Collaboratively designing Things through sketching

So far, Ianus, Alexan­der and I have announced three of the four peo­ple who’ll be speak­ing at the first Dutch This hap­pened. They are Fabi­an of Ron­i­mo Games, Phi­line of Super­nana and Dirk of IR labs The final addi­tion to this won­der­ful line-up is Wern­er Jainek of Cul­tured Code, the devel­op­ers of Things, a task man­age­ment appli­ca­tion for Mac OS X as well as the iPhone and iPod Touch.

When I first got in touch with the guys at Cul­tured Code, I asked who of the four prin­ci­pals was respon­si­ble for inter­ac­tion design. I was sur­prised to hear that a large part of the inter­ac­tion design is a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort. This flies in the face of con­ven­tion­al wis­dom in design cir­cles: You’re not sup­posed to design by com­mit­tee. Yet no-one can deny Things’ inter­ac­tion design is sol­id, focused and cohe­sive.

Things touch still life by Cultured Code

Wern­er and his asso­ciates col­lab­o­rate through vig­or­ous sketch­ing. Some­times they pro­duce many mock-ups to iron out appar­ent­ly sim­ple bits of the appli­ca­tion. A prime exam­ple being this recur­ring tasks dia­log. Just look at all the alter­na­tives they explored. Their atten­tion to detail is admirable. Also, take a look at the pho­tos they post­ed when they announced Things touch. I’m sure that, if you’re a design­er, you can’t help but love care­ful­ly exam­in­ing the details of such work in progress.

Wern­er tells me he’s been busy scan­ning lots of sketch­es to share at This hap­pened – Utrecht #1. I can’t wait to hear his sto­ries about how the design of both the desk­top and mobile app have hap­pened.

Wern­er com­pletes our line-up. Which you can see in full at There, you’ll also be able to reg­is­ter for the event start­ing this Mon­day (20 Octo­ber). I hope to see you on 3 Novem­ber, it promis­es to be a love­ly filled with the sto­ries behind inter­ac­tion design.

links for 2008-10-16

links for 2008-10-14

How a student game became a Wii and DS title

It’s time to start reveal­ing the speak­ers for This hap­pened – Utrecht #1. First up is Fabi­an Akker, co-founder of the inde­pen­dent stu­dio Ron­i­mo Games. The stu­dio was fund­ed with mon­ey Fabi­an and his col­leagues earned by sell­ing the con­cept behind one of their games to THQ.1 The game is called De Blob, and the new ver­sion is now avail­able on the Nin­ten­do Wii and DS.2 As part of a 3rd year assign­ment at the Utrecht School of the Arts’ Game Design and Devel­op­ment course, De Blob was cre­at­ed for the munic­i­pal­i­ty of Utrecht. The aim was to allow peo­ple to explore the city’s future sta­tion area, which is under heavy recon­struc­tion. You could there­fore call De Blob a seri­ous game — a game that is not only fun but also use­ful. It is not often that a seri­ous game makes the tran­si­tion to a title aimed pure­ly at enter­tain­ment. It is more often the case that an enter­tain­ment con­cept gets inject­ed with some ‘seri­ous’ con­tent, with usu­al­ly dis­ap­point­ing results. At This hap­pened – Utrecht #1 Fabi­an, who was the orig­i­nal game’s lead design­er, will share the sto­ry of how it came to be.

Screenshot of De Blob, created by Ronimo Games, published by THQ

I announced This hap­pened – Utrecht #1 last week. The event takes place on Mon­day 3 Octo­ber at 20:30. Reg­is­tra­tion will open next Mon­day (20 Octo­ber) — space is lim­it­ed so mark your cal­en­dars!

Curi­ous about the rest of the line-up? Tomor­row, Ianus will announce our sec­ond speak­er. Update: go read what Ianus has to say about Phi­line of Super­nana.

  1. THQ is a large pub­lish­er of games, such as Saints Row and Age of Empires. []
  2. The game was rede­vel­oped by an out­side stu­dio. []

Announcing This happened – Utrecht

I’m hap­py to announce This hap­pened – Utrecht; a series of events for inter­ac­tion design­ers that I have been work­ing on togeth­er with Ianus Keller and Alexan­der Zeh. On Mon­day 3 Novem­ber we’ll have our first edi­tion at The­ater Kikker. I’m keep­ing the line-up to myself for now, but I can assure you it is awe­some.

At This hap­pened, you’ll get four to five short lec­tures by inter­ac­tion design­ers about the process behind one of their projects. Each lec­ture is fol­lowed by ample time for dis­cus­sion. We invite speak­ers from many dif­fer­ent domains, such as prod­ucts, web, soft­ware, games, archi­tec­ture and art. This way, we hope to show that although the out­comes are dif­fer­ent, there is a lot to learn from fel­low design­ers work­ing in areas oth­er than your own.

This hap­pened has been going on in Lon­don for some time now, with great suc­cess. I can’t remem­ber when exact­ly I first came across the con­cept, but I do know that from the start I want­ed to intro­duce it in the Nether­lands. Imag­ine my excite­ment when I received an enthu­si­as­tic response to my pro­pos­al from the guys in Lon­don.

I believe This hap­pened real­ly adds some­thing to the design event land­scape. It isn’t often you get to go some­where to hear about the hard work that went into fin­ished projects. Usu­al­ly, you either get a demo of what has been achieved, or you hear some­one talk about what it is he would like to work on, not what he’s actu­al­ly done. Nei­ther is very infor­ma­tive for prac­tis­ing design­ers. At This hap­pened, the focus is firm­ly on process, not on out­come, and on mak­ing & doing, not (only) on think­ing.

Reg­is­tra­tion is free and will open around two weeks before the event starts. Watch this space, or keep an eye on the offi­cial This hap­pened – Utrecht web­site (in Dutch).