Sue Kriegsman, our visitor from the Library Lab, enjoyed her visit to our class. She was excited by what she saw. That’s great, we want to make our funders happy. Rock n’ roll everybody.
When Sue and I discussed projects the next day, I found I needed to flesh out the work for her to fully grok what each of you guys are going after. As we shift into the production stage of this seminar, where we’re making real projects that the outside world will encounter, our work will need to stand on its own. Here are some thoughts to help guide our final project manifestations.
- Fun, Useful, Enticing Always be thinking about the why. Why would somebody use this? Is it fun to use? Solving some need? Ask yourself, is this project effectively communicating the why, the idea/problem it is addressing? Is it communicating the why fast enough — attention is precious and new eyes/minds are not generous.
- Detail Small details are crucial. Projects sink or swim based on the details, portable music players are the classic example. The first mp3 players (think iRiver and others) they sank, vs. the ipod, it’s still swimming. People also remember the details, and tell their friends about them. Especially if there is some sneaky joy hidden in them.
- Story Create the story. Our projects need to tell a story, and be a part of a larger story. I recently read a good way to think about this, Paddy Harrington from Bruce Mau Design (you already know their work ; ) calls it “news logic”:
* * *
“News logic is a simple filter applied throughout a design project that asks, Is this newsworthy? It is not design just to get noticed. It’s an inherent logic in the new technology culture. Blogs want to get the most views, and what gets views is great content. So working backward, if you design as though a design blog may cover your work, you’re embedding an expectation of quality in the work from the outset of the project, before you even start prototyping. The work benefits, because instead of working in the relative isolation of client/designer, you build in a level of accountability. If what you’re doing is not newsworthy, then why are you bothering to do it?….
…Where in the old days (i.e., five years ago), you designed something and then told a story about it in the hopes that it was a story worth telling, more and more of tomorrow’s design projects will have a story worth telling built into their hearts right from the get-go.”
* * *
Some News logic examples
- The Book Truck — the story/headline may be “The Library that Comes to You”
- For The Library Test Kitchen Seminar: the story/title could be spun: “The University Library Designed & Built by Students”
So what’s your story?
- Repeat Use Why will someone seek out your project again? What is it doing for them? Is it sufficiently unique or better than other options? Is it fun? Cool? Strangely compelling?
- Polish & Packaging While we will still be iterating roughly for the next couple weeks, and during this stage polish and packaging are not crucial yet, we need to keep it in mind. When we finally deploy our work, polish is very important. We need to create the desire for someone to come up and check it out. Selectively attend to key points/moments/surfaces/moves you want to stand out in the experience of your work.
- Structure and Clarity Please read the below “How to Pitch” document from ES 96, Stuart Shieber’s class at SEAS. There are some good practices that apply to pitching ideas of all kinds. Yes, several aspects don’t directly apply -e.g. “quantify the problem size / market size” and distilling our projects into problems and solutions may be a bit flat. Nonetheless, there are very clear reasons why business pitches are structured this way and there are many parallels.
* * *
“PITCHING FORMAT AND TIPS
FORMAT (one potential format; to be adapted based on your audience):
1. The problem: What are you trying to solve? Use both a compelling storyas well as numbers to make this problem real, and to quantify the problem size/market size.
2. The solution: How do you propose to solve this problem? Describe your solution, and if you can, quantify the difference it will make.
3. Who: Who are you, and why is your team the ones to make this solution work? (Can also include as an introduction)
4. What you’ve done: Tell us about any progress you’ve made thus far.
5. What’s next. What do you need to do? What are you looking for from your audience?
6. NOTE: Some pitches start with the “What” (solution) followed by the “Why” (problem). The ordering really depends on what you’re working on and who your audience is.
1. The hook: Start your pitch with a hook that will catch the audience’s attention. They’re going to be listening to a lot of pitches – make yours stand out. Tell a compelling story throughout the pitch to keep people engaged. (Think news logic)
2. Keep it simple: People are not going to remember every detail of what you said. Keep your points clear.
3. Know your audience: Who are you pitching to and why? What do you want them to remember at the end of the pitch? Tailor what you’re staying to your audience. The format above should be adapted based on your audience.
Excerpted from ES96, Harvard“
- Ask Big Questions Your projects are levers to ask big questions about library, community, technology and more. Use them as such. A reasonable definition of a successful review is one where you get your jurors using your project as a springboard into a broader, deeper debate. What ideas are you challenging with your project?
- Supporting Materials Projects need tight visual materials to aid in the promotion/marketing of the concepts. Architecture school is a lot of about the image, and while we are not devoting our whole energies to “drawing,” we should not shy away from the reality of its importance. Our work needs to look good. In the months ahead, we will also have the opportunity to present images of our work in some non-standard forums and publications — let’s seize this opportunity and make some great looking stuff.
* * *
A software-based community calendar. Jessica has identified three primary information production points from which data will be coming — the auditorium (Piper), student desks (the trays) and the library (Loeb).
This will all come together in a web application. On screen, a forthcoming Steven Holl event in Piper will intersect with images of Holl’s work from the Library’s database. Past recorded events will be easy to view. Student output, from final projects to early research footage will find a display platform. This will be a confluence of streams.
This “communications” endeavor (in software) is coming out of a course devoted to libraries. It’s a good reminder that content-wrangling is the business of libraries. And there are many active & available content streams outside books. This project also raises some interesting questions. Does the community want this? How will the overall design change when put in front of users?
A library nook. A piece of furniture (we have a video of it in action in a previous post) created for sleeping in the carrels. Currently, Vera’s working out the mechanics of the chair. Dimensions, material, etc. Fabrication begins this break.
As I’ve thought about the project and imagine myself using it, I keep envisioning using it as a writing pod. It will be interesting to see how students both respond and choose to use the spaces. This project also brings highlights the frozen-in-time nature of library furniture and decorum. Carrels haven’t changed in a long, long time. A comfortable couch seems like a wink to sleeping, but the nook is says Sleep Here! This project is a different voice for the library.
Bring a selection of the library’s “core” collection to the trays. Basically, bring books outside the library and up to the desks where folks are working. Bring them to the people.
How will these books be managed, tracked, etc. If you were looking for one in particular, how would you know where to look? Introducing a library into this context forces much to be reconsidered. How do you satisfy some of these basic library functions? May it be done in a lo-fi way?
This project also brings up a provocation another from last semester, Bibliotheca I: what is a self-organizing library? If there ever was one, I suspect it could be similar to this…
A range of explorations, at all scales. At the smallest sits Biblio, a hybrid offline/online research buddy. See videos in previous posts. After that comes Crag, a physical/digital side table. Crag seems like a warped skeuomorph where familiar materiality is defied by the digital. Then operating at room scale, two habitable library spaces are stacked and purposefully programmed — the lower digital (web), the upper tactile (books).
The discussion was directed primarily by ben’s question to the group – “which direction should I pursue?”. It’s was a hard one to answer. Lots of interesting ideas. Sitting with it all over spring break seems the best plan. One idea, I’ll call it deadspace, came up. In talking about how to define a digital | non-digital rift in the room-scale scheme, the idea of an electromagnetically shielded reading chamber emerged. A wi-fi & cellular blackout space — deadspace. Imagining it into existence, someone piped up with a possible future dialogue, “oh sorry, I didn’t get your email/call, I was in the library…”
Curated Collections for the Curious (CCforC). Assembling curated collections based on notable figures. Ask prominent members of the Harvard community to fill bookshelves with the favorite titles from their personal collections, which will then be displayed prominently in the library. One of the great wins Kaitlyn and Ann were able to already achieve, is the ability for Loeb to officially borrow books for display from other Harvard libraries. Establishing this protocol within the system lays the foundation for other libraries to deploy their own versions of CCforC.
The beauty of the CCforC is the versatility. Any library can do this. Every community, and every library that serves that community, has notable figures — science, economics, etc. I’m excited to see how Kaitlyn packages it for both promotion and as a manual for others to follow. She’s already begun the process (see above). The other thing that’s interesting is the viral nature of the idea. Whoever (librarians) I’ve told the idea to at work, there eyes get wide, they start nodding and go “yeah…”.
Mid-term work is on the horizon, class time was spent collaborating to help push projects forward.
We had to produce Roadmaps for the rest of the semester for class– what we’ll be working on, where it will go, how it’ll be built, etc. — so we started with those documents and did an exercise to sharpen it.
Check the student blogs for more…
Part 1: Inventing on Principle, Bret Victor – Great contemporary work
Some brilliant design work explained. Starts out oriented to code/drawing, evolves to much deeper information design etc). It’s by Bret Victor, worrydream, it’s also got some philosophy mixed in. He is a one of the best working currently, in whatever this contemporary craft might be called. Give it a try, see if it grabs you –
Part 2: Charles & Ray Eames – Timeless
And here’s a recent video on the ultimate masters of unsaid craft, the Eames’. Be sure to check out their studio in the first 3 minutes…:
Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter, PBS American Masters:
And find their original videos on youtube
We started off with some Berg love. First we enjoyed some tip-top demo videos.
Do check out their reflections on sketching in video: http://berglondon.com/blog/2011/11/21/sometimes-the-stories-are-the-science%E2%80%A6/
Then we did an in class design exercise. The goal is to develop and evolve ideas rapidly, and with the help of peers. Here are some of the images created. Check out student blogs to see the ideas articulated.
Everything is starting to pivot towards production mode. We have Mid-Review March 8th, getting excited -
Videos Videos videos
Be sure to check the blogroll to see the videos folks made of their research process.
Notes from Think Tank Session at Occupy Lamont
* How does the library communicate with it’s population, how do you let people know of new things?
* Problem: People’s research becomes very, very specific. How can you find that one reference librarian on campus, who’s best suited to help you? How can this “match making” work better?
Gosia recommended this one highly. Sounds like it could have some real insights, and just be fun to read:
Paper Prototyping – here’s what A List Apart has to say about it:
The must-read what-it-means-to-be-an-artist book Robert Irwin – Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees
Yuhka – Perhaps the problem with Reference is the one-on-one aspect of it. What if there were a couple people there, so you didn’t need to initiate the dialogue, perhaps a way to slip in an out of a conversation more fluidly…
Matthew – On a treasure hunt for the first half of class, Matthew came back with an image of the booty…
…Matthew also discussed his curiosity about what happens to books after they’re taken out. Are they in motion, at rest, used as doorstops, actually used at all? This brought to mind the Where’s George project that’s been tracking the flow of money, he’s a work by Sean Dockray visualizing it..
Jessica – Discussed an idea of hers, how one may “write” to a library. What if there was some system to send notes back to the librarians that’ll be inside the book when you return it? …looking forward to her prototype for next week.
Taking it to the extreme, we wondered what blank books in the library might look like. Ones entirely written by the using public. Something like this from Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn:
Jeff: Idea: Artist in Reference. Does it have legs?
What if an Artist was invited to sit at the reference desk? Keeping some sort of hours, for a couple days. Perhaps it’d be linked to a talk, a workshop, etc. But the idea of just “being there”, available. How could you get people to take advantage?
Skillshare/Masterclass: Perhaps Artists in Reference would share skills, their process, their craft.
Cooking Demos: What if Library Folks — staff, bibliophiles, etc. — demo’d their practice, their craft, in public. Catalogers cataloged in the reading room, available to answer questions. Bring back of house services, front of house.
…To be fleshed out…
Somerville Public Library
Good chat with folks from Somerville Public Library. Sounds like in the coming months they’ll be creating a “Teen Room”. We were wondering, what could make it attract 16yr olds (sounds like getting Middle Schooler’s in isn’t too hard)? …It seems the teens themselves need to be at the helm of the creation of this space – from the naming on down (or up).