Imagine how different Donald Trump’s presidency would be without Twitter, where he posts most of his unfiltered news and opinions to media outlets, who lap it up willingly. Or following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, where Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were used as platform to share many artistic responses of support toward France. And following numerous televised political marches – the International Women's Day march, for example – many powerful graphic designs seen on posters and placards were captured and turned into news stories, or catapulted the illustrator into fame as result, such as Edel Rodriguez.
In a new exhibition at the Design Museum, the relationship between graphics, politics and social media is explored through posters and banners spanning from the global financial crash of 2008 up to the present year. The exhibition reflects how with social sharing – and our image-obsessed media world – the impact of graphic design has never been greater. And how in turn, the social role of designers becomes increasingly important, as explored by a number of leading designers in our design trends feature.
Image: Shepard Fairy's adaption of the original Obama 'Hope' poster, seen at an anti-Trump rally in Oregon, January 2017. Photo credit: Scott Wong.
For better or worse, a large amount of design work these days is visual. That makes sense, since the most essential products we interact with have screens. But as the internet of things surrounds us with devices that can hear our words, anticipate our needs, and sense our gestures, what does that mean for the future of design, especially as those screens go away?
Last week at San Francisco's SOLID Conference, Andy Goodman, group director of Fjord, shared his thoughts on what he thinks the new paradigm of design will be like when our interfaces are no longer constrained by screens, and instead turn to haptic, automated, and ambient interfaces. He calls it Zero UI. We talked to him about what it meant.
WHAT IS ZERO UI?
Zero UI isn't really a new idea. If you've ever used an Amazon Echo, changed a channel by waving at a Microsoft Kinect, or setup a Nest thermostat, you've already used a device that could be considered part of Goodman's Zero UI thinking. It's all about getting away from the touchscreen, and interfacing with the devices around us in more natural ways: haptics, computer vision, voice control, and artificial intelligence. Zero UI is the design component of all these technologies, as they pertain to what we call the internet of things.
"If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way," Goodman says.
Over time, these methods have become less complex: the punch card gave way to machine code, machine code to the command line, command line to the GUI. But machines still force us to come to them on their terms, speaking their language. The next step is for machines to finally understand us on our own terms, in our own natural words, behaviors, and gestures. That's what Zero UI is all about.
HOW WILL ZERO UI CHANGE DESIGN?
According to Goodman, Zero UI represents a whole new dimension for designers to wrestle with. Literally. He likens the designer's leap from UI to Zero UI as similar to what happens in the novella Flatland: instead of just designing for two-dimensions—i.e. what a user is trying to do right now in a linear, predictable workflow—designers need to think about what a user is trying to do right now in any possible workflow.
Take voice control, for instance. Right now, voice control through something like Amazon Echo or Siri is relatively simple: a user asks a question ("Who was the 4th president of the United States?") or makes a statement ("Call my husband") and the device acts upon that single request. But ask Siri to "Message my husband the 4th president of the United States, then tell me who the fifth is?" and it'll barf all over itself. To build services and devices that can translate a stream-of-consciousness command like that, designers will need to think non-linearly. They'll need to be able to build a system capable of adjusting to anything on the fly.
"It's like learning to play 3-D chess," Goodman laughs. "We need to think away from linear workflows, and towards multi-dimensional thought process."
ZERO UI WILL REQUIRE DESIGNERS TO RELY ON DATA AND AI
Whereas interface designers right now live in apps like InDesign and Adobe Illustrator, the non-linear design problems of zero UI will require vastly different tools, and skill sets.
"We might have to design in databases, or lookup tables, or spreadsheets," Goodman says, explaining that data, not intuition, will become a designer's most valuable asset. "Designers will have to become experts in science, biology, and psychology to create these devices... stuff we don't have to think about when our designs are constrained by screens."
For example, let's say you have a television that can sense gestures. Depending on who is standing in front of that TV, the gestures it needs to understand to do something as simple as turn up the volume might be radically different: a 40-year-old who grew up in the age of analog interfaces might twist an imaginary dial in mid-air, while a millennial might jerk their thumb up. A zero UI stereo will need to have access to a lot of behavioral data, let alone the processing power to decode them."
"As we move away from screens, a lot of our interfaces will have to become more automatic, anticipatory, and predictive," Goodman says. A good example of this sort of device, Goodman says, is the Nest: you set its thermostat once, and then it learns to anticipate what you want based on how you interact with it from there.
WHAT'S AFTER ZERO UI?
Although Goodman is serious about the fact that screens are going to stop being the primary way we interact with the devices around us, he's the first to admit that the Zero UI name isn't meant to be taken literally. "It's really meant to be a provocation," Goodman admits. "There are always going to be user interfaces in some form of another, but this is about getting away from thinking about everything in terms of screens."
But if Goodman's right, and the entire history of computing is less a progression of mere technological advancements, and more a progression of advancements in the way we are able to communicate with machines, then what happens after we achieve Zero UI? What happens when our devices finally understand us better than we understand ourselves? Is anything we want to do with an app, gadget, or device is just a shrug, a grunt, or a caress away?
"I'm really into all that singularity stuff," Goodman laughs. "Once you get to the point that computers understand us, the next step is that computers get embedded in us, and we become the next UI."
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Clients can sometimes take their time when deciding whether to hire freelancers. They might not be sure if they should go ahead, or be unconvinced that they’ve found the right person for the job. If this sounds familiar, and you’re waiting on that call or email to say ‘go’, then there are steps you can take to seal the deal. The following five easy tricks will help you strike while the iron’s hot:
1. Work as you mean to go on. Treat the client like you’re already hired. Use language like ‘we’ and ‘our’ to firmly mark your place on the team. Care deeply about their brand and go above and beyond expectations to show that you’re passionate about helping them succeed. That’s whether you’re pitching, emailing or speaking to them over the phone – be personable and enthusiastic. Remember, people buy into people not brands. If they like you and feel as though you’re already a part of their company structure, you can’t go wrong.
2. Offer a discounted introductory rate. Often the biggest hurdle to hiring anyone is the price. Make yourself irresistible and lessen the perceived risk by offering a discounted introductory rate, perhaps for the first three months. It’ll sweeten the deal and ensure the client doesn’t go elsewhere. Just make sure you have this term in writing, so you’re able to reintroduce your standard rate once the initial period is up.
3. Set up a workshop to kick things off. The client loved your pitch. They didn’t flinch at your day rate. Now you just need to get going before they change their mind. This is where the suggestion of an initial workshop is a great idea. It’s a chance to get a foot in the door and meet the internal people who you’ll be working with. Perhaps you can create an agenda, or even a mood board, to act as a talking point and allow everyone involved to plot out next steps. Every project has to start somewhere. It’s best that you firmly plant yourself in the strategic process, so you don’t miss a trick and can ensure you’re included in the weeks and months to come.
4. Remind them you’re available and in demand Still not getting anywhere? Remind them you’re still available. That’s whether you opt for sending a newsletter (with their permission, of course) or simply point them to a blog post or tweet, potential clients might be swayed if they see how well you’re doing elsewhere. Seeing great case studies sparks their curiosity. It gets them thinking “we really need to hire that guy”. You want to appear ‘in demand’ and delivering solid work. It makes you irresistible and keeps the competition at bay.
5. Let them know you care Nothing convinces a client more that you’re the right person for the job than showing passion for their own company. Drop them a friendly line to point them to a relevant news article you think they’d find interesting. Or inform them of something one of their competitors has done. It keeps you fresh in their mind, so when they’re ready to go ahead – you’ll be the first person they call.
November 8, 2016
Pity the open workspace. It has been criticized by everybody from The Washington Post to Fast Company magazinefor creating office distractions, destroying privacy and even making employees sick.
So when BCBSNC transitioned out of its well-known Chapel Hill headquarters into renovated space in Durham, why did the company create an open workspace in several of its buildings?
NOT ALL OPEN OFFICES ARE EVILWhen done right, the new style of office fosters creativity and collaboration. These attributes are key to helping us work better in a sometimes turbulent health care world, says Julie Schoenagel, the company’s director of real estate and building services.
“The reason we’re transforming our work environment is to help our teams succeed in the rapidly changing world of health care,” she says. “It’s a safe and healthy environment that promotes collaboration, engagement and creativity.”
ALL ABOUT CHOICEWhile many progressive companies are diving into the open office craze, these kinds of workspaces often get a bad rap for wrecking productivity. Those ill-designed workspaces they’re talking about don’t have the key ingredient to make them successful: choice.
Workplace experts say you need a variety of space: Open spaces for collaboration, small private offices for focused work alone, various sizes of conference and huddle rooms, and adequate space for socializing and breaks.
At BCBSNC, a walking trail, covered walkways and courtyards connect the nine buildings throughout our consolidated campus that has lots of options to get work done. The new office space in Durham gives employees the opportunity to sit wherever they choose, depending on the type of work they happen to be doing. The only assigned seating is in private offices for company officers.
About 15 percent of the workforce – people in Sales & Marketing, our Project Management Office, Enterprise Analytics and Actuarial, to name a few – has transitioned to the open workspace with no assigned seats.
The company’s Real Estate and Facilities Services team, who spearheaded our new way of working, recognized that one size does not fit all and created a variety of spaces with employee needs and work styles in mind. And, according to commercial real estate firm CBRE, BCBSNC is moving in the right direction. As its smart workplace of 2040 infographic shows, employees will be totally in control of where and how they work in the future.
OPTIONS TO EMBRACE YOUR INNER HERMITWhen employees need privacy, there’s more than one option to fill the need for a quiet space. One choice for seclusion from noise and distraction is in a workbay, or “sushi roll,” as employees like to call them. These green private spaces can be found all over campus in designated quiet zones, and they’re made of eco-friendly materials, too.
Or, you can step into a focus room – a small office with a door – for a couple hours or take to the treadmill desk in designated private rooms to rack up some steps while working.
COMING OUT OF YOUR SHELLWhen you want to collaborate or need a more open, casual environment, that’s available too. These “neighborhoods” of desks with various monitor setups and some sit-to-stand desks give employees their own space next to colleagues working on the same projects or similar work.
Additional collaboration space at BCBSNC includes high and low tables with electrical and media connections, including large monitors and whiteboards.
There’s even workspace outdoors in the courtyard between buildings on the Durham campus – where wireless is still accessible.
CULTURE IS KEYIn a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article from 2014, researchers pointed to how “the most successful work environments provide a range of spaces – an ecosystem – that allow people to choose where and how they get work done.” Equally as important to the choice of physical space is a culture that supports this kind of freedom. Giving employees the flexibility to work where they want wouldn’t be successful without leaders and peers trusting one another to get the work done from wherever they choose.
According to HBR, the success of any workspace “depends on a supporting culture that gives employees control over where and how they work and how they manage their privacy. Leaders must walk the talk so that others can see this is how we work here.”
Before 950 BCBSNC employees from a variety of business areas jumped into the open office environment, Schoenagel’s team made sure everything was ready.
“Transitioning to this new way of working is a big change management effort,” she says. “We partnered with the teams to help them prepare and ease any angst they may have had.”
At BCBSNC, we describe our culture as the Four Cs – caring, creative, collaborative, and committed. It’s in our DNA for how we get work done. And, it’s a primary reason the new workplace is successful.
It’s always difficult to admit when you are wrong about something, especially when you have spent a lot of time publicly railing against it. In this case, while I’m not quite going so far as to admit that I’m wrong about the death of the QR code (I waxed poetically about this several months ago), I am willing to take another look at the technology.
In fairness to my original assertion that QR codes were dead, I was clear to pin a majority of blame on marketers and their misuse of QR codes versus the technology itself. I also spelled out several reasons why QR codes hadn’t succeeded.
Since my post back in April, I’ve had a number of conversations with people in the industry, including a mobile product manager from AT&T who sent me several great counterpoints via email following my QR code rant.
Also, the environment has changed a bit since April; so, in the spirit of setting the record straight, here are some updates on my “five reasons” contributing to the death of QR codes and why these may or may not still hold true:
1. Apple and Android have yet to ship a phone with a QR reader pre-loaded.
Update: With the launch of IOS7, the Apple Passbook app (something I continue to be bullish on) now comes with a QR code reader pre-loaded. This is a huge change in events as consumers now at least have a shot of knowing how to read a QR code.
To that end, after reading my Death of a QR Code post, my 60-something dad sent me a message saying, “On the occasions when I thought I might scan a QR, I had neither the time nor the inclination to do the download.”
Also, a little known secret according to Google Plus friend, Amit Bhor, “Android ships with Google Now, which has a QR reader built in. Very few know this and even fewer actually use it.” Score one for the QR codes.
2. In many cases, the mobile experience sitting behind the QR code is a disappointment.
Update: While many of the experiences behind QR codes are still a disappointment, there are instances (particularly in the industrial sections of business) where having a QR code that can be scanned by hardware allows for seemly connections to deep linked product specs, etc.
I heard from several folks that realtors are also using QR codes on property signs, allowing for quick connections to the right property information. Maybe the takeaway here is that QR codes are better when not used by marketers.
3. Some QR codes end up in places with no wifi or connectivity on your phone (airplane, subway station).
Update: With wifi and connectivity becoming more and more ubiquitous, this is becoming less of an issue. The big game changer for me on this one is the FAA’s recent approval of continuous device usage on planes. Meanwhile, more and more train stations/underground spaces are piping in connectivity. Conclusion here is that it’s still an issue but less so than in the past.
4. Many consumer packaged goods companies feel that committing valuable space on their label/packaging to a standard UPC code and a QR code is overkill.
Update: This will continue to be an issue, especially when space is limited (like on a candy bar). However, there may be a case to be made on items with higher purchase consideration like laptops or expensive bottles of wine.
To that end, one of my commenters last go around, Justin Balk, commented that “if you do your research you will find that QR codes can replace barcodes because of how much more information they can fit and they can be missing up to 30% of the QR code and still be able to be scanned in which barcodes cannot.”
While Justin’s point is well taken, my bigger issue was that nearly all packaged goods are labeled with UPC, so to redo every label with a QR code instead is a daunting task.
And unfortunately, some older point of sale (POS) systems are still not able to read QR codes. Takeaway here is that some — not all — packaged goods might benefit from the use of QR codes.
5. Even when a QR code is done right (link to mobile-optimized site, available connectivity, clear call-to-action), it’s hard to convince oneself that the minute it takes to pull out your phone, open up a scan-friendly app (assuming one had been downloaded), scan the QR code and then wait for the experience to load, is worth it.
Update: This one is closely connected with my first point regarding the two major operating systems originally not offering a native QR code reader. Now that iOS7 (and apparently Google Now) allow mobile users to scan codes, deciding whether or not to use the reader vs. the browser is a push.
Where this gets interesting is as wearable technology like Google Glass proliferates, scannable codes like QR codes could see a huge uptick in utility.
Final Thoughts The most interesting outcome of writing the Death of the QR code post was discovering what a polarizing topic this is. For the most part, people either agreed wholeheartedly or disagreed vehemently. It was also one of my most commented on (70+) and shared (1,500+) posts I’ve ever written in my seven plus years of blogging.
Sometime soon, I plan to cover the state of NFC (near field communication) as a technology. I’m wondering… if I declare that dead, will I get a similar reaction?
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It's March...It's supposed to be warmer, but Nooooooo!
Saturday families were out at the BBQ grilling their favorite foods in 80 degree weather and Sunday the temp dropped 60 degrees giving Us Freezing Rain and Sleet.. Monday morning coffee has been spent with covers over our legs....Stay Warm, Stay Safe Dallas!!!
You know what an Easter Egg is right, you search all over for them and get a surprise. Well we at digiphics have hidden an Easter Egg on the site, find it and see where it takes you. For instance Google has one,