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Noticing is Listening with your Attention

09:54: Ten people, sat across two rows.
09:55: A man standing at the front of room, looking for a dry-erase marker.
09:59: Stuffy air and the promise of A/C turning on at 10:00.
10:04: The fifteenth (and final) person arrives. Still no dry-erase marker.

These were my first observations from a workshop entitled, “Noticing”, led by Frank Chimero. For new students, this marked the beginning of the next couple of years as the MFA Interaction Design Class of 2013.

With backgrounds spanning Architecture, Industrial Design, Psychology, Engineering, and Graphic Design we were curious and excited about the different perspectives we each held. The workshop promised to leverage this experience while simultaneously bringing everyone onto the same page through highlighting the most elementary of design skills: finding potential problems in our immediate environment to then use as fuel for creative problem-solving.

Using only our sense of touch, what would we notice standing on a rainy street corner in Manhattan? Questions like this inspired deep exploration into our full range of senses. With many of the group coming from visual backgrounds, we’ve trained our eye to be conscious of the things around us that inspire or make us question aesthetic choices, but Noticing gave a fresh take to a familiar exercise.

After bonding over shared observations from the streets surrounding SVA, the group moved onto the meat of the workshop… What could we notice about the way people interact at the Natural History Museum? How could we improve their flow through the space? Where might we find potential to enhance their overall experience?

After bonding over shared observations from the streets surrounding SVA, the group moved onto the meat of the workshop… What could we notice about the way people interact at the Natural History Museum?
After bonding over shared observations from the streets surrounding SVA, the group moved onto the meat of the workshop… What could we notice about the way people interact at the Natural History Museum?

4. Streamline overall efficiency and flow through the building

My personal highlight was a variation on the familiar passport sticker book (by Tash, Myn, Joonseo and Minnie). Custom notebooks would be created for each exhibit. As kids move through the building, they photograph their favourite items, with an instant camera (provided when purchasing entry to the museum). The device prints out stickers, which are then stuck into an appropriate spot in each book, solidifying their memories of the daytrip. As well as being a smart way to enhance the narrative of the experience and encourage exploration, I particularly liked the lo-fi nature of the solution. Analog approaches frequently seem overlooked in the framing of Interaction Design as a technologically focused discipline. But for me, the use of technology should always be secondary to the question of what is the most compelling way to engage with a human being.

My main reason for joining the program was to explore designing for interaction away from the screen. If these three days are any indication on the next two years, I’m really excited to see how this adventure will pan out.

—Tom Harman, Class of 2013

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