september 21st
New York City 2016

physical computing
#4 No user is dumb

It’s been two weeks since we started Pcomp and everyday everything becomes more clear, but at the same time, more questions are raised. This might be a bad sign, but personally I find it encouraging. I know more, and more I want to learn, that is my blessing and curse. I need to know how everything works and then I’ve got too much on my plate. All this does not matter, the truth is that I’m enjoying every second of it.

Let’s cut to the chase, regarding the simple circuit we had to do for this weeks assignment, I did the following. To understand the way I work in this kind of stuff my thought process is no even close to an artistic point of view, if you give me a blank canvas I’ll loose my mind, you can’t tell me just to draw, I need something to begin with, a subject, an image a concept, the more the better. So when you tell me to do a simple circuit that involves a switch, and nothing more, I get blocked. So what I did was to start practicing the different kinds of circuit we learnt about.

The first one was simple, just a circuit that lit a LED. 5V coming from the Arduino that go through a 220 ohm resistor that lights the LED.

image alt text 1. simple closed circuit.

The second circuit was a parallel one, it had the same components as the previous one but x2 and in parallel, no switches yet.

image alt text 2. simple parallel circuit.

The third iteration of this circuits is the first that has a switch or button, specifically a push-button. The shape of it is the same as the first one, but with the added component.

image alt text 3. simple circuit with push-button.

The next circuit consist of a 2 LED parallel circuit that, in one of its 2 sides has a pressure sensor that acts as a switch or button, again the way this circuit is structured is like the second version of these series of examples.

image alt text 4. parallel circuit with pressure sensor as switch or button.

This second to last example is a simple close circuit where instead of having it close the cycle normally, it gets divided so the cables become a makeshift switch.

image alt text 5. makeshift switch circuit.

This is the last and definitive circuit for the class assignment, a sort of game where the ‘user’ has to figure out how to turn on all the LEDs. this consist on a combination of all the previous examples that helped me understands how the wiring works and the uses of different components.

image alt text 6. final result.

image alt text 7. clear version of the image above

As I said in the beginning of this post, I block when I’m left with a white canvas. So from it I tried to make the most of it by helping me learn something I was not much confident about.

The best way to understand how physical interaction works in design is quite simple, if it’s well done you don’t even have to think about it. It’s it is wrongfully done when you have to think about it, there’s an interaction design consultant named Steve Krugs that says the following.

image alt text ” There is no dumb user, just bad design “

When you as a user try to use a product and fail at doing so, it is not due to your lack of ability as so, is the fact that the designer of said product did not do his or her work properly. Function before form, the use of a product has to dictate to form factor of it, you can make the awesomes and coolest looking mug, but if I burn my hand when trying to take a sip from it, it will become worthless. An example is the lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck, It looks really nice on your minimalistic courter, with all your other fancy utensils. and when you have friends over 10 min of their visit will be around that piece of c$%p. But you won’t tell anyone that on your drawer you have an electric Braun squeezer that you use every morning while your other ‘squeezer’ keeps just looking good.

image alt text Philippe Starck’s “squeezer”

The problem with Starck’s squeezer is that it just doesn’t work, you can use it, but you will fail at it. It’s difficult to hold, not all the juice goes to the glass and it makes you lose your patience. Products like this keep being done all the time and it makes me wonder who does them and why they do it.

This post is slowly becoming a rant but I don’t mind, I’m an advocate for functional design and when someone makes you pay for a device that does not work I can’t stand it. To design, in my humble opinion, is to find a solution to a problem or to create something with a specific purpose, specially when talking about product design, if your creation does not do what you want it to do you failed.

image alt text horribly failing at squeezing -

When I refer to myself as an advocate for functional design I’m not stating that we should just make sure that a product works correctly, our creations should look good, actually, as is said by Norman D. A. it is an intrinsic part for the design and the way it we use it, the aesthetics of a design piece help the user to drive their actions toward the proper use of it. when you need to use your laptop and open it you see the bevel on it and automatically know that you can use your finger to open it, the design of, a Macbook in this case, shows that bevel in the center, and is the only prominent element on the device when closed, that pushes your sight towards that and then you use it.

The visual part of design is also the function, you need to create an interface that most people can read (you can’t design for everyone), and it has to work seamlessly meaning that whoever uses it does not have to thing on what they are supposed to do when trying to do it. That’s the reason why displays work so well, you have complex systems that need to do a large range of actions, and the screens we all have on us every day can change all the time showing an impressive number of different interfaces that vary depending on the specific action.

This is a highly complex goal that every designer has to accomplish, and it is not easy at all, and it shouldn’t be. design is no kids play. I’m no expert on the matter and I’m not close to being a real designer yet, but I can show the way I work is this kind of situations and try to give some more insight of my point of view and why I work like so.

I like to think that the best way of creating a product is by a certain workflow, which is divided in different parts. The first one would be the reason of the product, what do you want to use it for, what it is it’s purpose in life, answer those questions and start building it, when you build something you have someone in mind, that someone is going to use that product, bring them to the team, you need to know what exactly are their thought on the product and test the prototypes constantly, a designer cannot be isolated of the ones that are supposed to be the user. Once you finally find a close-to-perfect functional prototype, start adding the “visual” parts, make the actions easier and smooth the edges. from experience, I’ve learnt that, at least for me, this process, which has been simplified, is the best way of confronting a project and coming out with the best result possible.


Please, tell me how good or bad this post was. And comment on anything that comes up in that beautiful brain of yours.