Do something worthy

imageWhen I was at CMU, I remember we have spent a lot of time to understand and discuss what Interaction Design is and what it means to us.  Interaction Design is a new discipline, and there are so many different labels for Interaction Designer out there, Information Architect, UI Designer, UX Designer just to name a few; and even though the designer title is the same, the work scope and expectations could be very different at companies.  I remember the last assignment of the Graduate Seminar course was to write a paper to describe what Interaction Design means to us.  I do not remember what I wrote exactly, however I had a lot of questions and some of them still left unanswered.  One of the things I query is that If “Human Centered Design” is about designing to meet human needs, isn’t that we should have included psychology and sociology in our curriculum?

 Affective computing written by Rosalind W. Picard is one of my favorite books and it has much influence on my design philosophy.  The Affective Computing research conducted at the the Media Lab “combines engineering and computer science with psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, sociology, education, psychophysiology, value-centered design, ethics, and more“, which are the qualities I believe Design Leaders should have.  Human Center Design should be about providing solutions to human beings in respect to body, mind and spirit; I believe we designers have the responsibility to help shaping the society and the world we want to live in.  I have been doing some soul searching and seeking for projects I am passionate about, hopefully I will nail down some ideas and figure out what’s next. As O’Reilly says, it is about time to “Stop throwing sheep, do something worthy.”

Human Values in UX

A news journal interview was on air I was riding on a taxi a few months ago visiting Hong Kong.  A male working class audience was sharing his public housing application experience. He has recently assigned to the government assisted housing; he is glad that his rent payment will be lowered, however he is now going to be very far away from his parent’s place. Currently, his parents are taking care of their kids while he and his wife are at work.  If he accepts the housing assignment, his family will be far away from his parents’ home and they also have to pay for childcare(which they cannot afford). It is likely that the young kids would now have to stay with the grandparents and he can only see them on the weekend.  He feels ironic because his kids and his parents are important to him, and yet the government system (with good intentions to solve the housing problem) is not able to support him having a good family life.  As a designer, I can’t help wonder what might have went wrong in their design process.

Over the years, I see many products failed to deliver the essence of the design from early concepts.  One of the hypothesis I have is that some of the intangible deaign values was missing during the  production process. When designers brainstorm for ideas, we take a holistic approach to design the ideal experience for the users.  “What will the experience mean to them?”, “How would they feel?”, and “What are the sentimental values in the experience?” are some of the questions we will consider.   After the design concept is proposed, the project team would come together to discuss and help shaping the final design.  Some how, some where, when the design is translated into the production framework, essence of the design was lost.

When proposed designed is challenged because of the resource constraints, the debates at product team meetings are critical. Many times the success of the negotiation relies on the research data; therefore, many good ideas may get ranked at lower priority because the emotional needs of users are difficult to be measured by traditional research methods.  The experience delivered therefore is compromised, and sometimes it could be quite different from the original design intentions. I find this an interesting topic and hope to have futher studies about the topic in the near future.


When I was in college, one of my favorite text-book is called: ” How to lie with Statistics”.  Since then I learned to read information carefully and I despise anyone who tends to mislead people using illegitimate research information.

One day I received a call with an unknown caller, but I picked it up anyway. I heard a young woman’s voice saying: “Hello, I would like to have 20 seconds of you time.  I would like to ask you a question. Would you agree the government to lower the tax rate?”  I find the nature of the question ridiculous and I told the lady that I refused to answer the question and hung up. 

I was angry because I felt the name of RESEARCH has been abused.  Anyone who has some basic knowledge about research would find the question misleading.  It has dishonored the professional researchers who do legitimate studies.  Let’s think about what the question is really asking.  In the capitalism society, whom would not want to have a lower tax rate?  If you call 100 people, 99.9 people would probably say YES. I hung up the phone before I found out the nature of the call; however, if they are conducting a survey, this opening question is definitely misleading and will affect the accuracy of the study. And, if they were using it as an opening line of a conversation or a marketing promotion, I think the question is too stupid and I have already lost my interest to carry on a conversation.