IASDR_Day 01 Collaboration
IASDR07_Day 3

IASDR07_Day 1.5 and 2

I posted more images on Flickr on the conference and Hong Kong in general.

Day 1.5
I forgot to post my impressions of Henry Steiner's presentation on cultural FusionCrash. His was a provocative presentation about how the "East and West" read and misread each other through art and design. It was provocative in that Henry seems to have no moral center. When asked in the Q&A about what he wouldn't do as a designer, he said something to the effect that designers should push the envelop. While agreeing to some extent, there should be ethical standards of practice that he did not seem to adopt.

Personally, I found him a bit of a diva. He was very rude in the morning when we were setting up because he wanted to rehearse his presentation.

I then went to my hotel to take "a nap" and woke up at midnight. So that was the end of my first day of the conference. :)

Day 2

My long nap ended up being a good thing because it eliminated my jet lag. I had tons of energy for the next day of events.

The keynote speaker was Surya Vanka of Microsoft. His talk centered on emerging trends in design and design research and specifically the evolution of design at Microsoft from the periphery to the center with Vista. He had great images of the evolution of the Windows interfaces over time. He talked about "scaled intimacy" and how one needs a variety of research methods (quantitative and qualitative, ethnographic and usability and design) to cover the entire spectrum. One thing that always pisses me off when people talk about ethnography (read: anthropology) is that anthropologists used any type of technique that they could get their hands on. I did every research technique in the book to collect data over a period of 21 months. Ethnography is never a technique, but an analytical perspective of what one wants to do with the data. So stop reading ethnography and anthropology as one.

In general, what was interesting is not what he said but the fact that it takes place at Microsoft, and thus Bill can give a 2 minute message at World Usability Day about how important it is.

I attended portions of 5 break out sessions.

The first was on Emotional Design with P Desmet, S Tzvetanova, then I slipped out to see the evaluation of the Design Education Workshop program in China. The second full session I attended was on User Behavior and culture to some extent. Then I attended one on Museums and design to do something different.

Emotional Design
P Desmet's sources of product emotion was an insightful approach that crossed human goals, standards, and attitudes with emotions related to the product, usage, and consequences of usage. It is a good approach for students and may be a technique to get to what he seeks as "values" in emotional design.  The outcome of his approach was an airline tray available on KML flights that allow you to add condiments to hot and cold food in playful ways and is eco-friendly.

S Tzvetanova's gave a very academic presentation on emotional design methodologies. It was hard to hear her in the room but she was very professional and methodical in her approach.

The room was freezing from air conditioning so I wandered off to find other interesting topics.

Design Education
I then went to see about design education in China.  A Ms. Zhao gave a wonderfully structured presentation on a Japanese program to provide design education training workshops in China. She went through the history of their efforts:

  • 1997-1998 Providing basic industrial design training and curriculum to students in China
  • 1999-2004 Highlighting creative design and design management with jr. faculty in China
  • 2005-2007 Helping China transform to a "information society" by supporting communication design, especially man-machine communication (HCI)

She showed student projects such as robots, but stressed the importance of the overall success to the supporting of (1) students, (2) lecture staff, and (3) group work and creation of design community. Their last efforts were in using HCI to create design community including video records or projects, etc.

I originally intended to go to the second session on Design Education, but decided I was more interested in User Behavior.

User Behavior
The first presentation was by Nigel Power with Dr. J Tangsantikul in asbsentia. It was about rice cookers in Thai social practice. This presentation is why design researchers make me very angry. Their project was an anthropological project. They did oral histories of Thai women in their 70s, 40s, and 20s about the meaning of rice cookers in their everyday lives.  They drew upon Michel de Certeau and framed their project as providing designers "awareness of the impact and implications [of products] not just applications of work." When I asked if this was design anthropology, they disclaimed any anthropological relatedness because it was not long term research. When I reassured him that I will not attack him because he did not spend one year on site and asked him if his intentions were anthropological, he stated that he was more influenced by cultural studies.

I know I have my own biases as an anthropologist, but there is an entire body of literature going back over 150 years about how products get domesticated in cultures. Cargo Cult? Archaeology anyone? It is really a mark of poor scholarship to not tap into that literature by saying anthropology is about methodology and long term field research. An anthropologist does long term field research only really once in their career, then you may get 3 months, 1 months, etc. in a given site as the pressures of family and/or career make it impossible to get away for 1 year.  I understand if you are a practicing designer, but a design researcher has no excuse to not be engaged with that literature. None, whatso ever when Anthrosource provides academic access to the entire body on anthropological knowledge.

The second presentation by Arash Aharpor and SN Beiakhti of Iran interested me because it fit within my design policy project. It was about the redesign of Iranian public bathrooms to increase security and hygiene and reduce vandalism, social abuse, etc. So they did field research and surveys from 2002-2003, redesigned the spaces from 2003-2005 based on the design principles of mutual respect, automation, decline of social crimes, and efficiency; and did post-design evaluations from 2005-2007.  They were very successful of meeting the objectives by introducing a 10 minute timing system, automated flushing and water, self recoiling water hose, etc. I hesitate to ask them to join in the Design Policy book because of the top-heaviness of the social engineering. It really challenges me to think about what my design and governance ethos is about and why I am reluctant to see this project as part of it although it did all the things required to involve the citizen's in framing the issue.

The last one of the user behavior session was by K Inoue on Usability using Rough Set Theory. This was a very very technical presentation on the use of AHP (?) methods of rough evaluation to increase the validity of usability testing of digital music players. What I found useful for a testing protocol that I have to write is that he divided the evaluation into:

  • Which sample of players looked easy to use based on visuals?
  • Which sample of players were easy to use based on task analysis?
  • Which sample of discrete parts (shape, buttons, keyboard) looked easy to use based on visuals?
  • Which sample of discrete parts were easy to use  based on task analysis?

So while the ipod looked the easiest to use, it slipped in placement after task analysis. Very cool stuff.


I attended the session on Museums because I wanted to see something new. Anita Kocsis gave a presentation on working with astrophysicists for a 3D virtual exhibit at the Melbourne Museum. HY Hon gave a presentation on the design process for a color museum in Asia. Lisa Wastiels did a content analysis of the keywords that architects use about materials selection. They were all very interesting and engaging. They highlighted for me the fact that designers always worked in "interdisciplinary" contexts whether for an annual report where they have to understand the business context or for scientists where they have to learn the scientific content.

I find myself thinking that the buzz around "interdisciplinary" is a red herring. Communication design has always been interdisciplinary because designers were not the content providers or experts. What has changed is that designers are claiming the space as content providers and a running into their lack of contextual knowledge of the content domain. In the bid for control, designers are adopting the roles of writers and researchers and thus increasing the complexity of their role in the process, while the processes have always been complex (take it from the anthropologist).


I came in late to this session, but caught Bruce Hanington's presentation on Generative Research in Design Education and R Harland's presentation on Redefining Graphic Design.

Of Bruce's presentation, I know the exploratory, generative, and evaluative research space super well, so I focused more on the examples of student work and innovations in methodology. Examples included one student having participants make clay models of emotional states or another student having truck drivers do collages of how they would want their truck cabin to be designed. Bruce positioned much of the student's innovative methods as serving as design inspiration as opposed to information. I feel that I have to struggle so much to get students to understand research that I don't have time to support the development of innovative methods. I feel this most strongly in the IPD course, where the students did not choose the more innovative research methods, in fact I had to go through and make several do in-context interviews instead of surveys.

R. Harland's presentation provided his evolution of defining the six domains of graphic design.  I think Jen Gehlhaar's (see my blog post on it) presentation at Schools of Thought III did a good job of defining what is graphic design today. But, here is the final diagram of R. Harland's presentation. You can't see it too well because of the head, but it is a kinda Ven-diagram that has idea creation in the center sweet spot, surrounded by image creation, word interpretation, and media realization.


In the evening, I took a tram ride throughout Hong Kong Island with 50 other people from the conference. Then a smaller group of 6 of us went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. That was the end of day 2.

As for day 3, I'm writing my blog, putting together the final touches of my visual presentation, and will be hopefully seeing the city some.



"I find myself thinking that the buzz around "interdisciplinary" is a red herring. Communication design has always been interdisciplinary because designers were not the content providers or experts... .

Hi Dori,
A great 'rundown' of the conference you provide here--thank you. One thing about 'interdisciplinarity' in communication design... though you are correct in saying that designers have always worked within multidisciplinary teams in practice, one place where it's not emphasized as it should be is in design education--in the classroom--which is ironic.

Graphic designers are still educated under the myth of the lone 'creative genius' who sits at the computer while generating great ideas in isolation. Students are praised--and graded--as being the sole authors of their own work. Most students are not ever exposed to collaboration and teamwork, and if they are, it's usually not until the senior year--at least this is the case in my somewhat informed (though limited) experience.

While the discussions on the importance of 'inter/multi-disciplinarity' collaboration may seem redundant, this topic is so necessary for graphic design students to both understand and experience--and, especially, for design educators. Somehow, designers figure all this out when they start practicing, but it's a struggle.

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