What subway maps can teach us about the role of the viewer in communication design

In the introduction to his book The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch states: “Nothing is experienced by itself, but always in relation to its surroundings, the sequences of events leading up to it, the more of past experiences.” [1] When considering representations of physical spaces, a user’s cognitive models of a space are a large part of this background knowledge, because they have a deep, intrinsic relationship with the way the user experiences, navigates, and interacts with (or within) that space. These cognitive models may be dictated by knowledge gained through physical movement, or external communication, often through devices…

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed today by the sheer number of people speaking out about their own experiences. Literally every single woman I know has experienced toxic masculinity and been harmed by the normalisation of rape culture. I recognise the problem as pervasive and systemic, but when I tried to think of my own experience, I couldn’t immediately identify specific instances where I’ve faced the same. Using the hashtag has felt like I’m co-opting the real struggles of women all around me to make my minor problems feel significant. …

Transition Design, 13 April 2016

Notes from a lecture by Cameron Tonkinwise. Discussion Leaders: Saumya Kharbanda, Calvin Keetae Ryu

With the industrialisation and mechanisation of the world, for a long time, human needs have been directly related to commodities. However, Max-Neef defined a new paradigm to think about the basic human needs. This essay examines his proposed model and seeks to use that as a basis for a theory of change in transition design.

The traditional discourse on needs tends to identify them as infinite, ever-changing, dependent on circumstance, culture, or time. Max-Neef suggested that this is not so — on the contrary, needs are finite and universal. He defined 9 basic human needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation…

Discussion notes from 10 Feb 2016 (Saumya Kharbanda and Dixon Lo)

Schedule for the day:
9:00–9:20 Discussion on David Orr and Stewart Brand readings
9:20–9:40 Warm-up futuring exercise.
9:40–10:40 “Thing from the future” game (made by the Situation Lab)
10:40–11:20 Reflection and Expansion of Thing from the Future game

Discussion on David Orr and Stewart Brand readings

Brand’s Levels of Healthy Civilisation

Discussion revolved around the need for different layers of civilisation operating at different time horizons. It was noted that David Orr is a little pessimistic about fast knowledge, while Brand cites all levels as useful for creating Healthy Civilisation. We also discussed fast and slow knowledge in comparison to shallow and deep ecology. Shallow ecology stops short of fundamental change and promotes…

Thoughts on interaction design, revisited.

I started off this semester, by defining interaction design as

the process of identifying a problem and understanding the context it exists in, simplifying the complexities of the situation, and trying to find the most efficient, and visually appealing solution.

Over the last four months, we’ve taken a closer look at every aspect of this definition, and more. Turns out, there’s a lot more to it. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

The “problem solving” definition of design is often repeated. However, sometimes the problem is just too complex to define. And sometimes, even when we think we’ve defined the…

The Lovers and Art of Pablo Picasso

To craft visuals that communicate data and highlight emerging patterns

Defining a Topic and an Interesting Question

Most of my initial ideas revolved around colours. One early idea was to look at dominant colours in paintings and map out colour trends across different art movements or by different painters.

The biggest challenge would be sorting the data — I’d have to try and find (+ teach myself how to use) scripts online that can scrape through metadata, or do it manually.

The other will be scoping the data, and doing a deep dive into a particular style, for example — only look at the renaissance in…

Or, Considering the realities of context

In our studio class, my teammates (Lisa and Kate) and I are currently looking into ways in which the waiting time at Pittsburgh bus stops can be made a less frustrating experience.

In her post, Lisa talks about our strategy for initial exploratory research. Initially, we approached people together, introduced ourselves are students working on a school project, and asked if they had a few minutes to answer some of our questions. It quickly became clear we weren’t getting rich enough information from these people. …

Bringing Clarity to Calculus

Objective: To clearly convey an abstract concept that is difficult to grasp without visual aids.
Medium: Video/Animation
Topic: “What is a derivative, exactly?
Duration: 5weeks

Exploration of abstract concepts

Week 1

The ideas I came up with for the topic for this video included:

  • Why is the sky blue? (Why is the sky not violet?)
  • How does GPS navigation work?
  • The doppler effect
  • What is a derivative?

I settled on calculus because it posed an interesting design challenge — the concept is always communicated using jargon and abstract symbols, but the math is rather beautiful and elegant when explained visually through graphs. …

…we need to think about

As the internet of things becomes more pervasive, some of the major concerns surrounding the idea are those related with privacy and security. However, I would like to highlight some more concerns that we, as designers, need to consider before designing for such a system.

I visited a friend who had recently installed Phillips Hue lights in her home. She was excited about the fact that she no longer needed to get out of bed to switch the light off anymore, and wanted to demo it for us when we got to her apartment. Once she actually tried to switch…

Saumya Kharbanda

Graduate student of design at CMU. All-around giant nerd.

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