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Blog posts tagged as 'drawing'

Mouse-Trap/Ghost-Trap: Summer teaching at SVA

Jack and I taught a short class at SVA’s Interaction Design MFA this July.

We’d visited previously for a week in the Spring, and Liz Danzico was kind enough to invite us as part of their Summer School programme.

The two days started with thinking-through-drawing exercises we like to call “Hopeful Monsters” based around an exercise we’ve described on the blog before, and other drawing activities around generating ‘Inbreds and Hybrids’ that we were introduced to by our friend Matt Ward from Goldmsith’s Design faculty.

Hopeful Monsters

Initial thinking and brainstorming about cheap, ubiquitous, mundane technologies leads to fantastic leaps as the particpants draw on the whiteboard.

As always there are dead ends and flights of fancy – but, as always – there are a couple of intriguing combinations and mutant products that have an itchy promise to them…

Hopeful Monsters

The mutating, morphing quality of drawing our hopeful monster objects on the whiteboard…

Hopeful Monsters

Hopeful Monsters

Always contrasts interestingly with the more procedural, mechanical evolutionary drawing produced by tables of post-it-pixels…

Hopeful Monsters

On the second day, we deployed our secret weapon!

We were lucky enough to have Durrell Bishop of the mighty Luckybite join us, and set us all an incredible brief for the day – design a mouse trap, and a ghost trap…

We’d asked the group to think about their favourite traps overnight, and come back with a drawing.

My favourite I think was this diagram of the boulder trap in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

So much peril encapsulated in a stick figure!

The day saw the group tangle with the realities of catching mice, and then swap to the more symbolic, reality-shaping nature of designing a ghost-trap.

Hopeful Monsters

Some favourites – from many – include…

Jill’s self-composting mouse-trap

Rafa’s CCTV gargoyle ghost-trap

Peter’s ghost-traps, including the awesome ‘Dark Sucker’, which we hope he builds…

And… Nora’s Black Cat/White-Cat ghost-trap service
Hopeful Monsters

Fantastic fun, and everyone produced really excellent, surprising stuff.

Thanks again to Liz Danzico, Qing Qing Chen and, of course, the group who attended the workshop and threw themselves into it so fully in the NYC heat…

Finally - I had great fun one of the afternoons taking photos of the group with an iPhone and a magnifying glass while they drew…

IMG_1414

SVA Hopeful Monsters Workshop (magnified)

SVA Hopeful Monsters Workshop (magnified)

Tuesday Links: Drawings, Diagrams, Drawing Machines

A long while without links: I blame December deadlines and moving studio. A shame, given we’d been collecting a whole series of links on the studio mailing list; time to rectify that by sharing them with you, starting with a selection of articles connected by the theme of drawing.

Hand grid with guide grid by atduskgreg on Flickr

Melt Triptych – Center Portrait from Peter Esveld on Vimeo.

Drawing Machines 2009 – the blog that kicked off the idea for this post, which we found after they linked to our little Inductive Truck prototype.

Accompanying a Fall 2009 class at ITP, the blog is full of links to all sorts of automated and programattic drawing devices, as well as examples of final work. I particularly liked Greg Borenstein’s post on drawing grids distorted by gravity, in an attempt to make visible the weight of objects, and enjoyed Peter Esveld’s Melt Triptych (also above) a lot.

DAM.11453.xg9qe.De.2.jpg
Edward Zajec ram2/9 plotter drawing 1969

A lovely selection of plotter drawings from the 1960s – a very early example of artwork created entirely digitally, with a surprising variety of styles on display.

And how about this: the Great Diagrams in Anthropology, Linguistics, & Social Theory pool over on Flickr, full of diagrams of linguistic constructions, social spaces, Polynesian tattoos, and suchlike. Exciting.

cybernetic_serendipity.jpg

Untitled, Computer print-out with coloured pen and ink, Harold Cohen, 1969, from the V&A collection

And we – we being BERG – can’t talk about computer art without reference to Cybernetic Serendipity, the 1968 exhibition of computer art originally shown at the ICA. There’s a nice overview of it – and its importance – at the ICA website, and also in these original descriptions from its curator, Jasia Reichardt.

The Harold Cohen above is a lovely sample of it – its gridded pattern of cursive loops remind me a little of the distortion patterns Matt was playing with a while back.

Olinda interface drawings

Last week, Tristan Ferne who leads the R&D team in BBC Audio & Music Interactive gave a talk at Radio at the Edge (written up in Radio Today). As a part of his talk he discussed progress on Olinda.

Most of the design and conceptual work for the radio is finished now. We are dealing with the remaining technicalities of bringing the radio into the world. To aid Tristan’s presentation we drew up some slides outlining how we expect the core functionality to work when the radio manifests.

Social module

Social Module sequence

This animated sequence shows how the social module is expected to work. The radio begins tuned to BBC Radio 2. A light corresponding to Matt’s radio lights up on the social module. When the lit button is pressed, the top screen reveals Matt is listening to Radio 6 Music, which is selected and the radio retunes to that station.

Tuning

Tuning drawing

This detail shows how the list management will work. The radio has a dual rotary dial for tuning between the different DAB stations. The outer dial cycles through the full list of all the stations the radio has successfully scanned for. The inner dial filters the list down and cycles through the top five most listened to stations. We’ll write more on why we’ve made these choices when the radio is finished.

RFID icons

Earlier this year we hosted a workshop for Timo Arnall‘s Touch project. This was a continuation of the brief I set my students late last year, to design an icon or series of icons to communicate the use of RFID technology publicly. The students who took on the work wholeheartedly delivered some early results which I summarised here.

This next stage of the project involved developing the original responses to the brief into a small number of icons to be tested, by Nokia, with a pool of 25 participants to discover their responses. Eventually these icons could end up in use on RFID-enabled surfaces, such as mobile phones, gates, and tills.

Timo and I spent an intense day working with Alex Jarvis and Mark Williams. The intention for the day was to leave us with a series of images which could be used to test responses. The images needed consistency and fairly conservative limits were placed on what should be produced. Timo’s post on the workshop includes a good list of references and detailed outline of the requirements for the day.

I’m going to discuss two of the paths I was most involved with. The first is around how the imagery and icons can represent fields we imagine are present in RFID technology.

Four sketches exploring the presence of an RFID field

The following four sketches are initial ideas designed to explore how representation of fields can help imply the potential use of RFID. The images will evolve into the worked-up icons to be tested by Nokia, so the explorations are based around mobile phones.

I’m not talking about what is actually happening with the electromagnetic field induction and so forth. These explorations are about building on the idea of what might be happening and seeing what imagery can emerge to support communication.

The first sketch uses the pattern of the field to represent that information is being transferred.

Fields sketch 01

The two sketches below imply the completion of the communication by repeating the shape or symbol in the mind or face of the target. The sketch on the left uses the edge of the field (made of triangles) to indicate that data is being carried.

Fields sketch 02

I like this final of the four sketches, below, which attempts to deal with two objects exchanging an idea. It is really over complex and looks a bit illuminati, but I’d love to explore this all more and see where it leads.

Fields sketch 03

Simplifying and working-up the sketches into icons

For the purposes of our testing, these sketches were attempting too much too early so we remained focused on more abstract imagery and how that might be integrated into the icons we had developed so far. The sketch below uses the texture of the field to show the communication.

fields-04.jpg

Retaining the mingling fields, these sketches became icons. Both of the results below imply interference and the meeting of fields, but they are also burdened by seeming atomic, or planet sized and a annoyingly (but perhaps appropriately) like credit card logos. Although I really like the imagery that emerges, I’m not sure how much it is doing to help think about what is actually happening.

Fields sketch 05

Fields sketch 06

Representing purchasing via RFID, as icons

While the first path was for icons simply to represent RFID being available, the second path was specifically about the development of icons to show RFID used for making a purchase (‘purchase’ is one of the several RFID verbs from the original brief).

There is something odd about using RFID tags. They leave you feeling uncertain, and distanced from the exchange or instruction. When passing an automated mechanical (pre-RFID) ticket barrier, or using a coin operated machine, the time the machines take to respond feels closely related to the mechanism required to trigger it. Because RFID is so invisible, any timings or response feels arbitrary. When turning a key in a lock, this actually releases the door. When waving an RFID keyfob at reader pad, one is setting off a hidden computational process which will eventually lead to a mechanical unlocking of the door.

Given the secretive nature of RFID, our approach to download icons that emerged was based on the next image, originally commissioned from me by Matt for a talk a couple of years ago. It struck me as very like using an RFID enabled phone. The phone has a secret system for pressing secret buttons that you yourself can’t push.

Hand from Phone

Many of the verbs we are examining, like purchase, download or open, communicate really well through hands. The idea of representing RFID behaviours through images of hands emerging from phones performing actions has a great deal of potential. Part of the strength of the following images comes from the familiarity of the mobile phone as an icon–it side-steps some of the problems faced in attempting to represent an RFID directly.

The following sketches deal with purchase between two phones.

Purchase hands sketch

Below are the two final icons that will go for testing. There is some ambiguity about whether coins are being taken or given, and I’m pleased that we managed to get something this unusual and bizarre into the testing process.

Hands purchase 01

Hands purchase 02

Alex submitted a poster for his degree work, representing all the material for testing from the workshop:

Outcomes

The intention is to continue iterations and build upon this work once the material has been tested (along with other icons). As another direction, I’d like to take these icons and make them situated, perhaps for particular malls or particular interfaces, integrating with the physical environment and language of specific machines.

Drawing Olinda

Drawing hybrids and inbreds

We are around half way through the development of Olinda, the digital radio prototype we’re building for the BBC. Most of my efforts over the weeks since Matt’s post have been focused on how the object should behave and physically manifest. 

This post discusses some early drawing processes. We use drawing to surface and test many ideas easily and early. These drawing processes are also used to reach unexpected forms, and to examine why an object should look like it does.

About three weeks ago I met with Matt Ward from Goldsmiths. Ward has developed a drawing process which he works through to explore and interrogate ideas. Here we used it to develop ideas around products. His position for understanding how a product can manifest begins with a framework that includes how objects respond to anticipated contexts and tasks, in situations within a culture of consumption. He sketched this for me, and I’ve included it below. I like that it includes the designer, in a ‘context of production’. 

Ward diagram

Ward’s approach is this. Begin by taking an existing radio, and draw it at the centre of a page. From here, choose four contexts or situations for development, like ‘in the kitchen’ or ‘listening to the football’. Write these labels in the four corners of the page surrounding the original sketch of the radio. Then evolve the form in the centre towards imagined new forms in response to the four situations.

The point here is to get away from the original form as far as possible, and to make many drawings. Below there are radios that are – more and less literally – in the contexts of decorating, the bathroom, kitchens and shop shelves.

Early Olinda Sketches

Sometimes this leads to very strange things.

Hand blobs

Critically, the purpose for such an exercise is not to draw good products but to begin evolving forms outside of an expected mold. As soon as a form emerges which catches, it is redrawn on a separate page, and bred between other sketches to develop new hybrids.

Olinda radio hybrids

One is being selective in this process, but it is surprising how little control there is over what you expect to emerge, forcing issues with the sketches rarely yields anything satisfying. But this is not a storming, random process. It is very methodical, as a process of deconstruction. It is using drawing as thinking, which is its power.

What emerges is the discovery of what it is about that original radio that persists, in spite of the violent evolution. The drawings are really about ways of housing these commonalities, so you start thinking in terms of materials very quickly. The other thing that happens is you see particular twists. For example a kitchen radio should have legs, in order to sweep crumbs out from underneath it.

Making and drawing

In parallel to these processes, we have been in the workshop making objects from which to derive further drawings. This process started by thinking out a critical aspect of the form, in this case the connection between the two separate Olinda modules.

Early connector experiments

Once things start to get made, materials start to influence drawings and further made experiments. As the pieces of wood were cut, the shapes started to yield new directions and the wooden blocks emerged as a combinatorial way of interrogating traditional and less likely forms.

Early form tests

These are then fed back into the drawing and imagined interfaces are penned onto surfaces.

Early interface drawings

Some of the drawings begin to imply unlikely material qualities. The social module here looks like it’s been knitted from wool. The drawing is from a little over a week ago, and is based on a model used to investigate certain materials and assembly.

Olinda wool module

When Olinda is an object, it will be a product of unusual influences. It is unlikely that in this project such radical deviations from expected form will be appropriate. But these processes have made it possible to interrogate the assumptions embedded in the form of products. Objects like Olinda respond to forces from many territories, but the reasoning around that is a separate discussion.

Interesting 2007

I gave a talk at Interesting 2007 about three weeks ago now. The day was great and though I wasn’t able to stay for all of it, I really enjoyed myself, and the few talks I did catch were very absorbing. So well done to Russell for sorting all that out.

Me Speaking at Reboot

I gave a talk on comics and while there are some images of me talking about them on Flickr, some people have asked for a list of the comics I discussed. Below is the list and brief descriptions. I’ve also transcribed my talk and put the slides online: Comics and Pictures.

Though I read lots of different comics, I only really follow four authors: Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Garth Ennis. Really, you can’t go that wrong reading stuff by these guys, they are awesome, although many people find Ennis a bit heavy. Here is the list in the order that I discussed them:

  • The Kingdom by Mark Waid and drawn by Ariel Olivetti and Mike Zeck. Wikipedia has a good description of Hypertime, so no need to hunt down this comic if you are just curious.
  • Sea of Red by Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer and Salgood Sam. This is the one about vampire pirates.
  • New Universal by Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca. This is the comic I discussed where all the characters are derived from film stars.
  • Planetary by Warren Ellis. This is really good, everyone should read it. There are four main books, all are good. I specifically discussed Planetary Crossing Worlds which includes the Batman story.
  • The Filth by Grant Morrison. This is the best comic that there is, everybody should read this. It is the one with the guy who speaks with thought bubbles.
  • Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III. I’ve mentioned this before. It is a great read, and drawn with deft elegance, really nice work.
  • I spoke about Madman. Very weird but good.
  • I also mentioned a cover from The Flash who can run really fast, and that’s about it.

I’m enjoying a couple of American authors at the moment: Ed Brubaker‘s Criminal, and Joss Whedon‘s Astonishing X-men is good too.

That is the list of comics I mentioned. They stock them at my favourite comic shops: Orbital and Gosh, both nicely located in central London.

Rebooting

Having slipped from Pulse Laser to Lazy Pulsar, occasionally twitching in the cosmos but not really shining very hard, I am going to write a post.

I had a really good time at Reboot 9.0 this year, never been before, but it was top drawer. My favourite discoveries were the brilliant David Smith and Tina Aspiala. Also good to catch up with old friends at the shiny and new Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. So in the spirit of the people, I sat in the talks, looking through the faces oscillating between laptop and speaker, and drew them. Some drawings went into Webb’s talk, my favourites are below, and the rest are in a Flickr set.

Reboot Sketch 01

I liked this guy’s glasses a lot.

Reboot Sketch 06

Reboot Sketch 04

Smart suit.

Reboot Sketch 10

This guy kept fidgeting and glancing between laptop and presenter.

RFID Interim update

Last term during an interim crit, I saw the work my students had produced on the RFID icons brief I set some weeks ago. It was a good afternoon and we were lucky enough to have Timo Arnall from the Touch project and Younghee Jung from Nokia Japan join us and contribute to the discussion. All the students attending showed good work of a high standard, overall it was very rewarding.

I’ll write a more detailed discussion on the results of the work when the brief ends, but I suspect there may be more than I can fit into a single post, so I wanted to point at some of the work that has emerged so far.

All the work here is from Alex Jarvis and Mark Williams.

Alex began by looking at the physical act of swiping your phone or card over a reader. The symbol he developed was based on his observations of people slapping their Oyster wallets down as they pass through the gates on to the underground. Not a delicate, patient hover over the yellow disc, but a casual thud, expectant wait for the barrier to open, then a lurching acceleration through to the other side before the gates violently spasm shut.

RFID physical act 01

More developed sketches here…

RFID physical act 02

I suspect that this inverted tick will abstract really well, I like the thin line on the more developed version snapping the path of the card into 3D. It succeeds since it doesn’t worry too much about working as an instruction and concentrates more on a powerful cross-system icon to be consistently recognisable.

Verbs

The original brief required students to develop icons for the verbs: purchase, identify, enter (but one way), download, phone and destroy.

Purchase and destroy are the two of these verbs with the most far-reaching and less immediate consequences. The aspiration for this work is to make the interaction feel like a purchase, not a touch that triggers a purchase. This gives the interaction room to grow into the more complex ones that will be needed in the future.

This first sketch, on purchase, from Alex shows your stack of coins depleting, something nice about the dark black arrow which repeats as a feature throughout Alex’s developments.

RFID Purchase 01

Mark has also been tackling purchase, his sketches tap into the currency symbols, again with a view to represent depletion. Such a blunt representation is attractive, it shouts “this will erode your currency!”

RFID Purchase 03

Mark explores some more on purchase here:

RFID Purchase 02

Purchase is really important. I can’t think of a system other than Oyster that takes your money so ambiguously. Most purchasing systems require you to enter pin numbers, sign things, swipe cards etc, all really clear unambiguous acts. All you have to do is wave at an Oyster reader and it costs you £2… maybe: The same act will open the barrier for free if you have a travel card on there. Granted, passengers have already made a purchase to put the money on the card, but if Transport for London do want to extend their system for use as a digital wallet they will need to tackle this ambiguity.

Both Mark and Alex produced material looking at the symbols to represent destroy, for instances where swiping the reader would obliterate data on it, or render it useless. This might also serve as a warning for areas where RFID tags were prone to damage.

RFID Destroy 01

I like the pencil drawing to the top right that he didn’t take forward. I’ve adjusted the contrast over it to draw out some more detail. Important that he distinguished between representing the destruction of the object and the data or contents.

Williams Destroy sketches

Mark’s sketches for destroy include the excellent mushroom cloud, but he also looks at an abstraction of data disassembly, almost looks like the individual bits of data are floating off into oblivion. Not completely successful since it also reminds me of broadcasting Wonka bars in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and teleporting in Star Trek, but nice none the less.

Drawing

This is difficult to show online, but Alex works with a real pen, at scale. He is seeing the material he’s developing at the same size it will be read at. Each mark he makes he is seeing and responding to as he makes it.

Jarvis Pen

He has produced some material with Illustrator, but it lacked any of the impact his drawings brought to the icons. Drawing with a pen really helps avoid the Adobe poisoning that comes from Illustrator defaults and the complexities of working out of scale with the zoom tool (you can almost smell the 1pt line widths and the 4.2333 mm radius on the corners of the rounded rectangle tool). It forces him to choose every line and width and understand the success and failures that come with those choices. Illustrator does so much for you it barely leaves you with any unique agency at all.

It is interesting to compare the students’ two approaches. Alex works bluntly with bold weighty lines and stubby arrows portraying actual things moving or downloading. Mark tends towards more sophisticated representations and abstractions, and mini comic strips in a single icon. Lightness of touch and branching paths of exploration are his preference.

More to come from both students and I’ll also post some of my own efforts in this area.

Burtin vs. Ellis/Williams

I presented this comparison at Design Engaged last year. I like it because it talks in a really visceral way about how we read visual material. It deals with looking as an act as opposed to something that just happens to your eye. Comics are often disregarded amongst Graphic Design communities. This irritates me since comics deal with such rich and sophisticated material.

Below are two pieces of work, the first is a spread from Desolation Jones by Warren Ellis and J.H. Willliams III. Without revealing too much of my Ellis/Williams fanboydom, the series is excellent but this page is especially deft. Ellis discusses it in his weblog here.

Look at the way the red line connects the sequence.

The line morphs between road markings, Indiana Jones style aerial map views and back to the light trails from the vehicle. Williams guides your eye through the page, setting the page’s pace and rhythm. Optically it is very clever, it deals with how your eye scans at speed and also stitches the cue into the content of the panels.

Desolation Jones

The second image is by Will Burtin (thanks to James King). It is optically similar to the comic.

Although research material on Burtin is fairly thin, I understand that this image was produced during his time designing for the U.S. Army. This image is taken from a manual, illustrating how to disassemble your rifle.

Burtin has drawn two sets of dotted lines over his work. The lines indicate his expectation of how a readers eye will move over the page. The dotted line represents a quick scan of the page, dealing mostly with just the images and the dashed line represents a detailed read.

Will Burtin

Burtin knows how the page is being read, he acknowledges that the reader will read it at different paces, and presumably this has affected his slightly strange layout. Interesting that he expects people to read along gun barrels.

Burtin and Williams both use letters and images, in a sequence, on the page, and expect them to be read in two different ways: First in overview and then in detail. They deal with arrangement, pace and rhythm with the same sensitivity and same language.

Comics are in everything.

Robot arms

So I’ve been thinking about hands and arms. I started by thinking of extremely small hands, on my hands. So here are some drawings from that thinking.

Physical VR

This drawing is of a toy that shrinks your hands down so you can play in a small world, with small figures. Your fingers are all connected up to a group of flex sensors, which converts the analogue movement to a cluster of servos. The servos collectively control fingers on the small hands by tightening or loosening. So the movements of your fingers become roughly and awkwardly analogous to those of the small hands in the toy. There is also a screen inside some goggles hooked up to a small camera in a glass ball between the two small arms. So when you look in to the goggles, you see what is in front of your arms. There are two wheels which you can twist to point the camera in different directions, like an eye. Kind of like an analogue version of virtual reality, only right in front of you and not virtual.

Hand Finger

I would also like to have a very small hand at the end of my finger. To pick up pens and things. You control the small hand on one finger using your other fingers, with flex sensors (same as above). You lose one of your big hands to gain a little hand on the end of one of your fingers.

I came across Chad Thornton‘s work. He is at Google now, but he made a mechanical finger as part of his work at Carnegie Mellon Interaction Design programme (nice video here).

Maybe I’m carrying some latent affection for the Radio Shack Armatron here, I don’t know. These themes are common in films. This must be informed by Ripley’s Power Loader from Aliens:

The belt buckle, and rubberised keyboard make her rig seem really convincing, her trainers too, and how she locks into the unit. The cyborg fingers for typing in Ghost in the Shell are nice too.

No doubt there are more. It makes me think of Robocop‘s gun hip too although slightly off topic.

I like them, robot arms. I see them as a celebration of industrial process. I predict they will become a more widespread part of our lives. They are cheaper now (it appears that non-load bearing ones don’t require three phase power either) and since they are multi modal they can perform many tasks, in strange contexts. No doubt FDM or other fittings are/will be available, implications of that could be very large. Imagine a robot arm in your drive thr(o)u(gh), changing a tyre, and then printing out your happy meal. Our lives could become peppered with arrays of multi-buildy-arms.

Robotlab (via Roger Ibars) are a German partnership who have used industrial robot arms to perform a DJ set. Witnessing the arms is as important as their role. I find them disconcertingly accurate, mechanised confidence in something typically so analogue and expert and careful. There is also something about their inflexibility, their inability to reach inside certain arcs, too close to themselves. I like the way they occasionally find a sync with each other, and at other times drift out. I think these guys have a business model set up around this, so I’m very interested to see how that develops.

I want one.

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