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Magazine > Lesson #2

Lesson 2 – 08/11/2011

We’re still in the initial stages of getting to know the Museum and one another.
The second lesson begins with a discussion with Galit Gaon, the Museum’s chief curator. Galit shares her views with us on design in general, and design in Israel in particular. The local commercial market is still relatively small, so there are a lot of good designers engaged in research. Doron asks what research means in an applied context like design. Galit answers that unlike other academic studies, design research is not carried out in writing, but in practice. The designer-researcher chooses a particular theme that he wishes to research. For example, man and environment, dimensions, materials, textures, and so forth. He then creates numerous different units in an attempt to understand the subject of his research, and to experiment with different meanings. The conclusion of the research can be a specific product, but not necessarily. Multiple experiments and experiences are the primary aim of the research, which in effect constitutes three-dimensional writing in material. Examples of design research can be seen on the website of Israeli designer Yaacov Kaufman:

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT
Yaacov Kaufman, Yalla Design, Stools Study, 2000

Galit then introduces us to the Museum, starting with the iconic building, its construction, the exhibitions held in it, and a little about its role in the field of design and local education. The Lab at the Museum was created in order to provide visitors with an opportunity to observe a design process that develops and evolves from one week to the next, and to understand the issues design students have to grapple with. We, the students at the Lab, receive a golden opportunity to get feedback in real time from a diverse, interested, and informed audience, and also to conduct a dialogue with experienced designers, curators, and experts.

Something About Us

After an interesting discussion with Galit, it’s time to get to know a little more about the backgrounds of our Lab-fellows. One student from each department has prepared a presentation about his or her subject of study.

The first is given by Jenny from the Department of Industrial Design. She presents the structure of design studies in general: a major yearly core course entitled “Studio”, in addition to design, art, and theory classes. Like everything else at HIT, the Department of Industrial Design is also split into three tracks: society and environment, specializing in accessible and green design; culture and creativity, specializing in the cultural contexts of design; and industry and marketing, specializing in the commercial aspect. Jenny also presents some of the less formal aspects: the atmosphere in the workshop, the educational excursions, and the marathons – intensive, two-day design competitions for the department’s entire student body.

The next to present her department is Roni: Visual Communications Design. In an animated and communicative short film she presents her and her colleagues’ fields of practice: text, drawing, photography, film, and so forth. The department tracks are: print, specializing in print products such as typography and illustration; media, specializing in anything that is projected/screened, such as animation and video clips; and interactive, specializing in what appears on a computer screen, such as user interfaces and Internet websites.

The last presentation of the day is given by Shmulik from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He shows us pictures from the labs, classrooms filled with students, and boards filled with formulae. If to some of us it all looks like Greek, he says, it’s no coincidence. We discover that at HIT there are unique research areas, such as alternative energy, and a plethora of advanced instrumentation. The engineering tracks are strong current, specializing in energy transfer; communication, specializing in data transfer; and integrated engineering, specializing in all the rest.

Presentations At Last

Reminder: last week we split into pairs, and our assignment was to design a direct interaction that includes digital input and basic output. Here’s what we did:

Light at the End of the Cube – Osher Shukrun and Itay Kurgan

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

A three-dimensional stacking game comprising five cubes that must be stacked in a particular order and orientation for the electrical circuit to close and LED lamps to light up and mark success. To aid stacking in the correct order, sections of a maze are depicted on the sides of the cubes, which only if correctly stacked create a continuous path. The interaction stimulates interest and poses a challenge for all the experimenters. Itay and Osher have created a ‘switchless switch’ and successfully overcome the challenge of creating flat electrical connectors.

Automatic Drawer – Shmulik Mauda and Shahar Yaacoby

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

An innocent looking kitchen cupboard and a handle-less drawer. When you reach out over the surface, the drawer opens. The mechanism is based on a magnetic switch that is operated by a matching ring worn on the operator’s finger. The mechanism and motor are concealed, and there is a very strong element of surprise.
The interaction stimulates a discussion about the need for ‘affordance’ – the ability of an object to communicate how it is operated. Is it essential? Is it preferable to maintain the magic? Is it preferable to use the opportunity to create a new language to communicate with the user, or to decide on anonymous operation? The designer’s decisions are not always simple or easy.

ToileTune – Roni Rosen and Aviad Fux

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

The most surprising thing to greet us when we came into the Lab in the morning was a life-size toilet bowl and water cistern standing against one of the walls. It is even more surprising when Geva, the courageous volunteer, sits on the seat and the dramatic notes of Richard Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries fill the room at a volume that is by no means low. A switch built into some sponge activates a hidden walkman, creating a musical event to mask any undesirable sounds that one can imagine.
Although the essence of the switch is to allow two situations (‘zero’ and ‘one’), we observe that minor shifts in the experimenter’s weight produce a kind of turntable scratching effect as an unplanned intermediate situation. Since people are attracted to control, the idea is put forward of adding the possibility of choosing the type of music and volume. All in all, the ToileTune stimulated a lot of fun and interest.

Turn-On T-Shirt – Dana Mick and Omer Ben-Naim

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

As Dana buttons up her shirt, the plastic rabbit on her lapel lights up. Each button is translated into a light in the rabbit. Playful and amusing feedback is obtained for an everyday activity.
Omer and Dana have successfully contended with the connection between fabric and electrical circuit, and created an interesting proposition to encourage performing a fine motor activity. The successful experiment engenders a lot of ideas for future developments.

Cow Tag – Doron Segal and Geva Rosenthal

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

Who said tag was a children’s game? Creating a second fashion trend comprising a shirt and gloves for the chaser (‘it’), and a white shirt with two areas marked in grey for the other player. When the chaser puts his hands on the defined areas on the other player’s shirt, a buzzer sounds. This is mechanization of a familiar children’s game, and successfully contends with fabric and interaction comprising multiple elements.

Crazy Cake – Dina Rubanovitch and Shay Merci

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

An innocent looking covered cake dish, but the unknowing cake thief will hardly expect an alarm to be sounded or the insane movement of the dish itself in response to the attempted theft. In the tradition of alarm systems, this one too is not operated when a circuit is closed, but in response to a circuit breaking. There is such finesse in the execution that the product looks just like a shelf product.

Ray of Light – Jenny Bahar and David Kantor

Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT

Sunglasses are usually associated with separation, concealment, and anonymity. However, in particular situations they also serve to draw attention, conspicuousness, and communication. These sunglasses contain two blue LED lamps that light up when the glasses are over the wearer’s eyes, and switch off when they are on his head. The mechanism is based on a tilt switch that closes a circuit only at a particular angle.

On the one hand, the interaction integrates with the natural and familiar action of moving sunglasses from one’s eyes to one’s head. On the other, the new reaction to that action affects the user’s behavior, dancing style, and the way he communicates with his surroundings. The object stimulates a discussion about visual communication between people in situations whereby talking is not possible. Directions for future developments include addressing intermediate situations between ON and OFF.

From Now On, We’re Hackers Too
Before the lesson ends we receive an addition to our toolbox: Keyboard Hack. Shachar shows us how to dismantle a keyboard and use the circuit board inside it to transfer indicators to a computer. In this way we will be able to operate functions, programs – in fact, anything – with the same ease with which we lit up LEDs and buzzed buzzers. In case that isn’t enough, there’s also Processing, an easy-to-understand and program development environment with which we’re advised to familiarize ourselves.

 Design Lab | Interactive Design | HIT
Illustration from Physical Computing by Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe

Next Week
We’re remaining in the same groups and continuing to develop the interactions we submitted this week with the help of the new tools and in light of the critiques, insights, and experience we have acquired so far.

More buzzing, flickering, spinning, and interactions next week.

See you later.

Written by David Kantor
Photographs by Itay Kurgan (except for the photograph of Yaacov Kaufman’s work)


- Introduction

- Lesson 1

- Lesson 2

- Lesson 3

- Lesson 4

- Lesson 5

- Lesson 6

- Lesson 7

- Lesson 8

- Lesson 9

- Lesson 10

- Lesson 11

- Lesson 12

- Final Lesson

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