Category Archives: Education

Stefanie Posavec @ Eyeo


I’m in Minneapolis at the annual Eyeo Festival. Like Resonate, it is focussed on data visualization in all of its forms, on the intersection between “art, interaction and information”.

See also: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3


Analog Algorithms with Stefanie Posavec

Today is workshop day, and I’ve been lucky enough to sit in a half day session with Stefanie Posavec, who ran a class called “Analog Algorithms”, focussed on developing ideas for data visualizations on paper. Stefanie has history with Microsoft Research Cambridge, having worked a number of years ago on a visualization of changes made by Charles Darwin to the Origin of Species. This is work she did with Greg McInerny, which ended up on display at MOMA in New York, as part of the excellent Talk To Me exhibition.

Today’s workshop took place on the 9th floor of the Walker Art Centre. We sat four to a table, with large sheets of paper in front of us, and many pens and pencils also arrayed. Definitely set up for something hands on.


Stefanie started by going over her background and portfolio. She articulated the purpose of data visualizations as giving “meaning and connection”, “subtle insight” and “truth and honesty”, and argued that by drawing on paper you exploited a “tacit knowledge” and a physicality in representation that you don’t get by jumping straight to data and code.

Continue reading Stefanie Posavec @ Eyeo

jenny bv lee: immateriality – the future human

Great to see some publicity on DesignBoom for Jenny Lee’s project “Immateriality – The Future Human”. This was a standout from this year’s Textile Futures degree show at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. This is the course we worked on a couple of year’s ago for Microsoft’s Design Expo.

Jenny imagines digital skin as a virtual overlay, providing a strange, biological anonymity, a morphing mask. In addition to some great research work she had a live demo at the show that used augmented reality to overlay visitors faces with strange, biological growths (see bottom picture).
jenny bv lee: immateriality – the future human

"I designed a collection of virtual digital skins that was inspired by morphogenesis and mineral crystalisation processes. a series of radical non-human like aesthetics were fashioned, to engage the public to consider if we have the tools to-redesign ourselves, would we still look, feel and be human? I also worked in collaboration with a company called holition who deal with a range of 3d technologies in particular augmented reality. augmented reality technology blurs the boundaries between the real and the virtual worlds; it superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements over a live view of the world. holition and I designed and developed new ways to utilise and implement the AR to enable a more tactile and tangible response to technology, bridging the gap between the immaterial and material worlds. we translated the digital skins into the technology, and developed face-tracking ar to create a virtual experience that would enable the public to interact and visualise the future technological impact on society and the self."




Design Expo 2010 Videos

Videos have just been posted for the six student presentations from this year’s Microsoft Design Expo. This is an international competition we’ve run for a decade, inviting various design colleges to do projects to a brief that we set. They pick their best student team and send them to Redmond to present their work at the Faculty Summit.

This is the third year that I’ve been a coordinator for a school in the UK. The first two were with Dundee University, and because we try and mix up the schools regularly, this year I picked Central Saint Martins to participate. Slightly radically, we’ve been working with the Textile Futures course. This is an amazing department, combining technology with the craft of surfaces. Their work was really challenging and conceptual, and quite unlike anything that Microsoft employees tend to get exposed to. Well done to Natsai Chieza and Amy Congdon (from the team Social Pica) for inspiring the audience, and presenting so well. And well done to all the students on the course for some beautifully compelling work.

Here are the shots from our two crits (in March and May). They’re very random and anonymous, as was my photography, but compelling.
















Dundee visit

The Product Design and Interactive Media Design students at Dundee University are participating in Microsoft’s Design Expo (part of the 2009 Faculty Summit) for a second year in a row. These are 2nd year undergraduate students (see my notes and the student presentation from last year), working to combine the brief we’ve set around “Work” with their goals of getting some ethnographic experience studying their grandparents, learning electronics, designing network objects and so on.

All 8 teams did an amazing job in their presentations, putting together their videos, as well as actually generating and developing their ideas into working prototypes and renderings.

Well done to all of them, as well as specifically to the Social Sewing group who’ll be going on to present their project in Redmond in July.

Thanks to Tim Regan for taking the following shots while we were there:

University visits

One great side effect of moving from the product teams into Microsoft Research is that I can focus much more on design education. This was something I think I COULD have done before, to a certain extent, but Research puts more emphasis on communicating with academia, or outside of Microsoft generally. It’s actively encouraged, which is good.

Last year I started focusing on this more deliberately, by working with Dundee University on their participation in Microsoft’s Design Expo event. I’d seen the work of Dundee students at New Designers, hired one as an intern, and finally contacted a faculty member to invite them to participate in the competition. I loved the whole process of visiting the university, spending time with their awesome students and faculty, and then helping them out in Redmond for the final student presentations.

This year I’m happy to continue my relationship with Dundee. Jon Rogers, who now runs the Innovative Product Design course, organized an “Ideas Day” last Tuesday during which a bunch of us from “industry” spent some time helping the students of the 3rd and 4th year make decisions about the directions for their projects. I was lucky to make the flight out of City Airport and make it to the college.

We started with a great Q&A session sprung on us a few days earier by Jon. He’d picked a selection of questions submitted by the students for a panel of us to answer in a sort of Question Time format. Some tough ones, too, like “commercially, how far can art be applied to product design”, “where do you see the future of interfaces heading” and “where do you draw your design values from”. I think the panel (Bill Gaver, Nic Villar, myself, Anab Jain, Charlie Rohan from NCR and Tim Regan acquitted ourselves well – here’s a write up of the event by Giorgio Giove, one of Dundee’s master’s students – more shots Tim – shot below from Anab)


Jon had had the 4th year put together a book of their “top 100” ideas for final projects, from which they had drawn 20. These were stuck up on boards for us to talk through with the students, as well as “vote” on our favourites. I really enjoyed the conversations and the variety. Some students had already narrowed down their focus considerably, and had 20 ideas across the same theme. Some were still thinking at quite a high level, with a set of ideas that were much more distinct. I hope their time with us was useful.


On Wednesday Tim, Nic and I travelled down to Edinburgh and visited the Furniture and Product Design course in Edinburgh’s College of Art. Their course is accredited by the University of Edinburgh and going through some transition as it moves from it’s craft base to incorporating more interaction and product design. Andy Law, formerly at Dundee, has just started their as one of the faulty members, and we spent some time with him, as well as looking at the work of 2nd and 4th years, before getting a tour of their awesome facilities. The glass blowing, print making and jewellery studios are really great. In the same vein as the RCA (focusing on low numbers) but a little less cramped.