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Designing for physical versus digital products

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My slides from Interaction 12 in Dublin, Ireland. User experience is important but it's not everything: Designing for physical versus digital products.

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Designing for physical versus digital products

  1. Designing forphysical versus digital productsChui Chui Tan@ChuiSquared
  2. For now, we can broadly group designers into physical and digital Designers designers. ❤ ❤Physical products Digital products
  3. I was a physical product designers when I worked with Panasonicdesigning the physical part of their stereo sets. Now, I’m a digitaldesigner because most of my work is digital based.However, such clear categorisation is no longer valid. Physical product designer Digital product designer
  4. This is what physicalproduct designers usedto design - focused onproduct’s form, shape,material, how partsattach together. 4
  5. This is what physicaldesigners have beendesigning in recent years -physical products now haveto incorporate with digitalinterface or with software. 5
  6. Years ago, digital designersused to design only fordesktop - focused only onthe website, the IA(information architecture),the images, the copy andcontent.
  7. Now, we are designing moreand more for mobile....
  8. ... and for tablets.Hence, we’ve to consider devices’sizes, resolution, the interactionthese devices support, the contextof use of these devices - a lotabout the physical devices.
  9. The trend: both digital andphysical are combining andinterlinking. No morecutting lines between thetwo.
  10. Network Connectivity Context-awareness Data Sensors MultipurposeDan SafferAuthor of ‘Designing Devices’ Updatability Dan Saffer listed the characteristics which differentiate the devices of today from previous eras.
  11. Devices now are serving as the Internet’s interface to the physical world.“The number of thingsconnected to the Internethas already exceeded thenumber of people onearth.” Cisco
  12. Nabaztag, a Internet-enabled electronicrabbit: connects to the Internet andread out your favourite RSS feeds, tellyou the weather forecasts.
  13. Nest learning thermostat: learns thetemperature you like, connect to theInternet to get weather forecast and it canbe monitored and adjusted via Internet. 13
  14. Not just beautifully designedproducts that are in the market areInternet connected. Hackers/innovators are also using Arduino tocreate Internet connected devices. 14
  15. An antique clock was transformed to aweather clock. It connects to theInternet, downloads the current weatherforecast and displays it on the clock. 15
  16. Tweet-a-pot: Coffee machine is connectedto Twitter using Arduino. Tweet to turnthe machine on. 16
  17. Microprinter: Connect a second handprinter to the Internet using Arduino -print out daily reminders, notifications andso on.
  18. Little Printer by Berg (which you canbuy) which does exactly what theMicroprinter does. But it’s beautiful.With more and more people buildingtheir own prototypes, it changes theway things are being designed.What people hack would be what webuy in the future.
  19. Yesterday Today Tomorrowwe design for we design for we design forDesktop Mobile Physical + Digital
  20. When physical designers designed a fridge 10 years ago,they focused on the size, the material, the handle andso on. Now, the unique selling point of a fridge is itstechnology and smartness (e.g. LG smart fridge whichwas introduced in CES 2012).
  21. We’re not just moving from digital to physical. Ithappens the other way round too.A group of people use 3D printing technology tocreate a village from the Minecraft online game.They took the virtual world to our physical world.
  22. Bridle gave a lot of examples where people digital concepts into our 3D environment inhis talk in Web Directions Sydney 2011.
  23. Really Interesting Group createdChristmas decorations based on theirfriends’ social media data (e.g. Flickr,, Twitter and Dopplr).Another example of bridging the digitalto the physical.
  24. + + ❤ ❤ Hackers,Physical products Digital products Makers, Innovators = Digital and physical are combining. If you are a digital interaction designer now, in coming years, your client would expect you to also be able to design the physical parts of the product Tomorrow’s too. designers
  25. “You are not changing career, your career is changing” You need to start thinking and preparing because it’s not that you’re (or you want) to change your career, your career IS changing! 25
  26. So... How could we prepare forthe change?
  27. TouchPain Understand the senses that areTemperature being used when users interacting with digital andKinaesthetic sense physical products. Not just sense of sight, hearing or smell, but also sense of touch.
  28. In his book (Emotional Design), Don Norman described three dimensions which we use to craft our experience with a product: Visceral: about the look/appearance Behavioural: about its use/practicability Reflective: about self-imageVisceral Behavioural Reflective
  29. Use these dimensions to help you to design products which differentiate your product from your competitors.Visceral Behavioural Reflective
  30. You might need to have new skills or knowledge. You don’t have to be expert in everything, but it’s important to have a basic level of these knowledge.Skills & knowledge
  31. Safety/Ergonomics Packaging Tooling Shelf life Life cycle Sustainability CAD drawing Prototyping skillsDurability Materials Production
  32. Other touchpoints.... You’re already doing these!User requirementsBusiness requirementsMarket Culture: Think from different angles (e.g.Culture & tradition Japanese desire for lightness when it comes to physical product whilst British desire forProfit margin sold objects. Both are about quality.Out of box experienceEasy to be maintained and serviced
  33. Other touchpoints.... You’re already doing these!User requirementsBusiness requirementsMarketCulture & traditionProfit margin Cost of physical products: material, production, packaging, transportation and storage cost. These costs apply to each individual product you produce and sell. The impact is much more significant!
  34. Other touchpoints.... You’re already doing these!User requirementsBusiness requirementsMarketCulture & traditionProfit margin Out of box experience: Not just about the first impression whenOut of box experience unpacking and unboxing, but it also includes how easy to set up and to connect.
  35. Other touchpoints.... You’re already doing these!User requirementsBusiness requirementsMarketCulture & traditionProfit margin Products should be easy to maintain and servic. You don’tOut of box experience want to have to dismantle the whole product just to change a battery.Easy to be maintained and serviced
  36. Working team You will need to work with people from different areas when designing for a physical and digital product.
  37. Engineers Managers UsersDesigners Part suppliers
  38. Engineers Managers Users These people have the knowledge. Get them involved as early as possible and constantly communicate with each other throughout the Part suppliers whole design process.Designers
  39. Ways of working The ways of working might be different too. But in some cases, you could still apply the same approach which you used when designing a website or software to physical product design.
  40. You can always observehow people improvise intheir daily life if you’relooking to design a newproduct.
  41. If you already have aproduct, you can observehow people use it, spotthe problems they haveand improve thoseproblems.
  42. Bosch did an observationresearch in India to see howtheir German designedwashing machine fit intotheir Indian users’ life.They went to their houseand observe their dailyroutine and understandtheir culture.They found that thewashing time needs to beshorter because Indianfamilies have to do theirlaundry everyday.
  43. Donna Rosa handbags:1000 online survey wascarried out with businesswomen around the worldbefore the handbag wasdesigned.The design of thishandbag provides exactlywhat the users needbecause each singledetail is created basedon the problems thedesigner heard in thesurvey.
  44. The way you prototypewill be different -wireframes don’t work inphysical product design.Omnigraffle teamcreated a iPad prototypeusing a piece of woodbefore iPad was out inthe market.This is a good example ofhardware + softwareprototyping.
  45. Prototyping doesn’t have toexpensive/complicated.A Royal College of Art student usedblue foam to create differentshapes of hairdryer to find the bestone for hairdressers.
  46. Physical products prototyping ‣ Could it work? ‣ Any problems? ‣ What’s needed? ‣ How much? ‣ How to build it?Prototyping allows you to investigateif your idea could work, to identifypotential problems (e.g. JamesDyson created 5127 prototypes).You can also build BOM (Bill ofMaterials) from your prototype.
  47. You can’t use Axure or ClickableWireframes to present yourprototype in physical product design.Storyboard (or sequential arts) is agood way to show the interactionspeople have with your product.
  48. It can be a quick sketch storyboard,in a comic format, photo-based orcreated from various video clips.
  49. Or you can use role playing/improvisation to present yourprototype or concept.
  50. Some people used videos to mock upand improvise how their productcould be used.
  51. To sum up...We’ve looked at how physical and digital worldsare combining, and how products are moving justphysical or just digital to integrated products.We also looked at the transferable skills andknowledge. There are many overlaps. It’s NOT acomplicated transition. 51
  52. OurFuture But the future is not yet defined. The products we design in the future do not necessary have to be all touchscreen based or can only be functioned via Internet connection (e.g. you don’t want your toaster crashes because the Internet connection is too slow or coffee machine doesn’t work because Twitter is down). The world will be unusable in this case.
  53. OurFuture We, designers are the people to make sure these situations don’t happen. We can shape how our future world is going to be. So, let’s create products which will work in the way we want them to work for a more usable and delightful world.
  54. Thank you Chui Chui Tan @ChuiSquared