City as a Platform
(Inspired by the work of Jack Schulze, Dan Hill, Ben Cerveny and Timo Arnall)

Students were given photographs of street scenes to which they added speech bubbles for the objects in the scene – writing what that object would say if it were an information appliance. How would it communicate with other objects and people and contribute to shaping the texture of the cityʼs data presence? How would it shape the human experience of the city?

Each team of three conducted the ideation and drawing activity five times for five contexts: Utility, Play & Games, Social, News, and Advertising. For each context each team were given 3 duplicate prints of the street scene photograph—one for each team member. The group brainstormed out loud while each member drew their own rendition of the street scene simultaneously.

The drawings were done as transparent overlays using acetate with markers. At the end of each context period teams edited their brainstorm into a single overlay containing the groups best ideas for each context.

Context Cards
(Inspired by team ETech workshop with Maia Garau)

Students worked in teams of 4. Each team was given three stacks of cards (yellow, pink and orange). The pink cards had user types: dairy farmer, grassroots politician, pediatrician. The yellow cards had sensors: temperature, humidity, altitude. The orange cards had situations: in an airport, at the beach, on a bike.

The goal was to match three cards and develop a product+service experience story around the constraints of that context. Two methods were used for the matching: spreading all of the cards out and matching them up; or, blindly drawing from each of the three decks and working with random combinations. Groups described all of their concepts and acted out their favorite concept in a 1-2-minute skit.

Icon Diptychs
(Inspired by the work of Bang-Yao)

Students each created a pair of icons to communicate two social networking actions: to friend and to un-friend. They used graph paper to sketch ideas before committing to building their oversized murals. 2-4 colors of post-it notes were used to create an icon for each of the actions. These icon murals could be up to 32×32 post-it pixels in dimension and were created on floors and walls—indoors and out. The discussion was around the concept for the metaphor and the visual depiction of that metaphor.

Individuals, Groups and Relationships
This was an information architecture-mapping project done individually by students. The goal was to develop personally meaningful models for depicting friends, colleagues and family members.

Concepts for sorting (such as Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, and Hierarchy) were discussed and students explored their own “lenses” that revealed the relationships between the individuals in a group. They started by drawing and were encouraged to use transparencies and to make large-format diagrams, physical three-dimensional models using paper, classmates, furniture, rooms, and etc. Irrelevant of the materials used, work needed be LARGE format.

Post-It Phones
(Inspired by conversation with Charles Warren)

Students worked in pairs to imagine new mobile interaction scenarios around a theme/context. Each partner applied a stack of twenty or so post-it notes to the screen of their personal handheld device and drew interface states on each. As the interaction scenario was acted out, the notes were peeled off as the reciprocal actions unfolded.

A second, advanced, version of the project was to think beyond states to continuous flow, creating flip-book animations with the notes showing a fluid interaction scenario.

Students needed to map out the interaction, accounting for the limitations/capabilities of their existing
mobile devices – including screen size, web connectivity, data plan, keypad vs. touchscreen.

Retro-Fiction Interfaces

(Inspired by conversations with Ben Cerveny and Mike Kuniavsky)

Student teams were given a photograph of an old machine interface (such as an airplane, defibrillator, telephone operator) and were asked to make up a design fiction based on the apparent interface affordances. From the photo, they redrew and physically reconstructed the interface using paper, tape, and other cheap sketching materials. The interpretation of the interface and the things that it controls/interacts were acted out by the students.

What is a Switch?

(Matt Cottam & Tellart assignment)
This was given as a homework assignment, which was then discussed in class at the end of the week. Using scrap materials from the workshops and other cheap materials such as paper, drinking straws, paperclips, and etc., students rapidly sketched model concepts for capturing human gestures to close a conceptual circuit.

There was no real electrical circuit—the idea was to just effect the switch mechanism with a gesture (breathing, dancing, blinking) to touch indicated contacts (made from paper or popsicle sticks or paint or whatever…). The most important factor was speed and quantity!