Reading Response 3: ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: You Are What You Carry’ by Jan Chipchase

In the reading, Chipcase discusses about how the things we never fail to carry with us when we step outside of our homes do give us an insight about our basic survival needs. These items also tell us more about who we are as a person, from our day-to-day activities, our values, and our beliefs to our status, our self-esteem, and our addictions. He mentions three essential items, keys, money, and a mobile phone, among the many things we carry that are more common in urbanites.

A closer look into the things I carry with me all the time (wallet with only cards, keys, smart phone, earpiece, and cigarettes) made me realise that I prefer travelling light, paying with cards instead of money, having connectivity, having some form of entertainment when I am on the go, and that I need a smoke break every now and then. I would usually travel without a bag unless I am overseas to avoid cumbersome situations where I have to constantly watch over my belongings or inconveniently rummage through the compartments of my bag to find something kept inside. I love it when I could instantly access what I need from my pockets and would avoid having to leave my belongings with somebody else when I have to use the restroom.

I find it most interesting when Chipchase talks about the center of gravity, which is a place in our homes where we aim to leave important objects in and also the first place we look to retrieve them. I have a silver tray next to my bedroom door where I leave all my essential items in. The moment I get home, I could easily toss everything in and I could easily find them before I head out. I established my center of gravity there because there is a power socket close to it where I could easily charge my smart phone. I think this concept also applies when I am out and about. My smart phone and my earpiece is always on my left pocket, my keys, cigarettes and lighter on my right pocket, and my wallet in my back pocket. Having these centers of gravity help me locate these things whenever I need them. So, making payments at a cashier, tapping my concession pass in public transportation, and unlocking the gates to my home are all made easy with the mental note of knowing where everything belongs. This has also helped me to avoid forgetting my essential items when I am out, going through what Chipchase calls a point of reflection where I instantly realise that I left something at home if one of my pockets are empty.

In today’s age, the center of gravity changes when all our essential belongings can be digitalised. With apps and clouds that could store our credit card information, identification, and access, the three essential items can all be reduced to a single smart phone and in a sense, the center of gravity is no longer a physical space, but a virtual one. We no longer have to worry about leaving anything behind so long as we have our smart phones. But to what extent can we rely on just simply carrying our smart phones? In the case of losing or having our phones stolen, would it compromise our survival outside our homes? And if the network fails on our digital devices, what could we fall back on?

Reading Response 1: ‘The Design of Everyday Things: Chapter 1’ by Don Norman

Don Norman highlights the importance of human-centered design where the role of the designer is to ensure that the design matches the needs and capabilities of the people for whom they are intended for. He also mentions that in order for a design to be considered good, it needs to fulfill two characteristics – discoverability (actions that can be performed and how they could be performed) and understanding (the meaning that goes into specifying its physical attributes). He further branches out into five fundamental concepts to achieve a design’s discoverability – affordances, signifiers, constraints, mapping and feedback.

Taking the glass door next to the ADM General Office as an example, it shows how the lack in fulfilling the five fundamental concepts may result in a not-so-successful design. Students, faculty members, other ADM staff, and guests may have struggled with using this glass door. It is a two-way entry towards the ADM Lift Lobby and towards the ADM Library. The flaw in its design lies in the plight of figuring whether one should push or pull the door in order to open it. There are metal handles on both sides of the transparent door, a clear signifier that the door could be pushed or pulled from either sides. However, there is a magnetic stopper at the top that only allows for a single-direction application of force. This could be seen as a design constraint but since it is placed at the very top and almost not visible at eye level, even from a distance, it does not act as a clear indicator that the door is not supposed to be pushed from the lobby’s side. Therefore, the design failed in giving instinctive cues to the user to limit the set of possible actions. I find myself repeatedly applying wrongful force to the door even with frequent usage of it.

Another characteristic that the designers of the door missed out on is the understanding of its design. There is no symbols or signs to take the role of a conceptual model on the proper use of the door. I realised that with a simple addition of a signage to the door, it could have compensated for the lack of obvious indicators in its design. This brings me to consider: If a design is lacking in one or more of the five fundamental concepts in discoverability, can they be compensated with its understanding – a manual or an appropriate signage?