A Small but Important Design Competition

I have the honor of being invited to a number of events which gives me the chance to sample the world of design from a variety of perspectives.  

This time I am off to Turkey with my friend and manager Casper Asmussen to attend a jury meeting for a small but important design competition.  

This decidedly small-scale but well-organized event is gaining popularity not only for its mission but also its perspective. First of all, it is organized by IMMIB, an organization that brings together exporters of Metal and Plastic goods from all over Turkey. It is a non-profit that is aiming to increase original innovation and exports of such goods.  

The second aspect that is quite novel is that every year the organizers spend energy, time and financial resources to produce the prototypes of the winning products and support winning students with scholarships. In a country like Turkey - where the young population outnumbers the aging population by several folds - there is an abundance of talent. But unlike the Western world, not many have access to extensive resources or help for prototyping and funding. 

We are hoping to contribute - in our own way - to the mission of IMMIB in making Turkish young designers compete in the world league. We hope to see some familiar faces and meet new ones in the process, too. 

More to come in the HOWL Blog soon.  

 

Why I Became a Designer and Why I Love it More Than Ever

I love design, I love people and I love technology. And this is an account of why I chose to be a designer.

Ever since I was a child, I had the urge to take things apart so I could see how they worked, how they were made and why they seemed interesting to people. I became deeply obsessed with industrial objects from an early age. I was absolutely stunned when I realized that everything around me was “designed” — one way or the other — by someone.

Designer as a matchmaker between the object and the user

I saw that when some of these objects came alive, they even took a life of their own and start affecting people around them. Sometimes this relationship was a beautiful one and sometimes it was painful to the users. To me, this is almost like a marriage between the object and the user. Design stands in the middle of this marriage as a matchmaker. At its best, it enables people to find the best match to their needs and desires, then leads them to meaningful experiences in the form of objects and interactions.

After design school, my first stop in Turkey was DemirDokum — a locally well-known company belonging to a giant conglomerate. Trying to explain the value of design to an engineering oriented organization was much more challenging than any exams or school projects. I had to start learning how to influence technically minded people with compelling design stories. As the next stop I was the first hire in a brand-new consultancy Can Yalman. I was designing a boat for the first time in my life for a brand new shipyard which was making boats for the first time. There, I tasted the intoxicating passion of learning new things.

From millimeters to inches

This passion fueled me to go all the way up to Umeå Institute of Design — one of the best design schools in the world and about 250 miles south of the arctic circle (yes, it was cold). I got hired by Sony Ericsson right out of school. Just like the Institute, this company was an incubator of good design and innovation. Just a handful of designers, we believed that we could change the world for the better. In 2006, I came to be known as Mr. Walkman. This was one of the most challenging but the most fulfilling tasks I have ever had. With an exceptionally creative team, we made amazing products that captured the imagination of millions of people. This was the first time I had the chance to influence a giant like Sony. When Android was first introduced, we marveled at the novelty and openness of the platform, but we knew that the initial hardware (G1) was too complicated. We created a new paradigm complete with simplified symbols and fewer keys for XPERIA. Jumping from mm scale to inches, I landed at TEAGUE — the world renowned “original design consultancy” where I experimented with user-experience-based design and new creative methodologies for maybe the biggest scale in a product — commercial aircraft. Here I learned the valuable lesson of understanding status-quo before attempting change. Trying to move a giant like Boeing was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

One of the goals in my professional life is to be the creative leader for an innovative organization, but this is just a prelude to my stretch goal, which is the lavishly ambitious dream to redesign the profession of Industrial Design. I believe that design is the only creative tool that can bring technology closer to the humans and help companies be profitable along the way. I learned through my experiences that the power of influence that comes with design should be used with utmost care and always to improve something for the guests of this planet or the planet itself. My passion is to nourish the seeds of meaningful innovation wherever they stem from. What I want is to convert this passion to a fruitful continuum that will bear useful, beautiful and meaningful experiences for the users, together with like-minded people.

I made peace with my role as a designer…

Up until a few years ago, most of my years as a designer were dedicated to convincing people that I was a worthy hire, a worthy project member, a worthy colleague or a worthy leader. No more of that. I made peace with my role as a designer and what my contribution might look like. I set realistic but ambitious expectations and find joy in things that make a change — however small. Being ambitious does not mean beating yourself up constantly. I also re-discovered the joy of learning. As a consultant, I have the luxury of working with a diverse set of problems, technologies and users. I get to research and learn about things I would not have though about otherwise.

Today, I am a Senior Designer (of Industrial, User Experience, Strategy, and more) at HOWL and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. It is a fast-moving environment with super-inspiring people and even more inspiring projects. For the first time, it feels like my creativity has no boundaries. I am not just saying this. Call it wisdom. Call it experience. Call it ignorance. In the last few years, something has changed. Still, there are limitations, problems and roadblocks around me but, for the first time, all of it seems surmountable.

Great School, Great Lecture

Yesterday, I was in Umeå Institute of Design for a lecture about UX and ID. I talked about the relationship between these fields and the future of design in this context. 

IMG_1606.JPG

As always, I was very impressed by the creativity oozing out from every inch of the school and its students, as well as the competence of the staff. I spent almost 3.5 hours before and after the lecture, reviewing student portfolios. Amazing work and great skills all over. The depth of the content and the research, together with the topics chosen, made every minute worthwhile. 

If I had any general observations from this experience, it would be that there is a new generation of designers on their way who care deeply about the impact their work might have on this world. So much so that most of the questions posed after the lecture were concentrated on how to deal with situations that might potentially be unethical or too profit focused at the expense of the user or environment. 

It was delightful also to see that many students in the portfolio review were more focused on getting relevant feedback on their work more than selling themselves as potential employees.

I owe a big big thanks to Pernilla Sandberg and Marije de Haas for arranging the whole logistics and accommodating my last minute requests, Thomas Degn for his amazing hospitality and constant stream of chocolate and coffee appearing on my desk as well as the timekeeping, Niklas Andersson for inviting me over as a speaker and of course, all the students for making my day. 

Lecture at Umeå Institute of Design

Tomorrow, I will be in Umeå for a Wednesday Lecture at the Institute of Design. I will be talking about the relationship between ID and UX Design. More about that soon on the blog.

Really looking forward to meeting old friends and the students. Everytime I go there, I come back with a renewed belief in design and it's power.

5 Things You Should Know About Mac OS

Many of us have had our fair share of frustration with our Macs. I usually don't do this but... As somebody whose workday is spent mostly in front of a shiny monitor, here are some things that I find useful:

1- "Save as..." did not go anywhere. 

Sad much? Where is the ability to save a new version of a file without keeping the changes on the original file? That moment when you realize you have been tinkering with your manager's keynote a bit too much. Instead of duplicating the file and reverting the changes on the original one, you can simply open the File menu, and press ALT(OPTION). Voila! The good old "Save As" is waiting for you there - loyal as ever. 

2- Maximize without all the drama...

Upgraded to Yosemite yet? As beautiful as it's wallpaper is, this version also comes with a quirk that can be ironed out. The familiar green plus sign on top of windows are replaced by a full screen icon. That is disappointing to those of us who don't think these two things are interchangeable. But worry not. Your humble servant ALT comes to the rescue. Just press ALT and the new full-screen button turns into a maximize button. A bit lazy? Just double tap on the application's title bar. There you go.

3- Open a folder in a new window...

Ever wanted to have a finder folder opened in a separate tab instead of the same window? This is quite easy. All you have to do is keep a steady pressure on CMD key while double-clicking on the folder like usual. Huh. That simple. 

4- Where is my file?...

By now you might have understood that modifier keys (ALT, CMD, SHIFT and even CTRL) help us out quite a bit. Ever wondered where an open file actually is stored? There is a special trick with the file name field on top of every main app window. If you click on the file name with CMD pressed down, you will actually see the whole directory structure the file is currently in. You can do the same trick by right-clicking the name. Neat. 

5- Going one directory up...

This might be something that you might have wondered if you moved from Windows to Mac after puberty, like me. How do I go one directory up when I am in a finder window? This might be easy if you use the pane view but in other views? Worry not. By right clicking the field where the name of the current folder is, you will see the whole structure and from there you can go to any parent folder you wish. Alternatively, you might press CMD+UP ARROW to go the parent directory. 

In general, it might help experimenting with the modifier keys in finder and other applications. Happy tinkering. 

 

Internet of a Few Things

We once had a conversation with colleagues at Sony: If Web 2.0 was about connecting people to each other digitally, Web 3.0 would be about the Internet connecting things to each other. 

It is amazing that, it has been almost ten tears since that conversation happened and Web 3.0 is yet to happen. We are talking about the roadblocks of IoT everyday. The lack of a standard, fragmented market structure, the disinterested big players. But nobody seems to talk about the necessity or the "why" of Internet of Things. The reality of connected objects is far more complicated than a fridge telling you that the milk has gone bad.

Internet has a simple foundation but the implications are immense. Links... The simple act of connecting one entity to another - be it a person, a company, or an object - empowers both parties to achieve bigger things compared to running solo. Yet, most Internet of Things (IoT) products out there only connect one product to one person at a time. Remember Ericsson's - slightly creepy - vision video depicting 2015? It showed an orchestration of connectivity that made a user's life easier by entities informing each other of their current states and moreover, making meaningful predictions. Why is this vision so sought after yet so far away? Is what Tony Fadell said true? Is it stupidly naive to dream about the Jetsons' home?

You might blame this gap on the lack of standards but I blame it on the lack of holistic thinking. Engineers have a great way of saying "why not" at challenges. But who is taking care of the "why". Surely it is a progress to be able to steer your lights from your mobile but why? Why is it better than flicking a switch? Just because we can?

The next role of design should be asking the right questions and adding genuine user benefit to the mix. There are many more benefits and a whole uncharted territory beyond what we already call the Internet of Things. Somehow the excitement and the potential reminds me of the buzzword "Ubiquitous Computing" not so long time ago. I hope the end will not be a similar fade to grey. 

What do you think can save the Internet of Things from being Internet of Nothing?  

 

Hello HOWL!

I started working for HOWL Design Studio's Malmo location in May. Amazing people and amazing work. It was to my surprise that they also thought that I was "legendary". It is so good to be here!

http://www.howlstudio.se/news/bilgi-karan-joins-malmo-team

Thinking It Through

One of the things I am fascinated with is the creative process. That’s why I really wanted to know what happens when you design something without really thinking. This became an experiment around going through the design process in reverse.

Mind you that, this approach is very different from my usual professional one and a bit painful for me. So I thought, “why not just jump in?” So I started off by creating a pen within 20 minutes. I modeled something in Alias, uploaded to Shapeways and just forgot about it.

Receiving the package was relatively pleasant, since I had no expectations whatsoever. I inserted a ballpoint cartridge. It was easy to hold and write with. Even when sketching, it was a good pen.

After I tried it out for a month or so, it was very obvious that it needed a cap. I designed (more like modeled) a cap in less than 15 minutes. It took me longer to find a magnet that fitted the thickness of the pen.

The cap is nice but does not fit perfectly

The cap is nice but does not fit perfectly

So far, I am not content with the what I have. The cap does not align itself with the pen properly to begin with. I guessed that this might happen but I tried not to care. The slanted cut was probably my subconscious effort in preventing this. But that is a small part of the problem.

The big one is that there is no way of attaching or clipping this pen to my Moleskine notebook.

A professor once told me: “design is planning”. Even though I think this is a very one-dimensional way of thinking about design, I can’t help but admit that the lack of planning is painful in design – even as an experiment.

It is interesting to understand the complexity of a simple thing, but in small portions. Stay tuned as I try to find a way to attach this pen to my notebook.

Experience Prototyping Will Save ID

What we need to acknowledge is that prototyping can gain a new meaning in the hands of industrial designers – especially those who work with things that have interactive components. This is because the prototype, more than a model or a visualization, can represent or simulate the experience of the end user. We live in an era with so many accessible tools to prototyping experiences that, we can no longer excuse ourselves with the lack of technical skills. We can no longer get away with saying “imagine when you touch here, this thing will light up”. With tools like rapid prototyping, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, MakeyMakey, Touchboard and many more, we can take the power back and make peace with the tools that once belonged to the engineers. The classical way of designing; research, sketching, modeling, polishing, refining is far from enough for the profession of Industrial Design to survive the 21st century. Interaction Design has already taken this path without hesitation with great examples coming especially from students fromUmea Institute of Design, Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, MIT and many more.

TINKERING IS THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE

A design that is static can fool anyone. What we have always heard from our teachers was to just mock-it-up quickly. A clay model or a rough foam mockup can definitely add the necessary 3rd dimensional insight but… A mockup always seems like it has the potential of turning into a great product. Usually though, great mockups that do not work, end up fooling the designers themselves more than anybody. Even the lowest fidelity experience prototype is ten times more useful than the greatest looking mockup. The designer will see more flaws in his creation through the eyes of the user with something “working almost as if” than something that “looking almost as if”. Better yet, though, the designer will explore more potential by letting real people touch the ideals of his imagination than putting them on a pedestal and protecting them. By improving our tools, we can also improve our point-of-view. The power of making things work beautifully is surely more attractive than making beautiful things.