Posts tagged with design
Years ago, manufacturers could build a sequence of prototypes and use these to discover and rectify any problems. But now competitive pressures [have reduced] the time to bring a vehicle to market…. Automotive manufacturers aim to … design … a new vehicle and the manufacturing facility … in an entirely virtual world.
This speeds the introduction of the new product, but it does mean that designers … aim to anticipate … problems before a physical build of the vehicle is completed or a new production facility is built. Experience [from] the past is useful, but new vehicles have new features…. For these reasons, we need models that predict how humans of different types will behave in vehicle and workplace environments.
I love Julian James Faraway's reasoning process at the beginning of his paper on ergonomic simulation. He starts out by addressing the most important question: why should I care? rather than assuming “STEM is useful” or “Mathematics is good by fiat”.
Instead of saying that some bit of maths is "important" because “important” is an adjective and he felt like putting an adjective there, Dr. Faraway explains why mathematics is relevant to this specific problem which people already care about.
- Because of the production constraints, the automobile manufacturers need to figure this out on computer before building and testing something in reality.
- Because we don’t have infinite money to build a lot of test space programmes, we have to calculate exactly the trajectories and rocket pulse timing beforehand.
- Because the Aswan dam is so hugely expensive, we need to mathematically plan how it should work before making it.
And so on. It suggests that the practical application of mathematics is in areas where prototyping is prohibitively expensive.
Neurons are designed with a lot of listeners (the dendrite) and just one talker (the axon terminal).
If we consider the brain as a robust piece of hardware, which can
- learn across environments,
- operate independently of the rest of the organisation of the superstructure,
- and function even after sustaining physical damage,
maybe there’s a universal principle of good design here.
My father used to tell me that when people complimented him on his tie, it was never because of the tie—it was because of the suit. If he wore his expensive suit, people would say “Nice tie!” But they were just mis-identifying what it was that they thought was nice. Similarly if you’re interviewing candidates and accidentally doing your part to perpetuate the beauty premium to salaries, you aren’t going to think “She was really beautiful, therefore she must be more competent”. You might just notate that she was a more effective communicator, got her point across better, seemed like more of a team player, something like that.
Achen (2002) proposes that regression in the social sciences should stick to at most three independent variables. Schrodt (2009) uses the phrase “nibbled to death by dummies”.
I understand the gripes. These two men are talking about political analysis, where the “macro” variables are shaky to begin with. What does it mean that the Heritage Foundation rated two countries
9 points apart on corruption or freedom? Acts of corruption are individual and localised to a geography. Even “ethnofract”, which seems like a valid integral, still maps
∼10⁷ individual variation down to
10⁰. But this is statistics with fraught macro measures trying to answer questions that are hard to quantify in the first place—like the Kantian peace or center–periphery theories of global political structure.
What about regressions on complexes in more modest settings with more definitive data measurements? Let’s say my client is a grocery store. I want to answer for them how changing the first thing you see in the store will affect the amount purchased of the other items. (In general trying to answer how store layout affects purchases of all items … this being a “first bite”.) Imagine for my benefit also that I’m assisted or directed by someone with domain knowledge: someone who understands the mechanisms that make X cause Y—whether it’s walking, smelling, typical thought patterns or reaction paths, typical goals when entering the store, whatever it is.
I swear by my very strong personal intuition that complexes are everywhere. By complexes I mean highly interdependent cause & effect entanglements. Intrafamily violence, development of sexual preference, popularity of a given song, career choice, are explained not by one variable but by a network of causes. You can’t just possess an engineering degree to make a lot of money in oil & gas. You also need to move to certain locations, give your best effort, network, not make obvious faux pax on your CV, not seduce your boss’ son, and on and on. In a broad macro picture we pick up that wealth goes up with higher degrees in the USA. Going from G.E.D. to Bachelor is associated with
tripling ± 1 wealth.
I think this statistical path is worth exploring for application in any retail store. Or e-store or vending machine (both of which have a 2-D arrangement). Here as the prep are some photos of 3-D stores:
And for the 2-D case (vending machine or e-store) here are some screen shots from Modcloth, marked up with potential “interaction arrows” that I speculated.
Again, I don’t have a great understanding of how item placement or characteristics really work so I am just making up some possible connections with these arrows here. Think of them as question marks.
- purse, shoes, dress. Do you lead the (potential) customer up the path to a particular combination that looks so perfect? (As in a fashion ad—showing several pieces in combination, in context, rather than a “wide array” of the shirts she could be wearing in this scene.)
- colours. Is it better to put matching colours next to each other? Or does that push customers in one direction when we’d prefer them to spread out over the products?
- variety versus contrastability. Is it better to show “We have a marmalade orange and a Kelly green and a sky blue party dress—so much variety!” or to put three versions of the “little black dress” so the consumer can tightly specify her preferences on it?
And if you are going to put a purse or shoes along with it (now in 3-ary relations) again the same question arises. Is it better to put gold shoes and black shoes next to the “cocktail dress” to show its versatility? Or to keep it simple—just a standard shoe so you can think “Yes” or “No” and insert your own creativity independently, for example “In contrast to the black shoes they are showing me, I can visualise how my gold sparkly shoes would look in their place”? More and more issues of independence, contrast, context, and interdependence the more I think about the design challenge here.
- "random" or "space" or "comparison". You put the flowers next to the shelves to make the shelves look less industrial, more rather part of a “beautiful home”. Strew “interesting books” that display some kind of character and give the shopper the good feelings of intellect or sophistication or depth.
Or, what if you just leave a blank space in the e-store array? Does it waste more time by making the shopper scroll down more? or does it create “breathing room” the way an expensive clothing store stocks few items?
- price comparisons. You stock the really really expensive pantsuit next to the expensive pantsuit not to sell the really-really-expensive one, but to justify the price or lend even more glamour to the expensive one.
- more obvious, direct complements like put carrots and pitas next to hummous so both the hummous looks better and you will enjoy it more. Nothing sneaky in that case.
Did you ever have the experience that you buy something in the store and it read so differently in the store and when you were caught up in the magic of the lifestyle they were trying to present to you, but now it’s hanging up with your stuff it reads so different and doesn’t actually say what you thought it said at the time?
For me if I’m clothes shopping I’m thinking back on what else I own, what outfits I could make with this, how this is going to look on me, how its message fits in with my own personal style. And at the same time, the store is fighting me to define the context.
In the Modcloth example I’m talking mostly about 2- or 3-way interactions between objects. In analogy to simplicial complexes these would be the 1-faces or 2-faces of a skeleton.
But in general in a branded store, the overall effect is closer to let’s say the N-cells or N−1-cells. Maybe it’s not as precise as the painting in http://isomorphismes.tumblr.com/post/16039994007/thoroughly-enmeshed-composition-perturbation or a perfectly crafted poem or TV advertisement, where one change would spoil the perfection.
But clothing stores are definitely holistic to a degree. By which I mean that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s about how everything works together rather than any one thing. And a good brand develops its own je ne sais quoi which, more than the elements individually, evokes some ideal lifestyle.
More on this topic after I finish my reading on Markov basis.
The classic red/green colouring scheme for trading screens seems too alarmist.
Conceptually, the red/green distinction makes sense as corresponding to stop/go in traffic signals. But traffic signals need to be neon and striking in a hectic 3-D environment where it’s paramount for everyone to definitely not-miss the
But in a sheltered 2-D environment where goals commonly include to master emotion, to control passive reactivity, to keep a long-term head in the middle of short-term volatility, and to digest (calmly) massive amounts of information en simultáneo, neon red/green seems too grating.
I made the above picture with
R of course, like this:
require(quantmod) getSymbols("^GVZ") chartSeries(GVZ) reChart(up.col="light blue", dn.col="yellow")
GVZ is the gold volatility index.)
It’s not a perfect colour scheme—I would use
Lab to do better—but it already improves on
- red/green dichotomy tells us whether meat or fruit is rotten or ripe (especially in dappled light)
- blue/yellow dichotomy tells us how cool/warm something is
- light/dark (value) is the most basic kind of vision.
If we take that as a starting point, a less alarmist colour scheme for trading software could use the blue/yellow dichotomy to indicate whether a security price went up or down. Use a neutral chroma for “small” moves (this depends upon one’s time-frame, but properly the definition of “big move” should be calibrated to an exponential moving average with some width depending on one’s market telescope). Intensity of the move could be signalled with lightness, so that most figures on a screen are a readable lightness of a neutral colour, but “big moves” are tinged with convexly more chroma and very-convexly more lightness.
The definition of “up/down” might be refigured as whether the trader is short/long the security in question, or perhaps redness/greenness could be used in conjunction with the “market view” of cold/hot, to indicate whether a security is moving for/against one’s strategy. That too could be seen as overly alarming, but a (pseudo)convex coding of red-ness might again solve the problem again, only invoking the “panic mode” when there’s really something to worry about.
roads in the USA
by Fathom.info, makers of Processing HT @traviskolton
Compare to those famous light maps of the USA:
Other nice ones on the same topic. You can’t compare visually to the “new view” of the roads vis-à-vis the lights, but who doesn’t love looking at these pics? I don’t want to leave most of the world out just because the US produces the most data.
Don’t have a roads pic of the world but here’s a lights-at-night pic of the world:
European Night Lights
A recently released satellite picture from NOAA illustrates the changes in nighttime lights in Europe between 1992 and 2009. Yellow regions show where lights have increased, purple places indicate where lights have decreased, and white areas show no change.
And some O(10MB) images of the world at night: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=55167
Nighttime satellite image of Europe, derived from U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS).
Dear Heavenly Leader in North Korea keeping the light pollution down:
links may be broken on this one, but promises dark-sky pics of SA, ME, Africa, and some “remote” (primitive living) areas
Back to the USA roadmap by Fathom.info, here’s San Francisco:
Interesting twitters, if you like this, are @fathominfo and @impure140. (Impure being another visual programming language besides Processing.)
- Roshi: What are we surrounded by--on all four sides?
- Steve: Walls.
- Roshi: What do the walls make?
- Steve: The Zendo.
- Roshi: Do they? What is inside the Zendo?
- Steve: You, me, the Keisaku stick.
- Roshi: But what is the _essence_ of the zendo? Could it be right here?
- Steve: There isn't anything there.
- Roshi: Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. Let's look at our big mistakes. What makes the lines of the characters on the page?
- Steve: The space around them?
- Roshi: Good! And the zendo?
- Steve: The space in it.
- Roshi: Yes! It is both the forms that surround us and the spaces with no form at all -- and how they interact together. It is what is in space and what is not. It is how we experience the relationship.
People think mathematicians are brilliant because they talk about things like C* algebras or B-splines or A-modules or D-branes or … really any combination of unexplained letter with abstract noun. (Extra points if the letter is Greek!)
But when I think of really genius ideas, I think of things like:
- stairs. If stairs don’t exist, who is going to think “I need to invent stairs”?
- alcoholic beverages. We trivialise that somebody must have just drank some rancid stuff and thought it was good.
But no, people had invented sophisticated methods of getting particular tastes long before modern chemistry. When natural philosophers were still talking about phlogiston, Bordeaux already had fine wine down to a science.
- buckets, bowls, pots
- handles on mugs
- screws, bolts, nuts
- ball bearings!
- sponges with a scratchy pad … and how do they make those scratchy pads anyway?
- mitred joins, moulding, wainscoting
- sewing. I guess you notice pretty quickly when you sew stuff that many small stitches are super powerful, even with a thin thread. But who’s going to never have thought of the concept of a needle and thread before and suddenly think of it?
- weaving. Warp, weft … have you seen these old tapestry machines? They’re the predecessor of the modern computer.
- the invention of a chair. Again, suppose no chairs exist. Who is going to think of one and how?
Let me go a little deeper into several of the brilliant things about modern toilets.
- First of all there are the two hinged things, which are stacked in the right order. First one being — not only so your butt doesn’t touch the bowl (because they could just make a bowl with a flat ring on top of it, not make it detachable)—but so anyone who pees from a height doesn’t have to splash onto where everyone sits.
Second hinge controls the cover—which is a great idea because not only will stuff not fall into the toilet, but residual smells will be kept in. Let’s say your toilet is clogged, for instance. Then keeping the cover down is the best thing you can do for your comfort. By the way: without looking at your toilet, try to draw a diagram for how a series of hinges could control two separate toilet covers, and be bolted into the bowl.
- But the true genius is putting water in a bowl. Not only does it give you a way to evacuate the crap, but it reduces the smell.
Smells, of course, are volatile particulate matter that are flung off into the air from your poop, and reach your nose. (Which means that every time you smell poop, poop is getting on your towel, toothbrush, …. I don’t understand why people put showers, toothbrushes, and baths in the same room as where they poop — I mean it’s convenient for plumbing, but I would rather have my poop be as far away from my toothbrush as possible. Well, until I can design and live in my dream house, I have one of those cheapo toothbrush covers.)
So how can we cover up an entire piece of poop — it could have lots of shapes, we don’t want to have to touch it, we want to cover all of it with no errors, and we want to compress the poop particles so that they don’t fly off the turd. WATER. Yes. Next time you go in a pit toilet or port-o-let at a concert or camping, hyperventilate before you go in, cover your nose, and wish that they had poured gallons of water into the bank before everyone pooped in it.
That’s leaving aside the efficient manufacture of commodes and the sewage system, which I’m sure are both marvels of their own. You think about something like New York City, it’s a human habitation of 6 million people, each taking maybe 5-10 dumps per week (well, in good times). That’s 30–60 million pieces of crap every week that nobody wants to see or smell ever again.
Imagine you just dug a hole in the side of a hill, Hobbit-style, in a natural clearing. Suppose, too, that you’re close enough to a lake or stream that you can get water to your house easily. (Or it rains enough and you bought some huge rainbarrels.) Then what the crap are you planning to do with all of the crap you generate?! That’s a conundrum for ya.