My three months at Clearleft

MA-project

I thought I’d write a summary of my three months (and equally long absent from this blog) at Clearleft. To give it some background; Clearleft is a digital UX consultancy located in Brighton. They approached me at New Designers 2013 and said that they where running a internship-programme. At the time I wasn’t that interested since purely digital isn’t really my speciality. But I sent in my application and a while later I was in a Skype interview with @andybudd (managing director) and this completely changed my mind. It became clear that they where as interested in physical as they where in digital (for this internship). This was followed up with a interview at their office in Brighton where we also took a tour of their brand new soon to be office. On my way home I was definitely persuaded that this was a good project.

2 hours and 30 minutes later I did however realise that a Journey from Brighton to North London takes, well 2 hours and 30 minutes… It also costs close to £500 a month to do this commute, these where two major drawbacks but I decided to accept their offer anyway, and I’m sure glad that I did!  As far as the expensive commuting goes, this wasn’t that big of an issue since Clearleft offered a very descent payment for the internship, something they should have massive props for, especially considering many agencies expect graduates to intern for free or in exchange for travel and some lunch money.

Anyway, the internship… on my first day I met my two team-mates that had along with me been selected because of their mixed skill-sets. There was me(obviously) with my background in Industrial Design, Kilian Bochnig (@kilianbochnig) who was currently studying Multimedia arts in Austria (MMA he called it which confused me at first:) ) and Zassa Kavuma (@zazbot) a robotics graduate from Liverpool University.

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We got handed three briefs to choose from. The one we decided to go with read; “Turn a current active digital behaviour in to a passive one”. This really intrigued me as it’s an area I really like working in. Getting technology and its associated behaviours to take the back-seat and become invisible is going to be a a very important field of work in my opinion.

We started dissecting the brief and mapping out behaviours associated with technology, devices and input methods, looking at existing devices that solved the brief and so on. To get started with the actual work we set a challenge to produce at least 20 concepts a day for a full working week. This resulted in 120 concepts of varying execution, idea-height and feasibility.

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After several screening and merging processes we where left with six concepts that we split up so that we where in charge of working up two each and present these to the Clearleft team. After a very tough vote, a concept called social radio won. During the process we constantly had drop-ins from “friends of Clearleft” that spent an hour or two mentoring us and helping us forward with the project. This with the addition of the Clearleft team meant we had a pretty solid knowledge and expertise resource.

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This was during the next month developed to Chüne. To see and read more about the actual outcome visit our website: http://www.chune.co.uk

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One thing that I have skipped is the Clearleft annual event; Hackfarm. This is where the whole company goes away to a remote location to work on alternative stuff for a week. It was great that the wanted to even bring along the interns on this years trip. We went to Skendelby Hall in Lincolnshire. It was an amazing week of inpiring project, great company, amazing food and loads of drinks and games.

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So to sum up, my experience as a intern at Clearleft has been nothing but amazing, sure the commuting took some time to get used to but apart from that there is nothing to complain on, Clearleft is by far the nicest company and working environment I have come across. All I can say is, if you are thinking about applying for next years internship programme, then DO IT, and if you aren’t thinking about it, well maybe you should start thinking! :)

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Event Clock

MA-project

So here is finally the full post on the third and last concept of my degree-project: Connected Interactions.
The concept which is called “Event Clock” is a internet-of-things connected device that lets you map events to a traditional wall clock.

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The clock has two extra hands that you can set up to display what ever you want in relation to time. For example in the morning these two extra hands could display when your next two buses leave from you normal bus-stop. Or it can display event from your calender, meetings, appointments or  whatever you want it to display.

By taking information and placing it in the physical environment the information becomes more accessible and instead of demanding your focused attention (the way a small screen interfaces does) interacting with this device is happening in your periphery.
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The concept has it’s roots in a interesting user observation:
Sitting at the kitchen table quickly eating lunch while on her smartphone trying to find when the next bus is leaving, finding the bus on the screen and then looking up towards the clock on the wall to see how much time she has left.
What’s really interesting in this behaviour is how the person looks up on the analogue clock on the wall even though right before her eyes as she sees the time of the departure is the current time as well. This behaviour might come from that the person thinks the analogue way to display time makes it easier to picture how much time is left.
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This physical object is designed with a software-mindset. It’s adaptable in a way that the clock can just as easily be placed on a surface or on a wall, since it has no numerical markings it can be placed on all four sides. It’s changing according to the situation by hiding and revealing the two clock hands behind the larger hour-hand when they are needed/not needed.
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Updates

MA-project

So what has happened the last couple of weeks that has been so very time-consuming that I haven’t had time to write here?, well, degree-show happened!
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Show-building and the 3000 copies of our catalogue

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The theme for the 2013 M/A/I/D show was “soft power tools”

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My table

So that is what has happened, now to what is happening…

I will exibit my project at new designers starting on Wednesday, more about the event here: http://www.newdesigners.com/

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So come and see me and my project including all three concepts there, the third one is still not properly written about here, but it will come..
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and finally, I’ve started working on a follow-up project which will continue exploring the relationship between objects and interactions, the digital and analogue, things and people.

 

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This project will however focus on a single technology,(can you guess which?) something Connected Interactions never intended to do.

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Ceramic Stereo

MA-project

This is part two of my degree project; Connected Interactions 



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Seamlessly merging the physical and digital to create interactions with improved sensory richness. 

This project is looking at the two main discourses of interaction-design; screen-based and object-based, and positions itself in the gap between the two. It questions whether or not it is possible to combine the two and create products that take advantage of both the flexibility of screens and the tactility of tangible interfaces.

The interaction-design paradigm of the moment is being centered around swiping our fingertips on glass, may it be phones, tablets, computers, in-car systems, or even refrigerators. If we are to believe companies like Google, Microsoft and Samsung the coming paradigm of interaction-design is even less tangible with the interaction centered around voice commands and waiving your hands in the air.

More tangible options exist that often offer more natural interactions with  greater tolerances and error margins and that stimulate a wider range of human abilities than it’s screen counterpart. However, more often than not these tangible interfaces ends up with having very few functions and limited in terms of adaptation and customization.

By combining the physical with the intangible this project tries to tame the technology beast. Making technology, connectivity, functions, and actions more graspable and relatable without losing out of the function-rich screen-interfaces. Seamlessly integrating interactions with the digital world into mundane scenarios and making sure that technology becomes in tune with people and our environments, not the other way around.

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This concept is attempting to make wireless connectivity and communication more graspable by mapping intangible actions, functions and settings to real-world tangible actions.

The observation that led to this concept comes from audio consumption and more specific the mismatch between where content usually resides today (in smartphones) and what is being used to amplify the playback (stereos and speakers)

In a typical audio-playback scenario a clash of interfaces occur. The smartphone that holds the content is connected either via a audio-cable or via wireless technology (usually Bluetooth) to an amplifier. More often than not you get double volume controls, double playback controls and so on. This together with the smartphones
already existing interface duality with some functions residing on the screen and some mapped to physical keys makes for a complex interface system.

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Placing your phone on one of the three unmarked positions starts one of the three actions (Play, Pause and Radio). These
positions are only visible when powering-up the device and briefly as the action initiates. The reasoning behind not having any marks is that when an interface is this simple and is used by the same people all the time markings outlive their use very quickly and become nothing more than visual clutter.

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Inspiration for the object and how it is positioned in the home  came from the “key-bowl” – a place where you put your keys when you come home since you have no use for them within the home. Now this isn’t really true when it comes to your phone but with more and more devices that compete for your attention together with the fact that phones are getting larger and larger many people do unload their phone somewhere when they get home. 
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And finally, here are some work in progress pictures and drawings as well, more of this sort can be found in older posts.
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My workplace for the last couple of month, It’s been a lot of fun, late nights, hard work, swearwords and blood, but mostly fun!