Following up on the Jawbone + PSFK Connect Up contest where we asked designers from around the world to come up with concepts for the connected home of the future, we interviewed Michael Romanowicz of Mr. UX, the creators of Orchestra, the people’s choice and grand prize winner. Michael speaks about their design process, how they come up with new ideas and the importance of maintaining a ‘natural feel’ in how people relate to technology.
What is your process for concepting new products, interactions or designs?
At the beginning of the process we always try to best understand the problem or friction, the actor(s) that are involved, and the environment they all exist in before setting out to come up with the idea or solution. From there we just try to make everything seem as real as possible, as quickly as possible, through whiteboarding or sketching wireframes or coming up with a prototype and putting it in peoples’ hands. The faster you can go from conceptual to real, the faster everyone gets on the same page about what it is.
For Orchestra it all came together pretty quickly. A brainstorm, some scriptwriting, and thanks to Sung a video concept inside of 2 days.
How did you come up with the idea for this concept?
Full disclosure: We’re nerds. So we’ve been paying attention to connected consumer electronics in the areas of quantified self and home automation for quite some time now. On top of that, we’ve been using UP bands for a few weeks so we had a ton of context going into it.
We knew that with the proliferation of connected devices in the past few months no one had yet developed a standard that allows all of them to talk together. As the end user you have to manage each device independently of the next and that ultimately creates a lot of work. Also, each product has its own discrete benefits, and we wondered what would happen if you stacked them together in more elaborate macros. Could the benefits work together too? So for us it really came down to creating cohesion between products, reducing the amount of work, and extracting the collective value of all the benefits in the ecosystem.
Are there principles that you try to follow during your design process?
Context is a word we use over and over. Doing the research to get the right context. Providing the right context inside of the designs so someone knows what they need to do. Context is probably the most important concept to UX in our opinion. Other than that, we strive for distilling simplicity from complexity, usability, and always being on the side of the end user.
What did you like about the products that you selected for your concept?
They’re all incredible pieces technology in their own rite, but we selected the products in our first macro because we immediately knew the health benefits vs. features they provided. We knew about light sleep and deep sleep cycles, and UP’s light sleep alarm feature. We also knew a bit about how the blue light wavelength affects alertness and that the LEDs in Phillips Hue could deliver that. We also knew that sleeping in colder temperatures yields more restful sleep over the night, and that raising the temperature in the morning would affect comfort and metabolism at the same time.
What is important about human interaction or maintaining a natural tone as technology advances?
This question is going to play out for the rest of time, but right now its incredibly important to maintain a human sense to interacting with technology, especially in the face of rapid technological advancement. In the same way that downtown Manhattan feels more comfortable than midtown because the buildings are in scale we can more readily understand, we’ll have to strike the same balance. And just because technology allows up to go up more than a 100 stories, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
What types of technologies would be helpful in the Future to further facilitate connected living?
On the software side, passive listening, macros, and built in application intelligence are a good first step towards facilitating a more connected world. On the hardware side, RFID and Bluetooth networks.