Personal Motivation Statement II

Major Studio 1 is now over. First, I will look back through my thinking process, how my classmates, professors affected this process through critic and their own design process and then draw out what’s important for me now and the critical issues that I want to discuss through the media of design. Here below is a thinking thread that can be a little bit different from the process I showed on my website.

I was affected very much by the prototype making wizard of Oz, The podcast 'The things' resonated with my feelings so much.

So I started my 7in7 projects, two of them I love very much but irrelevant to my final idea: Space has no gravity, therefore there’s no right direction. So I designed a board game using magnets as an alternative force for gravity.

Another project is Tangible notification beans. Although I’ve made It edible, it is obviously impossible to make so many beans if we have thousands of messages each day. So I took a step further after 7in7 is over, which is: tangible notifications using bubbles as a metaphor which is even more intangible/invisible/low-cost than edible beans. However, Disney has already done this a long time ago, exactly the same idea but with even more features like scents and projecting apps’ logo onto the bubbles. So I dropped it.

Later I continued to do my physical representation, a Russian doll that has multiple layers so that I can implement multiple reversed open ways using mechanisms. Like a reversed spinning bottle cap, a button that is un-clickable but the surface around it is clickable. I thought the form(Russian doll) I took is kind of interesting but received not expected response from others(during this process I talked to a lot of designers about my idea).

Then following the assignment guide, I made two other digital representations with the thought of since I can’t just model those physical objects and my idea was totally based on physical artifacts, but there are also ‘digital artifacts’ that can also be used/manipulated unconsciously by human beings. How about selecting some digital events that are very familiar to everyone and change their result?

Bowen’s reference is yet another frustrating but informative inspiration. A website that challenges those familiar rules we follow on the internet. Very interesting but still kind of frustrating to use.

Then after this class I kind of relaxed for a few days and then one day when I looked back on both my physical representation and digital representation assignments, I found that they did not break the line between the physical and digital world. So why not break it and bring a digital output when you input a physical action? Of course, this might lead to something called HCI portals, the mouse is already bringing physical actions to a digital event. But following my main idea of attracting attention to unconscious behaviors, what if I make it very irrelevant that you are expecting a physical result but get a very surprised digital result? In this way, I came up with the first three ideas: a zipper that controls sound volume, a window-blinds that controls screen brightness, a button that has to be double-clicked to open an app. This is how the final idea emerged.

While after talking to Harpreet, I realized that those small ideas are interesting but without a context, this is not a strong concept. The essay 'Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits and Atoms' given by Harpreet affected my final context and articulation very much.

There was one time after the meeting with Harpreet that I felt this has nothing to do with my original ideas and concept, it’s just something coming out of my mind suddenly. However, together with the help of professor Fan and Harpreet, the reason why I reached this step becomes very clear as is said above. And the context shifted a little bit but still very relevant to the original idea of attracting attention to the unconscious usage of artifacts in a fun way. Here I’d like to restate my articulation for the final concept:

This set of design aims to critically look at existing designed artifacts and their arbitrary connections to screens. To re-evaluate their significance as we move towards a post-screen era.

During the whole course, we were pushed to write. It was tough to write so much word at the very beginning, however, as long as I started to write, things just work well and retrospection on myself are spontaneously done. Writing is a very important part during this process that helped me to think logically. And I will keep writing especially when it’s tough to push my idea further.

Now looking back, I realized that it is always hard for me to start from a big topic(philosophical problems, social issues) and narrow it down to some certain context and design ideas. Instead, it’s just natural for me to start from simply small but interesting ideas suddenly coming out from my head that excite myself and then try to find a context for it and how it can be a metaphor for some certain topics.

I always think writing (not the ‘writing’ I mentioned above) and design are very different ways of creation. For an essay, we can start instantly from the main idea and analyze it step by step. However, a design project is always very concrete/specific form, therefore a gap between those abstract topics and the concrete designs emerges. Design has to convey the concept. Deep thoughts require a suitable/appropriate idea to attract and guide the audiences.

In order to attract people, a design project should be interesting by itself. This is not to say that a design must be interesting to look at from the first glimpse, but it must be interesting/refreshing at some point of the interaction between it and the audiences, no matter it is how it looks and feels, how strong yet subtle metaphors it created, or maybe the strong contrast it created from normal knowledge/perceptions.

As Kyle mentioned in the final critic, I will definitely continue to learn more about cognitive science. Throughout history, how human beings design and then manipulate those artifacts(not just physical objects but also digital things) have been more and more separated and therefore creating some very different cognition towards those designed artifacts. Hopefully creating new metaphors based on those old artifacts is one direction to dive into.

Another interesting area I want to get into is how to create humor in designs. As I’ve mentioned in the first personal statement, I want my design to be always funny and interesting, and I’ve tried to implement a little bit of my humor into MS1’s final project. However, the results I got from my audiences are very different, to systematically understanding how to make other people resonate with the fun part is what I don’t know yet. Also, how to be both funny and critical at the same time is something really tricky and worth studying.

One more direction, as I’ve mentioned, I need very concrete ideas as starting points for my design, and I believe mechanism should be one of my inspiration sources. In MS1, I tried to re-create some mechanical structures at the very beginning. However, lacking professional knowledge about mechanisms failed me in creating novel structures. Therefore I wish to learn more about product structures and how things move using those mechanisms.