After the critique, I decided that I want to work in the physical environment rather than making a digital environment. I am not really inspired by apps or websites, so I prefer the idea of supplementing the actual space with an interactive or responsive addition. Lia made a comment about how libraries are incredible resources that we are really lucky to have. There’s so much that people miss out on by not going to the library, especially the Carnegie Library because it is such a beautiful, well-designed building. So, I hope that whatever addition to the space I create could become something that draws people to the library so they can discover the library environment.
I chose to analyze the Carnegie Library for this project. It’s an amazing space laid out in an amazing building. In the simplest terms, I see it as one big environment that houses many small environments, and all the environments found there are different types of quiet environments. I didn’t realize that there could be so many different types of quiet environments, but when you focus on different users and different contexts, quiet is only one variable among many that you have to design for.
It is evident that the environment was created with the user in mind because immediately I noticed that the majority and most commonly used resources could be found on the first floor. Universal accessibility is extremely important in a public space because its extremely hard to predict what the capabilities of your user will be. By putting the most popular resources on the first floor, the library becomes much more welcoming and easier to use.
The Carnegie Library really is an amazing combination of historical architecture and twenty-first century technology and design. There is such a sense of openness and exploration. I really enjoyed exploring the mezzanine because it gave me a sense of adventure. The library is supposed to be a very tame and regulated place, but the amount of learning and exploration is incredible. There are an infinite amount of resources for people to use. Just few examples are:
- comic books
I was really amazed at the wealth of resources that were in the library. It goes beyond the books to classrooms and creative spaces where anyone can grow if they choose to participate.
The layout of the library is focusing on the wide variety of users and understands that users have an infinite number of preferences. People work differently, have different interests, sit differently, read differently, learn differently, etc. The Carnegie Library is really successful in accommodating for all types of people.
Photos of some of the environments
Work stations and gateway to magazine area and outdoor patio
Outdoor patio view from inside
Quiet study room, second floor
Audio and Media Room, second floor
Class room in use
Silent reading and international poetry room
Microfilm and geneaology, third floor
The library doesn’t have its own mobile application, but they are registered on an application called Access My Library (AML). You can do a general search, a database search, and an eBook search. However, there is zero reference to any context or the library environment. This digital environment is completely isolated and has minimal connection to the physical environment.
What I said concerning the mobile application can also be said for the online website. It feels very disconnected to the actual library. There are many public libraries in Pittsburgh affiliated with the Carnegie Library, and the website addresses them as a general entity. There is some reference to what you can generally find at the library and what events are happening, but this digital environment is mainly concerned with what information is available to the user instantly on the internet.
Floor maps and a ‘virtual’ tour (photos with descriptions) of the library are the only pieces that refer to the physical environment.
There really is no hybrid environment that is happening between the library, the website and the mobile application.
What I really want to focus on are the different types of learning environments in the library. All the digital environments mainly reference the resources and information that the library contains; however, the different physical environments are not an area of focus. My initial idea is to publish online an archive and analysis of all the different environments housed in the library. This way, people know what kind of places there are to sit and work in, and hopefully, they will be more inclined to visit.
I was really excited that I got my demo to work (at a point). Working with the technology was extremely challenging and had me second guessing the value of my project. It took while to get around all the SmartThings and IFTTT bugs, but the success definitely was an exciting moment. I can see the potential for these applications; however, there are a lot of gaps between the software and the user. SmartThings cannot accommodate for more than three people when a lot of families are larger than three. It also was not successful at pin pointing a location. Our studio space was obviously not within their problem space, but I uncovered so many issues in my exploration.
For A2, I learned that I do not want to work with SmartThings unless their interface and/or technology improves. I understand that a big part of technology is working around all the obstacles and bugs in order to get the result that you want, but is that really a good system? I feel like the world doesn’t have to be so finicky and sensitive.
I’m not sure I like working with mobile applications. I understand and accept that mobile phones are a permanent part of our society, but I think that as designers we can push the world so much further. Why can’t our spaces communicate well enough so that we don’t need to refer to our phones? And what happened to actually communicating with our friends and peers? Everyone just becomes distracted and absorbed in their devices. I really hope that I can get more experience with designing the environment of real spaces. I want to understand more about the traditional principles of how people move through space. Anyways, how can we move forward if we do not understand where we came from?
I continued to see how documentation can be imperative in the credibility of your work. I need a video to illustrate exactly what is going on even if the reality is slightly different; my concept and narrative need to be communicated because they speak greater volumes about the value behind the project and even who I am as a designer. The technology can always be improved or fixed, but the process behind that mechanical system is a lot harder to see and understand. However, that is the most important when connecting with a client or an audience.
I’m not really sure where I would like my idea to go for A4. I think conservation of energy through the monitoring of presence is a great concept, but I am also inspired by a lot of the work done by my peers.
Now I am focused on my analysis of the Carnegie Library. I am really excited to look at all the different environments that exist within it. There are so many resources inside, and the layout is very intentional and considers all the possible users. I want to go from big to small, from the large, airy rooms to the small chairs tucked away in small hiding places. They are all quiet spaces, but I was amazed at how many different quiet spaces they had created.
For my last demo, I tried to use just iOS location and SmartThings switches. It was unsuccessful, but I really wanted to have a working proof of concept. To get around the technical difficulties, I used a motion sensor and switch and linked the two SmartThings products together in IFTTT. The motion sensor under the desk worked; I taped it underneath my desk just beyond where my chair reaches. Then I used the SmartThings power switch to connect to the power cord. Finally I created a recipe on IFTTT. Every time the motion sensor detects motion underneath my desk, the power strip will turn on. To complete the narrative, in order to turn the power switch off, I would connect location with the power switch using IFTTT so that every time you exit studio (using iOS locator) the power switch will turn off.
I would hope to expand on my ideas of efficiency and sustainability in studio by taking into consideration the other machines in the room that use electricity. I think that by coordinating the amount of light in studio with the amount of natural light coming in through the windows, we can conserve a great deal of energy. Lighting in studio is extremely important and should be a major variable in the design of the space.
Studio Re Design
Going to the Cyert Center for Early Education inspired me to think more about how humans fundamentally learn and what environment is best for people to learn in.
I really liked the idea of taking advantage of the ceiling space. In freshmen studio, people would hang things and it made the space feel more active and interesting. I also enjoyed all the natural light via skylights. If I could change the windows, I would make them bigger so we could optimize natural light during the day. It would be even better if we could extend the room outwards and include a skylight in that addition.
New Sketch Up Renderings
Ideas for new space
- Everything on wheels, mobility
- Chairs fold so that they are easier to move around the room and to store
- Stackable desks so they move out of the way in a cleaner fashion
- Transition dividers; digital screens, magnetic, adjustable height. in other words, they can retract and totally disappear or just be lowered a few inches.
- Two large tables for group collaboration or prototyping that come together to form one large table for class critiques
- Front wall becomes an interface for screen projections
- Projector will hang from ceiling
- Bean bags for more relaxed working, easy to move around or out of the way
- No wires; lights attached to desk, desk outlets –wired through floor?
- Hanging apparatus where people can hang anything from projects to plants to other decorations –whimsical aspect, more personal for everyone in the room
I really like the idea of being able to mix and match and customize the furniture in the room depending on the situation, number of people, time of day, etc. There are so many different situations that take place in the room, so the room should be able to adapt based on the needs of the users.
Something I’ve been struggling with…
I really struggled to become passionate about the increased use of technology in studio. At first, it was just frustrating to coordinate all the apps and sensors in the room to work together. I didn’t see this level or system of technology as a viable option for a studio space with multiple users. However, as I think about how to expand on my ideas for efficiency and sustainability, I find myself hesitating to move towards ubiquitous computing. I acknowledge that it is a very exciting world, and I think it is incredible that people have figured out how to make whatever they can imagine a reality. I also understand that a large portion of the world is moving towards this future, but there are still a lot of places in the world that may never (or in the extreme distant future) reach that kind of infrastructure. From my perspective, this is not human centered design, it is closer to what I would call place or group exclusive design. In other words, if we design for one future, are we really thinking about the different ‘presents’ that exist? If we focus on the development of society and infrastructure on one level, I cannot even imagine what kind of impact that would have on places in the world without any sort of (or possibility of) infrastructure for technology. My other concern is that with the influx of technology and its frequent transformations, how can we know what kind of consequences we will have on people? What will ubiquitous computing do to the relationship between humans and the natural world? Will we change human nature? I feel uncomfortable proceeding with ubiquitous technology because I do not feel comfortable venturing into a problem space that is neither defined nor controlled by known factors. The addition of technology for technology’s sake is not what I see as meaningful design.
I did another round of brainstorming to start off my process continuation:
Started by looking back at some notes that I took in class
Then I made a pro and con list of the studio environments and the elements in it. It turned out to be very con heavy…
I really believe that if we can make our infrastructure greener at its core, society can easily become more sustainable because normal actions have fewer consequences and a smaller carbon footprint.
So, I wanted to focus on sensors that are connected to the turning on and off of outlets for energy conservation.
I first tried to contain the sequence in the SmartThings application on my phone. In theory, this should work by connecting my phone to the arrival sensor and to the MM211 Power Switch. I got the connection between my phone and the power switch to work. I can successfully turn it on and off while using my mobile device. However, when I tried to configure a series of events (either turning on when I arrived or turning off when I left), it did not work.
SmartThings Interface on iPhone
Peter helped me come up with a solution: use IFTTT to get around some of the bugs in the system. I used iOS locator to track my location and SmartThings to connect to the power switch. The iOS locator was supposed to track when I entered and exited the E Studio and then notify the SmartThings application so that it would turn on or off the power switch. Unfortunately, after lots of trials of walking in and out of the whole building, adjusting the maps, restarting the recipe, etc., I still could not get it to work.
IFTTT Interface on iPhone
IFTTT Interface on Mac Computer
My narrative for this demo can be summarized pretty easily in a few photos:
There are a significant amount of flaws with the SmartThings app and the SmartThings sensors. It has a very delayed response time. It also seems to get extremely overwhelmed the more people are connected and using the system. Everyone has become furious with the amount of notifications that it produces. We have definitely reached a threshold with the technology; it is doing much more harm than good. I think I came away with the lesson that too much information can be a bad thing. Sometimes it is better to leave some things to be discovered later.
After seeing everyone’s presentations for the studio redesign, I realized that I need to go further into my exploration of the studio environment. There are a lot of variables at play that I forgot about: traffic flow, energy efficiency, collaborative vs. individual spaces, etc. I want to go back and take a second look at my original brainstorming; I think I can push my ideas a lot further. I really want to optimize studio as a working environment but also as a place where collaboration and critiques can take place. Studio takes on a lot of different roles depending on the day of week and also time of day. It has to be an adaptive environment that changes to fit the changing needs of the students and teachers.
Today in class we got to present our final HiFi version of our narrative and app improvement. The whole process of evaluating and improving was extremely tedious and forced me to make sense of complex topics that I had never explored in such depth before. Since there were a lot of new lessons in this project, I gained a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time.
I have learned about a lot of components to environment design, and it has been difficult to implement them. Understanding and noticing thresholds took some time to get used to, but I feel myself becoming more comfortable with that concept. I also feel that explaining and creating hybrid environments can be tricky, but I think I can successfully identify them as well as their digital and physical components. How to communicate the meaning behind my idea for the application became very important to me. Personally, I do not see phone apps as doing much good, but when you have the broader context of the hybrid environment, the greater meaning is evident.
In addition to new concepts, I gained a lot of skills. I learned how to wireframe correctly with annotations. I also learned how to make Illustrator files look they are not photoshopped into a photo by lowering their opacity. I have never tried to make something I edited on my computer look photorealistic before, so I feel really confident now that I have that skill.
Thresholds come up a lot in class, and I think it is a very interesting concept. The point where change is noticed is a critical point in time where we can see the affects of all the variables in the larger network that surrounds us. A threshold that I noticed personally had to do with the development of my narrative. I learned that when you have a strong narrative, your direction becomes more confident and iterating becomes much faster. The more you work at the overall story and the clearer it becomes, the easier it gets to physically and digitally create the story that you are trying to visualize. Until that point, it can be hard to see what your direction is.
Throughout my process I try to take a pragmatic approach. I broke down all the steps and all the assignments into even smaller parts that were easier and faster to achieve. I also made sure that I felt comfortable with all of my process before I decided to move on and elaborate upon those ideas. I also made sure that I spoke with my peers and got their critique before I moved onto the next step in my process. I cannot always see everything or notice all the mistakes, and they always provide a new perspective that adds even more layers to my narrative.
There were many points where I felt that things were not falling into a logical sequence or my ideas were not connected. There were many times during the process when I felt frustrated or stuck. I encountered a lot of new problems that I had no idea how to solve. I really enjoy the environments thinking style, but it is more abstract and more difficult to wrap my head around.
Frequently I find that people around me are distractions. Some times whatever is going on around me will take my focus away from my work. I have to listen to music or take breaks in order for me to be able to have more control over where my focus is. When I am motivated it is much easier to focus. When I am working at something for a long amount of time and finally get to a point where I think it may be successful, I feel a lot more motivated to keep on working. Having smaller goals within the process also helps me continue to focus on work because I feel like I am being productive and using my time wisely.
Everything felt challenging in this project since it was all so new. I had to create an order that felt logical, flowed well, had good transitions, correctly sequencing all the visuals with the emotions (basically getting all the layers to match up), making a nice looking interface, making sure i had all the steps and making sure that what wasn’t shown was not imperative to the overall message, etc.
The project really made me realize why you need to have so many roles on a team because there is so much to get done and it all has to come together seamlessly.
Next time, I would have done some more hand drawn story boards. I think that is an important skill that I should be using in my work more often. I also would have liked to explore some other narratives. I picked mine because I needed it to proceed with the project, and there were infinite possibilities. I am more curious about how I would fit my narrative into other pieces of artwork on campus that might not be so explicitly connected to the city and its history.
Below are scenes from my SketchUp model of the environments studio.
My main stories for the studio are:
- When the noise in studio reaches a certain threshold, the lights will dim until the noise level has dropped.
- The group of students at each cluster will be coordinated with the lights next to the desk cluster. Whenever a student in the group makes a blog post, submits a project, etc. the lights will react by changing color, flickering, etc.
- The whiteboard walls will also function as digital presentation boards that students can connect to and project their work on.
The last step in my process…
After the last critique, I decided that I needed a more concrete wireframe sequence. So, I took my story that I had developed and matched each highlight point with a different wireframe.
I included full annotations and descriptions of the actions that the user would complete to move through the sequence. The image below shows the addition of my notes of the narration for each point.
Once I felt comfortable with my wire frames, I went out and took new pictures keeping in mind the critique that my peers and I were given in class.
After taking many photos, I began to construct my high fidelity (HiFi) presentation. I started with creating wireframes in Illustrator.
My goal was to create a sequence that directed the user through the space as well as teaching them about the art that they were about to experience. Thus, the user has some knowledge before they arrive at the art, allowing for a more thoughtful understanding.
Then, I started to pair the wire frames with the photos that I took in the place where my narrative happens.
This helped me to see the relationships and the parallels between what the user was experiencing through their phone and the physical world. Taking this organization, I started to create my final presentation. The final presentation shows the connecting thoughts and actions between the digital and physical environments. I added some graphics to the wireframes and photos in the same color (green) to show the presence of the connection throughout the narrative. The goal for this app is to create a hybrid environment where the optimal level of learning and appreciation take place.