What are you reading?Issue: XXI.6 November-December 2014
Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design By Bill Buxton (2007) Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook By Saul Greenberg, Sheelagh Carpendale, Nicolai Marquardt, and Bill Buxton (2011) Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide By Todd Zaki Warfel (2009) Storytelling for User Experience: Crafting Stories for Better Design By Whitney Quesenbery and Kevin Brooks (2010)
Buxton’s book, Sketching User Experiences, presents an accessible and engaging case for the fundamental importance of design thinking throughout the research and development pipeline. As I continue to develop a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses in prototyping interactive systems, I find myself regularly revisiting his book and incorporating his colorful case studies into my lectures. I also frequently use the companion workbook, developed by my former colleagues at the University of Calgary, as a primary textbook—a primer on visual communication—for these courses. I’ve found it particularly enjoyable to remix the content of both books with contemporary ubicomp readings to create weekly sketching assignments aimed at pushing students to effectively communicate visions about how emerging mobile and wearable systems could be designed to address real-world problems.
Many of the informatics students enrolled at IU’s Indianapolis campus also work as full-time UX professionals here in the city. I’ve been working through several of Rosenfeld Media’s professional UX books, including Prototyping and Storytelling for User Experience, with the aim of integrating more practitioner-oriented content into my courses. I’ve found these well-designed, topically focused softcovers to be a great match for these students’ needs, since they include a variety of step-by-step tutorials, surveys of software tools commonly used for sketching and pre-visualization, checklists, and relatable case studies.
Mobile Interactions in Context: A Designerly Way Toward Digital Ecology By Jesper Kjeldskov (2014)
This book is a recent addition to my library, prompted by a flurry of interest from colleagues shortly after its (recent) publication. In it, Kjeldskov argues the need for re-examining the established user-centered design model in light of the marketplace’s rapid shift from desktop to mobile computing. His proposal—a “designerly” orientation to mobile HCI design that foregrounds complementary development of both artifacts and enriched understandings of the context(s) surrounding those artifacts—draws on Christopher Alexander’s framing of design as an enterprise of matching form to context. While variations on this idea have long been present within the ubiquitous computing research community, Kjeldskov’s argument that the traditional cyclical design process may not be the best fit for highly contextually dependent design work has been useful for thinking about different ways to organize the efforts of students in my research group and for supporting both generative (built/designed) exploration and reflective thinking (analysis) in the context of messy, information-rich environments.
Advanced Avionics Handbook By Federal Aviation Administration (2009)
Despite a busy schedule on campus, I’m still trying to make time to foster at least a few non-work-related hobbies. After earning my pilot’s license in an ancient Cessna 172 as a grad student at Georgia Tech, I’m hoping to pass a checkout in a more modern (and computationally complex) airplane later this fall. Although I keep trying to convince myself that the FAA’s Advanced Aviation Handbook will be my “recreational” reading for this semester, it’s difficult to avoid focusing on the HCI and information overload issues that inevitably crop up when the book’s goal is to guide solo pilots in the practice of managing multi-function displays, advanced GPS receivers, flight-planning systems, and a suite of digital engine-monitoring instruments, all while continuing to maintain at least a bit of situational awareness about what’s going on outside the airplane.
Journey By Aaron Becker (2013)
Becker’s beautiful picture book is all about exercising creativity, immersing oneself in a world of imagination, righting wrongs, and finding kindred spirits to share in the adventures of life. This book-without-words may be my favorite “read” of the moment, especially when my three-year-old daughter, Natalie, narrates the story for me.
Stephen Voida is an assistant professor of human-centered computing in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Indianapolis. firstname.lastname@example.org
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