I’m a User

User Centered Design (UCD) is where the designer thinks of the user, the main focus being functionality. Tim (the teacher) discussed Information Architecture and research. Every great design molds the user’s experience, streamlining processes and giving order and priority to important information.

The main theme of today’s class was research. What do you know about the user? Ask people. Today’s in-class assignment was designing the Toshiba Remote Control (for TV/DVD). Our teacher pulled a Hoppe. (Last quarter Hoppe said that he deliberately left off information about the gallery address on the assignment brief as a test, seeing if any student would inquire about this information.) Tim had emphasized most of the class that research was incredibly important and that you should ask people about their experiences and how to improve it when going about designing stuff for them. Tim said that he had a lot of problems with this remote (and that we failed to ask him, supposedly the only person in the class that suffered from this particular remote’s design flaws). I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the smug “you should have asked” mode that some teachers phase into when they point out to their students obvious things that they could have done, but didn’t.

Redesigning this remote was fun. It reminded me how well I knew my remote as a kid, watching cartoons, the master of flipping the channel during commercials. Now that I watch the computer instead, this remote seemed remote indeed. I imagined an old man watching his DVDs and what he would want from a remote, which buttons needed to be easy to locate when an insomniac grandson walked by to get a glass of milk, or a concerned wife. I got into the mindset of a secretive TV watcher. The kind of remote that would allow such ease to control the play, the pause, the slow-forward, as if you’re trying to absorb the actions on the screen like a magic trick that you want to repeat for your friends, understanding each little gesture –played at regular time, you’d hardly notice.

During class I was in some kind of daydreaming stupor when the teacher asked about my remote design. Before claiming it, one of my classmates characterized as designed by someone who listens to a lot of music. I think he was referring to its ipod-esque design. That didn’t occur to me at all, when arranging the buttons, but now it all seems clear. I try not to be a hack, but design, good design makes you feel like it’s just a standard, as if there was only one way to go through the maze and Apple found it first.

I enjoyed moving around these buttons and finding categories in which I could group each, like Little Foot finding more long necks (movie reference), a joy that I am learning comes with the territory. Graphic design is making a puzzle (you take pieces from history and your client’s parameters) and solving it (putting it in border with a logo slapped on to it).

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