New Designers

I was fortunate to be able to present my final year degree project at New Designers in London this week.

New Designers
Presenting in my bit of the Aston University stand

Being able to showcase my work to the world and talk about the project to a diverse audience was a liberating and fulfilling experience. For me, the highlight was the sense of intrigue and excitement from visitors when they realised what the project was about since home heating is a daily task (struggle?) that everyone goes through, and visitors felt that the design solution showed promise for changing the heating control paradigm in the future.

I am very grateful for the praise, interest, connections gained, and most importantly, the feedback I received when exhibiting. This project is particularly special to me and I’m more than certain it will continue to live as I commence work back at Worcester Bosch next month.

Life and Planet Earth II

Watching David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II, I couldn’t help but think that observing the animal world shows how life can have such little meaning. We’re all on this planet trying to survive, for most animals, it is the purpose of their day, and if they don’t, they die.

We as humans face the same challenges, if we don’t find food, we can no longer be on this planet, like some twisted version of The Hunger Games where we are all playing. However, we have made the quest for survival easier, more convenient, comfortable. That’s because we developed this way; to be able to think, change the status quo, but is there a destiny greater than enduring nearly a century on this planet? Everything else we are doing, for what purpose? To entertain our overly developed minds to endure earth? What if it wasn’t meant to be this way? That Earth was meant to be an animal kingdom, to fight for food, or die.

That got a bit deep and cynical, I suppose what makes us different as humans, is that we can make more of life than what animals can; it isn’t just a fight for survival, but a series of experiences, emotions, hopes, and dreams. As designers, we more than most, have a unique view of the world and how society responds to what life is. We create what we think people want to experience in the limited timeframe that is life on Earth.

Image credit: BBC

Product Management Industrial Placement at Worcester Bosch

For the past year, I have been on an industrial placement for the sandwich year of my degree working at Worcester Bosch as a Product Management Intern.

I started the role not very sure what product management was, having only read about careers in PRM online, discovering that it could vary significantly between companies. If you want to see what I did at Bosch, my CV is the best place to check that out.

I started the year with three goals:

  1. To see the development and strategy behind products
  2. To understand how individual departments come together to create successful products
  3. To learn about the processes and work culture in a large organisation

A year at Bosch has allowed for me to meet these goals, whilst at the same time giving me a significantly clearer view of where I want to go in the future; UX design.

The processes used by Bosch has opened my mind to the many facets involved with developing a product, and how this is managed. Product Management’s breadth of involvement across the company, how every department is affected and depended on by PRM to ensure the development and delivery of a single product, is impressive. Each PRM is the CEO of a product, and has to ensure each division of their company is on board.

Supporting UX sessions was a task I had from my third week since starting, and since then it has made me realise a lot about my own future career. One of the reasons I wanted to work at Bosch was to see how the idea for a product is realised and how it goes from an idea into a brief, then a concept. Contrasting with university, the brief is usually already set, or an idea is already in mind, so to see the step before this was hugely insightful.

This was perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of my role; to be able to explore ideas that might not hit the market for perhaps another 5 years. I was fascinated by how user experience sessions were conducted, how people’s commentary was turned into insights and understandings, with which, the premise for a new product, vision or feature could be found. From this, I have been able to develop skills in how to identify different consumer needs and form insights from research; a critical element to any future design work.

UX testing in progress
UX testing in progress

I’ve long seen myself somewhere in between Product Management and R&D, which is one of the reasons I took this placement, to find out which works better for me. The high level of thinking, analysis, understanding, and strategic planning required to be a product manager was something that I loved. I also enjoyed being able to seek customer insights and use this to help define the direction of products in the future, but I would also like to be able to turn some of this direction into designs and concepts, since it is the next logical step.

This highlights to me that I absolutely cannot avoid the design itself – I want to be able to sweat the small stuff, see, and create the future. This is why for me, being a UX designer makes more sense at the moment; PRM own the product across the entire company, managing it end to end, but I want to focus on just shipping a damn good product.

Being at Bosch also showed me something very important about large companies; that even though the company is vast and full of process and procedure, you can never undervalue the sense of togetherness that being in a team can bring, especially when your efforts are recognised and rewarded in ways a process could never deliver.

My manager recognised that I had an interest in pursuing UX design, and ensured that I made it to Germany to attend a UX conference Bosch had organised. This also coincided with another opportunity with the Head of Industrial Design for Bosch Thermotechnology, also in Germany.

UX Conference
Me at the UX Conference in Germany

I had a fantastic time being in Product Management for a year at Bosch. By creating my own opportunities and being able to make an impact on the future of the company, I feel proud of the work I have undertaken throughout the year, and am also deeply thankful for the support I received to make it happen. Importantly, it helped provide direction on what I want to do in my future, what industries I want to work in, and what working for a well established company is like.

Looking forward to the next year, I want to build on my experiences at Bosch and continue to work with them for my final year design project where I am re-evaluating how consumers interact with their heating system and design a solution that truly meets the needs, wants, and insights gained from consumers. This is directly considering what the future of heating could be, and something I hope will be insightful to Bosch upon completion.

Technology is making us do life wrong

Somewhere, somehow, all the unpredictability of life has started to escape me.

-Lauren Rabaino, The Verge

An article by The Verge clicked with some thoughts that were at the back of my mind. I enjoy technology, I like reading about it and playing with it, however when it comes to my day-to-day life, I don’t really want to see it. Sure, I’ll use it because it isn’t something that can be easily escaped and it’s damn convenient, but I don’t want to spend all day looking at it.

Not only is this quite plainly unhealthy, you miss what’s happening. If you’re doing something else such as eating whilst looking at a screen, chances are you’re not paying attention to that other thing – missing out on other experiences. For example, everyday on my commute back, I’m staring aimlessly into my laptop screen, reading articles like this one linked to The Verge, whilst not once have I looked outside of my train carriage window to see where I actually am, and what’s around me. That’s bad.

It used to be fairly easy to look away, outside of work you didn’t necessarily feel the need to use a computer, however now seeking the information and data that technology can provide is engrained into our lives and we have the ability to discover everything without even needing to move.

Apparently, we have now reached a stage so dependant on technology that we actually need to use it to help us get lost. People have actually made apps to take you somewhere unplanned. Here’s an idea that you can have for free, leave your tech at home and just go and explore somewhere.

These raw thoughts are edging on crux of The Verge’s article; that sometimes technology takes the fun out of life. Perhaps we should look around and enjoy the world around us instead of staring down into our phone screens. Perhaps, also, we should take a step back from technology and try and find things on our own. If we keep our eyes open and remove the technology that’s obscuring our view , who knows what else we may see? Where’s the fun in seeing the world through a screen when we can actually live and experience it?

If you have no surprises in your life, you’re doing it wrong | The Verge.

Reflecting on a year of being President of 180 Degrees Consulting Birmingham

180 Degrees Consulting is a the world’s largest student led consultancy, operating in 62 branches across 28 countries, with the goal of improving the effectiveness of non-profits and social enterprises.

I was fortunate enough to have been President of the Birmingham branch of 180DC for the past 12 months.

The direct outcome of the work we undertook as an executive team led to substantial benefits for the organisations we worked with. It was so rewarding to see the teams present their recommendations to their clients, and to see the clients so engaged. In the first semester of the 2014 academic year we ran eight unique projects with over 40 consultants for clients, and each one couldn’t praise us enough.

Not only that, being President had its perks such as going to the European conference for 180 Degrees Consulting branch leaders in Berlin. This really helped open my eyes to the potential each branch has, and how we can be successful at driving the social impact of non-profit organisations.

 

Presenting
Presenting

Some of projects we took on included forming a strategy to overcome negative PR for an international charity, form partnerships for several local animal welfare organisations and establish a sustainable method of funding for a charity based in Birmingham that set up a bakery in Ifakara, Africa that provides free bread to the town.

I found it both hard work but also exhilarating to coordinate a whole executive team, and ensure that both consultants and clients are happy, but I’ve learnt so much about how to keep track of teams, how to deal with issues and ultimately that I can successfully drive an organisation to growth. It was a role that required a constant awareness and coordination of the ‘entire picture’, ensuring that all pieces of marketing, events planning, consultants and projects all came together at the right moment, but the satisfaction of pulling off an event that leaves clients so pleased they want to make a speech, students proud to share and discuss their work and that brings an entire team together is hugely fulfilling.

The Messy Business Of Reinventing Happiness | Fast Company

A fascinating piece of investigative journalism that is deeply insightful, exploring how Disney realised they needed to reinvent their Parks business, and just how they made the ‘Next Generation Experience’ happen.

It shows the challenges, obstacles and pitfalls of trying to bring such a drastic change to Disney, but also why change is necessary for companies to survive.

Well worth a read.

The Messy Business Of Reinventing Happiness | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

My thoughts on Apple Watch

Flawed. But still quite nice.

Apple’s grand vision for the Apple Watch, the reason why they think you need one is because they want to save you from the distraction that is your phone. The watch also makes your life easier by putting notifications on your wrist, allowing for you to interact with them or dismiss them, meaning you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket, saving you time.

It’s a great idea, if it worked.

message

Firstly addressing the goal of saving you from the distraction of your phone; real life testing by multiple review sites like The Verge and Wired showed that having notifications on your wrist proved even more distracting. At least with your phone, it stays in your pocket, relatively easy to ignore if you wanted to, but the watch, it’s on your wrist – there’s no ignoring a vibration from the Taptic Engine, or the notification tone, and its even easier to sneak a glance to check the notification out.

Secondly, it should make your life easier. So, that means it has to be quicker then the iPhone at performing some tasks, right? In theory yes, and with Apple’s own apps, that rings true. It does appear to be easy to ping off a quick reply to a text, listen to music, view navigation, but with third party apps it gets trickier. Apple hasn’t yet released the full Apple Watch SDK, meaning that apps running on the watch aren’t native; they are running on your iPhone and being sent over a wireless connection to the watch. This results in plenty of waiting to open apps and even view glances as you wait to retrieve data from the phone – so much so that it would be quicker to perform that task on your phone. Current apps are also limited to the kinds of interactions that they can use; tapping or ForceTouching the screen, or using the physical controls on the device. Swiping and animations within apps are not yet supported – both of which contribute significantly to the user experience.

So to reaching the same conclusion that many other reviews of the Apple Watch have, this is definitely a first generation product. Once Apple release the Watch SDK later this year so that third party apps can run natively; maybe the device will be more convenient and third party apps will have more appeal in use. Hopefully in the second generation product, Apple will find a way to make notifications less intrusive, although currently you can turn notifications off for specific apps, this isn’t really the solution we’re looking for here, the watch needs to know what’s important for you to see.

Forgetting about these issues for a moment, the Apple Watch does look to be a truly exquisite device. It can offer conveniences such as a quick glance at notifications, neat customisation of the watch face to create something beautiful, and is a very good health tracker – if you’re into that kind of thing.

apple2

It’s the level of thought that Apple has put into some of the implementation of the watch that gives me hope for its future with the way the display switches on if you rotate your wrist towards you, the different vibrate pattern depending on the notification – which actually feels like a tap, and the gorgeous graphics and attention to detail that makes it feel like a premium product. This is something no other smartwatch has done as successfully yet. So at worst, the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch on the market, at best, it can be a little demanding for attention and slow. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple brings to the table in 2016.

apple_watch_guide-faces

Visual Perception of Cubes

A short task for one of my degree modules was to consider the visual perception of products and designs. This was realised through a brief to design two cubes, one that portrayed qualities that made it seem light and natural, and another that was dependable and reliable.

How can the visual perception of a cube be altered?

Light and Natural

Texture and colour of the material used can alter the perception of a design.

Leading idea: use of natural patterns and colours to perceive the object as an organic body.

Leaf

The use of leaves would form a cube that is semi-translucent, embodying a design that is light, open, and airy. The veins within the leaf is a reminder of its natural origin.

Weave

A pattern such as weave attributes natural characteristics to a cube, brining the impression that although processed by man, organic material resides in its origin.

The use of lightly coloured material as shown on the left portion of the weave gives a lightweight look, whereas a darker shade of the material suggests density and heaviness. 

Light & Natural Cube

Dependable and Reliable

Industrial, man-made aesthetics are what will be key to altering the perception of this kind of cube. Nature is often viewed as delicate, a dependable and reliable cube needs to be the opposite of that.

Dependable1

The first attempt at this cube was somewhat unsuccessful, since although the addition of hinges made the cube appear more durable and better built, there was no connection to the user as to what this cube tried to convey. The initial reaction was ‘why does this cube have hinges on it?’

why does this cube have hinges on it?

From this, I learnt that design values need to be conveyed in a way that is subtle, and not literal.

Leading idea: materials and colours that connote strength and exude qualities that the cube is -man-made.

Construction

Construction turned to become inspiration for the cube, specifically concrete’s prominence in the structure of buildings required to last for decades, suggesting that it as a material is reliable and durable.

In addition to this, concrete is often used in combination with steel as a supporting structure. A cube that carries the connotation of construction, the core of a building, should be successful in conveying dependable and reliable values.

Dependable & Reliable Cube

This Incredible Urban Park Will Be Inside One Of The World’s Busiest Airports

I love this. Design can help us remember who we are and make us more conscious of the world around us.

This Incredible Urban Park Will Be Inside One Of The Worlds Busiest Airports | Co.Exist 

Bringing nature into design allows us to escape the harshness of reality and the busyness of life.

Maybe I just really like green spaces.

Starting up

Welcome to the blog!

I’m setting this up as a place to share my views and thoughts on a variety of topics. Some (most) may be techy, others professional and some may even get a bit personal, who knows. I’m sure the content will evolve with time and hopefully will be something you enjoy to read.

I don’t even mind if no one sees this, or any subsequent posts, I just want a place to write down my thoughts.