Month: January 2014

Project 1: Analogue Interaction

Our first project was to create a pop-up book with the goal of exploring the interactive analogue possibilities provided by paper engineering.

WHERE: Why This Structure?

With the theme of moving between the interior/exterior of structure, I decided to make my book based on one of my own unique experiences: what it’s like to be inside of a character costume. As a Character Performer in the Happiest Place on Earth this past summer, people are constantly asking me what it was like, and although the nature of my job restricts me from disclosing information publicly, I thought it would interest people to provide a small glimpse into this secretive world. (Keeping that in mind, I can’t explicitly say who I was and made a fictitious character for this, but you can imagine which characters I got to impersonate.) Besides the topic being able to arouse the reader’s curiousity, I thought that the idea itself is a concept that embraces layers and should be explored by examining each level. In fact, it is after making the pop-up book that I realized that breaking down the information into different layers made talking about the topic so much easier and the information that much more accessible to the viewer. Beforehand, when asked to elaborate on my job, I would dizzyingly jump from idea to idea (i.e. mechanics to personal feelings to physical sensations then back to mechanics) and lose track of the overwhelming amount of information. But, now with the help of this book, I can progress logically without confusing myself or my listener. Furthermore, I thought that the different components of each level of the job provided many possibilities for pop-up interactive features that could be translated to paper.

HOW: The Construction Process

Given the theme, I wanted to move from the outside of the costume–the superficial layer that everybody sees–to the inside of the costume-the mechanics, the clothing and the physical interior of the suit, then proceeding even further and going beneath the performer-the psychological and emotional aspect of the job that people often overlook.

Here’s a preliminary sketch of my idea:

photo (1)

Getting used to the craft of pop-ups, here’s some experimental cuts…

photo 2 (1)

After familiarizing myself with the basic mechanics, I then began brainstorming how I could apply some of these pop-ups to my concept which fueled even more sketches. I found that as I explored more and more techniques, I kept changing my ideas, realizing how my growing knowledge of new devices opened up narrative possibilities and that my newfound discoveries could narrate some aspects better than others. The development of the last page of my book- -the Behind the Face section- exemplifies how the acquirement of new skills changed the final product from the initial prototype.

Behind the Face

Most people only care about inside of the character costume but I think it’s important to show one of the most important parts of the job–the side that I can’t even begin to express but I can attempt to convey: what it personally feels like. The heart of the job. And quite literally the only way I could think of showing this was with an actual heart. I decided to try making a Slotted X Mechanism with Square Box Attachment.

Diptic (1)

First, you create two symmetrical hearts, cutting one at the top half and the other at the bottom half. Then you measure the widest part from the edge to the cut and this will provide you with the measurements for the box attachment.

Diptic (2)

Slot the hearts together and glue the box to one side. Lay the heart flat, folding the box down and then glue the box to the fold of the page. Ta-da! 

So after mastering this technique and many other types of hearts, I wanted to populate the page with a wide assortment of hearts folded and cut differently. My intent was to overwhelm the viewer with so many hearts as to convey how overwhelmingly heartwarming the job is. This was the initial idea:

BehindFace_Prototype1

Layered Heart

However, during my research, I stumbled upon an elaborate varation of the Slotted X mechanism with a pile of hearts that pop out and spill across the page. After finding this tutorial, I thought that this shape better conveyed the message I wanted. Therefore, I decided to master this more advanced technique…
Elaborate X Slotted Hearts

However, there were still other components of my original idea that I really liked so I decided to incorporate them all together. Which led to another prototype version of the page…

BehindFace_Prototype2

Which then finally came together as the final product:
BehindFace_Final BehindFace

So, as you can see prototyping was useful for me in that allowed me to change my mind and evolve my ideas over time! Similarly, the same thing happened with my other pages, but the changes weren’t so drastic. As you will see later, the prototypes of my first pages relatively stayed the same.

On the Outside

PROTOTYPE

Diptic photo (2)

OutsidePrototype

FINAL

 Outside

The pulling/pushing mechanism behind the child coming up to hug Barrie proved to be the biggest challenge for me. I was determined to get this idea to work as I knew the performer-guest interaction was an important component of the exterior that I wanted to illustrate. Also, I really liked the idea because it made the reader interact with the book in a way that would recreate the interaction I was trying to describe. The reader’s interaction with the book enables the interaction between the child and the character. Clever, no?

I initially tried using string mechanisms but the string wouldn’t cooperate nor would it move smoothly or in a controlled fashion. The easiest option would have been to have the viewer pull up on the tab and the object would be pulled along with it, but obviously Barrie’s pop-up obstructed that possibility. Alternatively, I considered keeping it simple and straightforward by having the viewer push the tab up, but then keeping in mind the principles of analogue interaction and trying to make things as logical and user-friendly as possible, I felt like this was going against the user’s intuition—we naturally want to pull down rather than force something up. I knew I had to somehow find a way that allowed the natural ease associated with pulling on tabs and I was determined to make my conceptual idea a reality. After pouring through different mechanisms, I luckily stumbled upon this video tutorial on push/pull mechanisms.

It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but it illustrated the main principle that I wanted: to pull to trigger movement in the opposite direction. This was tricky and it required a lot of trial and error to make it suitable for my intention. After lots of experimentation and modifications, I successfully managed to recreate my own version!

Push Pull Mechanism Kid hugging Barrie

Look at the child running up to meet Barrie!

photo (3)

The mechanism works quite smoothly but moving the child/the tab back to its original position sometimes doesn’t move as nicely so in a future version, I would like to somehow make this easier to reset it.

Behind the Mask

PROTOTYPE

InsidePrototype

To show the inside of the costume, I wanted to show some of the mechanics and the physical layers that the person has to wear. I think I want simple flipping mechanisms and overlays to show the different layers of clothes. After looking into slider mechanisms, I wanted to include a tab that you had to pull so I had the idea of showing how ridiculously hot it gets in the costume with an interactive thermometer!

photo 2 (3) copy

Sleeves keep the slider in place since they are attached to the page while the end stops prevent the pull tab from moving too far. Without any tutorial, I had to familiarize and with how a typical slider worked then I proceeded to experiment as to how I could make a thermometer out of these basic mechanisms. Trial and error was definitely needed but after trying different things, I managed to establish a device and get it to work!

photo 3 (2) photo 4 (2) photo 5 (2)

Knowing that I wanted some sort of spinning wheel device, I found this fun interactive wheel and thought that it would be great to make it a fan and incorporate it into my temperature idea alongside of the thermometer.

Wheel Model

Without any instructions, I had to carefully examine the contraption and recreate it myself through trial and error. I had to make sure that all of the coordinating pieces were cut in perfect proportion to each other and had to adjust the size of the wheel several times in order for it to spin smoothly underneath the paper.

 Wheel

SUCCESS!

Fan

Behind Mask (Beginning of Final)

FINAL

Inside

Clothes Underwear

WHO and WHY: Audience & Attraction

This pop-up book was designed for people who are old enough to know that there are human beings inside of character costumes and for people who are okay with having the illusion shattered. Without wanting to destroy the dreams of children, I explicitly made it clear on the cover and packaging of this book that this is not suitable for children/young kids should be forbidden to look at it. However, by also doing this, I wanted to pique the curiousity of my reader and grab their attention, making them feel like they’re becoming engaged in some kind of top secret matter– which it really is in all acutality! I really wanted the audience to understand the discretion and rarity of this information, making this a priviledged experience for them. Not only to enhance the aesthetic appeal and intrigue, I wanted to maximize the reader’s physical engagement with the book by placing the book (the top secret file) in an envelope from which they have to pull it out of.

photo (4)

Beyond the classified/confidential atmosphere protecting the secrets of the book, I wanted the book to be young at heart just as the topic is. Since the look and feel of pop-up books are generally childish and the very theme that I chose is about childhood matters, I wanted to honor this youthfulness and nostalgia by keeping the design similar to a children’s book– and making it just as fun since it truly is a fun topic! In order to incorporate this playfulness, I wanted to create fun pop-ups that make you interact and play with the book or that take you by surprise such as the case of the bear and the child. As kids, we loved being able to touch and feel different materials in books and regardless of age, I think that these kinaesthetic sensations of touching and feeling allure people in so I deliberately included this principle in my book. For example, I made Barrie as soft as he would be in real life, I made the clouds fluffy, I literally made warm fuzzy feelings, and I tried to make everything as textured, as touchable as possible. By physically familiarizing oneself with a material, we can then move from getting to know the object from a physical level to a psychological level- processing what is tangibly there to form our own opinions and understanding of the thing. But, even if the material isn’t highly entertainining or mentally stimulating, I think that touching and feeling things in a book provides pleasure in reminiscence and nostalgia. It takes us back to those wonderful childhood memories and makes us feel like a kid again–which is what my whole theme was about.

Marion Bataille’s ABC3D

This book literally blew my mind away. Not only is it beautifully and elegantly designed, but I appreciate the cleverness! It is not only entertaining to watch the letters pop out in such unique and unexpected ways, but there’s amusement in the carefully chosen way she physically and conceptually plays with the alphabet. SO AWESOME.

Reading Response: Interaction Design Sketchbook

Reading Bill Verplank’s “Interaction Design Sketchbook” has really made me reflect on the prevalance and importance that computers have taken on in our lives today. I found his section on paradigms particularly interesting in the way that he provides an in-depth exploration to the many different roles and uses that human beings attribute to computer devices. From brains to tools to fashion, it just goes to show the major impact that technology plays in our everyday lives, not only by taking on deep-rooted significance, but by infiltrating almost every aspect/need. From Verplank’s reading, one can gain a sense of how incredibly pervasive computers have become– just as McLuhan rightly said, they have literally become extensions of us. Which might bring up an alarming question: After having relied so heavily on computers for so long, what would we be without them now? Verplank points how computers have evolved to meet our needs–from utility to transportation to expression–but have we become so dependent on technology to fulfill these desires that today’s society can not do so without the help of an electronic device? If stripped bare of technology, would we be able to cope?

Verplank claims that it is computer technology’s increasing and integrative presence in society that poses challenges to interaction design. Having said that though, it should be asked that instead of being obstacles, perhaps the fact that computers are becoming more and more ubiquitous and embedded can be used as a propelling force to make the process of interaction design better and that much more compelling? Instead of looking at the rampancy and dependency of computers as roadblocks that must be worked around, perhaps designers should use these to their advantage as foundation to build upon, in which their designs can feed off of.


Reading Response: What Is Interactivity?

Interactivity is a term that many people often throw around and slap onto things without truly knowing what it means. After reading this article, I realized  that my own understanding of the term was lacking clarity, and that the general public, including myself, are often guilty of loosely applying this label without putting much thought to whether a work is really interactive or what it means for a work to be interactive.

Something is interactive if and only if it is responsive, does not completely control, is not completely controlled, and does not respond in a completely random fashion (Smuts 54).

I found Smuts’ arguments against others’ definitions of interactivity very intuitive and perceptive, and I think that his criteria for interactivity rather compelling. I particularly appreciate Smuts’ description of interactivity as not being an intrinsic property, but as being a relational property in the way that “we can interact with our environment until we can completely control it” (65).  While Smuts notes that interactive games strive to find a balance between difficulty and the player’s skills, the question that must be asked is: how can you find this perfect balance to ensure interactivity– especially for each unique user who individually differ in levels of mastery?

Another interesting point of Smuts’ analysis is interactivity being equated to concreativity since it is an experience that is supposedly shaped by both the artist and the audience. He notes that many works are mistakenly labelled interactive when really, there is no real contribution coming from the audience. Instead, these works allow the audience to be stimulated and participate on a superficial level. In fact, this raises another question for me. When should you strive for interactive work rather than just an engaging work? Some people might not want interactivity in a work. Some might just want a stimulating experience and to be affected by the work. Or perhaps some might simply  want control over the work, enjoying that sense of authority, but as Smuts points out, people commonly mistake control for interactivity. Therefore, I think it’s important to ask what the work strives to achieve and for who, as well as keeping in mind what this audience really wants.