Astronomer, psychologist, and MIT professor went to a design conference

Published on 2020/03/06

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by Yevheniia Nikitina

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The title could sound like the beginning of some joke, but the modern design field attracts more and more professionals that don’t do that much drawing but build new systems and experiences.

This year FITC Amsterdam again gathered a lot of great professionals to share their most interesting projects and thoughts. Now I’d like to mention the top 3 talks that I liked.

Visualizing Connections

Nadieh Bremer is an astronomer that turned out to become a freelancing data visualization designer and artist. With her background in data science, it’s not an issue for her to collect 12,000 lines of data and make a beautiful and meaningful graph from it.

Have you ever wondered how many constellations were there in the sky according to different cultures? Or have you wondered about “Royal constellations” i.e. connections between people in royal families?

Figures in the Sky and Royal Constellations

Do you know what people search in google about cats and dogs? Or where do homeless people in the US travel the most (spoiler: it’s not only LA)?

Why Do Cats and Dogs …? and Bussed out

Please your inner perfectionist with beautifully visualized data and learn something new in Nadieh’s projects.

You want me to measure what?/Design Science

David M. Hogue is a sociologist and physiologist working as a UX design lead at Google. His team researches through different devices to improve UX quality, cohesiveness, and consistency.

I started my conference experience with a workshop by David. There we were discussing how to measure subjective experiences, what are the best practices and how to ask the right questions to get the results.

On the second day of the conference, David talked about UX Design methods and running experiments.

A few important notes:

  • Choose one variable you’re interested in and run experiments to collect the data.
  • Conjectures tend to become assumed truths.
  • Always question everything.

Talking about bounding of design and psychology, he shared a model of thinking through design and a model of interaction design:

Following the steps in the previous schemes (of course, it’s a shortened version, but it might give you an idea of where to look at) you could apply this model to analyze the UX and become a real UX-unicorn-expert.

Restoring Innovation on the Web Through Data

Ruben Verborgh is a professor of semantic web technology. He was talking about a project called Solid, which is based in MIT. Ruben believes that big companies that are sitting on the piles of data are stagnating, and we should change our perception of holding and using data.

The idea of Solid is that everyone should own their personal information, and by owning they mean not just rights, but storing your data with a provider of your choice. Then, this data could be accessible through different social networks or messengers (with your permission of course).

How would you benefit from it? Have you ever wanted to change your profile photo? For sure you know you have to go through different social networks and apps and manually change the picture. Half a year later you’d realize you forgot to change it on LinkedIn or anywhere else. With a new system, you’d need just to change the picture with your storage provider, and it would be changed everywhere else.

Another example, you and your friends or relatives using different messaging apps. Is there some dummy app you keep just to talk to your grandma or parents? Solid suggests that everyone could use the app they want, but messages and data would be accessible across different apps without the necessity of installing them all. Use the one messaging app you like, the one social network app you like and so on.

This approach would create a new market, new services, and new competition. Let’s see if the guys get successful in rolling out this innovative principle.

Bonus 

Yeah, I said about the top 3 talks, but they’re all so technical, that I feel I have to mention something more traditional and graphics-related.

Blending the Physical and Digital World

Tina Touli is a creative director and graphic designer running her studio. She likes to experiment and often uses traditional materials to create her artwork. She might start with cutting paper and then switch to the software, but her current obsession is using liquids. Some drops of oil or gasoline (kids, don’t use flammable stuff at home!) in a dish with water could help you create a super dope picture for your next poster.

Tina’s experiment during Graphic Design Adobe Live Stream event

Thanks for reading this overview, I hope you’ve found something inspirational here, so as I did.