Principles of Design #62 – Chunking

Apr 21 2015

Chunking is the process of combining different units of information into a more limited number of ‘chunks’, in order to make it easier to understand and remember. Our short-term memory is limited, perhaps to 4 pieces of information (rather than the “7″ from the famous paper by George Miller). Although there is some truth in the idea that 7 digit telephone numbers are at the limit of our memory, in reality we typically “chunk” such numbers up into shorter strings of 2, 3 or 4 digits to make them easier to remember. The maximum number of such chunks that can be remembered or processed at any one time is around four (plus or minus one). Most of us can remember a list of five words for up to 30 seconds, but very few of us can remember a list of 10 (without using special memory tricks). Read more »

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Design Methods #29 – Literature Reviews

Apr 07 2015

Although literature reviews are more commonly associated with academic papers, they should also be an integral part of any research or design process. The collection and synthesis of existing knowledge is always the best place to start a project, and can sometimes answer the question or problem without the need for further primary research. Literature reviews help distil information from published sources including previous projects. The objective is not to summarise everything that is known, but rather to synthesise information and inform the present project with the wisdom of the past.

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Making Sense of Smell

Mar 16 2015

In Jakobson’s Organ, Lyall Watson lays out the primal power of smell, showing that it not only helps us detect the difference between good food and bad food, but can also diagnose disease, detect danger, identify relatives and follow menstrual cycles. He quotes Rousseau who wrote that, “Smell is the sense of memory and desire”.

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Principles of Design #61 – Common Fate

Mar 13 2015

Common Fate is the Gestalt principle that elements that move in the same direction are seen to be more related than other elements that move in a different direction or are stationary. The brain “chunks” such elements together because of their common movement and direction. Although each bird in in a flock is no more than a dot, they are seen to be part of a unified whole as they move in the same direction with the same speed.

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Design Methods #28 – Creative Toolkits

Mar 01 2015

Creative toolkits are collections of objects organised to help users model, visualise or be creative through play, They are a way to package creative development and generative design into a collection of visual elements, objects or building bricks to help participants find concrete ways to express their ideas. Typically such creative play is very difficult to achieve through traditional research methods, and creative toolkits help teams create or co-create ideas and designs with customers. Read more »

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Context, context, context

Feb 23 2015

“For me context is the key – from that comes understanding of everything” – Kenneth Noland

I was lucky enough to find time for some reading over the past week, with the Chinese New Year holiday. I picked a diverse range of books to read, or what I thought were diverse, but looking back there was a common thread across all of them (and others that I have recently read). They all show in their different ways the importance of context in shaping behaviour, a theme that has repeatedly come back to me ever since my time as a student. Read more »

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Design Methods #27 – Think-aloud protocol

Feb 01 2015

Think-aloud protocol is an approach that asks users to verbalise what they are thinking and doing as they work through a task, in order to find aspects of the user experience that delight and more importantly those aspects that confuse and frustrate or don’t work in the way that they should. This is a very common method to evaluate usability of a product, service and, most often, software or website. The method is very straightforward in allowing users to share what they are thinking, feeling and doing as they complete any task, and to what extent the object or process being evaluated is helping them to achieve their immediate goals. Read more »

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The Mind of Metaphor

Dec 19 2014

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances” – William Shakespeare

In I Is An Other, James Geary explores the power of metaphor and its pervasiveness in everyday life, arguing that it is not just a literary device but fundamental to human thought across domains as diverse as economics, advertising, politics, psychology and many more. Metaphor is “essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent”.

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Design Methods #26 – Role-playing

Dec 18 2014

Role-playing is used in design, workshops and research to place people in the roles of users, exploring the behaviours and habits that happen in different scenarios or reflect different aspects of customer experience. This is done by acting roles in realistic scenarios to build empathy and identify challenges and opportunities in a product or experience. This can be a low cost and easy to execute way to uncover many of the habitual behaviours and responses associated with a particular aspect of life. Read more »

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Mind the Gap: Why Great Brands grow their Way to Success

Dec 09 2014

On October 6th 2010, Gap introduced a new logo designed to make the brand more contemporary, reducing the prominence of the iconic blue box associated with the brand. On October 12th 2010 after less than one week the original logo design returned.

A larger sales (and PR) disaster befell Pepsi in 2009 when they rebranded Tropicana Pure Premium. In the words of a company statement, the new pack was “designed to reinforce the brand and product attributes, rejuvenate the category and help consumers rediscover the health benefits they get from drinking America’s iconic orange-juice brand”. Between 1 January and 22 February, when Pepsi brought back the original design, sales dropped around 20% costing the company tens of millions of dollars. Read more »

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