Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Posts Tagged ‘metaphor

Brainstorming Based On Insights From Interviews – Intel

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Continuing notes on the Intel-CIID industry project. The following are some of the user quotes from feedback obtained via remote online interviews, on the issue of sustainability by energy efficiency practices.

  • “Long term costs of managing residences …. now seem to equal or out-weight cost of acquisition”
  • “I think it (energy efficiency) is a good concept for the future. But, wondering how this issue effects my current life… ”
  • “We need to get used to ‘self-sufficiency.”
  • “A thinking generation could make this (sustainable energy efficiency) work.”
  • “Costs for water, public lighting, lifts (elevators), and washing clothes can be shared among (residential) communities.”
Concepts from brainstroming

Concepts from brainstroming

At this point, we had spent a few continuous days in near proximity of users, hearing them out. So we thought it was a good point to zoom out a bit and identify dominant patterns in the thinking of our users. The idea behind this was to move away from the exact thoughts as verbalized by users, and carry those concerns forward to ‘open up’ the domain of opportunity for design.


To do this, the team used the quotes and resulting insights collected as inspiration for a series of  brainstorming sessions. The sessions were driven and managed by CIID and Intel faculty Vinay Venkatraman and Jay Melican, and consisted of a series of exercises with different goals. Switching to a ‘studio’ mindset, members from across the project class circulated between teams and helped put up ideas on walls by the dozen (and this is such an effective way of capturing the skills and perspectives of members across the studio). We were looking for associations, hidden meanings, metaphors, anything – however literal, visual, conceptual or semantic – that would help us move from the realm of concrete concerns into the domain of inspired insight. Here are some images from the brainstorming sessions.



Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 11:43 am

Global Tourism – Interactive Visualization

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Project Context
The brief for this class project (with Shawn Allen of Stamen Design, SF) was to develop interactive data visualizations based on UN Data as available on On this website, the UN provides downloadable data in various ready-to-use formats on a wide variety of issues and themes – demographics, global indicators and statistics on commodities and trade, energy, population and gender, industries, children, health, tourism etc.

Choosing a data set
We were interested in several data sets to begin with, but common underlying themes seemed to dominate across our choices. In order to be able to think freely about the kinds of data that we would like to work with, we also explored data sets external to those provided by the UN. These included experimenting with data from (a streaming internet radio service) and with live feed of statistics describing developments on Second Life (a globally popular virtual world).

Finally, we decided to go with a data set that provided ‘Tourist Arrivals by Region of Origin’ for the years  2001-2005 from the UN database.

It is usually easy to find information about the most popular global tourist destinations. What is less understood is ‘who travels where’, or to put it in broader terms, which travelers place the world’s top tourist destinations at the top of the charts. Since we were focused from the  first on exploring the ‘supply side’ of the business, we decided to include only the world’s top twenty five tourist destinations (by revenue from tourism).

The Visualization

Global Tourists - Map View

Global Tourists - Map View

Global Tourists - Stack View

Global Tourists - Stack View

We chose to use the metaphor of a world map for this visualization to be able to simultaneously represent both a region of tourist origin as well those tourism hotspots most frequented by its travelers. The region of origin chosen is depicted by a color, while circles of the corresponding color represent the places visited by its native tourist population. The size of the circle indicates volume of tourist traffic.
Viewers can choose to see the visualization in either a ‘map’ (Image 01) or a ‘stack’ (Image 02) view. Stacks can further be organized by ‘Destination’ or ‘Number of Visitors’; switching between these two modes reveals interesting trends across the years.

Key Learnings from Visualization
The key learning that is evident from browsing the visualization is that global tourism is  still largely regional. Tourists from the Americas travel largely within the Americas, with some concentrated bursts of travelers to some parts of Europe. Europeans travel mostly within Europe, as do Asians and Africans within their own regions. If there are far-off exceptions to this overall trend, they are limited in number and usually to a very specific set of destinations depending on the region of origin.
Since data was only available for a six year period, we (predictably) saw no huge variations from year to year, especially in the map view. In the stack view however, one notices that competition for tourist revenue is fierce amongst the top twenty five destinations, indicated by the quite frequent shifts in place among the contenders under the fifth spot.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

January 11, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Screen-based solutions for eldercare – ‘PhotoCaring’ concept

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In my previous post ‘Screen-based solutions for eldercare – process and concepts’ I discussed the brief, process and concepts for the project that my team worked on in GUI class. Here are snapshots that present the rationale for the final concept we created and presented as a conclusion to the investigation. It is based on the field observations, interviews and user testing of the primary persona based on elderly resident Annie.

One of the main sources of inspiration was the many picture frames in the hallways of the elderly home, with photographic content supplied by the events from the daily lives of the residents, both from their time spent in the home as well as from before their admittance to the home.


Picture frames in the elderly home hallway with photographic content provided by events in the daily lives of residents.

Annie was enthusiastic about showing us her pictures and postcards, but she had to look at the descriptions behind them to tell us exactly who they came from or when (the occasion) they were sent. The investigation also revealed that  she would value having such information on a need-to-know basis, a device or system that helped her share such information (and compare it with similar information) with that of other residents.


Annie needed to look up descriptions behind her postcards and pictures to tell us more about their senders or content.


Annie was comfortable discussing interactions via simple buttons and menu options on picture frames in the hallways of the elderly home.

The final concept is designed to promote social interaction between residents of the elderly home. It consists of individual picture frames that are networked with each other via interactive digital wallpaper.

Interactive picture wall facilitates social interaction between residents.

Interactive picture wall facilitates social interaction between residents.

The interface elements on each individual frame provides feedback by proximity, using RFID tags. It allows the user to view similar pictures of other residents by theme and alerts users to the presence of other users who are also near the wall, thus providing cues to spark meaningful and contextual conversations between residents (snapshot of  frame interface prototype below).

Interactive picture frame

Interactive picture frame

Two Models of the Design Process

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Bill Verplank drew for us his comprehensive yet concise model of what constitutes the process of design, in his Open Lecture at CIID a few weeks ago. This is very comprehensive and scalable model for approaching just about the entire spectrum of interaction design challenges in particular.

Beginning with the ‘motivations’ for design, the model traces progressive development into creating ‘meanings’ for human beings via metaphors, on to defining the ‘modes’ of system behavior, and finally, making effective ‘mappings’ to the artifacts and controls that ultimately become tools of usage.

Amazing stuff!

Bill Verplank - the Design Process

A few weeks later, we had another model of the design process up on the wall – this time from Niels-Clausten Stuck. (Drawing from my notebook below). This model is comparatively much more generic than the earlier one, in that sense that it describes an effective approach to challenges across the design spectrum, from interaction and innovation to spaces, physical products and information.

Niels-Clausen Stuck - the Design Process

Niels traced the development of ‘user research data’ into informed ‘insights’, which in turn could be abstracted further to the level of ‘frameworks’ that define the opportunity/solution space for design. The dominant opportunities are then concretized into real-world solutions by developing a multitude of ‘concepts’, out of which are created select final ‘prototypes’ – the design solutions that live and perform in the hands of users.

This (second) model of the design process is also a great approach to looking at the focus areas and work of various types of global design/strategy/innovation consultancies – we CIID are learning from folks specializing in each or many of the different areas of the model. Yes, if I haven’t said it already – its great to be here!