Like everybody else, I always try to do good work. But still, most of what I do merely comes out OK: A passable paper, or an adequate design concept, but nothing special.
On rare occasions, though, I happen to do something I find better than the ordinary. Here are a few examples of work that I feel good about.
Exploring emergent configurations
One interesting challenge in designing for the Internet of Things is emergent configurations, ie., temporary assemblies of devices acting as a coherent system from the user's point of view. As an initial 2015 experiment, we designed and prototyped a traffic light system to provide energy-efficient light and increased traffic awareness.
The prototype was built as a miniature using Scalextric cars. The lamp posts are connected in a scalable ring architecture; each of them runs the same modular code for sensing vehicles, communicating with neighbors and controlling its own lights.
The reason I am proud of the work is that the prototyping technique proved reasonably fast, very responsive and also suitable for creating a concept presentation video.
Visualizing invisible corporate structures
Pinpoint is a demonstrator that I designed with Gunnar Forsén and Thomas Lundin of IKEA IT in 2008, with support from the Knowledge Foundation. It shows how you can support employees in large organizations to grow their personal networks and to get the help they need from colleagues, without requiring any dedicated work on behalf of the employees themselves.
In my opinion, the project is an example of a solid and competent design process, leading to an excellent result.
Moreover, we managed to publish a paper about the work in the top academic journal Information Visualization. It was very satisfying to be able to get a design study into a journal where HCI-style quantitative data and generalized findings are the norm, and where aesthetic qualities of user experience are normally not considered scientifically relevant.
More about Pinpoint, including a demo and a movie about the work, at the project page.
Teenagers changing society
The Avatopia project was an attempt to create a crossmedia platform for teenagers committed to changing society. An online avatar world offered tools for communication and collaborative creation, and a regular public-service TV broadcast from the avatar world would provide the reach and credibility the community needed.
The project was developed in a participatory design process with Sveriges Television and with some 20 teenagers, and it went all the way to deployment in September 2003. Unfortunately, it was cut in early 2004 due to unexpected budget modifications.
The vision, the concept and the execution were all better than average, in my opinion, which is why I am proud of it.
There is a published paper about the project [Gislén, Löwgren & Myrestam (2007) Avatopia: A cross-media community for societal action. Personal & Ubiquitous Computing.] »The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com«, here is a pre-publication version. There is also more information at the archived project site.
Pliability in interactive visualizations
The 2007 paper Pliability as an experiential quality: Exploring the aesthetics of interaction design felt like the best thing I had written in years. I start from the general aim of articulating experiential qualities (or use qualities) in order to provide interaction designers with actable knowledge. One such quality is pliability, which I elaborate through analysis of a number of design examples. For me, the paper opened up a new way of scholarly writing, more akin to criticism than anything else.
A pre-publication version is available (»This is a preprint of an article whose final and definitive form has been published in Artifact, (c) 2007 Taylor & Francis; Artifact is available online at journalsonline.tandf.co.uk«)
Cutout animation for interaction sketching
In the Sitep project in 2003, I designed a voice-based system for data entry during maintenance inspections of industrial installations. The concept employs a combination of speech recognition and speech recording; as such, it is adequate but nothing special.
To communicate the concept to stakeholders in a way that would encourage critical comments, I produced a cutout animation in a purposefully rough style, which came out quite well. When I presented it to users and clients, they provided much useful input and were very clear on the communicative difference between the animation and a regular sales pitch.
The essence of usability
From 2008 to 2012, I had an ADSL Internet connection in my home and a heap of components for the local network. Several of the components – modem, router, WLAN base station – were placed next to the incoming phone line. Since they were quite ugly, I was hiding them (and, more importantly, all the cables) in a sideboard. However, the phone and power lines where I live in the countryside are quite exposed to lightning. After spending lots of money on replacement gear, my family and I had to learn to disconnect all datacom components when a thunderstorm was coming up.
But disconnecting stuff hidden in a sideboard was inconvenient, particularly for children. To increase the chances that we would actually disconnect when needed, I built a little switchbox and put on the wall at a location that was convenient to reach, yet somewhat hidden from view. The switches would disconnect the modem and router from phone and power lines, thus isolating the whole in-house network.
After installing the switchbox, we were more or less completely spared from lightning damage. To me, this little piece represented the essence of usability: reducing the inconvenience of an instrumental operation in practice to the degree that it is done effortlessly as intended.