Interviews with Jona Piehl and Tom Roope

The latest set in the series of interviews I did for COFA Online have now gone online.

Jona Piehl from Land Design Studio talks about the challenges and role of design for large exhibitions and the collaboration involved:

Tom Roope, one of the founders of The Rumpus Room, talks about the crossover of traditional media with interactive and social media forms:

Thanks once again to Rachel Meyrick (a.k.a. Rachel Lewis) for the camera and editing work.

Interviews with Nik Roope, Troika & Mark Hauenstein

Most of the interviews we shot for COFA Online have now gone online. A few others with Jona Piehl from Land Design Studio and Nik’s brother, Tom Roope from The Rumpus Room will be released next year and they all explore working in the grey area of merging and emerging disciplines.

Nik Roope gives some great insights into the thinking behind many of Poke’s successful projects:

Sebastien Noel and Eva Rucki from Troika on their cross-disciplinary projects:

Here, Mark Hauenstein talks about his journey from studying fine art to being head of Research and Development at AllofUs:

Thanks to Rachel for the great camera and editing work.

Interviews with Brendan Dawes and Simon Waterfall

A few months ago I trekked around London with my filmaker and editor friend Rachel to shoot a whole load of interviews with designers and artists for COFAOnline. I still teach online for the College of Fine Arts at UNSW in Australia and these interviews will form an independent site as an ongoing resource as well as teaching material for the Masters of Cross-Disciplinary Art & Design. They are also being put up on YouTube and here are the first ones with Brendan Dawes and Simon Waterfall:

Hello Dave. I’d like to interview you.


Hi folks – can you help me find some interviewees?

I’m working on some initial research into Ambient Assisted Living with the iHome Lab here in Luzern. The project is about bringing a human-centred design approach to an area that, despite it’s name, is heavily driven by technological development rather than people’s actual needs. (The project is called Human Centred Design for Ambient Assisted Living or HAAL, hence the image above).

To get some initial insights, I want to do some qualitative research interviews with people aged between 55 – 75 (plus or minus a couple of years) to ask them about their current technology usage in the home as well as some thoughts about their plans for their older years.

While the majority of people I want to interview will be fairly average users of home technology, I am also after a few people at the extreme ends. So, people who hate in-home technology and battle with it or people who are totally kitted out with home automation. In those extreme cases, the age range is less relevant because they’ll all be old one day like the rest of us.

If possible, the interviews would be in their homes so they can show me the things they love and hate, but there is some flexibility there (I’m interested in people’s workspaces too).

Some people near me in Germany or in Luzern, Zurich, Bern or Basel in Switzerland would be ideal. Friends, relatives or friends of friends work well because they tend to open up more if there is a link to someone they know.

If anyone has any suggestions for interviewees, please get in touch.

(Image stolen from, in turn stolen from ??)

Troika – Digital by Design & Interview

Troika_Digital By Design-Book_s.jpg

Troika have a new book out called Digital by Design: Crafting Technology for Products and Environments. It is a wide-ranging survey of works that use new and emerging digital technologies, often crossed with physical interactions and products that blur the boundaries between art and design. They have managed to collect together work from a fantastic range of contributors, including my mates over at Hulger.

I visited Troika a while back and interviewed for a Podcast on Core77 and really like their approach to what they do and they’re lovely people too.

I plan to review Digital by Design for the soon-to-be-launched Designers Review of Books, but in the meantime you can buy it from here (or here).

I also wrote a profile on them in my Foreign Policy column for Desktop. It seemed a fitting time for another “From the Archives” interview post. You can read the full Desktop article after the jump… Continue reading “Troika – Digital by Design & Interview”

37 Signals interview

In keeping with my re-release of prior interviews and articles I have written, here is the one with the good folks at 37Signals. It’s a little out of date in terms of some of the content and applications they refer to, but the wisdom is still there and worth a read.

37signals – Less is more

Back in the late 90s most web companies were busy grinding new features and technologies against the constraints of poorly designed browsers and a lack of standards. Then, in 1999, a four-person web design company called 37signals put their manifesto online and links to it started appearing everywhere. The manifesto espoused the virtues of simplicity, elegance and standards-based design as well as remaining small and focused on what they did best. “Less is more” wasn’t cool back then, but they stuck to their principles and now the rest of the web is catching up.

Continue reading “37 Signals interview”

Bill Moggridge

It’s been a sad and bad year for interaction design losing some of its pioneers. Hillman Curtis, Andy Cameron and now Bill Moggridge, arguably the father of interaction design as a discipline and designer of the world’s first laptop, at just 69.

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, where Bill was Director, has posted a lovely tribute (video embedded below) as well as resources of his talks and books. John Thackara, who has known him for many years, has also posted a nice personal tribute.

I’m particularly sad because Bill was one of the people on my “must meet one day” list, as his work and thoughts fed into many of my own. We were also hoping he would write the foreword to our book on service design, given his early interest and help in developing it and contact with the live|work founders, who appear in his Designing Interactions book. He would have been the man to connect the dots. Any of us working in this area – in design in general – owe him a great deal.

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.

Learning to Teach Online – a great new resource

COFA Online has just launched an excellent new resource for lecturers getting into online teaching and learning. I have taught in several other institutions in Europe since I moved back in 2006, but the work being done at COFA Online is lightyears ahead of anything I’ve seen elsewhere. It steers clear of being trendy, while staying on top of changing trends. The focus is on high quality teaching and learning, not on technology for technology’s sake.

With nearly half a billion people on Facebook and blogs, Twitter and Wikis so dominant in the media, you would think all of this is obvious, but it’s not. I know many faculty feel pretty daunted and overwhelmed by the prospect of teaching online and it’s often a challenge to re-think many years of experience teaching face-to-face. I also know many who see the technology as a quick, cheap fix, which it is not. Teaching online well requires a lot more care, planning and attention to pedagogy than face-to-face teaching.

(Me talking about managing time online – my wife will be laughing)

I have been lucky to have been part of the early development of COFA Online at UNSW for over 11 years now. In the early days, Rick Bennet, Leon Chan and I used to sit in Leon’s kitchen and discuss how our three courses were running. Only three courses? Yes. The reason being that we wanted to iterate the process and make our mistakes on a small scale before expanding the course numbers. Bear in mind that this was during the dotcom boom when many institutions were throwing up hundreds and thousands of “courses” online without much care for the user interface or pedagogy.

Since then, the COFA Online folks have expanded those kitchen table chats into a far more sophisticated set of strategies and methods for mentoring staff through the process of developing an online course as well as supporting their teaching. And they now have over 1,000 They have been working hard on an Australian Learning & Teaching Council project for a some time and have just gone live with the first batch of episodes from their Learning to Teach Online Project.

From Simon McIntyre and Karin Watson who have masterminded the project:

The project is designed as a free professional development resource for teachers from any discipline worldwide. It aims to help them better understand online learning and teaching, and to help them get starting in developing their own online teaching practices – a necessary skill in today’s changing society. Episodes contain a video to introduce and discuss issues and ideas, and a PDF that people can download to read about the issues in more depth.

The episodes contain interviews with academics from many different disciplines and institutions around Australia and the UK. There are contextual videos discussing topics related to online pedagogy and practice, case studies that feature specific examples of best practice, and technical ‘how to’ style videos to help teachers get starting themselves.

The number of episodes will continue to grow and diversify over the next few months, and we would really appreciate your help in spreading the word about the project. In the future we’d also like to feature more COFA Online teaching, once we have finished all of the episodes we are committed to make for the ALTC.

These are but the first of many more video and PDF episodes that will released over the coming months. These episodes were made with the assistance of the Creative Development unit at Learning and Teaching, and use UNSW TV as a distribution point, pushing the content to:

You can also watch the content on mobile devices such as phones and iPads on the Gateway website.