Gather Round for Story Time

I mentioned I’m working on a storybook with my coworker, Jorge, and that I would share a teaser with you. Today is that day! For some background, back in August 2011 I was talking to Jorge about my collaboration with Charlene McBride on the Sketchnote Field Guide. He mentioned he has always wanted to illustrate a book, and that we should work on a project together if I was interested.

Well, of course I was interested! I promised Jorge we would start the storybook when I was wrapping up the sketchnote collaboration. We decided we wanted the book to be for ages 5 – 7, which according to the how-to books, meant no more than 1000 words for the written story.

It is a story about Beatrice, a little robot who is good at learning all sorts of things but can’t figure out how to learn how to dance. We are calling it Beatrice’s Possible Impossible. I emailed the story to Jorge, and he was so inspired he emailed the sketches I’m sharing below. Aren’t they ADORABLE?




And as a teaser for the prose…

Beatrice was proud of all the things she could do now that she couldn’t do before. But one day, she saw her next door neighbor, Melvin, do something she still didn’t know how to do… dance!

“Mom,” Beatrice said at breakfast the next morning, “I’m going to learn how to dance.”

“That sounds like a fun thing to learn! How are you going to learn how to dance?” Beatrice’s mom asked.

“I found a book,” Beatrice said, holding it up so her mom could see it. “I’m going to read how.”

Really excited to see this project move forward!

Living the Dream

Forgive the radio silence!

I’ve titled this post “Living the Dream” because I think it’s important to note that even though I love being a user experience designer, it was never my dream to become one. Not my childhood dream, anyway.

Honestly, I’m not sure any child dreams of becoming a translator, as it were. A professional who facilitates projects via their soft skills and documentation to ensure features within a holistic system benefit and hopefully delight customers.

My childhood dream was to be a writer. I have wanted to write books for as long as I can remember.

  1. Historical fiction books
  2. Picture books
  3. How to books.

I wanted to create content and have people read it, enjoy it, and feel inspired to make something themselves. As of last Friday, I can now say that I am in the process of doing all three: children’s book, historical fiction, and how-to. I am living my dream.

I keep saying it because I want to remind myself. I am living my dream. How many people can say that?

Before I talk about the new project, first let’s get you updated on the project I last blogged about.

The How-To Book

The Sketchnote field guide book is coming along really well! The beta readers are liking the context and structure; they have great feedback and I’m feeling really encouraged about this project. I have to say, without Charlene McBride’s collaboration, this project wouldn’t be nearly as strong as it is. The survey people filled out for me back in August is what brought Charlene to me, and helped us focus the book.

I’m so excited to share it with people! It will definitely be on Lulu (they allow royalty splitting), and maybe on Amazon.com. We still need to figure that out. Keep your eyes peeled, though. We’re hoping to release it in January, just in time for conference season.

The Historical Fiction Book

Under my historical fiction pen name, I started a book four times before I felt like it was something worth writing. This fourth start has around 24k words, which is about 30% of the final word count. I’ve stopped writing because I realized I needed more research… ergo me dragging ten books home from the library about Ohio and the Civil War.

The Storybook

The new project I keep hinting at is a children’s storybook. I’ve loved the process of checking out thirty children’s books at a time, consuming them at a leisurely pace and asking 6yr old Binaebi what she liked about each one. I’ve loved reading the how-to-write for children books, learning the nuances between picture books and storybooks, the intentions of each, the intended age groups, and the parents that buy books for their children.

I’ve loved chatting about the project with my illustrator and collaborator,  who suggested we write about robots (because he loves them). I’ve felt inspired by his supportive enthusiasm when I insisted it be about a girl robot, and that it have something to do with dancing (because we both love dancing). The main character’s name is Beatrice, and that is about all I’m willing to share at this point. Maybe later I’ll leak some the sketches my collaborator has been sending me. They’re so adorable.

Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (does that idiom even apply anymore?), I just wanted to share that I’m living my dream. Why? I don’t know. I guess in the hopes that you might feel inspired to do something tonight or tomorrow that gets you one step closer to living your dream.

Brass Goggles and Lace

So I’m working on my capstone proposal, and I’m worried. I’m worried, because I’m not sure this is exactly what I’m trying to study, or if I’m letting professors put words into my mouth because it sounds good, or if I’m saying these things because I feel it’s easier to argue for them. Anyway, see below for my draft, which took far too many hours to write. I need critique!

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Title
Brass Goggles and Lace: Steampunk as a Case Study of the DIY Creative Process and the Implications for the HCI Design Process

Target group affected by study
Interaction Designers

Client
Binaebi Akah

Description of Problem Space

Why does the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement exist? It is more convenient and possibly even more practical to buy a finished product. Yet, stores like Lowes, JoAnn Fabrics, and Hobby Lobby; television shows like Design on a Dime, Trading Spaces, and Carter Can; and websites like Design Sponge, Etsy, and Instructables, are all flourishing. Why is this? I often hear it is the economy, and this is why people are doing more on their own. This is both true and untrue… it is still much cheaper to buy clothing than to make it from a yard of fabric, for instance, and I have the receipts to prove it.I contend that a large portion of the DIY movement exists because it is in people’s nature to be creative; to want something that is personal, meaningful, unique, and with a story. But DIY itself is vast and deep; so I am focusing on Steampunk as a case study.

Steampunk has multiple connotations with fashion, fiction, music, and technological aesthetics, among others. I am focusing on the latter. The technological aesthetics of Steampunk rebel against our always-connected-with-my-super-high-tech-homogenized-gadget culture by finding inspiration in the past, specifically, the Victorian era, when industrialization did not mean homogenized yet. Why do people join this movement, and how? What is their creative process?

Why Important

My goal is to learn how and why people become involved in this movement. What is their creative process? How does it differ from traditional computer science and interaction design processes? The do-it-yourself movement is all about discovery, personal meaning, the art of craft, choice, freedom, and invention… is it possible to bring some of these traits into the interaction design process? What would this mean to human computer interaction design?

Predispositions

People tell stories.

People create and feel creative.

People embed objects in their personal lives.

People invest when there is a perceived benefit.

Approach

I have been reading about appropriation, the diy movement, hacking, creativity, identity, and, of course, Steampunk. This is to get a basis for definitions about creativity and the individual, and how it shapes the individual’s creative process. I have begun to involve myself in the Steampunk movement by buying the independent magazine and following the top blogs. I will conduct narrative interviews and hopefully some walkthrough probes to learn about the creative process and how these DIYers define themselves as creative individuals. I hope to attend a Steampunk convention, but that depends on availability.

Preliminary Plan

Please see here for my visual timeline.

Come Again…

Well, after meeting with Shaowen it turns out that I don’t know, entirely, how to verbalize what I’m actually interested in. For instance, my previous post talks more about the communication between DIYers (ie Steampunkers as my case study) rather than the actual doing of DIY.

But I like the doing of crafting. The doing and the reflecting. How does this relate to HCI, though? I’m not sure yet. Maybe in terms of the process, and how it is different from the computer science way of producing. Everyone is a designer, right, in one form or another?

Shaowen admonished me to remember that this isn’t just about the doing of crafting, as the reflecting about the doing is as important to DIYers. It’s like how the Greeks saw wisdom as both the mind and the hand, rather than how we see it now, as mind (artist) being separate from hand (craftsman), where only the mind can be wise.

So maybe I’m looking at the tacit plus reflective knowledge, and what it means. How does it affect me as a person, my identity, my sense of creativity? I’m not sure. But class is about to begin and I like taking notes in my sketchbook, so I’ll have to pontificate more later.

Pitching in Paragraph Format

For capstone tonight we need to have a paragraph written about our capstone topic. I’m about to meet with Shaowen to talk in more detail, but I wanted to give it a shot before our meeting to consolidate my thoughts…

“Steampunk is a way of creating sublime awe within an apathetic, overly-connected, jaded culture.”  – Kyshah Hell

The world of the creative practitioner has been around for centuries. Men like William Morris during the Victorian era, as well as all the unnamed professional artisans over time, have given us a rich history of using our hands, minds, and the materials around us to create exciting, functional, and/or beautiful artifacts. With the adoption of online technology, the role of the creative practitioner comes to the forefront again as their works are displayed for audiences who wouldn’t have previously had access due to location, etc.

Here are my questions about this phenomenon: How is the creative practitioner’s identity changing due to online communities, and why? What can we abstract from this in terms of HCI design? How is the material world being influenced by its online counterpart, and more importantly, vice versa?

Design Rationale behind the “Thought Box”


Jay Steele was interested to know my idea behind the bowls + box. After getting an excellent response from the in-class critique, I figured it was a good idea to post my (very informal) design rationale.

The interesting thing about the in-class critique was how my design sparked an animated conversation. Without knowing details, the class was able to abstract meaning by rearranging the bowls with the box, finding interpretations I hadn’t thought were explicit.

My favorite interpretation was the metaphor that each of the bowls had a spout of sorts, so you could, potentially, pour your thoughts from the bowls into the box. Eventually, the box would leak out the thoughts through that side hole… but never overflow the box.

I love it when someone “gets” the design.

Whistle While You Work

It seems to me that once you get into the thick of design philosophy, you can never escape designing.  However, I’m beginning to realize that while this graduate program certainly encourages and incites the designer in me to be a bit more active, Interaction-Designer!Binaebi was by no means silent in the first place.

In the Kitchen

Whenever my roommate leaves town she returns with the expectation that I’ve moved something. This is a semi-nervous tick of mine, completely intentional, but not malicious. I don’t like clutter, especially on kitchen counter tops. So when I open the kitchen cabinets and find empty spaces, I move the items from the counter top to the cabinet so the kitchen looks cleaner.

The thing is, I don’t remember to tell my roommate I’ve done this… and half the time it’s with her food in the first place. Thank goodness it’s something of a game to her. “Hmm… I wonder where Binaebi put the [fill in the blank] this time?” is a question she utters frequently, she admitted just the other day.

Now, this information concerned me. Was my shifting redesign of the kitchen’s organizational structure making her interaction with the kitchen frustrating due to my need for bare counter tops? Worse yet, was it hurting our interactions as roommates?

No, actually, because it turns out my shifting redesign has a pattern to it. I place all the baking items together on one shelf, the chips on another. All the Tupperware is in that bottom drawer. Unopened juice is placed in the fridge so the first glass will be cold. In the long run, it seems to work out for us, because my reorganization has an intuitive bent to it.

Which is good. The act of me rearranging items may not be time-efficient, but it is intuitively-efficient for when we need to find said items later.

Side note: This is an interesting concept I recently thought of… “time-efficient” vs “intuitively-efficient.” I should come back to this, see if it’s worth pursuing.

In the Arts

When I have any sort of emotional upheaval, I turn to my artistic roots and let the muses fly. I have, in the last month, upcycled two chairs that my roommate and I found by our dumpster. Solid wooden chairs with a screw or two missing, left for me to play with in the evenings after work.

The process is what makes these chairs amazing, not the end result. Though, I will admit, the chairs turned out pretty sweet. I sanded the chairs by hand, getting to know their shape, their feel, their character.

Argyle Chair: Finis!

“Argyle,” the first one screamed at me, “you must reupholster me in argyle.” When I bought the fabric, it was the end of the bolt, so I got three yards instead of one. Which was perfect, because the next day we found the second chair, and it was just as eager to have an argyle redressing.

I have also sculpted a little android, a paranoid little android who, despite his best intentions and careful planning, lost his heart and is absolutely befuddled by the realization. This project was a true design experiment, as I had no plans when I began to work the Sculpey clay. I simply rolled the clay into a ball, broke off a piece here and there while watching the movie Dogma, and by the end of the movie, I had a mini-Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Marvin the Paranoid Android loses his heart

But I’m never one to simply mimic. My Marvin needed something special, something which made him especially down. So I poked out his heart. For artistic purposes, of course.

Side note: I don’t know why Marvin lost his heart. He’s much too sad to go into the details with me.

I have turned to my music, listening to new and old favorites constantly, while psyching myself up to play the violin again after a three-month absence.

I have, for the first time in ten years, painted my toe nails. This may not be a big deal to you, but to me, every little bit of artistic expression counts. Like my Hot Topic earrings, which are currently little gray skulls. It’s the little things that make me laugh.

In Me

What am I trying to get at here? The fact is that all these little things…

  • Rearranging the kitchen
  • Reflecting on the interactions between my roommate and me
  • Upcycling a couple of discarded chairs
  • Sculpting a hilariously depressed robot
  • Preparing to practice violin again
  • Painting my toe nails
  • Buying and wearing goofy earrings

…these are things that point to me redesigning myself. Everything we do affects us positively, negatively, neutrally. When I began these projects, my motivation was lackluster at best. But as with anything, the more time I invested into the project, the more I cared about it. The more I cared, the more motivated I became. The higher my motivation, the more I poured my creativity into the project, the more I pushed myself to try something new.

The Moral of the Story

Interaction Design isn’t always just about man vs technology. Sometimes it’s about man vs man, or man vs self .*

How do we design and redesign ourselves? What goes into that decision-making process? And what can we learn from that process to help inform our design process, professionally?

I don’t know yet. It’s a work-in-progress.

*Borrowed from creative writing theory