Category Archives: Design

(Another) Apple tablet prediction

I’m going to join the throng and make a prediction about the much-hyped forthcoming Apple tablet computer (variously the iPad, or iSlate, or iTab etc.). Not whether it will have an OLED screen, or an E-Ink screen, or a new form of gestural interface, or a virtual keyboard, or be an e-book and e-newspaper reader, or be for a family to share and for use in classrooms. Plenty of others are discussing these possibilities with eager anticipation. My prediction is a very simple one: it will be successful. We will buy it, use it and find that it answers needs we never knew we had.

But tablet computers are not a new idea, so why will this device succeed where the others failed? In short, because we’re ready for it. We’re now familiar with touch-screen interfaces and multi-touch gestures due to using devices like the iPhone and watching films like Minority Report (and engaging with many other objects and media, and the ideas expressed in them, before that). Technology isn’t primarily what determines the success of this, or any other, product. The technologies that Apple’s new device will employ, whilst innovative, aren’t enough to get any but the ardent gadget fans and early adopters to use it. People’s practices, perceptions and expectations provide the acid test for any new product. Is it something we can understand the purpose of, envisage ourselves using, and see a role for in our lives? We develop this understanding from the ways we live our everyday lives and the artefacts that we employ to do so, it reflects our culture (to put it in larger terms).

Apple will have a hit with their new device, but only because the iPhone and Tom Cruise got us ready for it.

Critical Artefact Methods on tour: Belgium

I will be giving a guest lecture on my use of critical artefacts within participatory design in Hasselt, Belgium on 9th February 2010. I will present examples from the projects where I have employed critical artefacts to foster innovation and discuss the rationale for my methods (the subject of my PhD research). This lecture is part of the A-Z series of lectures presented by the Z33 Centre for Contemporary Art and Design, more details on the Z33 website and the A-Z lectures website.

First Nordic Service Design Conference

Last week I was back in Oslo at the first Nordic Service Design Conference (which we heard about when I was in Oslo in August). This was a great opportunity to immerse myself in an area of design that I am now more involved in – service design. The conference had a useful mix of presentations from industry and academia and the most memorable conference dinner I have ever attended. Following the theme of “co-production” we visited Oslo’s catering school and made our conference dinner. Or rather groups of 6-8 delegates were helped to cook one of the 12 tapas dishes we later ate by the able chefs of the school. There was perhaps slightly more socialising and drinking of wine than actual cooking, but the more eager delegates (self included) got to play in a professional kitchen. I even learned to make aioli properly.

Critical Artefact Methods on tour: Denmark

I’ve just spend an enjoyable two days working with the students on the IT Product Design masters course at the University of Southern Denmark in Sonderbørg. I ran a tutorial on the Critical Artefact Methods developed in my PhD, and we explored the use of critical artefacts in developing novel product ideas around the theme of indoor climate. The masters students came up with some great “crazy ideas” to stimulate debate with their groups of users and I look forward to seeing the end results of their project.

A critical artefact exploring ideas of personal and social spaces in a canteen.

Bubbles: exploring ideas of personal and social spaces in a canteen, one of the critical artefacts produced by the group

The visit also provided an opportunity to hear more about the work of the SPIRE research centre. Their focus on participatory innovation drawing is interesting, drawing as it does ideas from the Scandinavian tradition of Participatory Design and notions of innovation from business management such as Lead Users.

Thank you to the students and staff in Sonderbørg for their hospitality, enthusiasm and stimulating discussions.

Critical Artefact Methods on tour: Norway

I ran a one-day workshop on my Critical Artefact Methods during the Nordic Design Research Conference. Seven people participated from a variety of backgrounds in both academia and industry including industrial/product design, interaction design, and ceramic art.

The aftermath of a busy workshop...

The aftermath of a busy workshop...

We had a busy day of presentations, discussions, making and role-play and debated the limitations of participatory design approaches when applied to innovation and the use of critical artefacts (and other designer-led interventions) for engaging people in creative thinking about novel product ideas.

Thank you to everyone who took part.

Critical Artefact Methods workshop at Nordes ’09

I am running a one-day workshop on my critical artefact methods at the Nordic Design Research conference in Oslo at the end of August. Through this workshop I intend to disseminate and develop the design methods I have been developing in my PhD research, and stimulate debate about the role of ‘critical artefacts’ (the products of critical design and related practices) within human-centred and participatory design processes.

The workshop will include practical exercises applying critical artefact methods in ‘mini’ design projects alongside a discussion of their underlying methodology to enable designers to explore how they could utilise similar techniques in their own practice.

Participation in the workshop is open to all conference attendees (at an additional small cost). Register for the conference first then contact me directly (s [dot] bowen [at] shu [dot] ac [dot] uk) to sign up for the workshop. Early registration discounts end on 1st August.

See the Nordic Design Research website for further details about the conference and my workshop.

PhD thesis completed and online!

Following my viva in March, I have now completed my examiners’ requested amendments to my PhD thesis, which is now in its final form. An abstract and downloadable electronic copy is available on my PhD page.

I now feel that I can legitimately call myself Doctor Bowen – although only in professional circles rather than down at the pub.

PhD Viva Success!

On 24th March I successfully defended my PhD Thesis entitled:

A Critical Artefact Methodology:
Using Provocative Conceptual Designs to Foster Human-Centred Innovation

The examiners were Prof. Clive Richards, Assistant Dean for Research in Art and Design at Coventry University, and Dr. Paul Atkinson, Reader in Design at Sheffield Hallam University. The examiners complimented the thesis and awarded a PhD subject to minor modifications. This work was supported by an award from the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s Doctoral Scheme.

My Director of Studies, Prof. Chris Rust, said:

“The magic part of Simon’s work is that it allows a proper place for the designer as a ‘processor’ of people’s ideas and experiences – not doing analysis as a market researcher would, but allowing engagement with stakeholders to feed directly into new cycles of creative thinking.”

I am currently making the necessary amends to my thesis which I then intend to make available online as soon as possible.