JuanSpotters late night commercial

What else do you do when your car breaks down, miles from nowhere, and you find a creaking cabin that is empty but for a dusty couch and an honest-to-goodness 19″ Sony Tabletop television set? How is this thing still working? Who’s still broadcasting over airwaves?

Well, you don’t want to go wandering around about out there in the dark. It’s kind of creepy around here, and anyone could be lurking outside. You brush off the cushions and sit down. Was that creak from this old couch? Must have been. Well, let’s see what’s on at this hour…

JuanSpotters is a Cooper Halloween artifact, created around the persona of Juan Espinoza, and is an iteration JuanSpotters from 2012’s Interaction Design for Monsters. This year’s ghost busters are…

  • Chris Noessel
  • Cameron Winchester
  • Kathryn Estocapio
  • (and our headless ghost) Alex Mandel
  • (Cinematographer and crewperson) Benjamin Remington

Special shout-out to Rohan Malpani, who was to be our Billy Mays until time ran out on his internship before shooting.

OS Naught

For immediate release:
In a bold move, Apple has announced the business strategy for “OS Naught,” the next version of its popular operating system for Mac, iPhone, and iPod. In a press release delivered to industry insiders by conference call last evening, Apple CEO Timothy Cook explained that the OS, to be not released in Q3 2014, will require users to pay Apple as if a major update to the OS had been provided, but will actually contain no changes at all.

OS Naught logo

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Your Flat Design is Convenient for Exactly One of Us

Illustration built on creative commons 2.0 Portrait of a Man by Flickr user and photographer Yuri Samoilov

I’m OK with fashion in interaction design. Honestly I am. It means that the field has grappled with and conquered most of the basics about how to survive, and now has the luxury of fretting over what scarf to wear this season. And I even think the flat design fashion of the day is kind of lovely to look at, a gorgeous thing for its designers’ portfolios.

But like corsets or foot binding, extreme fashions come at a cost that eventually loses out to practicality. Let me talk about this practicality for a moment.

In The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman distinguished between two ways that we know how to use a thing: information in the world, and information in your head.

Information in the world is stuff a user can look at to figure out. A map posted near the subway exit is information in the world. Reference it when you need it, ignore it when you don’t.

Information in the head is the set of declarative and procedural rules that users memorize about how to use a thing. That you need to keep your subway pass to exit out of the subway is information in your head. Woe be to the rider to throws their ticket away thinking they no longer need it.

For flat design purists, skeuomorphism is something akin to heresy, but it’s valuable because it belongs to this former category of affordance: it is information in the world. For certain, the faux-leather and brushed-aluminum interfaces that Apple had been pumping out were just taking things way too far in that direction, to a pointless mimicry of the real world. But a button that looks like a thing you can press with your finger is useful information for the user. It’s an affordance based on countless experiences of living in a world that contains physical buttons.

Pure, flat design doesn’t just get rid of dead weight. It shifts a burden. What once was information in the world, information borne by the interface, is now information in users’ heads, information borne by them. That in-head information is faster to access, but it does require that our users become responsible for learning it, remembering it, and keeping it up to date. Is the scroll direction up or down this release? Does swipe work here? Well I guess you can damned well try it and see. As an industry now draped in flat design, we’ve tidied up our workspace by cluttering our user’s brains with memorized instruction booklets for using our visually sparse, lovely designs.

So though the runways of interaction design are just gorgeous right now, I suspect there will be a user-sized sigh of relief when things begin to slip a bit back the other way (without the faux leather, Apple). Something to think about as we gear up our design thinking for the new year.

A gift to the survivors

By now you’ve heard the furtive whispers of that derelict building whose haunted rooms twist end turn even as you meander through spooky design pun after spooky design pun. You may have even dared wind your way through it. If you haven’t, find your courage and prepare your best screaming voice, because the time to head there is now. Despite—no, wait, because—of the terrors it holds.

Because on Halloween, Cooper will be awarding its full set of books to someone on the survivors list. How do you get on the survivor’s list? By braving the terrors of the Design Haunted House, of course, and keeping a sharp eye for your chance to escape.

So grab a wooden stake, steel your nerves, and make your way up the steps to this most terrifying of mansions, where your very survival is threatened…by design.

Designing for Unnatural Selection: Bionic Bunny Ears for Bengal Tigers?

Guest blog post by Zak Brazen, our May Cooper Parlor moderator and Creative Strategist for Brazenworks

Prefabitats for polar bears? A jet pack for pandas? Bionic bunny ears for Bengal tigers? It’s amazing how much ingenuity 55 people can exhibit in two short hours. But that’s just what can happen when you facilitate a motley crew (wink) of design professionals, biologists, and technologists toward a common goal. Entitled, WTF, Evolution? Designing Unnatural Selection, the Cooper Parlor on May 23rd explored the science and fantasy of creating gadgets for animals to ‘leap frog’ the 6th wave of extinction. As Karolina, one of our attendees put it, “Still buzzing after today’s Parlor & lively presentation. Pandas need design advocates too!”

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WTF, Evolution?

Designing for Unnatural Selection at the next Cooper Parlor

RabbitSnipers

The Cooper Parlor is a gathering of designers and design-minded people to exchange ideas around a specific topic. We aim to cultivate conversation that instigates, surprises, entertains, and most importantly, broadens our community’s collective knowledge and perspective about the potential for design.

Upcoming Salon: WTF, Evolution? Designing for Unnatural Selection

Moderator: Zak Brazen, Creative Strategist, Brazenworks
Cost: $10
When: Thursday, May 23rd from 6:30-8:30 (doors open at 6)
Where: Cooper Offices, 85 2nd St, 8th Floor, San Francisco, CA
Get your tickets here.

Like it or not, the sixth wave of extinction is upon us. By the end of the century nearly 50% of all species on the planet will be gone. Most will perish simply because they do not have enough time to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions. But what if there were gadgets (or services) that would help plants and animals transcend time and make the evolutionary leap? What if there was a Whole Earth Catalog for the non- human among us (eat your heart out, Stewart Brand)?

In this seriously tongue-in-cheek Parlor, Creative Strategist Zak Brazen, of Brazenworks Design and Ingenuity Lab, will explore design opportunities for the near future, when plants and animals are your clients. Parlor participants will imagine, prototype and design tools, gadgets and services that give plants and animals the resources they need to cope with climate change in real time.

Disruptive? To say the least.

Save your spot now, before these seats become extinct.

Related Reading

Interaction Design for Monsters

Whew. That was close. As every year, there’s a risk that we’ll be overrun with with zombies, werewolves, vampires, sasquatch(es), and mummies before the veil that separates the world seals tight for another year. But a quick tally around the Cooper offices shows that here, at least, we all made it. Hope all our readers are yet un-undead as well. While we’re taking this breather, we’re called to reflect a bit on this year’s interaction design for monsters.

Monsters are extreme personas

One of the power of personas is that they encourage designers to be more extrospective, to stop designing for themselves. Monsters as personas push this to an extreme. It’s rare that you’ll ever be designing technology for humans who can’t perceive anything, can’t speak any modern language, live nearly eternally, shape shift, etc. But each of these outrageous constraints challenges designers to create a design that could accommodate it, and often ends up driving what’s new or special about the design.

But then again…

Some of the constraints of the monsters are human constraints writ large (or writ strangely).

  • Juan wasn’t a useful person in and of himself, but his users exercised flash mob requirements of real-time activation and coordination. Are there flash mob lessons to learn?
  • Emily was fighting a zombie infection, but real-world humans are fighting infections all the time. Is there something we can use for medical interfaces?
  • Metanipsah has no modern language and a mechanical mental model, but most of us have mobile wayfinding needs at one time or another.
  • The Vampire Capitalists behind Genotone took the long view, reminding us of burgeoning post-growth business models.

So maybe they’re great personas after all, guiding us to great design because they’re extreme, just like the canonical OXO Good Grips story, where designing for people with arthritis led the design teams to create products with universal appeal.

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WereSafe

Poor Alexi Devers: Bitten by a “dog,” then finding himself naked in a park on the morning after the next full moon, a pulpy mess of unidentifiable victim, dewey and glistening on the ground around him. News stories that day confirm that a terrible murder has taken place by a rabid “dog,” and Alexi looks up from the paper with the wide-eyed stare of the recently diagnosed. What will he tell Debbi, his girlfriend? How will he keep her safe? Fortunately for him, after a Google search and a few false leads, he discovers WereSafe, a service for people with “dog” problems just like him. It’s expensive, sure, but what choice has he got? One web form and credit card number later, he’s joined the service and a special package is on the way.

The WereSafe service has two main service aspects. One to keep the monster contained, and the other to hide the problem from the innocent.

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Genotone: An exposé on a sinister VC business model

As Halloween approaches, and the veil between worlds grows wan, threadbare, and permeable, Cooper turns its collective attention to the spirit, spook, and creature population. Last year we sought to understand them from a Goal-Directed perspective. This year we take the next unholy step and design software, devices, and services around these personas. Today we return to Vladmir and Anton, our conflicted vampires.


Antone grew up in southern Louisiana in the late 1700s, the son of a wealthy landowner. After his childhood sweetheart died, he gave up all hope for life. He told his troubles to a young gentleman who came through town, who promised him an end to Antone’s misery. Instead, he was turned to a vampire, and forced to live a life of eternal suffering, unable to visit his family ever again. Today he broods away his evenings in his family’s decaying plantation.

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iZombie? A zombie self-diagnosis and self-destruction app

As Halloween approaches, and the veil between worlds grows wan, threadbare, and permeable, Cooper turns its collective attention to the spirit, spook, and creature population. Last year we sought to understand them from a Goal-Directed perspective. This year we take the next unholy step and design software, devices, and services around these personas. Today we revisit Emily.

Emily is in trouble. She narrowly escaped a horde of flesh eating zombies, but was bitten in the process. Now she’s suffering under the gradual onset of zombification—cognitive decline, neurodegeneration, loss of motor control, and an increased apetite for delicious, raw, human flesh. She wants to stave off zombiism as long as she can, but she knows that once she’s crossed a threshold, she will succumb and attempt to kill her friends and eat her family. What can she do? Enter iZombie?, an app made specifically for zombie-virus-infected humans, distributed by the military for free to all civilians at the first sign of the inevitable plague.

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