According to frog founder Hartmut Esslinger, “the way of design is only achievable via creative model-making and prototyping by the designer. Tools, both real and virtual, connect our mind with the real world. However, tools also define how we shape things: Tools’ limitations enhance our deep involvement with them and the materials, and honing our skills ultimately leads to mastership.”
SCAD’s School of Design partnered with U-Touch, who offered to provide a 46in touchscreen to the materials library. Designing for this touchscreen, I worked with Allycia Jones, a service design graduate student at SCAD, to design a GUI which would serve not only as a search platform but also as a demonstration showpiece for the space.
Considerations for the touchscreen interface included multiple user scenarios, serendipitous discovery of relational materials, data visualization for material information, creation of material boards, and links to physical swatches and export options. Looking at the tools used for discovering physical environments, the team pursued a compass metaphor which led us in turn to examine magnetic fields. To emulate real-world magnetic applications for sorting ferrous and nonferrous materials, our team used emotional attribute “magnets”–these attributes describe soft factors often found in design language (i.e. cool vs. warm). When the magnet is selected, materials with that emotional attribute are drawn toward the magnet, and their proximity to the magnet indicates the strength of the relationship.
The SCAD Sensorium offers design students, faculty, industry partners, and peer institutions an immersive, engaging, and dynamic experience for discovering and evaluating materials. Integrating a digital platform enables users to explore broader, deeper, and faster than conventional library browsing by removing space constraints, improving metadata visualization, and optimizing the sorting process. Unlike existing materials libraries, the Sensorium encourages active engagement and discovery while simultaneously providing detailed material property information and sustainability evaluations, enabling informed material selections for innovative designs.
Using stakeholder interviews, we created a cultural model to demonstrate spheres of influence and a flow model to show movement of information and artifacts among students, faculty, and staff.
Examining material libraries from existing online communities such as Material ConneXion and prominent academic libraries from institutions like University of Texas, we found an opportunity space to provide an exploration experience that supplied designers with information on the emotional characteristics of materials as well as their environmental impact and material property data.
We synthesized data from interviews and secondary research by establishing personas and design opportunities. It became clear that the curator had a crucial role in the success of the library, so the design of the environment, administrative interface, and touchscreen table should empower that position. We also saw an opportunity to use “smart” swatch containers that would connect students to more information on a given sample.
Nearing the halfway point of the quarter, Prof. Dave Malouf tasked the graduate students in the class to explore multitouch gestures for sharing and exploring data. In the course of one week, we prototyped this crude workspace model, dividing the screen real estate into quarters. Through this experience, we realized that a workspace model limited collaboration, and this lead us to explore other layouts, which in turn led to the corner menu interface in the final simulation.
Early designs placed user buttons in a dock. New users could initiate a session by selecting a user button. This button would also be the origin for user menus including account settings and export settings. We explored 360° interaction using radial “knob” menus with twisting behavior. Paper prototype testing revealed that this movement felt somewhat awkward and cramped.
Paper prototype testing also revealed how the “runway” stream of material swatches constricted cross-table collaboration. Questions also arose concerning the speed and flow of materials in the runway and which users would have control. This led us to remove the runway and utilize the table corners as easily reachable hot spots.
To create the simulations, we developed a wireframe for the UI and wrote a script including scenarios for contributing and using the materials library. We sequenced the wireframe and placed it on greenscreen background and printed it to scale. I added chrome to the wireframe and animated it in After Effects, and I composited this animation with the edited video.
This video demonstrates the use of the library from the perspectives of contributors and users.