dConstruct 2011

Well, last week I attended my second web design conference, and this week I hope to see my second site go live. Exciting times!

The conference, dConstruct by Clearleft in Brighton, involved a series of talks considering the connections between the physical world and digital design.

I think my favourite talk of the day was Craig Mod talking about the Future Book. I got swept up, up and away in the fantastical story-metaphor about the 5km long book, and although I couldn’t tell you exactly what, I definitely learnt something. And let’s be honest, every talk is improved by the inclusion of an animated information nipple.

The day started with designer-thinker Don Norman – the author of “Design for Everyday Things”, one of the books on my reading list that I actually have got round to reading. Norman explained the way PC  screen scrolling systems were originally designed (that you move the window rather than the contents) and how the widespread introduction of touchscreen has questioned this early decision (you move the contents with gestures), to the extent of Apple gunning for the alternative scrolling option in Lion. Norman also discussed the idea that we should design for memory rather than actual experience, using Disneyland as an example – it’s not the experience of crowds and queues that you remember, but the magical, memorable, moments.

Continuing on the subject of memory, Norman outlined the varying interface formats that PCs have been through – from the initial command line, to graphical interface and now we are in the era of gestures. He remarked on the differences these variables mean for the user – from needing to know the commands to input, to it being the norm to rely on graphics with no prior knowledge. And so we find ourselves in the world of gestures, which Norman argued forces us back to a situation where we must memorise how to effectively use the system. And talking of systems, one of Don’s most interesting points was how important it is to design in systems rather than individual products/services, using the iPod+iTunes and the Kindle+Amazon as his examples. Creating usability in buying, uploading and updating the products and therefore effective connections has guaranteed them success. This point was reflected in Kelly Goto’s ‘Mapping Emotion to Experience’, as she described the importance of considering the space in between things. Kelly went on to point out that when we feel attached to our devices and possessions, it is in fact the connections that they allow us to make with one another that we are attached to.

I enjoyed Frank Chimero’s talk, mainly I think because I have had the same thoughts and not yet found a solution. Talking to a fellow attendee afterwards, who consistently tags and archives his bookmarks, made me think I’m just lazy, but he then informed me that he was a archivist for 5 years. I think it’s a personality thing, and some of us just need more help than others.

My main conclusion of the day was that essentially it’s about connections. We need to design for the space in-between as well as the apps/sites/services/products themselves. In the same way that the great type-designers consider the white space around the glyphs they design, as much as the do the inked area. It is because the white space is considered that the type faces sit so well – they are fully supported by their surroundings.

Things to research further:

  • 3D Printers
  • Kansei Engineering
  • Tom Armitage
  • Marshall McLuhan
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