I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.

Posts tagged ‘design’


Strata 2012

I attended O’Reilly’ Strata “Making Data Work” conference in Santa Clara, California this past February. I summarized a few of the interesting data visualization sessions I attended in a design lunch and learn presentation for my company. And now I’m getting around to posting it up for your viewing pleasure.


Lovely UI

Having worked on several projects in the mobile space over the past year, I’m completely drawn to the site Lovely UI, which showcases inspiring mobile user interfaces.

Other resources that serve as good references are Mobile Design Patterns (iOS) and Android Patterns.



Two wonderful videos explaining user experience design. Now I can show this to my family and friends whenever they ask me what I do.

Who doesn’t love a good UX design, and who doesn’t get totally frustrated with bad experience design.
Hail to all the great UX designers of the world. Spread the love for UX design !!!

ILUVUXDESIGN part I from lyle on Vimeo.

ILUVUXDESIGN part II from lyle on Vimeo.


Splendiferous Culinary Tools

Ever since I started taking culinary arts classes back in the fall, I’ve developed an appreciation for beautiful and well-crafted kitchen tools. Heck, I even stroll through Williams Sonoma for fun.

Pop Chart Lab made a detailed mapping of over 100 kitchen implements. I love the visual language in this poster and I learned about some interesting new tools.

via Fast Company


Urban Typography

Axis Maps produced a gorgeous series of typographic maps illustrating geography through typography. The works appear as a typical maps viewed from afar, but close-up details reveal only words comprising the landscape. As described by the creators:

Created as a labor of love, these unique maps accurately depict the streets and highways, parks, neighborhoods, coastlines, and physical features of the city using nothing by type. Only by manually weaving together thousands upon thousands of carefully placed words does the full picture of the city emerge.

Some more interesting typographic posters at Ork Posters


Simplicity Isn’t That Simple

Today I encountered the a problem where simplifying isn’t quite so simple. When is it necessary to reduce elements and when do you need to add elements to maintain clarity and usefulness? My meeting today with a colleague engaged in this discussion that involved a lot of Photoshop experimentation regarding a special use case of our application. At this point, we still have not decided on an appropriate design, but I happened to just come across an excellent post, Simplicity isn’t that simple.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “less is more,” overused, and here the author sums up the complexity in designing for simplicity.

This may seem overly philosophical, but as my co-author, Josh Porter, said recently, “Simplicity is much more than the trite “less is more” we so often hear. Simplicity is… about clarity.” And clarity comes from constant refinement.

John Maeda’s First Law of Simplicity states: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. Refinement that is thoughtful, calculated, and whenever possible and appropriate, based on data is one of the fundamental tools of any designer.


What Good Is Design Research

I just read an interesting article by Adam Richardson that responds to Donald Norman’s view of design research. Although Richardson a

grees with much of what Norman says, he disagrees with Norman’s statement of the role of design research as being fundamental to incremental improvements to already existing solutions but useless for creating innovative breakthroughs. For example, technological inventions such as the airplane, automobile, telephone, radio, television, computer, personal computer, Internet, SMS text messaging, and cellphone were technological revolutions in which design research did not play a role. Richardson points out that in the inception of these breakthroughs, formal design research as we currently know it did not exist. However, he points out that a form of design research was employed in order to determine a particular user need and to develop and evolve the technology to meet the need.

I agree with Richardson’s rejection of how Norman defines design research as user research:

Design research has many definitions, but within the product cycle, it consists of studies aiming to understand the activities, desires, and needs of the people for whom a product or service is desired. Design researchers use a wide variety of methods, but all of them, whether it be ethnographic observations, systematic probes, or even surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups aim at one thing: to determine those hidden, unspoken needs that will lead to a novel innovation and then to great success in the marketplace.

Design research has a much broader scope that not only encompasses user research but also technological research and market research, which provide a more comprehensive understanding of problems leading to more insightful and compelling solutions. One interesting and important point that Richardson makes is that designers need to find a balance between analytical research and inspired creativity. If focused too much on user research and finding evidence to back up every single design decision, we lose opportunities in discovering those inspirational ah-ha moments.


iSerendipity Interactive Lounge

During my Embedded Interaction workshop with Michael Fox, we were immersed in a group project to design an interactive environment demonstrated with a kinetic model. My group came up with the concept of an ambient space called iSerendipity:

iSerendipity is an ambient lounge that enhances mood, sociability and interactivity among people. Organic-shaped pods float amongst each other through space and light up once a person steps on. These pods detect the activity levels of people on each pod and drift through space, either isolating people for contemplative reflection or clustering active groups to enable chance encounters – serendipity. Pod lights are time- and context- sensitive: initial activation of a pod stimulates a glow that intensifies over time and colour hues change according to activity levels. The exterior façade displays the harmonious movement and colour intensity of each pod as aesthetic visual information to passersby.



Videos of iSerendipity’s interaction points in motion

See the process blog here.


Vending Machines as Tangible Interaction

In my Tangible Interaction workshop lead by Philip’s creative director Paul Neervoort, we’re examining existing examples of physical interaction and finding solutions to improve the interaction.

I considered the example of the vending machine, in which the physical action sequence of inserting coins, pressing a button to select a drink and bending down to collect the drink completes the interaction process. In Hong Kong, rather than inserting coins however, one may simply swipe the Octopus to deduct the stored-value on the card rather than using coins.

The swooping action of inserting coins/swiping card and collecting the drink is quite simple and universal among vending machines, but let’s examine the problems one may encounter with this existing model.

Firstly, the insertion of coins one by one into a narrow slot is quite cumbersome and time-consuming, requiring adequate control of manual dexterity. In the case of using the Octopus card, when approaching the machine with card in hand to select the money value to deduct from the card, close proximity of the hand to the card reader will inadvertantly process the transaction automatically. So, if one was in the process of reaching (and holding the card) to toggle the charge value from HKD$5.50 to $4.50, the proximity of the card would “doot” and deduct $5.50, effectively charging $1 extra for the user’s preferred drink or forcing the user to select a more expensive drink he did not want. A frustrating experience indeed, but perhaps not as much as Japan’s confusing vending machine payment method using mobile phones.

The next consideration is the way a user can select a drink. The traditional machine displays all the products at once, allowing the user to quickly scan the available choices. Buttons act as the input selection, but sometimes the user may accidentally press the wrong button and get stuck with something that she didn’t want.


Source: http://springwise.com/marketing_advertising/samsung_and_coke_launch_touch-/

Samsung has actually developed a uVending touch-screen technology for vending machines to add some more interactivity.

From this demo, I actually don’t see much value in being able to “interact” virtually with the product, and I would much rather get a quick overview of all the available product options with one glance rather than scroll through individual products.

Finally, there’s the final action of receiving the drink. Most vending machines I have encountered requires the user to bend down and reach through a flap to collect the item. Is it necessary to make the user expend extra energy to buy a drink, especially for those that have physical limitations?

These are general issues to think about when we further explore ideas and solutions to create an easier and more appropriate vending machine interaction.

Below I found a fun video of a student project of a redesigned vending machine experience.  Some of its design elements addresses the issues I have just discussed.


One Stop Shop

Over the course of this fall term, my graduate studio workshop, lead by Elaine Ann of Kaizor Innovation, was sponsored by the Hong Kong government’s Efficiency Unit to create a “One Stop Shop” employment centre in which all employment services are centralized in one location. This collaboration was the first of its kind in Hong Kong with the aim to inspire the goverment with innovative ideas and to demonstrate the importance and value of design collaboration.

The aim of the One Stop Shop is to improve the job seeking experience for users and to improve the operational efficiency for government staff. Through a 3.5 month process we started with user research by interviewing users and staff and conducting on-site interviews then analyzed user needs and identified problems with the existing process.  With my partner, we used these insights to inform out concept designs from a service and system approach, and held an interim concept presentation for our clients.  The clients were incredibly receptive of my team’s concepts and presentation, which was a great sign.  For our final presentation we focused on a few important interaction points to flesh out the design details, and presented a comprehensive, persuasive and compelling arguments for our complete design solutions. In the end, my partner and I won the silver award and a cash prize of HKD $12,000.  Next spring our projects will be published in a book to be circulated through all the government departments.

What a wonderful experience for a school project.


“My Documents” Visualization

In my Information Architecture and Visualization class that just started two weeks ago, our first assignment required us to come up with a visual representation for the structure of our own My Documents folder. We were not allowed to clean it up or organize it further before analyzing our folder structure. During my study I realized how many levels of folders I actually had – some went to 7 deep. I had a few concepts in mind ranging from 2D graphical designs to 3D objects and installations: Mondrian-styled rectangular patterns, nested boxes, bookshelf analogy, etc.

In the end, I came up with an architectural-styled paper sculpture where the base rectangular area is the root folder and the other stacks of rectangles are the subfolders within that root. The height of each folder is denoted by the number of files that it contains. I decided only to visualize 3 levels deep, otherwise it would become too complex.

And here are my concepts

One problem I realized halfway through construction was that I had cut the sizes of the subfolder rectangles to fill up the entire root folder rectangle – this actually made it quite difficult to distinguish the actual boundaries of each subfolder. Higher up in the structure, however, I allowed for more room between the stacks, which makes it easier to understand. In 3 weeks I will be exhibiting my work with my classmates, so I will have these problems resolved by then.


Visualizing Mobility Patterns

Dan Boyarski, former head of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design, visited HK PolyU as a guest lecturer over the past three weeks to conduct a design studio workshop with my class.  We were asked to collect data about ourselves over five days to create a visual representation. In this sense, it becomes information design in the form of a self-portrait.

I tracked the locations I visited, my routes and the modes of transportation I took, then sketched out my patterns following the form of the Hong Kong map.  I also kept track of the times at which I travelled so I considered the use of colour to differentiate the different days and times of travel.

Because of the rich data set I had collected, it was important to convey the information on both a macro and micro level for the viewers. Macro view gives a big-picture idea of the data set (the map pattern), while micro view communicates the details of my travels, such as the date, time, exact location, duration. I created a colour-coded timeline to engage viewers on the micro level, which also acts as a legend for the line colours and types on the map.

I presented the final piece as a printed poster 23″ x 16.5″.

Detailed Views

Data Set

Concept Sketches