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Design Week Event Recap: Emerging Trends in Product Design

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DesignMap welcomed 100+ designers to our new Mission studio for a Design Week event. We shared fresh hand-made onigiri and libation in honor of the design gods who watch over us.

This is the first of many events where DesignMap invites guest speakers to share different perspectives on a common theme. So we tried out an event format we’re calling 3×3: Three 30-minute talks around a similar theme followed by a short Q&A panel. Follow @designmap on Twitter for future event announcements. Here’s a recap of the presentations with links.

Alfred Lui: The Walls are Listening – Challenges and Opportunities in Designing for the Internet of Things.

Here at DesignMap we’re not only excited about the design opportunities Internet of Things offer designers, like Co.Exist, we are also inspired by the positive environmental impact networked smart devices will have on our planet.

Alfred is a UX Director for Health at Jawbone and organizer of the SF IOT Meetup. He painted a design landscape for us where UX will be distributed, UIs will be a new source of noise, and the user is the new OS. Powered by cheap CPUs, Data Network everywhere and Cloud Services and Open APIs, connected devices are quickly changing the way we live. And people’s expectations around their personal devices are quickly changing as well. “I’m annoyed when my iPad and iPhone chime at the same time. Now imagine there are 15 devices.”

In that world, a designer must think about designing systems and their Composition, Consistency and Continuity. Amongst many examples in his talk, one that I really liked was MyMagicPlus for Disney Parks. It’s a wristband that has an RFID and a corresponding app. Visitors to the park can use it to check into rides, hotels and even virtually queue up. In this system, not only the visitor benefits from the device, the real-time data also helps Disney Parks plan resources and manage crowds.

Check out Alfred’s presentation here.

Nathan Kendrick: Enterprise is Sexy

Nathan Kendrick, Founder and Partner at DesignMap gave a refreshing talk that puts designing products for work into a whole new perspective. He shared with us his journey from studying design at RISD and how he gained appreciation for designing enterprise products.

As technology becomes more widely available and entrenched in peoples’ lives at home, their expectations around ease of use and design aesthetics continue to rise for products they use at work. Long gone are the ’90s when mostly what we expected from productivity software was automating repetitive manual tasks. Consumer expectations are forcing businesses to give design a seat at the table. Here at DesignMap we are fortunate to have help our clients integrate design into their culture and make kick ass products. Sometimes we are even around to see it pay off like when ExactTarget, a long-term DesignMap client, was acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 billion.

Yes, designing for Enterprise can be sexy because of the monetary opportunity and that designers are well positioned to make the applications look beautiful. We learned from Nathan’s talk that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans age 25-54 spend an average of 53% of their waking hours at work. So working on designing enterprise products allow us to to do what we love and at the same time have huge positive impact on people’s lives too!

Nathan called for designers working on enterprise products to contribute to the conversation. So, share your stories with us! And check out his presentation here.

Björn Jeffrey: This is Toca Boca

Björn is the CEO of Toca Boca, a play studio and one of the most successful children’s app makers in the world. If you have kids, you probably have at least one of Toca Boca’s apps on your phone. The app has had 42 million downloads as of June 2012.

We first learned about Toca Boca while researching for a K-5 learning app we’re designing. Children we’ve observed playing Toca Boca just can’t put it down. It was eye-opening to be able to take a peek into how Björn and his team came up with the idea and how they continue to “make the world’s most magical toys for kids.”

The Toca Boca team initially set out to design a touch-screen based app that stimulates creativity, and one that parents and children could play together.

First, they looked at different types of play: Active, Make Believe, Manipulative, Creative and Learning. They saw that the app market for kids was full of apps for gaming and learning, but not a lot of experiences that purely encourages play, like toys. They were inspired to explore the space of play with the goal of “un-gamification” where “natural and spontaneous love of playing” is encouraged.

We haven’t seen any other play experiences as successful and well designed as Toca Boca in this space yet! You can check out Björn’s deck here, but honestly, it’ll all make sense once you play a Toca Boca game. Do it!

*Main photo courtesy of Wesley Wong.


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