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Google I/O ’08 keynote by Marissa Mayer September 24, 2008

Posted by Melissa Quintanilha in talks.
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This is the keynote speech by Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search and User Experience.

She talks about the simplicity of their designs (specifically the search engine). And also mentions that the user doesn’t need to know how much the back-end is complicated, they just want to get their work done.

Design as a science rather than art: Today we can test interfaces with users and mathematically know which one is the most effective for your target audience. It’s not about personal taste (art), rather it is about usability and usefulness. And these are all measurable. There is the ability to iterate and measure things. And optimize user experience in a way that is incredibly scientific.

Here are some very nice quotes relating to <i>Understand users better than they understand themselves</i> (The quotes speak for themselves, I don’t think I need to add anything here)
“If you don’t listen to your customers, some else will.” – Sam Walton
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

What I appreciate the most is Google’s <i>healthy disrespect for the impossible</i>. They tackle very complex problems and don’t feel intimidated by them. If they can solve it by 90%, it will do a great help to humanity.

She also talks about how <i>imagination is a muscle</i>. At Google they sometimes solve problems “just for exercising imagination”. I agree with Einstein that imagination is more important than knowledge, and I agree with Marissa that we need to exercise it.

And finally it was very surprising to see that that famous 20% of time that Googlers can spend on their own products has actually generated 50% of their current products and features. This is what happens when you let people work with what they’re passionate about.

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Elegance and simplicity September 21, 2008

Posted by Melissa Quintanilha in text.
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Here’s a passage from the book Desiging Visual Interfaces that I’m currently reading. This book is from 1995 and still today most designers seem not to understand and apply these concepts.

Elegance derives from latin “eligere” meaning to “choose out” or “select carefully”.

Elegant solutions reveal an intimate understanding of the problem and an ability to ensure that its essence is grasped by the consumers as well.

Simplicity plays a central role in all timeless designs. The most powerful designs are always the result of a continuous process of simplification and refinement. Before you do anything else to improve the quality of a design, make sure you have reduced its formal and conceptual elements to the absolute minimum. The benefits of simplicity are functional as well as aesthetic in nature.

  • Approachability: Product support immediate use or invite further exploration.
  • Recognizability: Presenting less visual information to the viewer makes a design more easily assimilated, understood and remembered.
  • Immediacy: Simple designs have greater impact than complex designs because they can be immediately recognized and understood with a minimum of conscious effort.
  • Usability: Improving the approachability and memorability of a product necessarily enhances usability as well. Simple designs that eliminate unnecessary variation or detail make the variation that remains more prominent and informative.

Urban pixels September 14, 2008

Posted by Melissa Quintanilha in ambient displays, interactive installations.
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Urban pixels are wireless, solar-powered lighting units for cities that blur the boundary between digital display technology and traditional urban lighting. By combining a renewable energy source with RF communication it is possible to achieve a self-sustaining, distributed display network that can be attached to any building surface and reconfigured with ease.

The key components of the system are: RF radio, microprocessor, LEDs, solar cells, battery pack. The current design of the pixels integrates communication, lighting and solar charging.

Learn more about the project and watch an installation video here:
http://www.mit.edu/~susannes/pixel/

Polygon Playground September 14, 2008

Posted by Melissa Quintanilha in interactive installations.
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The “Polygon Playground” is a new art & technology project by WhiteVoid.  It consists of a large scale interactive object that can accommodate up to 40 people at the same time. The installation features a software aided 3D surface projection system to cover the object with a seamless 360 degree projection mapping. An additional sensory system detects peoples positions and proximity and changes continuously according to presence, movement and touches of its visitors.

Their hardware and software system can be applied to any 3D body to turn it into an interactive object.
Here’s the project web page: http://www.polygon-playground.com/