I was however, interested in the artwork on the cover, the animation and graphics. For years afterwards, I was happy ‘pigeonholing’ technology as the geeky, complicated stuff and art and design as the cool, fun stuff I understood. Two very different creatures or so I thought, but that thinking could not be further from the truth.
Today, you only have to look at companies such as Apple, Facebook and even Nike, to know that they have successfully integrated the best of both disciplines. Resulting in products and services that whilst disrupting their respective fields, positively influence human behavior.
Roughly six years ago, Nokia was king. Content in creating phones, that ran Java applications and connected to the web. However, Apple in 2007, then entered the telecoms market with a revolutionary device, featuring a no hardware keyboard, large screen real estate and powerful software. In addition to the groundbreaking technology, Apple also had another great appeal. Through its design, it showed that it understood people and had considered the human experience. The phone was intuitive, easy to use and understand, even though it had adopted the new gesture based interaction with a mobile phone.
The late Steve Jobs shared a wonderful quote about Apple’s thinking at his keynote
speech in 2010.
“We have always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.”
Summarizing Apple’s total commitment in bridging the gap, between people and technology by enhancing the users’ experience through design.
For me, design is much more than aesthetic appeal. It’s about how the product or service will work and what it will do for you, the actual experience. It’s about finding the sweet spot, between technology and creativity, which is critical to a successful outcome. With standards today set high, we expect designers to have devised a frictionless experience, or we will pick an alternative product or service.
One such example is the infamous Facebook over MySpace discussion.
We all know the story, of how MySpace was once the original dominant social networking site, until Facebook came along and snatched its crown. But how did this happen, when the basic technology was the same?
In my opinion, it was down to the user experience. MySpace became too cluttered and over complicated, by ‘shoehorning’ every feature onto one page and allowing customization of pages. Too many options resulted in poor page layouts and poor user experience.
Contrastingly, Facebook offered a clean and easy to navigate interface. An almost ‘boutique’ like site, its features were well considered and placed on the page and the site offered no customisation. Although the design was almost ‘basic’ in appearance, it was easy to understand and navigate and resulted in a better user experience. Without realising it, people actually prefer some decisions to be made for them; editing out the unnecessary and highlighting the important. Facebook understood its brand and reached its audience by curating excellent customer experiences. Quite simply, it made the complicated simple.
Nowadays, changes in technology not only affect how we produce work, but also where we produce work. Like much of my work, for instance ideas for this article, start life as notes and ponderings on my iPhone, capturing these thoughts and moments on my commute to work. I am then able to flesh out these ideas, on my iPad at the coffee house, while the notes wait for me via Apples’ Cloud based service.
It’s safe to say, that our expectations from technology have grown, but our behaviours are also being shaped by technology and its ability to track our daily progress, geographic location and social interactions. It really becomes interesting when these elements are combined, as they have in the Nike+ FuelBand.
This simply monitors your movement and allows you to quantify your chosen exercise, by earning Nikes’ own currency of ‘Fuel’. Their thinking behind this, is that regardless of fitness or athleticisms, if two people both exercise for 20 minutes they would have done the same amount of exercise, therefore be rewarded the same amount. Creating a sort of level playing field, to encourage competitiveness and motivation.
The technology, both hardware and software in the Nike+FuelBand, is not new or groundbreaking. It uses an accelerometer, similar to those found in most Smartphone’s, to measure movement and speed. This tracks your data, calculates your Nike Fuel points and feeds the information back to your Apple app and own dedicated webpage.
In true Nike style, this innovative thinking has brought together the hardware, software and social interaction, giving credible meaning to the data about calories, BMI and KPH we collect in a way that has never been done before.
What could be interesting in the near future would be a device that takes into account external factors, such as weather patterns and geo location to better prepare you for your workout. Or an app that detects that you will soon reach a plateau in your exercise regime, and adjusts the programme to help you move beyond your goal.
In retrospect, I think the future of technology is about understanding human nature and delivering experiences, by using creative solutions to problems with technology as the catalytic tool to make it happen.
It’s about collaborating to innovate.