Going through the reading, one product jumps to mind, and its smartphones.

It’s hard not to gravitate to them especially since they’ve laid claim to such an wide variety of tasks; from photography, to e-mails, regular texting and social media.

Each of those facets could having their own length and breath in the design process before coming to fruition as an app and icon on a homescreen.

But the smartphone itself needed to be far forward thinking enough that despite all the iterations up till this point, the skeleton of the smartphone has remained largely the same.

And it is that core that’s quite intriguing. When the reading mentioned the ‘Aunt Edna’ persona, I couldn’t help but picture a regular old auntie using her smartphone to play some random app store game to fill her time.

To say everyone and their mothers have a smartphone would not be an understatement. Such a ubiquitous product just speaks as to how efficient and easy it was for a large audience to pick it up.

However, at this point there has been numerous articles of how we’ve become a slave to the smartphone and numerous other articles of how the writer did a social media cleanse and how that made them feel like a crack addict feeling their phone vibrate in their pocket when it wasn’t even there.

But stepping away from comedic hyperbole for a moment, there definitely is something to the smartphone overuse in society.

The smartphone has made itself it’s own pocket to fill and without it, something feels amiss without nowadays; a regular person’s capabilities suddenly feel cut short by the lack of utility the device gave us.

Vox recently did a video essay on the addictive nature of smartphones

It states that our phones are designed to be addictive.

It also mentions that push notifications were initially made as a way for us to check our phones less.

By showing a small snippet of an e-mail on the 2003 blackberry, it allowed the user to check which were important or not at a glance, reducing the need to open up and check them individually.

However as most people with a smartphone will know, just about every app nowadays asks for permissions for notifications.

One aspect that surprised me was the stated intentional design of pulling to reload a page and how it was similar to the pull of a lever on a slot machine.

A question I often ask myself is in regards to the intent of the design, take push notifications mentioned earlier as an example, designed intent and evolved use over time has drastically changed.

This harks back to the reading where they mentioned that ‘experience design’ is a presumptuous term, assuming the users behaviour and perspectives that they bring to the product.

It now makes total sense to me why Instagram changed their timelines from a chronological one to one that’s churned through an algorithm. That way the user has more reason to stay on the app and keep refreshing for “new” content.

Despite the cries of creators and artists that have their content shafted by the new system, Instagram made the change knowing that it’ll keep users scrolling through their infinite timelines; and that feels pretty insidious to me.

(There’s been a new app though, that’s popped up called Vero, which has been touted as a potential “Instagram Killer” with its chronological timeline)

I don’t think it’s possible to ever have the foresight to expect the potential for change and evolution of an intended design being that humans are quite varied creatures despite our predictability over the ages. And even though from a user perspective it’s easy to go “how are they gonna improve on this” the companies continue to streamline and draw people further into the rabbit hole of smart devices. (but it does seem to be hitting areas of redundancy in my opinion, selfie emojis and stuff like Alexa and the like feel like redundant conveniences in my opinion; also no one really needs a smart fridge with a small monitor on it)

My main questions are these

  1. Where is the line between helping a user accomplish their goals and creating one for the user/design morality?
  2. How do we structure the learning process of design to be as collaborative between the different disciplines  in the school setting as in the real world?

The reading, Thoughtful Interaction Design by Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman, at first, felt very obtuse and dense. Putting everything in abstract with highly academic analytical approach it was a more intense articulated approach to something I was more used to handling from a more intuitive and ‘gut-feeling’ perspective; not that I don’t enjoy the philosophical and academic aspects. This was on a whole other level.

It detailed the designer and their position in the world and their responsibilities; that their works define the way in which people interact and in turn adapt with the object and interface that was designed. Especially with the large portions on technology, the parallels between the tech and design were interesting to pour over. How both are perpetually intertwined around their “problem” and how the “solutions” are approaching the situations from a mass of perspectives; this was preceded with the detailing of good design being a complex can of worms which to me was an interesting thing to note. I think it’s especially useful to artists and students who often pine over attaining perfection.

While not an artwork per se, I think something relevant to this reading is the recent MRT line’s mess of a visual style. Having swapped in digital displays into some of their trains, this change was accompanied with some of the most inefficient display of visual information. STARiS 2.0, the SMRT Active Route Map Information System as it’s known was revamped in April 2017 and rolled out on a few trains. Pictured below, we start to see the cracks in the system. Firstly, there is no context as to the previous stations or the subsequent ones save for the next 3.

Lack of context to the rest of the line’s stations

Additionally, the landmark pictured has no indication of which building it is. People who are unfamiliar with the area have no assistance as to the relevance of the pictured building and hence, it ends up being just a graphical filler.

And while good design was said to be a multi-faceted discussion, I’d personally say that the graphical elements were not up to snuff.

I think this speaks for itself

Poor layouts for commuters, lack of context, a mess of visual clarity, STARiS 2.0 needless to say has it’s fair share of negative points. It does however, helps future designers avoid repeating such heinous mistakes and for companies to take note on what not to do. And as mentioned before, it is a process, each new piece that comes out helps users and creators alike comment and critique on what does and doesn’t work. At the same time, this does show very strongly that there is a responsibility that designers have to their audience, and that the audience, even without formal training, can tell when things go wrong.