Archive for July, 2007

Worth it

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Seven hours in three airports
+ Four and a half hours in three different planes
+ Eight hours of walking
+ Fifteen minutes of negotiation
+ One grumpy Carrie at the end of the day
equals …

… I won’t be homeless next year!

A tiny designer in a big world

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Today at work we had a couple different roundtable discussion sessions with some HR staff. The point of these discussions was to give feedback about our internship experience at IBM. I had some major problems with the way these discussions were run, but anyway…

I mentioned that my idea of IBM Research as a corporation was still very technical – there is very little room for exploring and introducing new methods and ways of thinking. Granted, there is a lot of room for freedom in doing whatever you want in terms of a project and I am grateful for that. But thinking back, all the job offers I received for this summer were similar in that respect, surprisingly – either way, I would have been given my own project and space to innovate. The reason why I chose IBM Research over other companies was because I knew IBM would benefit most from the addition of design thinking (especially since I would not be working at the IBM Research Cambridge site).

So now that my internship is nearing its end, I am still asking myself whether what I’ve been doing will really have an impact on IBM. But most of all, I am asking myself what my role is as an individual designer, contributing to a corporation such as IBM. Is it in my place to try and change old ways of thinking? Or should we wait for other up-and-coming companies to show IBM why new ways of thinking are beneficial? Or is IBM so large that it doesn’t matter what other people say and/or do?

Batteries on the job hunt

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I just got back from getting some batteries from the stockroom downstairs. The package says “Professional Alkaline Battery”.

I didn’t know batteries could be professional.

My mom has graduated

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Last night, I got a call from my mom, asking me to check my email because she had sent me some pictures of a shirt that she wanted my opinion on. I did all of this without a second thought, gave my opinion (it was a nice shirt), and hung up.

It wasn’t until after I hung up that I realized that this call was very monumental. It marked the very first time that my mom emailed pictures to me without asking me for help on how to do it. She took the pictures, uploaded them to her laptop, wrote an email and attached the photos all by herself. I was very proud of her.

Not that I shouldn’t be – my mom was an excellent student. While I was at home, and both of us had time, she would ask me to teach her how to use her digital camera and be able to email pictures to other people. One of many lessons I ended up offering. So I sat next to her, patiently teaching her the little things that I sometimes forget can be hard for people who didn’t grow up with technology. And she listened diligently, transcribing every step very carefully to her notebook, which is now filled with a variety of instructions (“How to burn songs onto CD“, “How to add songs to iPod“, “How to make DVD” … my mom is very hip).

As time went on, eventually she asked less and less questions when trying to send pictures to other people. But there was always some little issue – never was she able to complete the entire process on her own. Until last night.

Mom complained when I left the country for grad school that her personal in-house teacher would no longer be there to help her with her technology problems. We’ve found a way around that, though. I have now become her personal phone support contact. And, in the rare cases that she gets IM working correctly, her personal online support agent :)

A new interaction design school

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

A new Interaction Design institute is being opened in Copenhagen this year. I scanned the overview and philosophy for the school, and so far it seems a little bit heavy on the industry side. I’m not sure how much I can appreciate a school where topics like interaction design theory are mere “possibilities” for a seminar course. A person with a Master degree in any subject should at least understand the basic foundations and theories of the field.

I know interaction design is a lot about hands on studio work and experience, but I don’t think that’s all that is necessary to produce good interaction designers (or to grant a Master degree in the field). As a first year last year, I appreciated the Trials and Tribulations of Dick Buchanan, and as much as it was a brain stretch (and by stretch, I mean ripped apart to shreds), I feel like it allows me now to talk and think about interaction design in a way that is not superficial and surface-skimming. We’re not here for an interaction design workshop, we’re here to become masters of a domain. To be fair, this institute is brand new, so it will be interesting to see how their program shapes up in the next couple of years.

What also bothers me is that the institute seems to pin interaction design as a mix of “design and technology”. Which is not surprising I guess, since most other schools and organizations also do this. But what draws me to interaction design is the fact that we’re trained in methods and theories that don’t necessarily have to deal with technology. If as interaction designers our goals are to shape and mediate behaviors between people and products/services/systems etc, then technology is simply a tool, and not something that should define the field.

Also, this school wants to maintain “high standards” by giving exams at the end of the year. If nothing else turned me off from the program, this definitely did.