The idea of “shut up and listen” has been a life long struggle. When I was a child my aunt would offer me $5 if I would remain quiet for the duration of our car ride (this happened often, and no, I never made any money.)
The “Happy Feedback Machine” is a great example of letting the audience experience and interpret the piece of work, exploring its buttons and knobs without needing guidance. The design challenge itself was that: “To create an interactive art sculpture/ toy/ device that makes people want to push buttons. What is this attraction? Why do we get pleasure from pushing buttons? The Happy Feedback Machine poses these questions while simultaneously satisfying those urges.” The creator made the initial statement through the machine itself, inviting people’s natural curiosities to do all of the exploration. Through these she found great insight on two types of people – those that had the curiosity and were completely satisfied with the machine, and those that were not interested because it did not do anything more than satisfy a natural curiosity. Perhaps if she had been less of a listener and more of a talker, she would have directed those people away from their natural inclination to walk away, not getting the proper feedback the machine deserved.
This is also a fabulous example of the importance of sketching. The “Happy Feedback Machine” has at least 100 buttons, switches and interactive knobs and knick knacks on it, which means that there are many many (many) parts creating its complexity. The sketch provides the perfect map of the machine’s story, which is part of the crucial design phase of the project at hand.
I recently went through the process of sketching in my Designing for Seniors class, where we explored the challenge of getting seniors to engage in technology in an easy to use, familiar fashion. The sketching phase was the most important part of the ideation of the product. Each idea led to an even better idea, which led to several prototypes before the final prototype of our product. It was a combination of the “design funnel” and the tree diagram on pages 9 and 10 in “Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook.” The sketching was an important step in getting to the prototype and final product, an invaluable step in the design process.