“Welcome To Your Penultimate Year”

That’s me officially into the second half of my four year degree.

While this transition has been happening, the Product Design course has changed dramatically if it still exists, that is. We’re now more closely associated with the DIxD students (that’s Digital Interaction Design) to the point where there’s a term for what we do collectively – Social Digital Design.

We’ve even been given the same brief and share each other other studios, Mac suites and workshop. Of course that brief will present very different challenges to the two different disciplines. It’s a chance for the product designers to drive a project from information and content; for the interaction designers, it’s an opportunity to explore more physical products. But for both it gives us the opportunity to find our own agenda and self-direct our development as designers like never before. So what exactly is the brief?

21st Century Barometer

The brief we are setting is in parts very constrained and in other parts very open.

You are to design a domestic, dedicated, daily-data driven digital device – by which we mean an internet-enabled information appliance that gives a householder a specific and appropriate piece of information as they leave their home at the beginning of their day.

Its historical precedent is the barometer, a mechanical device that was found on the wall in the hallway of many homes. Tapping it on the way out of the door each morning gave an indication of the weather (stormy, rain, change, fair, very dry) but more importantly the direction of change, and with this a prompt to pick up an umbrella or a sun hat.

Today, information need not come from pressure gauges and other sensors within a product itself, but remotely from the internet.

That’s the ‘what’ – the ‘why’ is down to you. Over three weeks we will introduce you the three broad agendas that might underpin a thoughtful and meaningful response, to help you find the ‘way in’ that is most appropriate for you as a designer.

Returning to the direction of change of the digital itself, with ever more ubiquitous mobile platforms and the trend towards ‘anytime, anywhere’ information, when could it be compelling to fix a much simpler box to the wall, albeit one based on similar technology and infrastructure?

People, Design, Technology

As with any Social Digital project, this brief combines people and technology, mediated by design.

‘People’ here includes the householders using your appliance (although it could also mean the people who make the information available). Be sensitive to how the particular information might fit into the routines and rituals of their everyday lives and their interaction with each other.

‘Design’ will include the design language of your prototype, and the graphic language of your critical deliverables. You should be informed and inspired by other designers work and cultural references as well as by aesthetics. As Erik Spiekermann said, “You cannot not communicate.”

‘Technology’ this time will involve Arduinos in some way – Ali Napier will be leading workshops introducing Arduinos in different guises, accessing different data from different sources and conveying it by different means.

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