Response: Designing for the Digital Age

Designer for the Digital Age

How to create human-centered products and services

In the reading, the author brings out the importance of design methods such as personas to empathize with different user skills in different environments. The Goal-directed design method follows the real-world practice and includes 4 methods for a thorough design process.

People learned how to make their lives easier by inventing helpful gadgets. The essence of design is visualizing concrete solutions that serve human needs and goals within certain constraints. Designers provide the basic instructions for the builders to accomplish the final product.

Complex products and services require the combination of interaction – How users can best accomplish their goals – (functionality of a product; best workflow; supported activities; information required through the process), graphic, and information design.

Goal-directed design encompasses product behavior, visual form, and physical form and follows best practices developed through the practice in the real world. It includes 4 methods such as principles, patterns, process, and practices. For designers, it is most important to empathize with less-skilled users to provide a good product or service.

  1. Principles:  Question yourself if the principle helps to accomplish your goal. Will it help users minimalize work? How many seconds it should take your web page to load.
  2. Patterns: Navigating multi-document interfaces. You can structure different contents by depicting them in different panes.
  3. Process: Develop personas, scenarios, and requirements to understand users and customers thoroughly.
    The author explains the most important steps of the design process.

Project Planning: Rough outline of project structure.

Research: helps to make the best product and design decision about business objectives and technical parameters.

Modelling: based on a set of personas (user archetypes) which present different behaviour pattern and goals

Requirements definition: Personas’ skills, environments, behaviors, and goals help determine their needs/ requirements.

Framework definition:

  • Interaction: functionality
  • Visual: qualities
  • Industrial design: form factor and component architecture

à stakeholder need concrete information to look at as quickly as possible. Thinking about major underlying structure prevents from rework later on. Discussion with the stakeholders enables to refine the focus and parameters

Practices: A good design team has to collaborate all the time to be effective. Usually, it is small and each member of the team has its special skills. They make ideas concrete. But they only succeed by adapting to different environments.


Effective design methods are key for designers to visualize solutions to human problems. Goal-directed Design helps skilled designers ensure thoroughness. By working transparently they can increase their effectiveness.

Response: A Design Perspective on Information Technology

What is Good Design?

First, we have to recognize that there is no simple definition of a Good Design. It is more continuously defining and redefining. However, it depends on many different factors. Such as customer needs and expectations, but also the competences and skills of the user who assess the product. Societal laws, regulations, agreements, contracts and environmental ideals are also a huge impact. A good design artifact is composed of a combination of efficiency and speed on the one hand side but also an understandable user interface on the other hand side.

However, a huge impact of a good design makes the designer himself. His judgment and reflection are very important to design an adequate product. It depends on the designer’s thoughts how to design form, structure and qualities influenced by human habit, traditions and practice but also the on the preconditions and different situations given by the client. Hence, Designers are always creating something new from the scratch using conceptual tools to solve problems and are responsible for the conditions, opportunities and restrictions they create.

Core concepts

Interaction design – existing resource constraints to create, shape, and decide all use-orientated qualities for one or many clients.

Design process – goes from initial ideas to final specification (basis for production). The outcome is not predictable.

Design situation – what should be considered and what can be left out

Digital artifact – the result of an interaction design process. Structure and functionality of the design artifact is possible by the use of technology (computer and information science, software engineering


A Design Project considers ethical, aesthetical and functional issues. Further social and organizational contexts can limit and restrict. The designer has to deal with limited resources and a certain amount of time to create an adequate solution considering unchangeable demands and preconditions as well as conflicting wishes and requests from the clients. These considerations belong to everyday practicalities of design. Develop something of lasting quality in the most suitable and creative way given the existing conditions.

Two product/ project examples for a thoughtfully designed user experience.

Idea 1 of a good design.

Yahoo weather app. Aesthetic weather app that presents you with all relevant weather information users look for. The Design is very minimalistic which makes it easy for everyone to use the app. For an app it’s key that the user can understand the interface fast and easily without any instructions. A clear design encourages using the app often for the special purpose of weather information.

Photo credit:

Idea 2 of a good design.

The design is very minimalistic and it’s centered around the users’ needs. The onboarding phase is very smooth and doesn’t take long to make the watch ready for use. The functions are also very intuitive and self-explanatory, so that the user.

Photo Credit: “Apple Watch Sport.” LWYang. Creative Commons. (Cropped)
Photo Credit: “Apple Watch Sport.” LWYang. Creative Commons. (Cropped)

Aside from the apps, it can be quite useful for busy professionals to manage daily logistics. Instead of pulling out your phone and checking email constantly, you can immediately scan and archive email in a matter of seconds. The calendar notifications serve as friendly and fast reminders. The “Do not Disturb” mode is easy to activate, allowing the user to focus on main tasks at hand. The small screen limits the amount of information. App notifications and messages are treated like time on normal watches. But the Apple Watches also embodies the principle of enhancing the user’s life from the background. Most of the day you forget you’re wearing it, but when you need it, it’s there. Any good app, site, or device should act the same way.



One day without cell phone

One day with my cell phone in Delhi

The day started in the Hostel. After I took a shower I had breakfast with my cell phone, checking e-mails and messengers. I also checked the app google trips to schedule my day plan. Afterwards I looked for a cab and compared the prices in the uber and ola app. During the cab ride I searched for authentic local restaurants where I can have a cheap lunch and read reviews in the tripadvisor app. Many people use face time or other video call services while commuting. YouTube is also very popular in India. Approximately 700 Mio people use it and it is a good thing to transcend time. After I took pictures and videos of some monuments, I had lunch in a local restaurant. It is also very comfortable to check the opening hours in google. Before I make a decision I ask google for advises and read reviews. In the restaurant I met an Indian guy. We were talking about universities and good payed jobs in India. Since he was working for a solar company he told me that he wants to visit Germany next year. We exchanged our contact information. Back in the hostel I edited my videos and pictures and talked to some backpackers. Later we ordered food with an app. The whole day was accompanied by my cell phone. If there were any ambiguities the first thing I have done, was checking my cell phone not get myself into trouble.

One day without my cell phone in Delhi

I went into the crowded streets of Delhi without my cell phone. Hence Delhi was a complete new city for me I did some preparations in advance. I printed a Map and wrote down some sights that I wanted to see. Instead of searching online for a cab I was looking for an auto Riksha. Since the traffic is so erratic the fastest way to commute is to take a Riksha. But it’s more expensive than uber or ola. As a tourist I always tried to haggle down the prices. I also began to observe the people’s behaviour. Without a cell phone where you can distract yourself you have time to really look around and experience everything more detailed. I often had the feeling that I was missing something in terms of disconnection or that my cell phone got stolen. I was not able to take pictures, to search for helpful reviews and reports on tripadvisor, to book cabs and so on. Since in Delhi e-payment is not common I did not have any payment issues at least.

However, I would say that my smartphone is not just a piece of technology. It’s my guide through today’s world. It helps in any situation, but however it makes us seeing the world more superficial. Many things happen without our attention.

I think nowadays it’s very hard for people living without their cell phone. For the most of us it is more than a technical device. We are able to customize everything and we can use it at any time. If we feel bored, we can send messages, check social media or watch YouTube videos. We can easily transcend time. And if we got lost we can check our location via GPS and Maps. So there are a dozen helpful functions which come with the cell phone.

Guest Speaker: Timothy Nohe – Electron Drawing

Electron Drawing – Visual Music

During week 7 we had the pleasure to meet Timothy Nohe. He is an artist and educator engaging traditional and electronic media in daily life and public places. The Light City festival in Baltimore takes places once a year. More than 500.000 people have attended and more than 160.000 people came from outdoor the state. Timothy Nohe was one of this year’s artist at the Light City Festival. His Artwork called Electron Drawing – Visual Music encourages audiences of all ages to become active creators of live technological art and beautiful mathematically derived music and drawings. He also explained the functionality of his artwork and key requirements for a festival.

Key requirements for the Artwork

  • Remove physical touch of the controller through gestural control
  • Make it easy and understandable for the audience (make all complex components ‘invisible’)
  • Understand the geometrical location
  • Keep humidity, rain, and wind in mind
  • Quick access to the Artwork otherwise interest of the audience could be lost
  • Enable audience to interact with each other.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Liability, insurance and responsibility issues

Picture Source:


Yesterday we visited the Art Science Museum for the Future World exhibition. It’s a permanent exhibition where only the light installations change over time.
The exhibition is divided up in four narratives – Nature, Town, Park and Space.


The exhibition begins with a trip through nature. The first installation was an artwork with crows, rendered in light, that fly around the space leaving trails of light in their path. The second installation was a depiction of digitally rendered waves in a 3D environment. We were able to sit down and enjoy the seascape.

The second installation was a depiction of digitally rendered waves in a 3D environment. We were able to sit down and enjoy the seascape. The intention of this artwork is that there is no separation between the humans and nature.

NATURE - Black Waves
NATURE – Black Waves


Connecting! Block Town
Connecting! Block Town

This interactive artwork reacts to the visitor’s input and ultimately develops into a cityscape. By moving cars, trains, planes and boats the system of roads, rivers and railways evolve smoothly. And adapt to the continuous development of human being. It’s a very important issue to consider the increasing amount of traffic and transportation systems in a growing world.




Visitors can work together by pushing and rolling the balls to create a continuous change in the composition, color and sound. There are infinite possibilities to interact with each other as in the real world.



Another installation was the Sketch Aquarium. This artwork allows the visitor to create their own drawings and watch them come to life in a digital rendered aquarium by scanning the drawing.






The Crystal Universe was my favorite artwork. It is created with teamLab’s Interactive 4-D Vision technology and more than 170,000 LED lights. The animated Universe gives the illusion of stars, planets and galaxies moving in space. You have the feeling that you are inside the centre of action.

Crystal Universe

Response: You are what you carry

Jan Chipchase’s chapter You are what you carry is a follow-up of his speech 10 years ago.  Since his book Hidden in plane sights was published 6 years later in 2013, he mentioned more detailed approaches how people carry their belongings in the future. During his research over decades he found out, that there is a global commonality of how people live and what they value.
The most essential items are keys, money and the mobile phone.  Those items help people surviving and satisfy the most primal needs.

In this Chapter he described several factors of how we care about our belongings depending on different places. One of this factors is for example the range of distribution which depends on the presence of familiar people, density of strangers, familiarity and cleaniness.
But due to the technical progress more and more possessions became digitized which leads to a reexamination of carrying behavior.

The cloud service revolutionized the transport of digital belongings. No matter where we are, we have access to our data from anywhere in the world.
But I think this is not only an advantage. Companies get a deep insight into our lives. Algorithms can help us organizing our things but also analyzes our behaviors. Jan Chipchase said with change comes opportunity. I completely agree with this statement. There are many opportunities to facilitate our lives and make it more efficient. With the digitalization we can reduce the things we carry thus reducing the loss of things, the costs of replacing and recovering things. And the temporary use and rental services get more and more popular.

To summarize you can say that the way of interaction with the goods changes. Mobile technology has changed dramatically from carrying less, to remembering less, to own less. I agree that there are many opportunities with the technological progress. But the more information we disclose the more we lose control of ourselves.

Anthropology of mobile phones

Ten years ago Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. He started his speech with the words “We’re going to make some history together today”. Now in 2017 when we’re looking back, he was completely right.
Jan Chipchase gave this speech in 2007. Even then the three most important things people carry are their mobile phone, money, and their keys. The reason is simple, these things depict a spiritual, emotional, and functional value. With the mobile phone, people can transcend time through messages or voice calls.

After the presentation of the iPhone, the connection of people increased very fast. Almost everyone owns a mobile phone today.
Also the functional value increased a lot. People can use their mobile phones as a payment method and can even control their homes with it. Not only people become connected but also devices. Advancements in smart home technology continue to push the limits of what the internet of things is capable of.
These are some of the consequences about Jan Chipchase spoke in his show 10 years ago. The speed of sharing things as ideas and objectives increase more and more. I am very excited where this takes us.

Calibrating your Cultural Compass

In an increasingly connected world, everyone has the temptation to get as fast as possible to the information you want. It was my first time in Asia when I arrived in Singapore. It didn’t take me more than one minute to download the Uber App. So it was the easiest and fastest way to get to my Airbnb accommodation. Before I came here, I just read some articles to be familiar with the rules and regulations. But there is a huge difference between reading articles and experience by yourself. I didn’t expect the number of hints and signs. If you try to find similarities to Germany, it is hard.
In the chapter, the author describes different concepts of “going native” and adapting to another culture.
In a more and more globalized world cities become multinational. Hence it is a matter of social acceptance that signs and regulations are in a particular language as English. During my first weeks, I visited the most famous locations in Singapore and observed many of the ideas discussed in the chapter. I got an idea of food behavior and the habits of the locals. Due to the large distance from NTU to downtown, we always have to spend more than one hour in the MRT. It is a very good place to observe the people, who also have to bridge the time. Due to the density in the rush hours, there are not many possibilities to distract oneself. The queuing behavior and the e-payment options were also new for me.
In summary, one can say that it’s very important for a designer and entrepreneur to know the external circumstances and the local behavior as well as the government regulations to prevent offense and failures.

Q1:  How can a designer minimise the data collection in a multinational city or country where many different cultures clash together?

Q2: Which compromises in design can be found and what were the biggest design failures?