Archive for the 'technology' Category

Service vs. product design

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

This afternoon (and by this afternoon I mean the afternoon of August 31st) I had a meeting with Dr. Jim Levin, Chief Medical Information Officer at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. He contacted me after reading this blog, and was interested in what I was doing at CMU.

It was great to meet someone that was interested in design as a way to enhance patient experience. He knew a bit about usability and related topics, having a bit of technology background. Actually, Don Norman will be in town in a couple of weeks as part of a team doing site visits at UPMC (one of three hospitals chosen in the States), and Jim will be touring them around Children’s Hospital. It will be interesting to see what Don has to say about the current state of the hospital.

For those of you who don’t know, Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital will soon be moving to a new site in Lawrenceville (it’s currently in Oakland). One of the newest developments for the hospital is that that they are going completely paperless. And so, a neat part of Jim’s current work (besides the fact that he also has an appointment as a clinician for infectious diseases) is that he is responsible for figuring out how that all works. I can’t even being to imagine how one goes about managing that sort of thing.

Anyway, at one point we started talking about how we’re starting to think of products as services, and services as experiences. A lot of products nowadays of course, are mostly being designed as tools for a larger service system. I guess in the back of my mind I always knew this, but that made me wonder whether that now affects the way we design for products versus services. One of the major differences between products and services is where the responsibility of value creation falls. With standalone products, the consumers are responsible for creating value from the product, whereas with services, the creation of value from the service is the responsibility of the service provider. But if products become a part of a service system, who’s responsible for the creation of value in the product? And does that then affect the way we should think about its design during the design process?

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.

New toys

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

New toy numero uno

While the iPhone was bought by half-million+ Americans and ogled by the rest of the world, I sat in my NY apartment holding in my grubby little hands, a small yellow package. Inside was a new phone. No, not a product of the Red Delicious variety, but instead, a white Sony Ericsson w200a. Yes, it’s an old model and there are tons of phones out there better than this one, but it’s fairly pretty, and most importantly, it was free. So while the world was salivating over neat interactions, pretty interfaces, and AT&T problems, I was just happy not to be carrying a bulky brick of a phone any longer.

Okay fine my old phone wasn’t actually that bad. It made and received calls perfectly fine (50% of the time). But it was a drag to carry around. And it took me half a year just to get used to how to do things (and Nokia is usually pretty good about their interfaces). So yay for new, small, and free phones.

New toy numero dos

(My very lame attempt at learning Spanish. One of possibly 2401029 things on my summer to-do list. Fine. More like my lifetime to-do list.)

My sister got me a white Nintendo DS for my birthday. Of all the Nintendo products, the DS is definitely my favourite. Yes, the Wii is cool, but until they fix the interactions so that it actually maps to what you’re doing more precisely, I won’t drool over it. The DS actually has all its interactions pretty near perfect, and is a significant enough change from its previous counterparts that it’s worth getting. After all, I did get one for both my mom and my sister as gifts. Actually, I think 50% of my extended family has one. Maybe it’s just a Chan family thing.

Okay, enough about new toys. Happy Silly American day!