Unlike outdoor adventures I’ve undertaken before, the Shikoku Pilgrimage is unique in that you’re rarely far from civilisation and that it takes upwards of 7 weeks to complete. This means you don’t need to worry about food or cooking equipment but any gear you carry needs to be extremely durable and light. Read more
Anyone who knows Japanese retailer MUJI (無印良品) in Europe or America is probably familiar with their “no brand” stationery, but in Japan their product range is far bigger with clothing, furniture, food & drink, kitchen ware, cosmetics, bicycles, plants, consumer electronics and even houses. Read more
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we looked at some of the intriguing aspects of the way people’s everyday lives are affected by design in Japan. Whether the result of a lone designer with a singular focus or a meddling committee with a medley of requirements it’s fascinating to see how other countries have approached the same challenges. Read more
In the mind’s eye of many people Japan is a land of tranquil Zen gardens, serene temples, and exquisite tea ceremonies. Both traditional and contemporary Japanese architecture, books and magazines are the envy of designers worldwide. Yet for some reason practically none of this mastery has been translated into digital products, in particular websites, most of which look like they hail from around 1998.
While I design software for a living, it’s often the design of everyday physical objects which intrigues me the most. From ticket machines to toilets, every time I travel somewhere for the first time it always fascinates me to see the various way people have solved the same problems – for better or worse. Read more
I’ll save passing comment on iOS 7 for another day (short version: brave new world) but more than this I wanted to share the beautiful video’s Apple made explaining what design means to them – a mission statement if you like.
“I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation, it’s about bringing order to complexity.” – Jony Ive
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs
Above is the gas supply control panel in the apartment I’m staying at in Tokyo. Assuming you don’t read Japanese, how would you go about turning it on?
Arthur Dent: I wonder what’ll happen if I press this button.
Ford Prefect: Don’t.
Arthur Dent: [presses it] Oh.
Ford Prefect: What happened?
Arthur Dent: A sign lit up saying “Please do not press this button again.”
– “The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” Episode #1.2
I think most peoples first response would be to press the big pink button in the bottom right but this actually does nothing but play a robotic women’s voice (presumably telling you not to press that button again!).
It took me 30 minutes to work out that what looks like an LED indicator light in the top-right is actually the on/off button that needs to be pressed before the big pink button to get the hot water flowing. The up/down arrows set the temperature which is more obvious.
This got me thinking about user interface design for global audiences – the problem here is that the device was communicating both visually and aurally in a language which I don’t understand. Had it included some simple symbols alongside the text it would have been much clearer.
Humans have been using symbols to communicate for over 17,000 years because they are the one language everyone can understand. Symbols can transcend cultural and language barriers and deliver concise information effortlessly and instantaneously. They allow people to communicate quickly, effectively, and intuitively.
– The Noun Project
It seems to me that each situation requires a balance where mission-critical information is conveyed in both symbols and text with less important functions left for text only – a bit like this scary toilet control panel I found in a hotel in Shanghai a few years ago!
Japanese artists seem to have become extremely adept at combining motion graphics, projection, and live-action choreographed dance into some mesmerising acts which caught my attention over the last year. Below are four of the best. Read more