Incoming Students Unite

by MFA IXD July 3, 2009

While the MFA Interaction Design Program hasn’t started yet, this summer, its inaugural class banded together to find a project to work on. Sparked by a suggestion from Interaction Design Association (IxDA) local leader Derek Chan, MFA Interaction Design student 2011, some of the local students got together to work on the Mozilla Labs Design Challenge, a series of events to encourage innovation and experimentation in user interface design for the web. It aim was to invite designers, students, and design-focused people from all around the world to develop new ideas and mockups for the future of the web.

We were interested to talk with one of the students about how the collaboration took place, so we got some time with Russ Maschmeyer, MFA Interaction Design student 2011, to discuss how the project went.

1. The program hasn’t started yet, and no one has been formally introduced. How did you come together to work on this?
A few of the future students were living in New York at the time, and we had started to get to know one another at the Dot Dot Dot lectures (the MFA Interaction Design lecture series). We formed a Google group to start gathering the troops both in New York and outside so that we could start getting to know each other. Derek Chan, who’s involved with the IxDA (a partner for the Mozilla Design Challenge), suggested we submit an entry, to which everyone who was in New York replied in the affirmative with a heavy use of caps lock.

2. You called your project “Tablines.” How did the idea come about? Can you describe the process—from mockup to the moment when the team decides “this is ready.”Seven of us got together (two others would join later) for an informal brainstorming session about what kind of solution we wanted to deliver—whether we wanted to dream the big dream or think more practically; whether we wanted to use tabs as they are now, or go for a completely different metaphor. The idea was a simple system that draws connections between your open pages using your paths of navigation to those pages. That got everyone thinking of the different visual metaphors for a branching storyline. We spent a few meetings looking at that approach from a few different angles and identified some new benefits and drawbacks that such an approach might invoke. Then we took aim at emphasizing those benefits while finding solutions for the drawbacks. Everyone contributed tremendously, and it was just a meeting or two a week for about 4-5 weeks where everyone sort of ruminated the idea until it was fully formed.

It helped to identify the group dynamic that we can expect to see in the next two years—namely open, enthusiastic, fun, and damn smart. We would all agree that prototyping and finding quick ways to explore big ideas from a user experience perspective will be useful to hone. All in all (and I think I can speak for everyone on this), I’m really excited to be spending the next couple years with these folks.

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