio editing for things like Podcasts in it. It might be useful for preparing some AV material for a prototype or for a slideshow/demo movie, but the real benefit for interviews is that you can use it to record iChat interviews and it records everything automagically across two tracks. This means you can apply filters and effects (useful for dealing with noise and bad connections) on each side of the conversation individually.

F5 Audio Transcription Tool

F5 Audio Transcription Tool is a free tool for Mac and Windows that can load a media file (audio, video) into a basic text editor. Here you also have keyboard shortcuts to start/stop the playback, adjust the speed, skip back or forth a number of seconds and add timestamps into your transcriptions. You can even add a USB foot pedal if you really want to go for it.


Sketching User Experiences

Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design by Bill Buxton is considered a classic, although it’s not that old (2007). I don’t know where my copy is anymore, but here are the key points of what it contains from the blurb:

  • Covers sketching and early prototyping design methods suitable for dynamic product capabilities: cell phones that communicate with each other and other embedded systems, “smart” appliances, and things you only imagine in your dreams;

  • Thorough coverage of the design sketching method which helps easily build experience prototypes-without the effort of engineering prototypes which are difficult to abandon;

  • Reaches out to a range of designers, including user interface designers, industrial designers, software engineers, usability engineers, product managers, and others;

  • Full of case studies, examples, exercises, and projects, and access to video clips that demonstrate the principles and methods.

Prototyping – A practitioner’s guide

Prototyping – A practitioner’s guide by Todd Zaki Warfel does what it says on the cover. It’s a guide for creating (mainly) Web and screen-based interaction design prototypes. The tools and techniques will serve you well for many situations and Todd goes into more depth about the ones I’ve described above. It gets my vote for including “flat dental tape” in his suggestions for paper prototyping.

Papers and Links

Stephen Meszaros has an excellent list of prototyping tools.

Dan Perkel, a design researcher at IDEO, has posted an excellent list of digital tools for design resesarch.

nForm’s User experience trading cards are an excellent resource of different research and design methods for Customer Research, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Usability and User Experience.

Whitney Hess has a great post on How to Conduct Yourself While Conducting Interviews and another called My Best Advice for Conducting User Interviews

Johan Blomkvist (@hellibop) has written his PhD on service design prototyping and sent me some links to papers he has co-authored on the subject:

A Service Walkthrough in Astrid Lindgren’s Footsteps

Service walkthroughs to support service development

Existing Prototyping Perspectives: Considerations for service design

plus How do you make your service tangible from Huddle Spaces.

Life is a prototype – fail early and often.

We live in a culture that encourages envy. Envy for products we don’t own, lifestyles we don’t have, happiness we believe others have. Growing up means living with the realisation that everyone is making it up as they go along. Your parents and teachers didn’t know better after all. For some that is a relief, for others a scary disappointment.

The truth is that each of our lives are unique. Each of our lives is a prototype and the mantra of prototyping is fail early and often.

The older I get, the harder I find it to overcome the fear of failure that stands in the way of change. Children, a home, responsibilities, outgoings, habit and just plain fear each all present very compelling reasons for not making changes. I envy my students’ years ahead of them and their current lack of many of these responsibilities. But they are often are paralysed by one big one: coming up with The Big Project Idea that will best prepare them for an uncertain future.

The answer is that there is no big idea to be chosen, just the process of hammering an average idea into a great one. That experience is the best preparation for the future.

Hankering after an ideal of perfection is exhausting and soul-destroying. Treat your life as a never-ending prototype. Get into the habit of failing early and often. It only becomes harder later and that’s exactly the time when you need it most of all.

Touchpoint Observatory: One company’s junk service is another company’s gold

aboalarm-kuendigungsmaschine.jpg In Germany and Switzlerand1 there is an accepted culture that contracts for most services can be renewed for a year – sometimes even two – automatically if you do not quit your contract, in writing, before the end of the Kündigungsfrist. This is the deadline by which you must quit the contract and its usually three months before the end of the contract. In some cases this makes sense, such as renting an apartment, where both sides needs adequate notice, but most of the time this is used to simply lock customers into a contract all over again, because most people forget to do it until it is too late. Here’s how that usually plays out:

  1. Sign up for a new mobile/cable/insurance, etc. package – often you create a contract on the phone
  2. Receive a 10-page contract in the mail, put all the papers in a folder somewhere and forget the dates
  3. Have some problem with your service, decide you don’t like your service provider and decide you want to change
  4. Find out that your contract has automatically been extended and hate them even more, swearing you’ll never miss the date again
  5. Immediately write a letter quitting your contract for the next year

The thinking behind this is that companies can simply rely on most people to keep forgetting and lock them in. Sometimes this means they’re locked into old plans or tariffs too, which can be more expensive. Companies try to claim that they’re providing a helpful service by automatically extended the customers contract so that they’re always covered or connected, but of course they could still do this and let people quit with just, say, a month’s notice once they are past the official end of their contract.

All in all it leaves a sour taste in the mouth and, as a customer, you pretty much hate any service provider who tricks you with this and you swear never to do business with them again. The problem is, they all do it, so there’s not much chance to avoid it.

Signing the divorce papers on your honeymoon

What some people do is to quit their contract in writing immediately after signing their contract, so they don’t forget. You can always retract it later if you are happy with the service.

Let’s just recap on that and frame it in terms of a relationship commitment, like a marriage, which it is. This is akin either to a pre-nuptual or, worse, signing divorce papers and filing them away somewhere on the first day of your honeymoon, just in case it goes pear-shaped later. It’s not a recipe for a mutually beneficial and trusting relationship.

There is an enormous service opportunity for companies who decide not to do this, providing they can get it past blinkered management. Nobody wants to be locked in to a service, because everyone knows they have no power as a customer because they can’t go anywhere else and the company has no incentive to improve their service. In the mobile phone industry, the focus is still on customer acquisition instead of retention, though there are some signs that this is changing.

One company’s junk service is another company’s gold

Interestingly, a side-service industry has sprung up helping people to quit their contracts (Carphone Warehouse were the first company to do this back in the early days of mobile contracts in the 90s). In Germany there is a service called Aboalarm – Abo is short for Abonnement or subscription. They have both a website and an iOS app that has the customer service details of almost every service provider. You can go online and use one of the templates or simply use the app.


You put in your details, sign it with your finger and they fax it off for you. This is either free when hooked into some kind of social media recommendation or 79c. The app also allows you to set alarms when you first create a contract that goes into your calendar with a reminder a few days before the Kündigungsfrist, so you never forget.


The service design lesson here? Apart from the obvious one of not shackling your customers, it is possible make plenty of money providing ways around other companies’ lack of service.

  1. I only know this from the Dark Ages of mobile phone contracts in the UK and from the current state of almost all contracts in Germany and Switzerland. I was amazed this was even legal when I first started living in Germany and found out about it. Germans and Swiss seem to just accept it as life, but I would be interested to know if any other countries do something similar or have outlawed it. Drop me a tweet.