Core77 Broadcast interview with Troika

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Sebastien and Eva from Troika, the studio behind the Cloud and All The Time In The World installations at new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. So, if you were one of the hundreds stuck at Terminal 5 when it opened, at least you had something decent to marvel at.

Troika are unusual in their combination of disciplines, I feel. It’s not so often that graphic and motion graphic design and this kind of interactive installation work come together – architecture is the more usual bedfellow.

I found it very interesting to hear them talk about the development of their creative palette and language of the objects they create as well as how some of the seemingly tiny technical issues can end up defining a massive part of the work.

You can have a listen to the interview on Core77.

Podcast interview with Jason Bruges

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My latest Core77 Broadcast interview with Jason Bruges from Jason Bruges Studio is now online.

In a slightly echoing room in Jason’s studio, accompanied by the usual sirens and car alarms of London’s Shoreditch, he talks about his roots in architecture, the journey to interactive surfaces, sustainability and his thoughts about giving this emerging area a proper name.

Hope you enjoy it.

The next one, coming soon, is with Troika.

[tags]Core77, Jason Bruges[/tags]

37signals versus Don Norman


If there was ever a clear example of the generation gap between those who have been steeped in digital culture from the start and those who have had to adopt it later in life, the current debate between 37signals and Don Norman is it.

I took note of the original article in Wired on 37signals and I know that Don Norman had weighed in with accusations of arrogance, because he was already quoted in the article. Experientia’s post alerted me to the fact that it’s still going on, and on.

I interviewed Jason Fried back in 2005 and didn’t find 37signals arrogant at all.

What’s weird is that I think Norman and 37signals are actually talking about the same stuff, and even sharing the same opinions in general, they just have different ways of expressing them, and neither side seems to understand the other. Personally, I find Norman’s views on simplicity versus complexity erratic and he too often equates simplicity with minimalism – he rants about it pretty frequently in the Design of Everyday Things and uses the minimalist failures as critiques of simplicity.

Normal mainly took exception to David Heinemeier Hansson saying, “I’m not designing… for other people.” The gist behind this is that they do what Apple does, create things that work for them and hope that other people like them (as they apprently do). But Norman suggests to 37signals how they should really work:

The solution is to decide which customers represent your core audience, and then to observe them at work, the better to understand their true needs. (Not by asking them, not by questionnaires, not by focus groups). Rapid iterations of prototype and evaluation is the key. The iterative design method of rapid prototyping, test, and iteration (all done within the span of a day or so) is well defined in the Human-Computer Interaction community.

That makes me suspect that Norman hasn’t really got a grip on what 37signals do – as a quick look at the (now free) Getting Real book would show. Here’s what they say in the “Rinse and Repeat” chapter:

Instead of banking on getting everything right upfront, the iterative process lets you continue to make informed decisions as you go along. Plus, you’ll get an active app up and running quicker since you’re not striving for perfection right out the gate. The result is real feedback and real guidance on what requires your attention.

37signals strive to avoid feature bloat. There’s a reason that word processing apps like Writeroom and Mellel are increasingly popular. They’re simple and clean. I have great respect for Norman, but sometimes he seems to voice opinions that really reenforce my feeling that HCI is a terrible methodology to study interaction design. It also feels like he’s stuck between two worlds, the old consultant model and the current world of flux.

Jason Fried makes a salient point in their well-written response, comparing what they do to being chefs:

And if enough customers tell us our food is too salty or too hot, we may adjust the salt and the heat. But if some customers tell us to add bananas to our lasagna, we’re not going to make them happy at the expense of ruining the dish for everyone else. That doesn’t make us selfish. We’re just looking out for the greater good.

I think that makes sense, especially in an environment where products can and should be niche, and can and should be changed and tweaked. It’s very different from the product-based world that Norman hails from.

*Photo credit: mcdemoura

[tags]HCI, 37signals, simplicity, Norman[/tags]

From the archives: Dialogue with IKEA’s Monika Mulder

Continuing the From The Archives series, here is an interview I did a while ago with one of the IKEA designers, Monika Mulder. Monika was really interesting to chat to about the IKEA process and culture, especially as many of these items are in either my or friends’ houses. She also talked about design in terms of constraints of both price and packaging guiding design (IKEA try very hard not to “transport air”, for example), which are even more pertinent these days.

Dialogue with IKEA’s Monika Mulder

Monika Mulder

From humble beginnings in Sweden, IKEA has grown to become part of the fabric of global culture. Pioneering flat-packed self-assembly furniture and bold design, they brought style to the people at prices they could afford. As a designer for IKEA, Dutch-born Monika Mulder works on everything from children’s toys to furniture. She is graudate from the Eindhoven Design Academy and after an internship in 1996 was asked to join IKEA in 1998. Here, she speaks about the philosophy behind IKEA, designing within constraints and the cost of transporting air.

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From the Archives: Jonathan Harris – Man of the Hour

I have been promising that I would like to upload all of the articles I have written over the years so that they might be of use for people rather than them languishing on my hard drive, but I’ve been a bit slack at actually doing so because converting them to decent HTML and fixing it all up takes a bit of time.

But Regine’s post on Visualizing: tracing an aesthetics of data inspired me to find the article on Jonathan Harris that I wrote a while back in 2004.

So, the plan from here on in is to upload one article from the archives per week (which would mean about two year’s worth of posts!).

Man of the Hour – Jonathan Harris

If recent world events have taught us anything about the media it must surely be that it is relentless organism. We have seen live videophone feeds from the frontline in Iraq, the explosion of blogging and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) news feeds and recently mobile phone camera images on the front pages of newspapers. Use any RSS news reader and you will see stories being updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With all this information flying around the Web, how can we make sense of it all and what would an hourly snapshot look like? That is exactly the question Jonathan Harris set out to answer with his 10×10 project. In an ironic twist the site held the number one slot on Blogdex for several days as news of its representation of news spread around the Web.

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Fireside chat with Brendan Dawes


I promised to put online the chat I had with magneticNorth’s Creative Director, Brendan Dawes, from when we were at Flash On the Beach 07.

I’ve been a bit tardy with it because I’ve been really busy, but finally you can enjoy our ramblings. You can listen to the Fireside Chat with Brendan Dawes in the player below or download it directly here.


The book of Brendan’s that we mentioned, Analogue In, Digital Out is highly recommended.

Podcast with Matt Clark from United Visual Artists

Matt Clark from UVA at Core77 Broadcasts

Following on from my last post about Hereafter, my podcast interview with Matt Clark from United Visual Artists is now online at Core77.

We chat about a range of UVA’s work, process and interactivity. Matt gives some great insights into working across disciplines and the exciting and emerging field of interactive installations much more tightly integrated into architecture rather than being a last-minute add-on, as well as using their skills and techniques to create stunning visuals for video. My thanks to Matt for his time – have a listen and let me know what you think.

Interview with Nik Roope from Hulger & Poke

Interview with Nik Roope

My first Core77 Broadcast with Nik Roope about Hulger has just gone online.

It should become one of a series of podcasts for Core77 and I’m really pleased because it’s one of my regular reads. Core77 started out (and still bills itself) as the “industrial design supersite”, though their remit has become somewhat wider, which I think is great personally.

So I thought I’d start with Hulger because it is product design, but with a very different philosophy to most gadgets.

I’ve known Nik for around 15 years. We were both members of Antirom and also used to do an interactive performance together with Joe Stephenson. Over the years we have had some really interesting conversations about emerging technologies and cultures and I’ve watched Hulger go from an amusing idea to being on its way towards being a design icon.

The interview also brings this philosophy to bear on his main job as one of the co-founders and creative directors of digital agency, Poke and it’s interesting to hear about how those two sides influence each other.

You can listen to the broadcast on the Core77 site and there is also a version on iTunes.

Let me know what you think and also who you would like to hear interviewed in the future.