Pipsqueak Articles

Posts written by Olga Werby or Christopher Werby

Gamification and Sociobiology

Portable Heart Monitor

For the last several years, the has been a steady drum beat: Gamify, Gamify, Gamify. Universities are struggling to gamify their students and curricula, hospitals seek to gamify their staff, corporation are trying to gamify their sales strategy. Gamification is everywhere. What’s lacking is a clear understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. Here is a couple of examples where gamification of user activity was causing direct harm. Understanding what drove undesirable behavior allowed designers to remove those aspects from interaction intentionally. And an example of using gaming strategy to increase sales. Online Support for Anorexia Patients British online support site for young eating disorder sufferers provides access 24/7. It is absolutely vital to help children during times when they feel vulnerable, especially once they’ve been released from a program. But old habits are hard to break. It’s easy to devolve into a numbers games on a public BBS — “I’ve lost/gained 5 pounds in the last 2/4 days” is an absolute trigger message for a person recovering from anorexia. Anorexia is a numbers game: How long can I go without food? How little can I eat per day? How many pounds can I lose? How fast? There’s…

Remarking on the Unremarkable

Steve Jobs Wikipedia cropped B&W

What’s the difference between a consumer of good design and a designer? Well, it boils down to the ability to notice an opportunity where a product or a fix or a nudge can make a positive difference in someone’s life. During his 1989 interview with Inc Magazine, Steve Jobs famously said: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.” You see, designers don’t ask for solutions. They discover them and share them with the world. So what does it take to discover a good design solution? I believe it comes down to ability to see a pain point, to notice an opportunity, to remark on the unremarkable! Allow me to share to few examples from personal experience in the last few months. Drug Labels I recently had a heart stress test. Unfortunately, the IV drug they tried to use had an unusual side effect — my heart rate would go up and then quickly drop, enabling the doctors to perform the test. The nurses scrambled for another drug, but they also needed to make a report — such and such a drug on such and such a patient resulted in bad reaction.…

We Are the Magicians

Maximilien Luce, Morning, Interior, 1890, using pointillist technique

We all make magic every day. Don’t think so? Then consider this, we conjure up complete worlds of information with a mere suggestion, just a bit of outline, a stroke or two, a few words, a spatter of color, a dash of melody. We literally make grand visions from just a trickle of data. This is true for those who design and those who consume information. Let’s first explore our ability to comprehend very incomplete information. Take pointillism — an art movement (technique) that required artists to create images using points of pure color — why are we able to “see” the complete image from a mere collection of dots? With just a collection of colored dots, we are all able to imagine the mood, understand the story, visualize the universe behind this painting. You can say: “well, the artist was great at using dots.” But it is not just dots that we are good at. We reconstruct our reality from little bits of incomplete data all day every day of our lives. Consider the tone of voice of the person who answered the phone — you can easily tell the mood and even guess at the personality of that…

Fun, Creativity, and Good Design

springy bed frame

The best product designs not only work well, they make us smile. They solve problems we as consumers haven’t even consider yet or realized we had. Take a look at a selection of product designs below. The springy bed frame is not only functional, but a conversation starter — don’t you want to try it out? The “selfy stick” helps us take better photos of ourselves. Our arm reach is no longer a limitation or a liability — I like my portraits taken from the top to reduce that double chin! It’s fun to be elegant… until it all crushes down around us. Finger tip tray is the solution! Finger food will stay safely on top of the tray with this cool design. And again, it’s a conversation starter — a perfect tool at a party. While I’m not sure I would advertise my waist size with this imaginative belt, it could serve as a powerful reminder to keep to a diet. Serving tea to your aunt? Wouldn’t this put a smile on her face? In one of my design classes, a student proposed a bed light that would adjust to awaken the sleeper gently. This one does it with…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…

Language and Cultural Differences in Communication

Kulula Plane Decorations

Above is an example of Interface Design — Kulula Airlines decorates its planes in a very playful manner. Does this choice make you feel safer or more reticent to fly their planes? Well, that depends… Consider the FAA Passenger Briefing Guidelines: 14 CFR 91.519. Below are a few examples: § 91.519 Passenger briefing. (a) Before each takeoff the pilot in command of an airplane carrying passengers shall ensure that all passengers have been orally briefed on: Smoking. Each passenger shall be briefed on when, where, and under what conditions smoking is prohibited. This briefing shall include a statement, as appropriate, that the Federal Aviation Regulations require passenger compliance with lighted passenger information signs and no smoking placards, prohibit smoking in lavatories, and require compliance with crewmember instructions with regard to these items; Use of safety belts and shoulder harnesses. Each passenger shall be briefed on when, where, and under what conditions it is necessary to have his or her safety belt and, if installed, his or her shoulder harness fastened about him or her. This briefing shall include a statement, as appropriate, that Federal Aviation Regulations require passenger compliance with the lighted passenger sign and/or crewmember instructions with regard to…