Machines, media & miscellanea by Kevin Carmody
Another dConstruct2010 post, this time: Brendan Dawes - Boil, Simmer, Reduce
Brendan didn’t really have as structured a talk, and one wonders if perhaps he relied more on gimmicks in his slides than the message he was trying to convey. The method he calls ‘Boil, Simmer, Reduce’ is basically his three part plan in creating a product. Frankly it seems a very logical, if not slightly fluffy minded way to work.
Boil This is basically filling your head with stuff. So it’s just about throwing anything and everything in to the ideas pot. When you embark on a development process you are already indirectly thinking about it all the time, whether you are watching a film, reading a fictional book or just contemplating the meaning of life. The premise is just to be grabbing ideas from all over the place and throwing them all in.
He also pointed out when discussing shots from films he likes that symmetry in itself makes things pretty.
Simmer This is looking at all considerations of what you want. It is important that you’re not considering technical restrictions, but rather getting down to the nub of what you’d like to do. As with the Boil stage, there are no rules, you can really just do whatever you like.
Around this point Brendan suggested that good design can breed good behaviour. He spoke of work he did for a tourist information office using Microsoft Surface as a map display. There were discs which they would place on the surface which would represent hotels, and by placing that on the map it would create a ring around that item with dots showing where the hotels are in that surrounding area. By turning the disc it would amplify the area of interest. This was in Manchester and it was quite a rough area of the centre of town - “a high proportion of scallies”. The place was concerned that the discs would get stolen. But it was a beautiful space that they created through design, and nothing was stolen. He argued that this proved his belief that “good design can bring good behaviour”.
Reduce “A design is finished when there is nothing left to take away”. Take the iPhone. It’s such a simple design, one button, an absolute minimum and it’s the sort of thing where anything can be placed on it. It can be anything you want it to be.
You should justify everything shown on a screen. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything must serve a purposeful action. His favourite thing about the iPhone was that when you scroll up and get to the top, it creates a little bit of space with nothing underneath which simply springs back when you let go. This doesn’t really serve a purpose, bar perhaps a small mental indicator. It is just a little piece of aesthetic satisfaction. It’s just nice. That in itself can justify the feature.
He talked a bit about how he made something for the iPhone which was born out of a need. He wanted to watch a film on a train journey and couldn’t get his iPhone to sit in a good position, so he made a simple piece of cardboard that evening that would just clip onto the side. They thought it was sell-able and went through a few iterations. There was one which was so close to being right but it just wasn’t quite there. They then decided to apply Da Vinci’s Golden Ratio to the position of the cut in the rectangle. That was it. Fixed.
He also mentioned how he thinks the pencil is absolutely wonderful in design. A few of reasons he mentioned were:
1) It has a big arrow pointing to which end you use. 2) Built-in progress bar. 3) You can cut it up, and make many more of the same with it.
New ideas like this still apply to the old and best designed products.