Reading Response for Instruction Sets for Strangers (Public Space Project)

Experience Prototyping IDEO by Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri
I was really excited to read this study by IDEO because I’ve been interested in many of their innovative projects. Buchenau and Suri discuss three key points about prototyping, including understanding, exploring and communicating. They introduce the term “experience prototyping”, explaining that a prototype represents an idea before a final product. They examine ways to push beyond traditional methods, drive dynamic relationships, and allow users to experience it. Ultimately the reading illustrates how prototyping is an iterative process to make users remember, see, and understand. It is often best to explore by doing because through that process subtle differences are uncovered. As a result of these discoveries, a good design can turn into a great design. Elements to consider include context, social, and physical factors. The reading also discusses role playing and how through using it designers were given “permission to observe” (page 427). This is a key point because when we are allowed to evaluate a combination of ides we can then choose which direction to explore further. There are opportunities to test with a “tactile immersive experience, shared experience or full-body physical experience” (page 428).

The study address how it’s important to recognize that people can get really wrapped up in the experience and therefore fail to see the prototype’s limitations. I learned that low fidelity prototypes are great for conceptualizing and exploring what can be produced with a bit of imagination and creativity. I also was informed about how knowing your audience and setting expectations can help solve design problems. The process overall drives inspiration, affirmation, and presents challenges that need to be manipulated through skills and material usage. Knowing what to omit is figured out during the process through exploring many iterations.

Cardboard Computers by Pelle Ehn and Morton Kyng
Mocking-It-Up or Hands-On the Future
The article published in the New Media Reader addresses how the design process includes user testing through evaluation. It also explains how designers can ask for reactions and survey their users. I learned that “Participatory Design is an approach to the assessment, design, and development of technological and organizational systems”. As designers we are responsible for examining how a product can be enhanced, the functionality, and to examine various uses. The reading covers how a short movie or a slideshow can be used in the prototyping process. I was reminded that mock-ups and storyboard prototypes help present the range of possibilities and solidify solutions. Mock-ups are helpful for evaluating designs, coming up with new changes and modifying what is not working. What I thought was equally important was how designers can collaborate on decision-making in order to develop a final product.

William Whyte the Social Life of Small Urban Places, Chapters 1, 2, and 5
Whyte’s highlights some key elements about location. He draws attention to the idea of how designers can give thought to pedestrian flows, placement of steps, gardening, wind, sun, and trash cans. This reading was really helpful when I was working on the public space project (Teddy DT) for my major studio class because the flow of people was key to making my project successful. In his writing he explains how plazas with more sitting space naturally have more visitors. I learned that “Since 1961, New York City has been giving incentive bonuses to builders who provided plazas.” Whyte addresses how some sitting areas can be made unsittable with rocks or iron spikes. He also points out how some benches aren’t deep enough for two people to sit back to back; so designers should consider the width of the benches more carefully so that awkward interactions aren’t forced upon users. He states that a park should “stimulate impulse use”; I think this is a valid point and that if the park’s plans are executed well then the designer’s layout of the environment will naturally show-off as favorable by the public. Consideration of the various elements go a long way to create an inviting space. Uncluttered spaces and areas with steps tend to invite people to sit, sunbath, and picnic.  Outdoor cafes, fountains, public art, sidewalk vendors, and entertainment (music, theater, acrobats, mimes) help create repeat visitors.

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