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URBAN INFORMATION DESIGN
                  AND THE NEW MATERIALS OF INTERACTION
                  Sami Niemelä
                  Creative Director, Nordkapp
                  @samin




                  — www.nordkapp.fi
                  — @Nordkapp



Thank you, Adam, Juha for the talks and thanks for the Cognitive Cities guys for having me.

My name is Sami, and I work for a design consultancy called Nordkapp in Helsinki, Finland.

this talk is about connecting the dots in the fuzzy beginning, and making them into something more tangible. Partially this is thinking out loud on, and partially reflecting the work we’ve done on
urban informatics and screens.
This is what our work looks like. We work in sensemaking and strategic design, concept design and interfaces.
The latter part includes products, services, sometimes crossing with physical objects and environments.

We've worked on urban informatics and especially urban screens for a while now, with mr Greenfield as our advisor.
A major part of my time is spent on the fuzzy part of design: navigating the wicked design problems into systems, platforms, products and services.
The
                  Right
                  Now
In a same way,I’ve divided the talk into three parts: now, near future and the future. So, let’s first focus on the situation at hand. Urban informatics and screens in particular are taking their baby
steps towards an established system.
Title Text




                                                                                                                                                       observations Kate Whelan & Tia Sistonen / Noedkapp


Interactive Urban Screens are in their infancy. As the screens were and are treated as static display objects along streams of people, there are some details that were left unnoticed. As the
design of the object themselves is far from optimized, they tend to blend in to their environment - almost too well even for the commercial content to work well.
observations Kate Whelan & Tia Sistonen / Noedkapp


These are the screens in Helsinki, installed by ad vendor Clear Channel and the city two years ago. The one side of the screen is a commercial space, an ordinary lcd rotating the advertisements. The
other side is a touch screen, currently running a static map.

The planning was mostly driven by advertisement money, and whole system built on top on CC's platform. Good for them, but not that good for the budding ecosystem.
Title Text




                                                                                         observations Kate Whelan & Tia Sistonen / Noedkapp


This is a sight more and more common in cities and airports everywhere.

And of course, despite being fabulously built to stand the elements, they run Windows.
Why is
                   this like
                   it is?
So, what’s going on here? Why is it like this?
“Always design a
                   thing by considering
                   its next largest
                   context”                                                           —EERO SAARINEN



The architect Eero Saarinen talked about the importance of always designing to next larger context. That's more true than ever today,

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.
“Design for the
                  smaller context, too”
                                                                                                                                —ME




and I'd add we have to keep our minds open to both directions— one context up, and down as well. I'll get back to this in a second.
Wicked
                 Problems
Regarding designing urban informatics, it’s important to realize we’re dealing with a fairly complex system here. True wicked problems—something that are complicated to solve, in more ways
than just one.
Paths&
               Edges&
               Districts&
               Nodes&
               Landmarks
To undestand this, a bit of historical context: in his book “The image of the city” (1960) Kevin Lynch coined the concept of place legibility, which is essentially the ease with how individuals
perceive and navigate the urban landscape

     paths, the streets, sidewalks, trails, and other channels in which people travel;
     edges, perceived boundaries such as walls, buildings, and shorelines;
     districts, relatively large sections of the city distinguished by some identity or character;
     nodes, focal points, intersections or loci;
     landmarks, readily identifiable objects which serve as external reference points.
Interfaces&
                               Services&
                               Data Platforms&
                               Connected Objects&
                               Infrastructure.

On top of this, what makes the complexity of an interactive urban system, consisting on anything from personal devices to interfaces to infrastructure within the urban fabric.

To make make this even more interesting is that we have to add time to the equation as well
Interfaces&
                                                                                        Services&
                               Time                                                     Data Platforms&
                                                           +                            Connected Objects&
                                                                                        Infrastructure.

On top of this, what makes the complexity of an interactive urban system, consisting on anything from personal devices to interfaces to infrastructure within the urban fabric.

To make make this even more interesting is that we have to add time to the equation as well
Urban Information Design
NOW   DAILY   NEVER
For example, the screens will be used in various ways for various services: Wayfinding is an obvious example, too. The idea that maps tell me where I am is fairly new, too. So is the question
“How long it does take me to get to X”?
v
                                                                                                        5 10 15
                                                                                                              MIN                 MIN                  MIN




For example, the screens will be used in various ways for various services: Wayfinding is an obvious example, too. The idea that maps tell me where I am is fairly new, too. So is the question
“How long it does take me to get to X”?
…and how often are you going to be there? This is interesting as local residents usually don’t feel they need any help, until they are given an opportunity to find and learn. And maybe play.
DAILY
                                                                        WEEKLY



                                                                                                                                             NEVER

…and how often are you going to be there? This is interesting as local residents usually don’t feel they need any help, until they are given an opportunity to find and learn. And maybe play.
We can jump to more ambivalent and abstract things like psychogeoraphy: It is hugely important to urban experience as well.

How does the city feel to you where you are?
ENJOY
                                                                                                                              LOVE



                                                                      FEAR


We can jump to more ambivalent and abstract things like psychogeoraphy: It is hugely important to urban experience as well.

How does the city feel to you where you are?
And perhaps the most relevant approach here is the lens of designing services: How do the services connect and identity to the urban fabric? What are the touchpoints.... the hows and whens?
First Use

                                                                                                                                                               Use
                                                  Configure

                                                                                       Re-Focus


                                                                                                                       Renewal




And perhaps the most relevant approach here is the lens of designing services: How do the services connect and identity to the urban fabric? What are the touchpoints.... the hows and whens?
The
                 Near
                 Future
The screens and screen-like objects are coming. They’re almost here. Here’s a few things to consider for the immediate future.
original illustration Kate Whelan / Nordkapp


Design happens through a set of limitations. One way to look at this is to look at the screens themselves and a few properties they manifest.

Obviously, this is a simplification based on what we have now: Sensors, mobile phones, pads, computers and urban screens.
Input

                              -                    +                     +                             +                                   -
                                                   -                     -                                                                                     original illustration Kate Whelan / Nordkapp


Perhaps the most important quality is the context of input:. Output - more variable, depending on the services. Sensors are obvious, streams of data. Mobile phones are very personal, and
hence surprisingly powerful.

Tablets are ok, but very dependable on where and how are they used. Obviously the computer is still where most of input work is done. Urban screens, not so.
Time


                                                                                                                                                              original illustration Kate Whelan / Nordkapp


So based on this, we can make rough guesses to give some direction to design for. Again, so far the best guess for administration will be your computer, with tablet and mobile growing behind with
the device capabilities. urban screens reside in a context which usually makes them fairly uninviting for longer use at a time.
Personal
                     space
                                                                                                                                      wikipedia personal proximity zones


This leads to interesting questions about proxemics and the perceived personal space. How much space does a screen need to be used?
Multiuser
                 Proxemics
This is especially relevant for large, multiuser screens. They have to be designed for having many personal spaces at once.
photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmueller/454262550

The physical space can create and amplify the context, too. Where does the commercial information go to? is it allowed everywhere, or is it separated from wayfinding completely?
The Data
                 points us
                 where
                                                                                                                                                      cellphone coverage project Sha Hwang @ Stamen


One thing’s sure—the least we have to worry about is “where” In an urban environment public data can point us to places which meet our criteria for the screens, and also where not to have
                                                            .
them.
Please
                 (image)
                 Consider
                 Our
                 Environment                                                                                                                                    photo credit Teppo Kotirinta / Nordkapp


This is not to downplay the human side of things. In near future, the placement of screens alone will be a huge challenge.

Apart from being of a fairly complex system of platforms, services, context and also physical hardware. A true design challenge we faced recently—how to design urban informatics in reverse
context, a completely non-urban environment?
Polite
                  and
                  Curious
                                                                                                                                                         media surfaces:incidental media by BERG London

One of the obvious directions is to design things that are polite in apprearance and behaviour. Polite can be very powerful. I love this example by BERG London and Dentsu—the sheer silent
playfulness of it is just wonderful.

My friend Ben wrote about the concept of Emoticomp which I think is interesting here, too. Design systems with personality and tone of voice.
“Just Enough
                  is More”                                                      —MILTON GLASER




Also, a good consideration is Milton Glaser’s conclusion in his AIGA speech from 2001. After 30 years in business, he understood less is not really more. Instead, just enough is more.
The
                  Future
                  _________
so, the future. Bright, big scary thing. Here sooner than you’d think
Title Text




IBM's supercomputer WATSON is a shape of things to come. But the service avatar here is awful—still just a screen. It looks like a bloody computer.
When we design and build things that interact with us, we start empathizing with them as well. Human mind is tuned to see faces everywhere, by default. Why not take an advantage of this?
The Service
                  Avatars live in
                  the next smaller
                  context
in Smart Things, Mike Kuniavsky calls connected objects the service avatars. I think these avatars actually make the smaller context to be considered here.

We cannot design a modern, truly connected service without considering both the context it will be interacted in, but also by which touchpoints by with it is being accessed and operated.
BASAAP


Somewhere in a conversation between Charlie Schick and Matt Jones the term BASAAP surfaced. An acronym for be as smart as a puppy.

This behavioural trait of being just as intelligent enough is very relevant in the context of urban information and interaction.
paro http://www.parorobots.com/


As a proof— on- or o screen, the future might be soft and flu y after all. The more specific the purpose, more of “weird”
(instead of wow) we can add.

PARO a japanese therapeutic robot is a prime example of BASAAP in action. These are low fidelity service avatars that are human enough, but still stay out of the uncanny valley of creepiness. The
more specific the purpose, more of “weird” (instead of wow) we can add.
Title Text




                                                                                                                                 spotify radio Jordi Parra, http://zenona.com/


However, everything doesn’t have to be a glowing rectangle. Screen-like objects can manifest themselves in fairly low fidelity.
mutewatch http://mutewatch.com


They will be wearable, they will be built in an evironment—anything from small to extra large.
party in their mouth by Daito Manabe, daito.ws


Eventually, they will be a fashion accessory. This is a wonderful project by Daito Manabe called “Party in your mouth”, consisting of remote controlled and synced leds and japanese models.
leonardo MIT Personal Robotics Group


The personal robotics group at MIT have developed a weird puppy called Leonardo, “the Stradivarius of expressive robots.” A something completely di erent.

So that led me thinking, could we make the urban screens feel more "in place" in neighbourhood if we’d actually have them names and behaviour? A screen in Mitte called Hans?
The
                  Future
                  is here
I want to use the remaining few slides to celebrate the opportunity we have here. The future is already here, and somewhat evently distributed in this room at least.

Given that everything else goes well, Nanotechnology is going to be a great enabler. Sooner or later, everything will have the potential to be a display surface.
Self Cleaning &
                  Photovoltaic &
                  Near-invisible &
                  Carbon Nano Tube
Carbon nanotubes are bit like the super material of near future, with all kinds of optic, kinetic, thermal qualities and so forth.

Such as paper batteries.

In a few years we will see transparent, nano-thin surfaces that act as touch screen while being virtually invisible when not in use. Screens, will be everywhere.
For a designer, this is both exciting and important time to be in.

In vein of Finnish design heritage, what if we just gave away the idea of glowing rectangle? When everything else is connected, it might make sense to not do so. Make it so, that the information is
everywhere when needed, but still polite and discreet. The information will be there for us when we need, how we need but even more so, it won’t be there without a cause.

Just enough is more.
For a designer, this is both exciting and important time to be in.

In vein of Finnish design heritage, what if we just gave away the idea of glowing rectangle? When everything else is connected, it might make sense to not do so. Make it so, that the information is
everywhere when needed, but still polite and discreet. The information will be there for us when we need, how we need but even more so, it won’t be there without a cause.

Just enough is more.
Thank you.

                                        @samin | sami@nordkapp.fi | nordkapp.fi/blog




- Please comment, argue, talk to me publicly via Twitter, or in more private via email.
- Or grab my hand later on today.

This is a start of something, so any thoughts are appreciated. Thank you for listening, cheers!

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Urban Information Design

  • 1. URBAN INFORMATION DESIGN AND THE NEW MATERIALS OF INTERACTION Sami Niemelä Creative Director, Nordkapp @samin — www.nordkapp.fi — @Nordkapp Thank you, Adam, Juha for the talks and thanks for the Cognitive Cities guys for having me. My name is Sami, and I work for a design consultancy called Nordkapp in Helsinki, Finland. this talk is about connecting the dots in the fuzzy beginning, and making them into something more tangible. Partially this is thinking out loud on, and partially reflecting the work we’ve done on urban informatics and screens.
  • 2. This is what our work looks like. We work in sensemaking and strategic design, concept design and interfaces. The latter part includes products, services, sometimes crossing with physical objects and environments. We've worked on urban informatics and especially urban screens for a while now, with mr Greenfield as our advisor. A major part of my time is spent on the fuzzy part of design: navigating the wicked design problems into systems, platforms, products and services.
  • 3. The Right Now In a same way,I’ve divided the talk into three parts: now, near future and the future. So, let’s first focus on the situation at hand. Urban informatics and screens in particular are taking their baby steps towards an established system.
  • 4. Title Text observations Kate Whelan & Tia Sistonen / Noedkapp Interactive Urban Screens are in their infancy. As the screens were and are treated as static display objects along streams of people, there are some details that were left unnoticed. As the design of the object themselves is far from optimized, they tend to blend in to their environment - almost too well even for the commercial content to work well.
  • 5. observations Kate Whelan & Tia Sistonen / Noedkapp These are the screens in Helsinki, installed by ad vendor Clear Channel and the city two years ago. The one side of the screen is a commercial space, an ordinary lcd rotating the advertisements. The other side is a touch screen, currently running a static map. The planning was mostly driven by advertisement money, and whole system built on top on CC's platform. Good for them, but not that good for the budding ecosystem.
  • 6. Title Text observations Kate Whelan & Tia Sistonen / Noedkapp This is a sight more and more common in cities and airports everywhere. And of course, despite being fabulously built to stand the elements, they run Windows.
  • 7. Why is this like it is? So, what’s going on here? Why is it like this?
  • 8. “Always design a thing by considering its next largest context” —EERO SAARINEN The architect Eero Saarinen talked about the importance of always designing to next larger context. That's more true than ever today, Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.
  • 9. “Design for the smaller context, too” —ME and I'd add we have to keep our minds open to both directions— one context up, and down as well. I'll get back to this in a second.
  • 10. Wicked Problems Regarding designing urban informatics, it’s important to realize we’re dealing with a fairly complex system here. True wicked problems—something that are complicated to solve, in more ways than just one.
  • 11. Paths& Edges& Districts& Nodes& Landmarks To undestand this, a bit of historical context: in his book “The image of the city” (1960) Kevin Lynch coined the concept of place legibility, which is essentially the ease with how individuals perceive and navigate the urban landscape paths, the streets, sidewalks, trails, and other channels in which people travel; edges, perceived boundaries such as walls, buildings, and shorelines; districts, relatively large sections of the city distinguished by some identity or character; nodes, focal points, intersections or loci; landmarks, readily identifiable objects which serve as external reference points.
  • 12. Interfaces& Services& Data Platforms& Connected Objects& Infrastructure. On top of this, what makes the complexity of an interactive urban system, consisting on anything from personal devices to interfaces to infrastructure within the urban fabric. To make make this even more interesting is that we have to add time to the equation as well
  • 13. Interfaces& Services& Time Data Platforms& + Connected Objects& Infrastructure. On top of this, what makes the complexity of an interactive urban system, consisting on anything from personal devices to interfaces to infrastructure within the urban fabric. To make make this even more interesting is that we have to add time to the equation as well
  • 15. NOW DAILY NEVER
  • 16. For example, the screens will be used in various ways for various services: Wayfinding is an obvious example, too. The idea that maps tell me where I am is fairly new, too. So is the question “How long it does take me to get to X”?
  • 17. v 5 10 15 MIN MIN MIN For example, the screens will be used in various ways for various services: Wayfinding is an obvious example, too. The idea that maps tell me where I am is fairly new, too. So is the question “How long it does take me to get to X”?
  • 18. …and how often are you going to be there? This is interesting as local residents usually don’t feel they need any help, until they are given an opportunity to find and learn. And maybe play.
  • 19. DAILY WEEKLY NEVER …and how often are you going to be there? This is interesting as local residents usually don’t feel they need any help, until they are given an opportunity to find and learn. And maybe play.
  • 20. We can jump to more ambivalent and abstract things like psychogeoraphy: It is hugely important to urban experience as well. How does the city feel to you where you are?
  • 21. ENJOY LOVE FEAR We can jump to more ambivalent and abstract things like psychogeoraphy: It is hugely important to urban experience as well. How does the city feel to you where you are?
  • 22. And perhaps the most relevant approach here is the lens of designing services: How do the services connect and identity to the urban fabric? What are the touchpoints.... the hows and whens?
  • 23. First Use Use Configure Re-Focus Renewal And perhaps the most relevant approach here is the lens of designing services: How do the services connect and identity to the urban fabric? What are the touchpoints.... the hows and whens?
  • 24. The Near Future The screens and screen-like objects are coming. They’re almost here. Here’s a few things to consider for the immediate future.
  • 25. original illustration Kate Whelan / Nordkapp Design happens through a set of limitations. One way to look at this is to look at the screens themselves and a few properties they manifest. Obviously, this is a simplification based on what we have now: Sensors, mobile phones, pads, computers and urban screens.
  • 26. Input - + + + - - - original illustration Kate Whelan / Nordkapp Perhaps the most important quality is the context of input:. Output - more variable, depending on the services. Sensors are obvious, streams of data. Mobile phones are very personal, and hence surprisingly powerful. Tablets are ok, but very dependable on where and how are they used. Obviously the computer is still where most of input work is done. Urban screens, not so.
  • 27. Time original illustration Kate Whelan / Nordkapp So based on this, we can make rough guesses to give some direction to design for. Again, so far the best guess for administration will be your computer, with tablet and mobile growing behind with the device capabilities. urban screens reside in a context which usually makes them fairly uninviting for longer use at a time.
  • 28. Personal space wikipedia personal proximity zones This leads to interesting questions about proxemics and the perceived personal space. How much space does a screen need to be used?
  • 29. Multiuser Proxemics This is especially relevant for large, multiuser screens. They have to be designed for having many personal spaces at once.
  • 30. photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmueller/454262550 The physical space can create and amplify the context, too. Where does the commercial information go to? is it allowed everywhere, or is it separated from wayfinding completely?
  • 31. The Data points us where cellphone coverage project Sha Hwang @ Stamen One thing’s sure—the least we have to worry about is “where” In an urban environment public data can point us to places which meet our criteria for the screens, and also where not to have . them.
  • 32. Please (image) Consider Our Environment photo credit Teppo Kotirinta / Nordkapp This is not to downplay the human side of things. In near future, the placement of screens alone will be a huge challenge. Apart from being of a fairly complex system of platforms, services, context and also physical hardware. A true design challenge we faced recently—how to design urban informatics in reverse context, a completely non-urban environment?
  • 33. Polite and Curious media surfaces:incidental media by BERG London One of the obvious directions is to design things that are polite in apprearance and behaviour. Polite can be very powerful. I love this example by BERG London and Dentsu—the sheer silent playfulness of it is just wonderful. My friend Ben wrote about the concept of Emoticomp which I think is interesting here, too. Design systems with personality and tone of voice.
  • 34. “Just Enough is More” —MILTON GLASER Also, a good consideration is Milton Glaser’s conclusion in his AIGA speech from 2001. After 30 years in business, he understood less is not really more. Instead, just enough is more.
  • 35. The Future _________ so, the future. Bright, big scary thing. Here sooner than you’d think
  • 36. Title Text IBM's supercomputer WATSON is a shape of things to come. But the service avatar here is awful—still just a screen. It looks like a bloody computer.
  • 37. When we design and build things that interact with us, we start empathizing with them as well. Human mind is tuned to see faces everywhere, by default. Why not take an advantage of this?
  • 38. The Service Avatars live in the next smaller context in Smart Things, Mike Kuniavsky calls connected objects the service avatars. I think these avatars actually make the smaller context to be considered here. We cannot design a modern, truly connected service without considering both the context it will be interacted in, but also by which touchpoints by with it is being accessed and operated.
  • 39. BASAAP Somewhere in a conversation between Charlie Schick and Matt Jones the term BASAAP surfaced. An acronym for be as smart as a puppy. This behavioural trait of being just as intelligent enough is very relevant in the context of urban information and interaction.
  • 40. paro http://www.parorobots.com/ As a proof— on- or o screen, the future might be soft and flu y after all. The more specific the purpose, more of “weird” (instead of wow) we can add. PARO a japanese therapeutic robot is a prime example of BASAAP in action. These are low fidelity service avatars that are human enough, but still stay out of the uncanny valley of creepiness. The more specific the purpose, more of “weird” (instead of wow) we can add.
  • 41. Title Text spotify radio Jordi Parra, http://zenona.com/ However, everything doesn’t have to be a glowing rectangle. Screen-like objects can manifest themselves in fairly low fidelity.
  • 42. mutewatch http://mutewatch.com They will be wearable, they will be built in an evironment—anything from small to extra large.
  • 43. party in their mouth by Daito Manabe, daito.ws Eventually, they will be a fashion accessory. This is a wonderful project by Daito Manabe called “Party in your mouth”, consisting of remote controlled and synced leds and japanese models.
  • 44. leonardo MIT Personal Robotics Group The personal robotics group at MIT have developed a weird puppy called Leonardo, “the Stradivarius of expressive robots.” A something completely di erent. So that led me thinking, could we make the urban screens feel more "in place" in neighbourhood if we’d actually have them names and behaviour? A screen in Mitte called Hans?
  • 45. The Future is here I want to use the remaining few slides to celebrate the opportunity we have here. The future is already here, and somewhat evently distributed in this room at least. Given that everything else goes well, Nanotechnology is going to be a great enabler. Sooner or later, everything will have the potential to be a display surface.
  • 46. Self Cleaning & Photovoltaic & Near-invisible & Carbon Nano Tube Carbon nanotubes are bit like the super material of near future, with all kinds of optic, kinetic, thermal qualities and so forth. Such as paper batteries. In a few years we will see transparent, nano-thin surfaces that act as touch screen while being virtually invisible when not in use. Screens, will be everywhere.
  • 47. For a designer, this is both exciting and important time to be in. In vein of Finnish design heritage, what if we just gave away the idea of glowing rectangle? When everything else is connected, it might make sense to not do so. Make it so, that the information is everywhere when needed, but still polite and discreet. The information will be there for us when we need, how we need but even more so, it won’t be there without a cause. Just enough is more.
  • 48. For a designer, this is both exciting and important time to be in. In vein of Finnish design heritage, what if we just gave away the idea of glowing rectangle? When everything else is connected, it might make sense to not do so. Make it so, that the information is everywhere when needed, but still polite and discreet. The information will be there for us when we need, how we need but even more so, it won’t be there without a cause. Just enough is more.
  • 49. Thank you. @samin | sami@nordkapp.fi | nordkapp.fi/blog - Please comment, argue, talk to me publicly via Twitter, or in more private via email. - Or grab my hand later on today. This is a start of something, so any thoughts are appreciated. Thank you for listening, cheers!