Physical vs Digital Design

by Bilgi Karan - 24/11/2016 - 21:30

Last Friday I was at Media Evolution Salong#3. It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to the this event. The format of the day is quite cool. There are multiple sessions going on at the same time in the afternoon and the audience gets to listen to a short pitch about each session accompanied by delicious sweets and coffee. Everybody can decide which room to go to. Obviously there are drinks and music well into the evening, too. 

As a speaker, I was a little bit intimidated by having to make a pitch at first but to my surprise the breakup between the two rooms (there is sometimes three) was quite even and nice. 

I talked about the sweet relationship between Physical and Digital Design, also extending my subject to the beautiful harmony between Design and Engineering giving examples from the things that we made at HOWL & Frankly. 

Ever since I was a kid, I had the urge to take everything apart in the house. I realized that everything around me was designed by somebody, somehow. This was an amazing revelation. Today I also know that in the eyes of the user, there are no boundaries between design, engineering, digital or physical. A product is only there to enable an experience with all its parts. 

Design started as a way to hide the clunky, heavy, noisy and ugly face of industrialization. It started as an exercise in ornamentation. Today, design has a transformative power. It changes things, it changes experiences, it changes communities and it changes us. As designers, how do we best wield this power?

The ornament in design aimed to create an expression for the shell that the core did not possess. The mid-century design that we all like and cherish, wanted to challenge and tweak our impression of things. I think the new century design needs to shape the effect and ultimately the impact of experiences. 

During my session, we had a fun exercise about designing an imaginative smart seatbelt for a commercial jet. The thought exercise starts with adding a simple sensor to each seat buckle. Easy enough, right? Not really. How about the empty seats? Ok. Let's add sensors to seats, too. But how to relay that information to the flight attendants who are out and about and don't typically have pockets for portable devices? 

The participants came up with amazingly imaginative and big-picture ideas. Lots of people thought to use the power of the crowd to check the seatbelts rather than putting all the pressure on the flight attendants. There were a ton of ideas around social hacking such as shaming the unbuckled passengers or locking their In-Flight Entertainment systems until they got buckled up. I loved all of the ideas including having airbags instead of seat belts. 

Of course 20 minutes was not enough to solve this difficult problem. Although I believe that it gave everyone a new perspective into solving real problems with real teamwork without boundaries between disciplines and specializations. 

Thanks again to the MEC family and the brilliant participants for their hospitality, foods, drinks and the music. Let's do it again, soon.