New BDes(Hons) Interaction Design

Split again, and Maribor

Just over a year ago, Marc Owens and I were atelier leaders for a wonderful 6-day Interaction Design Workshop for Croatian students from the universities of Split, Zadar, Rijeka and Zagreb. It was a really intense but rewarding week, with a great bunch of people, and I still have very happy memories of the experience — not to mention looking forward to returning to Croatia’s beautiful Dalmation coast at some point.

I really can’t thank organiser Ivica Mitrović enough for his outstanding support during this event, including taking us out to dinner every night, and then out clubbing with the students most nights after that… Hvala lijepo, Ivica!

Anyway, in typical web tradition, the documentation for this workshop — the 4th in the series — is now online. Check it out.

Meanwhile, over in Maribor, Slovenia, there’s currently a call for participation out for their 2nd International Interaction Design workshop — deadline 15th April. This is also organised by Ivica, along with the equally wonderful and friendly Sara Božanić.

I would have loved to be involved with this, but unfortunately I’m going be very busy with Edinburgh Napier’s degree show at that time. I’m very pleased though that students will be in the hands of Jim “Halfman” Kosem (half 100% Slovenian, in fact) along with Dash MacDonald and Demitrios Kargotis, aka DASHNDEM. I’m sure you’ll all have a ball.

After this there’s also the Magdalena festival of Creative Communications, which takes place 13-15 May. If you’re a student under 30 and working in graphics, motion graphics, packaging or communication they also have a competition you might want to enter.

Fingers and Pies: BERG’s Mag+

This great concept video has been doing the rounds in the last couple of days, showing work by BERG London on an e-magazine prototype for Bonnier R&D. More on the BERG blog.

Featuring a very nicely implemented Pie Menu, and a “rubbing” gesture to “heat up” areas of interest in the e-magazine. Great work guys!

Are You Ready for the Internet of Things?


I recently joined a bunch of really interesting colleagues as a member of Council, a “thinktank for the Internet of Things”. Many thanks to founder Rob van Kranenburg for inviting me.

Council’s first event, organised in association with and LIFT@HOME, will be happening in Brussels on 4th December:

Are You Ready for the Internet of Things? (register via LIFT site)

4th December 2009, 0930-2200
IMAL, Brussels.

Should be a great day — I’m looking forward to it. Maybe see you there.

The Power of 8


Since the start of the summer I’ve been a collaborator on The Power of 8, a project led by Anab Jain/Superflux and featuring a fascinating team of people.

The last few weeks have been exhilarating, exhausting and inspirational, leading up to the final exhibition opening last night at Watermans gallery, as part of London Design Festival. Please go and check it out if you’re in London — it’s open until 11th October. Watermans is just a short bus-ride from Gunnersbury station (Overground and District Line).

Critical Design goes to Hollywood


Disney’s new movie G-Force (2009), which features various rodents using hi-tech weaponry and surveillance gear, would seem to owe something to James Auger‘s project Augmented Animals (2005 or earlier).


In particular, night-vision goggles on a hamster vs guinea pigs and a mole.

The New Schtick, 6 months late

I can’t believe I haven’t been reading Russell Davies’ blog forever, but I’m increasingly ending up somehow on that site, coming across wonderful nuggets of wisdom and aggregations of various zeitgeists and it never fails to be insightful and inspiring.

I’m 6 months behind everyone else, but just read his posts The New Schtick and Meet The New Schtick Part 2 (aka Excitement of Paper). Great stuff, and as good an exposition of “post-digital design” as you’ll find anywhere.

(The more astute readers may have sussed that I’m writing a proper post for once out of guilt, rather than my typical delicious-based link-logging. Well spotted. I’m killing a bit of time, sitting on a wifi-enabled train on the soon-to-be-nationalised East Coast Line, winging my way from Edinburgh to London for Sketching’09. I notice the staff announcements are referring to us as “passengers” again, as opposed to the horrendous “customers” that I could never get used to. Perhaps the revolution is already in motion, brothers and sisters. )

Device Activism for Kids


I mentioned previously the atelier I was running on our BDes Product Design degree, so here’s one of the projects I supervised.

Ross Coffield‘s final-year project “Puppets of Propaganda” grew out of his dissertation, which looked at Guerrilla Tactics in design. Combining influences from projects such as Troika’s SMS Guerilla Projector and Tad Hirsch’s Tripwire, Ross has proposed a Toy for children 6-10 years old which allows them to record a subversive message and play it back without being present.

…a project which looks at subverting the preconceived ideology of toys to promote anonymous audio freedom of speech. Aiming to challenge the social idea that children should be seen and not heard, the puppets act as a medium for social communication in the hope of provoking social commentary. The puppets work by allowing the child to record a message and communicate it anonymously when the inbuilt sensor is triggered.

The child presses a button inside one of the puppet’s ears, and speaks their message into a microphone in the other ear. Inside an Arduino with a SpikenzieLabs Voiceshield records the message. The child then positions the puppet in a place where it can deliver its message to the intended audience. An Infra Red distance sensor in the belly (see the two holes) allows the arduino to know when someone is within range, and the audio recorded is played back.


Ross went through a number of prototypes, modelled using Rhino and rapid-prototyped on our ZCorp 310 3D Printer. Early prototypes used a hacked “voice doorbell” type device connected to the Arduino + IR sensor, but as is often the case with hacked electronics they had a tendency to fail unexpectedly. The VoiceShield is a good solution, using the Winbond ISD4003 voice recorder chip. The sampling rate on the shield is only 8kHz but this is absolutely fine for speech.


As well as the physical design Ross also undertook detailed user research and testing with primary school kids, resulting in some rather charming (and some more alarming) ideas for ways to use the toy.

Showtime and Interaction Design

It’s showtime in many Art & Design schools just now, and Edinburgh Napier University, where I lecture, is no exception. The annual Creative Showcase is a degree show of student work from the School of Arts & Creative Industries, plus a programme of events including musical performances and film screenings. It’s open 10am-6pm until 14th June.

This year I was running an Atelier (Platform) for final-year Product Design undergraduates, which involved a semester researching and writing a dissertation, and then another semester working on a major project. My Atelier group, “Everyday Electronics”, focused on the role of electronic objects in everyday life. Apart from discussions and research relating to our relationships with devices, I also ran some introductory Arduino workshops, to give the students a basic grounding in electronics prototyping.

This was only a first step, and the students had never done any electronics before, but I was pleased with how it went, and along with other workshops I ran for 3rd-year product design students, as well as masters students at Edinburgh University, this experience has fed directly into the curriculum design for two new courses BDes (Hons) Interaction Design, and MDes Interaction Design, which I’m pleased to say were recently validated, and will begin in September this year. I’m really looking forward to getting these off the ground, and putting stuff like Arduino and Processing into the curriculum of studio-based design courses.

Some of the Product Design students will also be showing work at New Designers (Part 2), in London from 16-19 July.

The Power of 8: Launch

My friend and colleague Anab Jain has just launched a new project, funded by Arts Council England and Watermans gallery.

In this collaborative project, 8 people from different walks of life work together to build a public conversation about their individual aspirations for a desirable future.

If you’re interested in taking part, or know someone who might be, please watch the video, read more about the project, and get in touch.

This Happened Edinburgh #2

I’m pleased to say that This Happened Edinburgh #2 will be taking place at the Voodoo Rooms on Monday 4th May.

As with the inaugural event we have another great line-up of speakers: Ben Dembroski, Andrew Spitz, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Jen Southern.

As before it’s free but ticketed. Tickets will be available via the registration link on the event page from noon on Monday 27th April.