My design book of the year

I was going to recommend Haptic as my book of the year. A beautifully designed book that accompanies an exhibition of design work that toured the world recently, it features the work of Naoto Fukasawa, Shigeru Ban, Jasper Morrison and others who were each challenged to explore the design experiences of senses other than sight (although inevitably this too plays a role). The work is beautifully sensitive, although the book seems very hard to get hold of. I accidentally came across a copy at the RIBA bookshop in London. They seem to sell them online through the Lighthouse in Glasgow.

I said I was GOING to recommend this book, but it’s been trumped by another book which is visually very similar, Designing Design by Kenya Hara. Hara is a very well known designer in Japan, and art director at Muji, the famously minimalistic “no label” brand that sells products primarily for the home. He also organized the Haptic exhibition. His book is far more widely available, and contains not only most of the Haptic work but also design pieces from a variety of other exhibitions, including re-design, an exhibition he organized in 2000. In this event he invited 32 designers to rework established, everyday products.

So the book is full of examples of wonderful product design, in addition to giving a sense of the deep philosopyy and thoughtfulness that drives Hara’s work.

If you’re a fan of Fukasawa, Ban, Morrison or any of these other subtle workers of the design arts then this book is a must have.




Understanding movie and video game ratings

If you’re a parent in the UK and you want to understand EXACTLY why a movie/DVD/Video Game has been given the rating it has, so you can make rational decisions about what your kids watch, then the parents site for the British Board of Film Classification is an amazing resource (although it contains a pile of spoilers if you haven’t seen the movies or played the games as well).

It might even be a good resource for US parents, too. Even if the classifications aren’t the same, the site gives a good sense of the adult vs. child themes within each production.


Mundane workshop

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a one and a half day workshop on Social Interactions and Mundane Technologies (SIMTech 2008), held at our lab in Cambridge. There were some great papers presented, and some excellent keynotes by Bill Gaver, Abi Sellen and Jonathan Grudin.

Dave Kirk and I submitted a position paper entitled On the Design of Technology Heirlooms (PDF), which Dave presented on the Friday, discussing some of the early thinking and planning that we’re doing generally around the theme of how technology objects (software and hardware) are bequeathed across the generations. It’s an attempt to think a little more long term about the life span of technology, partially for sustainability reasons (“how do we design objects that people will want to keep, and are therefore discarded less?”), partially for pragmatic reasons (“what will happen when I inherit my parents digital photo collection – where will I keep it, how will I take care of it?”) and partially because this feels like a generally unexplored space, from a design perspective (plenty of anthropological and sociological research, I know).

It’s a huge and sprawling area that we’re only just starting to get our teeth into.

Dave presents the paper.

Abi tackles memory

Bill shows Goldsmith’s work

Jonathan takes a shot at the mundane

More shots of the workshop are available here (all taken by Haliyana Khalid).

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2008

This year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lecture will be given by Microsoft Research’s very own Chris Bishop. This is a massive honour, continuing a tradition started in 1825, and following in the footsteps of Faraday. The lecture’s goal is to make science accessible to the public, and are focused primarily on the young, but are very accessible to anyone of any age. They’re famous for their interactivity, using demonstrations that are very playful.

Chris will be giving his lectures around the theme of “Hi-tech Trek – The Quest for the Ultimate Computer”, dipping into a bunch of areas related to computing. They will be shown in the UK on Channel Five (see dates below) and then be available on DVD.


The Royal Institution of Great Britain | Christmas Lectures 2008

” Join us and Prof Chris Bishop on a hi-tech trek to explore the science behind the digital revolution in search of the ultimate computer.

Get an advanced preview of this year’s lecture by visiting our Christmas Lectures 2008 homepage, and play our game ‘Cats and dogs’. Computers are very good at doing calculations super-fast, but they’re actually really bad at telling the difference between cats and dogs. Help our computer learn which is which to beat the mystery guest in the lecture broadcast on Friday 2 January.

The Christmas Lectures bring alive scientific research for the whole family and are broadcast on Channel Five in prime time. This year, the lectures will be shown as follows:
Monday 29 December at 7.15pm Breaking the speed limit
Tuesday 30 December at 7.15pm Chips with everything
Wednesday 31 December at 7.15pm The ghost in the machine
Thursday 1 January at 7.15pm Untangling the web
Friday 2 January at 7.15pm Digital intelligence