Category Archives: DES320 User Centred Design

The future of reading project – outcome

The Future of Reading was a “Design Opportunity Search” project for DES320 “User Centered Design” module 2015. 21 Students sat the module.


An old book!

The approach was to make and record user studies of reading habits. The studies wee based on real people and real reading habits. Each student built a “model” of interaction for himself or herself and for an invited guest. By making a model we hoped that we could probe and test it to see if design opportunities could be found. The model was presented as 4 documents.

  1. User profile
  2. 24 hour timeline
  3. Places that reading happens
  4. Tasks that are being achieved by undertaking the reading

The four documents, taken together, form a model of interaction. Students presented the models in poster format. All the students then made suggestions about each others “models”. Each suggestion was written on a post it note. There were several rounds of suggestion making. This activity took place over an afternoon. The rounds of suggestions were ordered into themes as per: Visual, Interface, Interaction, Motivation. Here are some of photos of the Suggestion day:


Suggestion day

Interaction model posters

Interaction model posters

Rounds of suggestions

Rounds of suggestions

Engestrom activity model

Engestrom activity model

Interaction Design 2015 #designatmagee

Interaction Design 2015 #designatmagee



The suggestion day was a bit chaotic! 21 students making three rounds of suggestions on every individual model!  At the start the suggestion were more about the quality of the graphic design of the models – that was a bit of a misfire. After a while the suggestion became more focused on the quality of the thing being represented in the model and the process began to pay dividends. Each student at the end of the day had approximately 20 suggestions post it notes placed on their work. For some of the suggestions it was hard to tell the difference between Visual, Interface, Interaction, Motivation. In that sense it was chaotic in parts, in another sense that chaos was the response to the models that were presented.

The suggestions on post it notes were transcribed into Excel Spreadsheets. Each suggestion was evaluated against criteria proposed by individual students: example criteria were:

  • I like it
  • My guest likes it
  • It would make reading faster
  • It could be made into a product
  • Someone might buy it
  • It exists already

These criteria were scored using a simple 1-5 scale. The criteria varied from student to student. The number of criteria varied from 5 to 20.

The scoring gave a mathematical framework on which to find winning suggestions. Those winning suggestion were written up into a problem to be solved design brief. The brief mentioned how this idea was derived from user observation, through building a representation of an interaction design model, through idea generation and evaluation.

The themes that emerged are given below. The design briefs that were written are sometimes content based sometimes technology based, sometimes a response to a gap in current user experiences but as yet with no clear answer idea. Taken as a whole, the 21 briefs could be considered representation of the future of reading. Here is a bullet point summary:


  • Enhanced learning with e-books featuring multimedia capabilities and physical paper books closely aligned and matched (HM)
  • A multimedia app for learning how to play guitar (JK)
  • A re-write of the school curriculum blending education and entertainment. (KS)
  • Scan and translate device. Automatic translation in social media such as FB (MT)
  • A system to learn a foreign language while watching TV (SN)


  • A location aware context driven wildlife (any hobby) app (JL)
  • Audio fishing guide. Involve social aspect to (any) hobby (DMcC)


  • An appointments manager app for small businesses (MH)
  • Docket converter: Converts small dockets and receipts into digital form. It also understands them and automatically stores them in the right place. (NMcC)


  • Somehow reading and spreadsheets needs a re-think (EQ)
  • Keeping track of things you read, where and when and what was in it. (EM)
  • As we are reading more on the web we should make reading on the web a more natural experience – more like a book. (JC)
  • Social media is the right model, make reading like social media (JH)
  • If everything is digital, then what considerations should be made for older people? (RA)
  • Search and social recommendation system for crime novel readers (MMcD)
  • An app that plays music according to what you are reading enhancing immersion (MB)


  • Keeping children interested in reading by making a changeable book (SM)


  • Automatic agent based reading of food labels (KC + JG)
  • A fitness app like no other (GMcG)

VIIM-A – explained

VIIM-A is a method for mentally unpacking Interaction Design problems. It is probably most useful when applied to Software related design projects but it can be used in a variety of Interaction Design contexts.

VIIM stands for Visual, Interface, Interaction and Motivation.
In most Interaction Design projects the entire project context can be broken down into the following elements:

  • Visual – the things you see, including colour, form, layout, graphic design
  • Interface – the things you touch or manipulate, including buttons, pull downs, handles.
  • Interaction – the things you do. Verbs. Doing words. For example: uploading
  • Motivation – why you do the things you do. For example: because I am hungry.

– A
A is for analysis.
The amount of analysis that is appropriate for an Interaction Design problem varies based on the project particulars from a simple breakdown to an elaborate multi user study.

Below are some examples of the most basic VIIM Analysis. These examples have a repeatable format that is easy and quick to do. There are four rows of four images, each row corresponds to Visual, Interface, Interaction, Motivation.

The first row, the visual row is easy. Simply take photos of the current situation capturing what it looks like.
The second row is also easy, take photos of the parts you touch – the interface. You may wish to bring the Interface photos into Photoshop to add a semi transparent overlay to highlight the areas that you touch, a button for example.
The third row, the Interaction row is a little more difficult. As the Interaction happens over a period of time you are trying to capture what the person is doing. The four images are now a short storyboard. It is useful to add captions to help explain what is happening.
The fourth row, the Motivation row is more abstract and more difficult to photograph. Why does someone feel the need to book an airline ticket or cook a meal? A caption under each image helps to tell the story.

The four VIIM parts are inter-related and co-dependent. A visual change can quickly escalate into a change to the interface. A change in the interface can impact the style of Interaction. A change in Interaction would not really be required unless there was some change in the expected use case. A change in the user motivational perspective or use case can have a profound impact on all aspects of the design.

Toaster VIIM-A

Toaster VIIM-A (Kym McMurran)

Uniflow University payment system for printing

Uniflow University payment system for printing VIIM-A (Stephen McDevitt)

Creating a Word doc  for University assignment VIIM-A

Creating a Word doc for University assignment VIIM-A (Martin Tyre)



The future of reading – thoughts about the brief


Books, we like to keep them! (Thanks to HH for project idea and the image refs)

Is reading dying? Many people say they have not read a book for over a year!

Reading could not be dying, we read more than ever. Not books maybe but FB posts, txts, tweets, IMs, in game notifications. When you add up all the little messages it is a lot of reading. Our attention span is shorter – too short for a whole book. Maybe we are so good at reading short messages now we can read just them by glancing. It is a new skill like “spreeding”:


I FB therefore I read!

As the Information Age has taken hold have we responded by paying less attention? We don’t read stuff anymore, there is too much, we simply read the meta data; the header, the who from, the date and delete or click. Instant justice for content excess! Of course some sort of anti-overload filter is needed – simply as a strategy for dealing with excessive information. We scan everything and look for the links and click. Keep clicking until you get ‘exactly’ what you want.

There is no point in reading a book. We don’t need too – read books I mean. We can just Google to find out what happens.


In a City of Information there must be shortcuts

Reading is not dying, it is simply changing.

None of the above is true! I recently read a statistic (lies) that said that sales of ebooks on the Kindle now compares with sales of regular books. That same article went on to point out that sales of regular books in the same period had gone UP! So many book shops have closed but Amazon has prospered. Reading might be dying but books are far from dead. Could it be that more books are being read by fewer people. Has the information age heralded an even greater divide between book readers and non readers.

What is reading anyway? Well, it is a way of transporting an idea from one person to many others. Do we need books to that anymore? There are other means now! Do we need publishers? Do we need to chop down trees? Does Google and self publishing for instance with WordPress bypass the need for publishers and making a book? Have we come to the moment when books become some sort of singular entity called the internet – maybe all we are missing is a better interface. The iPOD changed the way we listen to Music. It also changed the Music industry. Is there a device perhaps not yet invented that will change how we read and the whole Publishing industry?

Books tend to be linear. In the information age we don’t really do linear. We simply jump to the bit we want and then branch out. Perhaps Roy Stringers Navihedron idea is a more appropriate way of presenting information (


Non linear reading might be the next step?

DES320 User Centred Design – Module summary

Starting point

Outline project briefs based on outcome of ‘The future of Security” Design Search in Semester 1.


Evidence based design – keeping the user central to the mission

Extend and customize the brief

Envisage and design the intervention

Create a script and storyboard

Make a movie

Examination of different type of Interaction Design movies. (Before and after/ annotated with meta graphics, animated, talking head, interview the inventor)

Focus on Interaction and Motivation – tell the story of the effect all about the effect that the intervention has on the people in the story

(Skipped but not forgotten: Visual and Interface, the detail design of the intervention)

Covered in passing:

Calm Technology, AOMO, Ubiquitous computing

Computers as Theatre

Wearables and IoT


Attendance                                                         5%

Brief                                                                    5%

10 point key storyline – pdf document         10%

Storyboard and script – pdf documents       30%

Youtube/vimeo presentation video              50%

Hand in details for DES320

Due date: Tue 13 May

Attendance                                                     5%

Brief                                                                 5%

10 point key storyline – pdf document      10%

Storyboard and script – pdf documents    30%

Youtube/vimeo presentation video            50%

Learning Pool – Placement opportunity – Interaction design

Learning Pool are one the most successful software companies in Derry. There is an exciting opportunity for a 1 year long placement with them.

Interaction Designer Placement

Essential skills:

  • UI Development role in a team delivering web based learning materials
  • Keen attention to detail and excellent visualisation and layout skills
  • Understand main web technologies with particular emphasis on CSS, JavaScript and HTML
  • Logical thinking & debugging skills
  • Image/graphic manipulation
  • Essentially the role will involve the extensive use of HTML, PHP, JS, CSS & browser development/debugging tools to manipulate/create a UI (knowledge of the Adobe CS5+ suite is beneficial).

This position is closely directed and monitored by a senior staff member.

The position is ideal for web design based CT and BDes students. This is a great opportunity, please let me know you are interested in applying.


KOFAX Placement Opportunity

Dear all YR 2 students

There is a placement opportunity in KOFAX. It will last for one year and can be taken as part of a Diploma in Industrial Studies.

Please apply to the details below

2013 DES310 project briefs: “The Future of Security”


The student authored project briefs (outcomes of DES310 module) could be summarised as follows:

Homes: I constantly worry about my personal belongings in my bedroom and house and therefore find it necessary to lock the door every time I enter and exit.  When out and about I still think to myself “have I locked up?”  Sometimes I would ring someone at home asking if my door was locked just in case I forgot. Maybe it’s an app for your mobile that analyses the house and tells you what is opened?  Maybe the door itself has a handle that changes colour depending on if it is locked or not.  Maybe there’s is a light above the keyhole that is on when the door is locked?  Maybe a card that gives you access to your bedroom with an automatic locking system.

As well as the potential for loss it is the sense of doubt is what irritates. This is the problem of not knowing if doors, windows, cars etc., are locked. People need to continually double back to check. A device or system that would eliminate the need for users to continually check whether or not everything is locked would at once provide a greater sense of security and reduce time on unnecessary activities.

Other possibilities regarding the putting tags on items you need when you leave the house, like keys and phones and wallet or bag. You could set up a home-zone, alarm when leaving the home-zone without registered tags/items.  *Beep-tags: When missing an item, press a button to make the tag beep and simplify the search. *GPS-tags: If you cant hear the tags, take a look at their current GPS-coordinates. [Ryan Davidson, Emma McKnight, Felicity Smyth, Alexander Mersdorf]

[Lauren Smyth] highlighted a different problem. She points to the tripping hazard caused by electrical cables. Lauren suggests a system of retractable cables spring loaded from the place where plug sockets normally are. Instead of plugging the lead into the plug socket on the wall you extend the lead from the wall and plug it into the device. Trip hazards are a particular concern when older people are living alone.

Pockets: When on the move I am constantly putting things in and out of my pocket.  To ensure that they are safe I zip the pockets but what happens when I forget to zip up?  The loss of my personal belongings would be a terrible thing.  (Mobile phone, wallet, money, etc.)  Surely there is some way I can be reminded to zip up and protect my personal belongings.  If I fall when out and about things could fall and break. Already there is hoodies with earphones built in and some that light up with your movement. Could technology be included in the design of our pockets so we don’t lose anything? Can we make zipping pockets more secure?  Maybe there’s a way to combine technology with clothing.  Perhaps a product that reminds people to zip up their pockets.  Maybe after a period of time an alarm goes off or a little buzzer to remind you to zip the pockets up?  Maybe the zip locks itself at the push of a button?  [Ryan Davidson]

Bags: I tend to leave my bag open whilst paying at the tills or taking things out of my bag such as keys etc. which is a very high number of times a day.  I noticed that if I were to pay for something at the till I would normally quite quickly take out my purse in a hurry and a scuffle and never remember to close my bag so my bag. This leads to a habit of constantly checking her handbag for her purse, her mobile or just forgotten to close the bag. The fear of the consequences is strong: What happens if I were to lose a very important item?  My purse? What if I were to get robbed? What if I were to lose my keys to my apartment? What if I were to lose my USB pen with all of my work? In a matter of seconds this incident could occur without me even noticing. Huge sense of risk contrasts against such an easy to make mistake.

Could there be a noise detector, which triggers if my bag is open for a certain amount of time? Could there be a time limit on how long my bag can be open for? Could there be an automatic closing flap or zip? Could we have a voice app if we say close bag it could close it for us?  Maybe there is some way to combine technology with a fashion product make it have a quirky design but safer overall?

Smart bags – what is in the bag, what out? Is the bag open, where is it? A device that will help provide protection and/or tell you where your belongings are e.g. an app, a piece of equipment or even a material object such as handbags etc. The object is to create a situation so that the person knows they have got everything without the hassle of double-checking.

The problem is increased in importance due to the presence of an expensive smartphone, holding most of their contacts, business as well as private. Important digital and identity information is also held in a wallet, holding IDs, credit cards and cash. A robbery twenty years ago was bad enough but now, because we carry so much information, it could be much more serious than the loss of cash money. A “Pack Check” device could combine with a wristband. It would be simple to attach one a small tag to your valuables and register its ID with the smartphone app (or wristband). The next time you want to check if you have everything on you, you just need to check your phone or wristband. Using Bluetooth (or similar services) the phone or wristband will check a surrounding of 1,5m of its position for all registered tags.

Constant checking of phones has become an interesting habit. Phones ring or buzz when a text arrives but still people check them.  Could this habit become part of a solution that would give a status update for all possessions? [Amy Milligan, Shauneen Mallon, Kirsten Querna, Alexander Merdoff, Natasha Nortje]

Keys:  To find a solution for the everyday loss of personal belongings such as
your keys, this can also be extended to a wallet, handbag or any other commonly misplaced items. I used keys multiple times in 24 hours for common tasks such as locking up the house, front and rear doors, opening and locking car door and also opening and locking work premises. I also noticed when I was doing this that I would sit the keys in places
which I hoped would be easy to remember such as in a zipped part of a handbag, kitchen counter or living room table. [Laura McFadden]

IT/Computers: Colm has a security problem with his email account. Every time he log’s on, he does his normal task of checking his emails, replying and composing a new email. Once he has read an email, he does not delete it but lets them gather up in the hundreds within his inbox. He is easily distracted and can walk away and forget he is still logged on to his account from the computer.

There is also the risk of loss of the computing device. Risk in this scenario is high because there is a very potential for serious loss of data and loss of high value device. If the computer gets stolen or breaks due to a fall or a virus this will cause a big problem. Solutions to reduce this risk are sought. Affordability and ease of use is key. [Aine McKinney, Colm Whyte]


The problems and opportunities above could find solutions in the development of two major current ideas: The Internet of Things, Wearables. At the recent CES trade show in Vegas huge attention was given to these two areas from smart socks to connected toothbrushes:

The idea of the smart handbag has been tried but so far no real success or traction:

Also see Calm technology and AOMO for example this promotional video from Hyundai

Teaching: Semester 2, 2014

So, I figured out what I will be teaching next semester: This is what it looks like:

DES134 Introduction to Interaction Design Techniques

I wrote this module but I have not taught it before: it will cover the following items: Story structures, storyboards, icon design, information design, data, information, decision. This module is with Year 1 Design students and sounds like fun.

DES320 User Centered Design.

This one is for Year 2 Design students. This is a project based module. I anticipate that we will get some new product and or service inventions developed here. I am going to squeeze in something about Roy Stringers Navihedra also. Exciting.

DES809 Design Entrepreneurship Awareness

This is a Masters of Design Module. The module is a series of 5 lectures including: Anto and Rob’s Gold Rush story and Intercept the Strategic Vector. There is a day of Elevator Pitches also.

I will be supervising a few BDes final years, don’t know who or how many yet. I also have a two MDes supervison students. That’s it, should be a busy 12 weeks. Starting, 27 Jan.