MFA Interaction Design Application Deadline
The MFA Interaction Design application deadline is today, February 14, 2014. Take the plunge. Apply and invest in your love of research, analyzing, prototyping, and design concepts.
While we recommend that applications be submitted then, we continue to accept applications on a rolling admissions basis throughout 2104 until space is filled.
For those planning to apply by February 14, 2014, here’s what you can expect in the months from February through April, 2014:
- February 14, 2014: Application deadline for prospective students.
- March 14, 2014: Applicants who applied by February 14 receive notification about an interview. (Admittance to the program requires a personal interview.)
- February 14-28, 2014: Interviews for select candidates.
- April 1, 2014: Applicants who applied by February 14 receive a decision in writing from SVA.
Visualizing New York’s Transit Data for and with the MTA
Over four weeks in January and February, 13 first and second year students participated in Rachel Abrams' MTA Big Data workshop. Devised for and with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the workshop's goal was twofold:
First, to introduce the public agency to the principles, methods, tools and activities of data visualization, so they can harvest greater value from the information that New York City Transit (and other parts of the MTA) generates about itself 24/7, year round.
Secondly, to let the students loose on content with real-world context and impact, to give them an insider’s view of a complex piece of New York’s public infra- and info-structure, and explore ways to make the transit information landscape more legible for its executive decision makers, municipal operators and passengers.
Two of the four workshop sessions included much-appreciated masterclasses by guests of the moderator: Jennifer Kilian (Facebook) on prototyping and Eddie Opara (Pentagram) on data visualization.
Five topics from the Subway
With preselected topic areas, five project groups gathered, cleaned, organized source data to represent stories in visual prototypes about each issue. Each group identified a general theme, hunches and questions to explore, aspects of the data to visualize and next steps to develop deeper inquiry into their given topic. From there, the whole team suggested key recommendations for the MTA, to highlight best practices the agency could adopt to make more of the data riding around New York produces every minute of every day.
Addressing these topics, students:
- Created a snapshot of Grand Central Terminal subway station by ridership, based on turnstile data
- Analyzed the reliability of the two major manufacturers’ train cars
- Investigated the relationship of track fires and garbage-clearing schedules
- Identified the key causes of delays during Monday morning rush hour
- Mapped all named sections of track to every line within the network
Students’ key recommendations for the MTA included:
- What makes data glorious is that it’s the raw material of evidence: Key to making cases that guide decisions
- Start with just enough data, clean it, structure it. Identify what decision-makers really need to know, and collect data to support just that.
- User-centered design means start with decision-makers’ and operators’ real needs and establish a common visual grammar and vocabulary everyone can use
- Limit jargon and acronyms: Use simple language regular people can understand
- If you can’t draw conclusions, spot outliers, tendencies and patterns that send the data analysts on a new hunt
- Engage users of visual data progressively: Start by establishing those visual basics, then build up layers of complexity from there to tell the full story.
- Consider scale - showing macro and micro views reveals details in a big picture.
- Scorecards and personas are an excellent way to summarize attributes of an issue and of typical users
- Getting stuck and identifying what’s missing can provide useful clues
- Standards for collecting, organizing and representing content are all critical for managing data
- Tell a story for people, not data for data’s sake
- Like gold, the value of data is not in mining it, but in smithing it.
In conclusion, both the students and the MTA agreed, we’d accomplished the first steps to demonstrate how to make the network legible and to make the users literate. It’s a massive undertaking to to embed user experience within functionally siloed, complex, always-on public agencies, but together, we’ve shown the potential design strategy and craft can offer in that process.
Interaction 14 - Day 1
Trust your gut.
First lesson I learned while navigating the Interaction 14 conference. I pre-planned what I wanted to see, but still, there was that doubt I might miss a better presentation, it was basically conference FOMO (cringe). The day started off with a keynote by Klaus Krippendorf, where he presented theories on the philosophy of language and how reality is constructed through language. It was a great way to just throw people into the thick of things and really get our minds moving in an analytical way.
That coupled with the building at Westergasfabriek, Gashoulder, made for quite a start to the day. The building is a large cylinder with pitched high ceilings, like the name suggests, it was built in the early 1900s to store gas. And now it plays host to conferences and other events, which is not to sound trite. It always boggles my mind when buildings are just torn down so new ones can be introduced, rather than repurposing what is existing. This idea of waste brings to mind my thesis topic which I think touches on this issue in a different way. Speaking of thesis, the next person to present at the event was Bernard Lahousse, who was presenting on food and interactions.
It’s always exciting when you feel like a presentation has been scheduled that was made just for you. That’s how I felt about this upon seeing it on the schedule. Lahousse is a bio-engineer who is focused on the intersection between food and science, although I think you could also say design and art intersect there too. He focused on the 5 senses and how one’s perception of their food is altered depending on different attributes. For instance, touching either soft or rough/hard textures before eating will affect how that food tastes. Soft textures will make things taste sweeter, rough textures will make things taste woodier/literally rougher. I think there is a lot to play with here in terms of the dining experience, and it definitely challenged me to think about that for the next Meat Club event.
The rest of the day went by really quickly, it’s funny how an entire day of listening to talks can seem so long, but when they are broken down into short bursts (45min) they become really manageable. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Presentation Party Night, a lecture series I run with friends. We gather people of all different backgrounds and ask them to speak on anything they really love and are interested in. The big difference is we don’t ask experts to do the talking, we ask the amateurs, the one’s that are just really excited about learning and sharing what they know. There’s a bit of unexpectedness in it all, including with the Interaction 14 conference, you never really know what you’re going to get. You are presented with a speaker’s bio which tells you their accomplishments and career trajectory and then a few paragraphs on the gist of their topic, but it’s really not much and sometimes you end up getting something that you really weren’t expecting. I was surprised, and very humoured, that the talk I attended today called UX in the City actually used Sex and the City and the main character Carrie Bradshaw as a storytelling mechanism to get the ideas across. It wasn’t what I expected, and I was a bit turned off at the beginning, but it ended up working well.
We ended the day with a keynote by Scott McCloud, a comic artist and writer. The conversation was a big contrast to where we began the day. He spoke about the rise of visual literacy and the correlation between simplified imagery and better cognitive load time. He brought up that there comes an age when children stop being taught that images and written language are equal, around 8 or 9 years old, and all of sudden images become just an ancillary device, not really a device at all. Being a visual person this really resonated with me, I love to read and write, but I’ve always been drawn to the big graphic novels - there’s something about the combination of a well-crafted story combined with beautiful illustrations. My favorite comic artist is Yumi Sakugawa. Her stories don’t fall in line with what a typical comic book might look like. Scott brought this up in response to dealing with comics on the web, the possibilities are endless. As are my thoughts on the day, ‘til tomorrow…
Alumna Catherine Young imagines Fashion in an Apocalyptic Future
Alumna Catherine Young (Class of 2012) imagines a future where being prepared matters just as much as style. Enter an inflatable tutu and apocalypse evacuation suit.
As part of the Apocalypse Project, Young has created a series called Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet. The series, generated during her time doing a residency in 2013 at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, draws on ideas about climate change futures in Singapore that were thought up by researchers at the Singapore-ETH Centre’s Future Cities Laboratory. “I’m really interested in approaching science from a more artistic perspective,” she says.
She plans on continuing the Climate Couture project, but with new items geared towards the Philippines, which has already experienced some nasty climate disasters, like the recent Typhoon Haiyan. “I’m interested because the apocalypse already kind of happened here,” she says. She’s also working on a playlist of endangered sounds, among other things.
Giorgia Lupi, design director at Accurat, presents a series of exploratory data visualizations as part of MFA Interaction Design’s lecture series.
Amsterdam Recap, Day 2: We’ve been managing to get in a fair balance of work and adventure so far. Thesis in the morning, cheese tastings in the afternoon, some cookies from a shop that only makes one kind (chocolate with white chocolate filling) in the evening and lots of walking all the time.