Skip navigation

Design and Design Theory

Design and Design Theory

  • Page 5 of 7
Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space
Edited by Mark Shepard

Our cities are “smart” and getting smarter as information processing capability is embedded throughout more and more of our urban infrastructure. Few of us object to traffic light control systems that respond to the ebbs and flows of city traffic; but we might be taken aback when discount coupons for our favorite espresso drink are beamed to our mobile phones as we walk past a Starbucks. Sentient City explores the experience of living in a city that can remember, correlate, and anticipate.

The True (Maybe) Story

For years, the signs in the New York City subway system were a bewildering hodge-podge of lettering styles, sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and messages. The original mosaics (dating from as early as 1904), displaying a variety of serif and sans serif letters and decorative elements, were supplemented by signs in terracotta and cut stone. Over the years, enamel signs identifying stations and warning riders not to spit, smoke, or cross the tracks were added to the mix.

Le Corbusier and the Automobile

Le Corbusier, who famously called a house “a machine for living,” was fascinated—even obsessed—by another kind of machine, the automobile. His writings were strewn with references to autos: “If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis, an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision,” he wrote in Toward an Architecture (1923). In his “white phase” of the twenties and thirties, he insisted that his buildings photographed with a modern automobile in the foreground.

If only today’s technology were simpler! It’s the universal lament, but it’s wrong. In this provocative and informative book, Don Norman writes that the complexity of our technology must mirror the complexity and richness of our lives. It’s not complexity that’s the problem, it’s bad design. Bad design complicates things unnecessarily and confuses us. Good design can tame complexity.

Mainstream media, often known simply as MSM, have not yet disappeared in a digital takeover of the media landscape. But the long-dominant MSM--television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books--have had to respond to emergent digital media. Newspapers have interactive Web sites; television broadcasts over the Internet; books are published in both electronic and print editions. In Designing Media, design guru Bill Moggridge examines connections and conflicts between old and new media, describing how the MSM have changed and how new patterns of media consumption are emerging.

The “objective” world is one of facts, data, and actuality. The world of the “nonobject” is about perception, experience, and possibility. In this highly original and visually extravant book, Branko Lukic (an award-winning designer) and Barry Katz (an authority on the history and philosophy of design) imagine what would happen if design started not from the object but from the space between people and the objects they use. The “nonobject,” they explain, is the designer’s personal experiment to explore our relation to the observable world.

Principles of Interaction Programming

Interactive systems and devices, from mobile phones to office copiers, do not fulfill their potential for a wide variety of reasons—not all of them technical. Press On shows that we can design better interactive systems and devices if we draw on sound computer science principles. It uses state machines and graph theory as a powerful and insightful way to analyze and design better interfaces and examines specific designs and creative solutions to design problems.

Activity Theory and Interaction Design

Activity theory holds that the human mind is the product of our interaction with people and artifacts in the context of everyday activity. Acting with Technology makes the case for activity theory as a basis for understanding our relationship with technology. Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi describe activity theory's principles, history, relationship to other theoretical approaches, and application to the analysis and design of technologies. The book provides the first systematic entry-level introduction to the major principles of activity theory.

Emblematic of modernity, the grid is the underlying form of everything from skyscrapers and office cubicles to paintings by Mondrian and a piece of computer code. And yet, as Hannah Higgins makes clear in this engaging and evocative book, the grid has a history that long predates modernity; it is the most prominent visual structure in Western culture. In The Grid Book, Higgins examines the history of ten grids that changed the world: the brick, the tablet, the gridiron city plan, the map, musical notation, the ledger, the screen, moveable type, the manufactured box, and the net.

An Ethnography of Design and Innovation
Edited by Dominique Vinck

Everyday Engineering was written to help future engineers understand what they are going to be doing in their everyday working lives, so that they can do their work more effectively and with a broader social vision. It will also give sociologists deeper insights into the sociotechnical world of engineering. The book consists of ethnographic studies in which the authors, all trained in both engineering and sociology, go into the field as participant-observers.

  • Page 5 of 7